Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 15
It’s been two years since junior hunters have graced the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, and there are plenty of changes this year, with the addition of a second ring and two $10,000 junior hunter winners stake classes, plus now there are four sections of 3’3″ junior hunters.
Between a former eventer, winning catch rides and riders traveling across the country to compete, here are your 2021 Pennsylvania National junior hunter champions.
The Co-Grand Champions: Libbie Gordon and Montauk and Kat Fuqua and Consent
It’s hard enough to win one over fences class at the Pennsylvania National, but two junior hunters at the Pennsylvania National managed to win all three of them. Both Libbie Gordon on Montauk and Kat Fuqua on Consent swept their jumping classes in Harrisburg to tie for the grand junior hunter championship. The judges also awarded Gordon the Best Junior Rider On A Horse title, and honored Fuqua with the reserve title.
Fuqua’s championship in the small junior hunter, 15 and under, marks her first at the Pennsylvania National, and she clinched it with a win in today’s jumping class. Coronation and Sterling Malnik took reserve.
Fuqua and Consent, aka “Kent,” paired up a year and a half ago.
“He’s been just such an amazing horse to do in the juniors,” said Fuqua, Atlanta. “He really builds my confidence. He’s so much fun to ride.
“He’s a little bit of a kick ride,” she continued. “You have to get him in front of the leg for sure. And then he also gets a little low, so you have to kind of bump his head up and keep him going forward. And once you do that, he goes around.”
Fuqua, 14, counted on her dressage training to help her and the 9-year-old Westphalian (Los Angeles—Fiones) take top honors.
“I actually do a lot of flatwork,” said Fuqua, who trains with Jimmy Torano at shows. “My mom [Shereen Fuqua] trains me at home. And I think, more than anything, it’s the flatwork that really helps me in between the jumps.”
Gordon’s championship came out of the large junior hunter, 16-17, division, where Brooke Morin and For Fun took reserve. Gordon and Montauk, a 12-year-old warmblood by Black Jack, paired up two years ago when he was coming out of the jumper ring.
“It was pretty easy [to transition him from jumpers to hunters],” said Gordon, 18. “We had to kind of get him to chill out a little bit, especially in the handies. We’re like, ‘You’re not in a jump-off anymore.’ But his jump is amazing; a perfect hunter jump. So it was fairly simple.”
Gordon keeps her horses at her home in Statesville, North Carolina, and trains with Ken and Emily Smith and the Ashland Farm team in Lexington, Kentucky. But she just started her freshman year at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, so Montauk went to Ashland when she went to school. She flew up once to prepare for the fall indoor circuit.
The Clean Sweep: Clara Propp and Arabesque
What to do when the class’ highest score is already a 90? Well, if you are Clara Propp and Arabesque, you accept the challenge. The pair walked into the Keystone Ring at Harrisburg with three blue ribbons from the previous day hanging on their banner. They could afford a different color—but they went for the full house.
“The first day, I was not really nervous,” said the 14-year-old from New York City. “I’m always more excited on her because I know she won’t do anything bad. It’s kind of just, ‘Try to do your best.’ And if not, I mean there’s next time. So, I don’t feel too much pressure. But definitely, coming into the second day, there was a little bit of pressure from the day before. But I just had fun, and she makes things so easy.”
After seven pristine jumps and a canter that will make anyone pick their jaw off the floor, the announcer declared a score of 92 for Propp and “Annie,” the 8-year-old Oldenburg mare (Furstenball— Solar Eclipse), bred by Nancy Holowesko, giving them the 3’3” large junior, 15 and under, championship and the grand 3’3” junior championship. Five Star and Jordan Gibbs claimed the reserve 3’3″ large junior, 15 and under, championship.
Though Propp isn’t a stranger to Harrisburg, this marks her first win and tricolor.
“I actually crack under pressure sometimes,” Propp said. “My trainers always tell me, ‘You need to use the pressure, and take the pressure and make yourself better.’ But a lot of the time I’ll just kind of freeze. And that’s where some of my big mistakes come in, but I think that I did rise to the occasion today and used the pressure in a good way.”
A Winning Catch Ride: Stella Wasserman and G. Eleven
Stella Wasserman got a phone call recently that changed her fortune when Don Stewart asked if she could catch ride G. Eleven in the large junior hunter, 15 and under, division. Even though she didn’t sit on him before the first day of competition, they meshed quickly and won the division championship over Grand Remo and Fuqua.
The 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood by Gelha’s VDL Emilion was first, second and third over fences to take the title.
“He’s lovely,” said Wasserman, Los Angeles. “He’s like everything you want in a hunter. He’s soft. He walks up the lines. He’s careful. He’s a really awesome horse.”
The 16-year-old broke into a smile when she described working with Stewart.
“Don’s awesome,” she said. “He always gives great advice and he’s super fun to have around.
“[He just told me to] pick up a big gallop,” she added. “I did that and it worked.”
Crossing Over To The Dark Side: Kyra Slutzky and Paddington
Before Paddington, the hunter fluff didn’t exist for Kyra Slutzky. The Newport Beach, California, native instead saw banks, coffins and trakehners in between her horse’s ears.
“I did eventing,” she said. “And that was so cool—360 to hunters.”
Though she competed up to the training level, she meshed more with the hunters.
“My mom’s always done the jumpers, and then I just decided I wanted to do the hunter/jumpers too,” said the 18-year-old. “And I love doing the hunters.”
In her final show on her lease with the 17-year-old Rheinlander (Galopos—Lara), Slutzky wrote the storybook ending by taking the 3’3” large junior, 16-17, championship over Kaliman and Morgan Wiebe.
Channeling The Catch-Riding Nerves: Avery Glynn and Ever So Often
Avery Glynn only got the call last week that she’d need to test her catch-riding chops on her friend Ava Peck’s horse Ever So Often. And though she’s honed those skills over the years, she still feels some of the butterflies.
“It’s so funny, I mean this week, just to be showing at Pennsylvania, even in a division I’ve been doing for several years, I still get nerves as ever,” said the 16-year-old from Petaluma, California. “Today, I ended up actually showing up pretty late on purpose so I couldn’t amp myself at the ring. Sometimes I’m better if I just come up, watching about two or three rounds, and then kind of focus on me and show.”
It worked as she and the Belgian Warmblood mare (Arko III—Loeka Van De Distelhoeve) cruised up to take the championship honors in the 3’3” small junior, 15 and under, division over Inquisitive and Propp.
First Time’s A Charm: Jacqueline Zhai and Sandman
Jacqueline Zhai will always have something to remember her debut at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. With Sandman, she earned the tricolors in the 3’3” small junior, 16-17, division ahead of Emily Giorgio and Stallone.
“It’s been really fun, and I love the show grounds,” said the Scarsdale, New York, native.
“I’m so proud of Jacqueline,” said trainer Stephanie Demmon. “She’s worked hard to get here. It’s pretty exciting to get to this level and be able to pull it off.
See full results here. Want more Pennsylvania National? The Chronicle will be on the scene through grand prix night bringing you photos and stories. Plus see more analysis from the Pennsylvania National in the Nov. 8 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.