For seven years, Madeline Schaefer has cherished her favorite Capital Challenge moment. The setting: Upper Marlboro, Maryland. The place: by the pony ring at Prince George’s Equestrian Center. The year: 2013. She had already accumulated a Capital Challenge blue rosette before—that came earlier in 2009—but 2013 went above and beyond.
“[My small] Armani was grand pony hunter champion,” said Schaefer. “I was champion in the mediums the same weekend. That was the same year I won the [World Champion Hunter Rider Pony] Challenge on Sophie Michaels’ pony Rolling Stone.”
A hard year to top, but now Schaefer may have to reevaluate her favorite Capital Challenge memory. Even before setting foot in the Sanctuary Ring at the World Equestrian Center in Wilmington, Ohio, Schaefer knew this year would be different. Granted, COVID-19 transported the show over 400 miles west of its normal location, which is just an hour and 15 minutes from Schaefer’s home in Westminster, Maryland—but the differences didn’t stop there. For the first time in her decade-plus history with the prestigious show, Schaefer was no longer a junior.
“It was a different vibe. I wasn’t here for equitation weekend and obviously not junior hunters anymore,” said Schaefer. “It’s a different vibe but still very traditional. You always feel important when you walk in the ring here.”
Schaefer marked her first adult experience with a bang, taking both the grand 3’3″ amateur-owner title on Checkmate and the grand amateur-owner honor on Sutton Place. And if that wasn’t enough loot to haul back to Maryland, Schaefer also won the $2,500 WCHR 3’3” Amateur-Owner Challenge and the $5,000 WCHR Amateur-Owner Challenge, again on Checkmate and Sutton Place.
“It’s awesome to win both this year. The horses were great. They were both excellent today,” said Schaefer. “The challenge class is a bonus. If it didn’t go well, then we’d go home. I already had a great day before I did the challenges, so it’s a great added bonus.”