Meet Your Pennsylvania National Junior Hunter Champions

Oct 14, 2016 - 4:43 PM

Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 14  

The junior hunter divisions wrapped up at the Pennsylvania National—all six of them! We caught up with all the winners. To see more photos of the junior hunter action, make sure to check out our photo gallery.


Brett Burlington on Due West
Photo by Al Cook

Large Junior, 16-17 and Grand Junior Hunter

Brett Burlington had never competed in the hunters at an indoor show before this fall, but she rode Due West to not only the large junior, 16-17 title but also the grand junior tricolor. 

“I knew he would be good and do his job, but I didn’t really have any expectations to win. I was very pleased with how it went,” she said. 

“I was actually pretty nervous, which is weird because I don’t usually get nervous for hunter rounds. The course was good, with some single oxers and a bending line, which definitely spiced things up a little bit. That’s good for him because sometimes he gets a little bit bored.”

Burlington, 17 and from Miami, rides with Shane and Ali Sweetnum at Sweet Oak Farm in Wellington, Fla. She spends most of her time showing in the equitation and junior jumper divisions, but enjoys catch-riding Due West for owner Monica Preston, who shows the 12-year-old in the low adult hunters.

Small Junior Hunter, 16-17

Katherine Dash brought Boss all the way from California to take the small junior, 16-17 division title in Harrisburg. “I was dreaming of getting a ribbon here, so being champion is not what I expected in the least!” she said.

Dash, of Seattle, has been leasing Boss from owner Laura Wasserman for the year. “There were definitely some growing pains! But we figured it out together. He’s lovely to ride; he has such a long stride and he just curls up over the jumps. I just have to stay out of his way—he’s a good boy!” she said. 

Dash, 17, caught the riding bug from her mother, but it took a while. “I hated it when I was younger!” Dash said. “I was really into swimming. I swam competitively and did soccer and basketball. But one day when I was 12, I decided to go to the barn with my mom and got on a horse and fell in love. I haven’t been doing it competitively very long.”

Boss lives with Dash’s trainer, Archie Cox, and she commutes from Seattle to California to ride and show. “I practice on some horses at home. I bounce around and ride whatever I can get,” she said. “I rode a medium pony a bunch this year just so I can stay in the saddle. I ride with Quinn Partridge and Alexis Silvernale in Washington.”


Katherine Dash on Boss
Photo by Molly Sorge

Sophie Gochman and Garfield
Photo by Molly Sorge

Large Junior Hunter, 15 and Under

Sophie Gochman is no stranger to winning, as she has plenty of pony hunter accolades to her name.

But this year—in her first showing a junior hunter at indoors—she claimed her first major junior hunter title. She rode Garfield to the top of the large junior, 15 and under division.

“I wanted to have fun and have good rounds, but I definitely wasn’t thinking to be champion!” Gochman said. “He’s so confident in the ring that I wasn’t nervous at all. All my butterflies went away. 

“He’s been doing this forever,” she said of Garfield, a 14-year-old. “I can just loop the reins and get my pace and he helps you find the distance. And he always jumps the best. He’s a great horse to ride.”

Small Junior Hunter, 15 and Under

Emma Kurtz dominated this division, taking the championship with Evermore and the reserve title with Wisdom. She also claimed the large junior, 15 and under reserve championship on Frederick.

Kurtz was impressed with how Evermore, just 7 and a first year horse, handled the show. “At Capital Challenge he got to do the first years [with Scott Stewart] in the ring before I did him in the juniors. But here Scott didn’t show him first. He was perfect. He’s so brave; I don’t think he’s ever done anything wrong unless it’s a green thing he didn’t know,” she said.

“He’s grown so much this year. In Florida, there was always a little thing here and there that happened, and I remember thinking, ‘He’s going to get it eventually.’ But he’d never do well. But then at Devon, it all kind of clicked and came together,” said Kurtz.

Evermore is owned by the Gochman family and is slated to be a junior hunter mount for Mimi Gochman next year. Kurtz has enjoyed catch-riding for the Gochmans.

“It’s such a cool opportunity, especially when I’m getting them more mileage and some experience for the owners, and then I can watch them win with them!” she said.


Emma Kurtz on Evermore
Photo by Molly Sorge

Easy Time and Emma Hansen
Photo by Molly Sorge

Small Low Junior Hunter

Emma Hansen has been aiming all year for the fall indoor season. She’s from Canyon Country, Calif., and had been east to show her ponies at Capital Challenge (Md.) a few years ago, but never the Pennsylvania National or the National.

“This was a major year-long goal for me because it’s my last junior year,” said Hansen, 17. “All that hard work paid off, the missing school and the lessons.”

Easy Time, a 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood, was Hansen’s first horse after she stopped riding ponies in 2013. “

“It was a quick thing—the ponies were done and then I had him. But we just clicked; he’s amazing,” she said. 

Hansen, 17, rides with Randy Durand. “When my mom was pregnant with me, she got me a pony. I still have that pony; he’s 27 now. And then I started riding with Randy when I was 9 and I got my first show pony for my 10th birthday,” she said.

Large Low Junior Hunter

“Coming around to my final jump, I said to myself, ‘We can do this!’ ” said Lauren Watts, who rode her sister Jackie’s Color Up to the win in the final class to take the division championship.

“This is so far beyond what I expected. I just came in here with an open mind and I just wanted to ride like I always do and see where everything ended up,” said Lauren, from Sparks, Md.

Jackie rode “Simon” for three years and Lauren just took over the ride this year after her sister aged out of the juniors. “

“I kind of got him as a hand-me-down. He’s a pretty amazing hand-me-down!” she said. “She got him when he was young and took him in the children’s and juniors and taught him everything. Then I got him, and we’ve had a very successful year. He’s very pleasant to ride. He likes everything easy; he likes to not be rushed.”

Lauren, who attends Garrison Forest School (Md.) and rides with Katie Cooper and Sissy Wickes, won the NAL Children’s Hunter Final on her own Fenway in 2014, but she was thrilled to add the championship to her record. 

“This means everything to me. It’s so fantastic to see that all my hard work this year has paid off. I really had to work through my nerves this year, because I’d get very nervous. Sometimes I’d feel the pressure. But Simon and my parents and my trainer all helped me through it,” she said.


Lauren Watts on Color Up
Photo by Molly Sorge

Want to see more photos from the junior hunter divisions? Keep up with all of our Pennsylvania National coverage. And remember, we’ll be doing a round-by-round blog on the action in the Pessoa/USEF Medal Final on Oct. 16.

And don’t miss the Nov. 7 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse, where we’ll have more in-depth coverage from the Pennsylvania National. 

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