Lexington, Ky.—Aug 19
Chris Payne couldn’t have asked for a better start to Reign’s hunter career. After importing the stallion last year with the help of Sorensen Stables, Payne went straight to the 3’6” green ring, and Reign picked up a champion at all but one horse show during the winter season. But when the show season halted and then resumed on a limited basis due to COVID-19, Payne decided to maximize his time at home with his horses rather than chasing the few show opportunities available.
“It helped them and me,” he said. “This one I had just imported, and he went to Florida, and he showed and was great, but he didn’t know what he was doing. I think, all of a sudden then you have this time to really connect with them; they have time to process what you’re teaching them, and I think you end up with a better horse at the end of it all.”
“It really worked well because he’s in a good place,” he added. “I feel very comfortable on him, and I think he and I really know our jive together. I think it really helps spending time at home—not going show to show to show—to really have time to connect and figure out his way and my way together.”
At the Kentucky Horse Park today, Still Water Farm LLC’s 8-year-old Holsteiner stallion of unrecorded breeding rewarded Payne’s patience by topping the Platinum Performance USHJA 3’6”/3’9” Green Hunter Incentive Championship with a score of 272.5 over Hunt Tosh and Salute.
Thirty horse-and-rider pairs qualified for the one-round clean slate championship by jumping this morning in persistent rain, but the skies cleared for the championship round, something Payne joked was much appreciated.
“Well this round was a lot nicer without the deluge happening,” he said. “The course rode beautifully. It was a little open which is a nice change, because normally the courses with the rings are a little tight, so it’s nice to have a course that you can open up and gallop around a little bit.”
Though Reign is a stallion, Payne said you’d never know it by the way he acts.
“For a stallion, he has an amazing brain; he has good focus,” he said. “He’s very athletic. He can jump a really big jump, but he’s also beautiful across the ground, which I really like. He has a really nice balance that you can just kind of follow him around the course.”
Twain Scripts His Own Victory For Tosh
When Oliver Kennedy announced scores of 94, 89 and 86.75 for Scott Stewart’s round in the Platinum Performance USHJA 3’/3’3” Green Hunter Incentive Championship aboard Ackergill Castle, Tosh had a feeling he might be riding for second.
His mount Twain had won one of the qualifying rounds yesterday, but three rounds over three days can be a lot to ask of a young horse. The gelding proved up for the challenge, however scoring 94, 93 and 89 to take the top spot with just two left—including another Stewart ride. But when that horse fell short of a top score, the victory was Tosh’s.
“He’s always hard to beat,” Tosh said of Stewart. “He went, and I thought he had it. I was lucky to beat him.”
Ceil and Ken Wheeler purchased the 6-year-old Hanoverian by Finest last fall from Emil Spadone and Seth Vallhonrat last fall, and Twain’s come along quickly.
“I saw a video of him, and he was such a pretty horse, and he had such a beautiful way of going,” Tosh said. “Ken and Ceil Wheeler bought him for me. We showed him a couple times and he’s been great. A little wiggly and stuff in Florida, but [for] him to come around and to get this made up this fast? I’m thrilled with him.”
Last week, Tosh played the role of trainer and pony dad as his daughter Maddie Tosh competed (and won) at the USEF Pony Finals, also held at the Kentucky Horse Park, and he said that job was much harder than riding in a championship himself.
“It’s funny because she actually rode Chorus, the one that won the 3’6” [qualifying round] this morning,” he said. “She actually rode him this morning, and she’s like, that’s more nerve-wracking than anything. You feel like it’s kind of up to you.”
The morning rain meant he wasn’t quite sure what to expect in the championship round.
“KJ Pearson, who works for me, she rode [Twain] the last two days, and she was like do you want to ride him in the morning? I was like absolutely not. Keep doing what we’re doing, so she hacked him today, so obviously with the rain this morning it was kind of hard to gauge him because you didn’t know what was going to happen with the weather, but he was great.”
The Chronicle will be on-site bringing you gorgeous photos, great interviews and behind-the-scenes stories. Make sure to follow along at www.coth.com, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can read all of our coverage of the Platinum Performance USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships here.
We will have a full analysis of the competition in the Sept. 6 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.