Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023

Schaefer Graduates To The WCHR National Junior Title At Capital Challenge

After a stellar pony career, the 15-year-old makes her presence known in the junior hunters.

Samantha Schaefer is no stranger to the WCHR spotlight. Five years ago she won the WCHR National Pony Rider title, in 2002 she and Halcyon Hawthorne won the WCHR Pony Challenge, and last year she earned her fourth grand pony hunter championship.



After a stellar pony career, the 15-year-old makes her presence known in the junior hunters.

Samantha Schaefer is no stranger to the WCHR spotlight. Five years ago she won the WCHR National Pony Rider title, in 2002 she and Halcyon Hawthorne won the WCHR Pony Challenge, and last year she earned her fourth grand pony hunter championship.

But Schaefer has matured since then and returned this year to pick up the WCHR National Junior title at the Capital Challenge, held Sept. 27-Oct. 5 in Upper Marlboro, Md. She also won the WCHR Junior Challenge on Manhattan Mortgage’s Corvet Z and received the EMO Trip Of The Show award in the junior division on Scott Stewart’s Perfectionist (Peridot—Bea).

Schaefer, Westminster, Md., said she and trainer Kim Stewart had to choose between Corvet Z and Perfectionist for the challenge class: “We used ‘Chevy’ in this class because we didn’t want ‘Perfect’ to be too tired. He had already gotten his high score, so now it was Chevy’s turn.”

She described the 9-year-old Zangersheide (Catango Z—Amosette Z) as honest and sweet: “You always know what you have. He’s a very straightforward horse.”

Before the challenge class Schaefer was sitting just behind Jennifer Waxman in the WCHR Junior standings. Although she knew there was a chance she could win the title if she placed first in the challenge, she wasn’t concentrating solely on that.

“If I were to lose to Jen [Waxman], that’d be nothing to be ashamed of. She’s got amazing horses and is a great rider,” said Schaefer. “I went [for the finals] and Chevy was great, and I thought, ‘If she wins then she wins.’ ”
Schaefer acknowledged that she was especially excited about the title because one of her goals for the show
had been to win jackets, (for the grooms at her barn) which are awarded to the grooms of certain class winners and champions.

“My guys really wanted jackets. Every year they’re like, ‘Are you going to win me a jacket?’ And I’m like, ‘I’ll try, I’ll try.’ This year I picked up two, so that’s good,” said Schaefer laughing.

A “Wunderful” Weekend

Maggie Casper may not have the experience that Schaefer does, but when standing at the in-gate for her second round in the WCHR Children’s Finals, Casper was surprisingly calm. Riding her 9-year-old Belgian Warmblood, Wunder Light, she held the top scores from the first round and went in to impress the judges a second time, receiving an average of 89.5 to win the class.

“Usually I get really nervous,” said the 16-year-old from Carmel, Ind. “But for some reason I’ve been really calm all week!”

It helps that she and “Brussels” have been partners for two years. “It was a big adjustment moving from the ponies to the horses. But he was a fantastic first horse,” said Casper of her mount who possesses a easy, natural rhythm.
According to Casper, Brussels is the type of horse who enjoys the spotlight. “He loves to be in the ring with everybody watching him. He loves showing,” she said.


WCHR Tidbits

•    Matt Metell, Falmouth, Mass., won the Monarch International North American Junior Equitation Championship over 90 other riders during Capital Challenge’s Equitation Weekend. The 17-year-old scored a 94.2 in the second round to rise from third to second. The judges then tested the top two riders, Metell and Cayla Richards. Although both riders had a slight fumble, Metell’s step off the counter canter placed him ahead of Richard’s refusal at the trot jump, and he took home the blue ribbon.

•    Alise Oken, Charlotte, N.C., earned the best junior rider on a horse award after piloting her Take Away to the grand junior hunter cham-pionship. Oken, who has been riding with Steve Heineke for two years, said that although she’s earned tricolors on ponies at Capital Challenge, this is the first time she’s won a championship in the junior hunters.

•    Ashley LeCroy was voted best child rider on a pony after she guided Ashley Kennedy Whitner’s Halo to the medium pony and grand pony hunter championships. The 14-year old picked up the ride on Halo during the Jacksonville Winter Series (Fla.), where they were circuit champions.

Casper plans to move up to the junior hunters, which means that she’ll have to sell Brussels to buy a new horse. Although she’ll be sad to see her friend leave, she’s excited about the transition to the 3’6″.

The high school junior said that she and trainer Abigail Blankenship travel to out of state horse shows at least once a month. “I’m from Indiana, and we don’t really have any shows there,” said Casper laughing. “My teachers are really good about giving me work ahead of time, and then I just do it at the shows.”

In addition to piloting Wunder Light to the WCHR win, Casper captured the reserve championship in the children’s, 15-17, division and won the Stewart Warner Cup in the children’s hunters, awarded to an up-and-coming junior rider who, in the opinion of the judges, exhibits the best hunter style and shows potential as a young hunter rider.

Double Celebration

Lillie Keenan is another rider moving up, and she celebrated her 12th birthday and final Capital Challenge in the pony hunters with a celebratory victory gallop for winning the WCHR Pony Challenge with Vanity Fair.

She’s already started in the children’s hunters and took home the grand children’s hunter championship aboard Addison Phillips’ Aramis. She also earned the best child rider on a children’s hunter award.

Keenan made sure that she got her last indoor season on ponies off to a good start. In addition to winning the WCHR Pony Challenge, she also received the WCHR national pony rider title.


Keenan, who rides with Heritage Farm in Katonah, N.Y., said that Vanity Fair is a special pony: “He’s always going
to try his best and is always there you for. He’s a people pony and is really sweet in his stall.

“He’s not that big of a large, but he’s got a really big stride,” Keenan added, noting that the hardest thing about him is letting him do his job. “Sometimes he’s difficult because he’s an animal that you have to leave to his own devices. If you tell him to do too much it doesn’t always work out.”

Vanity Fair, a Dutch-bred, is owned by Betsee Parker, Middleburg, Va., and Keenan is leasing him until the end of the indoor season. She said that when he’s done with his career he’ll be retired to Parker’s farm.

It’s A Family Matter

Kristen Mohr had a special family member rooting her for as she competed in the Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Children’s Medal Finals.

“It feels amazing that I can be like my sister,” said Kristen Mohr, 11, grinning after she followed in her sister’s footsteps and won the final.
Mohr’s older sister Lindsey, now 19, won the National Children’s Medal Finals in 2004 on the same horse, Lion King.
Kristen, Long Valley, N.J., dominated the two-round class, topping the first round with a score of 88.8. Course designer Mike Rheinheimer built a straightforward track for the 37 riders who qualified to compete in the finals.
After a panel of five judges saw the field, the top 20 returned in reverse order of preference. Kristen was on top and felt the pressure of being the final rider to return to the ring. The second course offered riders an opportunity to show off their skills, with inside turns and bending lines.

“Because my horse has a big stride, it was nice,” said Kristen. “And he’s very good at doing the inside turns so I could do those too.”

She nailed the second course and held her lead for the win.

In addition to working with her sister at home, Kristen trains with Beacon Hill of Colts Neck, N.J. The team of trainers at Beacon Hill also coached the second-placed winner Erica Polle. Polle, New York, N.Y., led the country in the standings entering the finals and reached her yearlong goal to compete at the Capital Challenge.

Megan Martin and Michelle Bloch




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