Monday, Apr. 15, 2024

Mirasol Shines At USEF Junior Hunter Finals


Addison Phillips guides her green hunter to grand championship honors during the East Coast phase of the Finals.

Top riders and horses flocked to the HITS On The Hudson show grounds in Saugerties, N.Y., Aug. 6-8, to vie for the USEF Junior Hunter National Championship East. After all of the junior hunters took a turn, Addison Phillips’ Mirasol was crowned grand junior hunter champion.
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Addison Phillips guides her green hunter to grand championship honors during the East Coast phase of the Finals.

Top riders and horses flocked to the HITS On The Hudson show grounds in Saugerties, N.Y., Aug. 6-8, to vie for the USEF Junior Hunter National Championship East. After all of the junior hunters took a turn, Addison Phillips’ Mirasol was crowned grand junior hunter champion.

Phillips, New York, N.Y., is no stranger to success at this horse show. Last year she won the prestigious Hunterdon Cup equitation class, but this year she focused on dominating the hunter divisions.

In addition to winning the grand title and small junior, 16-17, division with 7-year-old Mirasol, Phillips finished fifth overall in the large junior, 16-17, division with Mimosa.

Phillips began showing Mirasol last February, and since then the pair has picked up multiple championships, earning top honors on the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.), Littlewood (Fla.) and HITS On The Hudson (N.Y.).

Phillips’ success hasn’t been limited to the hunter ring, however. The 18-year-old, who trains with Andre Dignelli at Heritage Farm, placed second in the $75,000 Grand Prix at HITS On The Hudson III, June 17, aboard Trezebees.
 
She will have a busy autumn; she has several entries for the fall indoor horse shows and enters her freshman year at Harvard University (Mass.).

Grateful For The Opportunity

Taylor Ann Adams worked hard to control her nerves on the first day of competition. “I’ve been to Pony Finals plenty of times,” said Adams. “But this was my first time at Junior Hunter Finals. Walking out onto that huge grand prix field before the handy was really, really scary.”

But Adams kept her cool as she piloted Lyle to the blue ribbon in that handy class—his second consecutive year winning a handy class at the championship—and then the small junior, 15 and under, championship.

“He is amazing,” said Adams of Lyle. “He’s my all-time favorite. I swear, he could do it all without me, if I could just tell him the course and let him go.”

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Adams earned the ride on Lyle for Stephanie Keen during HITS Ocala Winter circuit (Fla.), where she piloted him to the small junior, 15 and under, championship in their first show together.

The 14-year-old didn’t have a chance to ride the gray gelding again until the week prior to the Junior Hunter Finals, but even without practice the pair grabbed the reserve championship at HITS On The Hudson V.

After earning their Junior Hunter Finals title, the pair continued their winning ways at the NY Horse And Pony Show, where they topped the division.

Catch-riding is familiar territory for the Eads, Tenn., native. She’s been showing whatever she could sit on for as long as she can remember. Adams started with trainer Dave Pellegrini, who coached her to her first appearance at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show with her small pony Gayfield’s Steamy Windows.

Since then, she hooked up with Bill Schaub and more recently Don Stewart Jr. and Bibby Farmer Hill.

“Bill really put me on the map and showed me how to do the big circuit,” said Adams. “And Don and Bibby have given me so many opportunities—and they took a big risk having me as a catch rider. I’m so lucky to be able to get input from all three trainers; they all have something great to offer.”

A Fine Catch

Grace Socha catch-rode Callie Seaman’s Harbor Isle to the top spot in the large junior, 16-17, division and earned the overall reserve grand championship.

“My good friend Callie has several large juniors, but at Junior Hunter Finals you can only ride one,” explained the Glenville, N.Y., native. “I was fortunate enough to get to ride Harbor Isle. He’s Callie’s favorite horse, and now he’s definitely mine!”

After his success with Socha, Harbor Isle won the large junior, 16-17, championship at the NY Horse And Pony Show with Seaman.

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Socha and Harbor Isle picked up the yellow ribbon in the handy hunter class, then topped the classic to clinch the championship. Her second ride of the week, small junior hunter Nevada owned by Dana Schwartz, finished sixth in their division.

Even though Socha first sat on the Holsteiner gelding during Junior Hunter Finals, the newness of the partnership didn’t hamper their performance. Socha, 17, has been catch-riding since she started training with Louise Serio of Derbydown three summers ago.

“Louise is amazing to work with,” said Socha. “I feel so honored to be a part of her barn. It’s been such a great experience.”

Socha has one year left in the junior ranks before she ages out, and she hopes to continue her success in the hunters and venture into the jumper ring before heading off to college.

A Growing Resume

Laura King-Kaplan earned top honors in the large junior, 15 and under, division aboard North Country.
“He’s a really great horse,” said King-Kaplan, who’s owned the Dutch Warmblood gelding since the winter of 2006. “He’s sweet, and he tries really hard. He never looks to do anything wrong.”

King-Kaplan has had a banner year aboard the 7-year-old. The pair picked up tricolors at the Littlewood Festival (Fla.), the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) and Old Salem (N.Y.), and they earned the HITS On The Hudson spring circuit championship.

The format of the Junior Hunter Finals allows only the competitor to ride her own horse on the show grounds, a caveat that can trip up some juniors used to having their horses tuned up by trainers on show mornings. But King-Kaplan often schools North Country on show days, so the restriction didn’t cause the pair any problems.

King-Kaplan’s second junior hunter, Heartfelt, won the small junior, 15 and under, handy class, but the 6-year-old was knocked out of tricolor contention when he got a little spooky in the main hunter ring.

In the equitation ring, the 15-year-old placed sixth in the Hunterdon Cup aboard Icon, the horse that carried Phillips to victory the previous year. King-Kaplan graduated to the 3’6″ equitation about a year ago, and she’s already qualified for the USEF Medal Finals and ASPCA Maclay finals.

King-Kaplan credited her growing success to a tremendous support team, including her trainers Dignelli, Kristen Coe and Patricia Griffith.

Mollie Bailey

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