Lexington, Ky.—Nov. 2
Hunt Tosh was doing some mental calculations before the last round of the high performance hunters with Cannon Creek at the National Horse Show. For the past two days he’d been neck-and-neck with Chris Payne and Gratitude, who were competing in the high performance conformation division. With three blue ribbons already, Tosh had locked up the division championship, but to take the grand championship, he’d have to win. A second-placed ribbon would result in a tie; lower would put him out of contention.
But Cannon, who has already had a standout year with championships at Devon (Pennsylvania) and the Pennsylvania National as well as his second Platinum Performance USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship (Kentucky), was perfect. With a 92 in the stake class, he took his fourth blue ribbon, and with it the grand champion title.
“It came down to the last class,” he said. “I needed to win that to be grand or at least not tie with Chris, so I just try not to mess up. If I don’t mess up, he tries to do his part always.”
The Wheeler family’s 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Cancara—Tiffany S, Caretino) spent the week between the Pennsylvania National and the National at home in Milton, Georgia. While Tosh was at Washington International (Maryland), barn manager K.J. Pearson hacked him a few times. He didn’t jump again until they popped over a couple of fences on Monday before the show.
“If I can do what he did this year again, that would be a dream come true to be able to do it again,” Tosh said of the horse who helped lift him to USEF National Equestrian of the Year honors in 2021. “The past two years with that horse he’s been unbelievable. Obviously I can’t ever say enough great things about the Wheelers [who own him]. Kenny and Douglas. They trust us to do what we think is best for him, and obviously put that ball in our court and so it’s worked out wonderfully.
“I wish they could’ve been here to see him today,” he said. “They weren’t, but it’s such a great show to win for him, and if we can do another year like this we’ll take it if we can.”
Workin’ 9 to 5 (With Some Riding In Between)
Until a few minutes before she got on for her division, Samantha Sommers was dutifully working on her computer. Her job in creative marketing at Netflix allows for some hybrid work and flexibility, but she still needed to keep up with her daily tasks.
“Right now it’s our busy season, so if I’m not stressed for riding, so I’m definitely stressed for work,” she said.
And after she left the Alltech Arena with the grand 3’3” amateur-owner and 3’3″ amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, honors with Seaside, there was time for a few pictures and some congratulatory conversations with friends and trainers, but after that it was straight back to her computer.
Sommers is no stranger to the National, having won the large junior hunter, 16-17, division on Small Affair in 2013, but she hadn’t been back since then.
“This was a great start to my AO career, so it was really fun,” she said Wednesday. “But [I] definitely was a little nervous and just felt I had to be consistent. [I] definitely was neck and neck the whole way with Stephane [Danhakl] and Vanessa [Mazzoli] so it felt really good to put in two solid rounds.”
Sommers rode Seaside, a 16-year-old warmblood (Argentius—Lindsay 10) last year in the adult amateur hunters and purchased him last December so that she could step into the amateur-owner divisions.
“He’s opinionated, but also very loving, and he knows when he has to try, which is a great part,” she said. “I always tease him that at the regular shows he’ll just give the minimal effort, but he knows when it’s special . . . so he really steps up to it.”
Pinch Hitter Helps Earn Ingalls Her Third Championship
Caroline Ingalls is no stranger to the National. In fact, she’s no stranger to winning at the National. In her three trips to the show with Concerto, she’s won the amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, division each time. But this time things were a little different.
She’s relied on trainer Hap Hansen since her junior years, but after he got sick following Pennsylvania National, fellow California-based trainer Carleton Brooks stepped in to help her at the National. Though Hansen couldn’t be there in person, he was sure to watch each of his student’s rounds on the livestream.
“Hap is very calm, a man of few words, and I really like that. I spend a lot of time critiquing myself and I definitely need somebody that’s calm with me. He’s so great that way, and Carleton has been so helpful this week at pinpointing things to change and think about, so he’s done a great job filling in for Hap.”
Ingalls has had “Bolo,” an 11-year-old Westphalian gelding (Cathanos—Chevelle La Feme) since he was turning 5, so she’s built a good partnership with the gelding. Every time they’ve attended the National they’ve left with their division championship as well as the grand amateur-owner hunter title.
“It’s been a great week,” she said. “Coming off a grand champion at Harrisburg [Pennsylvania National] I was putting pressure on myself for sure. I’ve never had so much success like this. It’s incredible.”
Payne Feels The Gratitude
Standing in the barn, Gratitude might not immediately strike you as a winner. Yes, he’s got the look of a big, beautiful, athletic hunter, but his attitude could lead you to believe he rather be anywhere but heading into the ring.
“He always seems like he’s sleeping, but then the minute he gets some attention, he’s all about being involved and playing with you and being entertained,” rider Chris Payne said of the horse owned by Lisa Levine.
Give him a stage like the National, where the excitement ripples through the Alltech Arena, and “Toby” is ready to show off.
“When you have a venue like this that’s impressive, he really rises to the occasion,” said Payne. “He’s got a lot of personality.”
Payne showed the 8-year-old warmblood sporadically this fall, and it paid dividends with the high performance conformation championship at the National.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “All year long we try just to qualify, and then to go in there against such amazing riders, such amazing horses and come out with that kind of result it’s just amazing. I couldn’t be more thrilled and more happy and feel more lucky to be able to do it.”
Stewart Adds A 15th Title
Though he’s won the leading rider award at the National 15 times since 2002, Scott Stewart still feels some nerves heading into the show.
“It still brings a little more nerves than the other shows, I think,” he said. “It’s the last show of the year for us, so we want it to go well.”
Stewart rode Gochman Sport Horse LLC’s Whimsical to the green conformation championship and Betsee Parker’s For Always to the 3’9″ green championship and high performance conformation reserve championship on his way to the leading rider title.
The Gochman family purchased Whimsical, a 10-year-old warmblood (Chacco Chacco—Sardoryke) right before Capital Challenge (Maryland), so Stewart jumped right into the deep end with the gelding.
“He has a huge stride which is great. Easy going, has a nice lead change and just a real steady guy,” Stewart said.
On the other hand, For Always, an 8-year-old Oldenburg (Arko III—Weinfree) has been in Stewart’s barn for four years.
“He was a first year horse last year and was champion at all three last year in the regular [conformation] as a first year horse,” he said. “I know him pretty well. I love him. He’s great.”
Fit And Fresh
While much of his competition in the 3’6″ green division had been on the road for a few weeks, 8-year-old Adler was coming in fresh. The day before he was meant to leave for Capital Challenge, he stepped on the clip of his horse shoe while in his paddock, and instead of heading on the road, he spent some time recovering.
Though “Potter” came into first day of the National a bit wide-eyed, he showed up in a big way to win the division with Holly Orlando. Hunt Tosh and Corragio were reserve.
Orlando and trainer Jenny Dunion get their horses as young, pre-green horses and focus on bringing them through the divisions.
“It’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but it’s worth it when you get here,” said Orlando. “We’re really proud.”
The team from Evermore Inc. had quite a crew helping them bring James Anderson’s Oldenburg (Cheetano—Abundantia Von Basu) to his tricolor.
“We had a great team behind us,” said Dunion. “Amanda Steege and Tim [Delovich], all our friends came through and helped us get him ready and helped watch us longe and hold our hands, tell us we were doing the right things. We really appreciate everyone’s support because it really takes all your friends to get it done at a show like this. Everybody cheering you on and supporting you.
“And Patricia Griffith, she comes to our farm; she helps us ride our horses,” she continued. “Scott Stewart’s at the in-gate. I mean we couldn’t have a better group. And hopefully we’re there for them in the same capacity, but it’s really fun to do all this together, and it’s nice when we end up with the tricolor. It’s the icing on the cake, and it’s a great way to end the year.”
Worth The Trip
Jaime Auletto nearly didn’t come to the National. After being away from her family’s catering business for most of October following the fall indoor circuit, she started feeling a little guilty. Though she could spend her free time answering emails and working out logistics for the business, it was a long time to be gone. Not to mention that the week before, at Washington International, she wasn’t quite on form.
“I was feeling a little blue, and I was like I don’t know, I’m missing all this work, and it’s far for us in New Jersey to come here,” she said. “Should I put him through that to make the trip?”
But after chatting with her trainer Emil Spadone and his friend Jimmy Torano, she decided to head to Kentucky with her amateur-owner hunter Idolize. It proved to be well worth it when the pair took the championship in the 36 and over division. Jean Sheptoff and Verdict were reserve.
It meant even more to Auletto because she considers “Simon,” a 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Emilion—Doselli) to be her “baby.”
“I’ve been really fortunate to have had some really great horses, and they get a lot of attention, so Simon sometimes gets overshadowed a little bit by his brothers and sisters,” she said. “But the funny part is that this is the horse that has done so many things for me, He’s my guy. Like, he’s the one that I feel like, I have so much fun on, because I know, out of any horse in the world he’s going to try—like, 1,000%. He deserves so much.”
High Tide Rises To The Occasion
When Kit McClorey won the 3’3″ amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, division at the National with High Tide in 2020, she got to enjoy the second day. She started her week with a pair of blue ribbons and finished it up with two more. But this year she had to work a bit harder for it.
“The first year we won the first day, so it was easier,” said her trainer Amanda Thomas. “[This year] she pulled out all the stops in the last class, which is amazing. I’m like if she can pull out all the stops, I think they’ll give her the score, and she did which is amazing.”
McClorey has owned the 13-year-old Swedish Warmblood for six years, and they moved from the modified adult hunters through the 3’3″ amateur-owners with Thomas’ guidance and support.
“He’s smooth. He’s lovely. He’s reliable,” she said. “He’ll get nervous here and there, but he’ll never spin. He’ll never be wild. He’ll never buck you off. He’s got a ton of personality, and he loves being hugged on and mugged on and he loves dogs and children. He’s got a ton of personality—sometimes more than we want. We wonder if it’s going to be the angel or this little [devil] on his shoulder. Sometimes he goes back and forth, but he’s outgrowing the [devil].”
The Chronicle is on site at the National all week to bring you photos, stories and more. You can find full results from the show here, and don’t forget to read full analysis and coverage from the horse show in the Nov. 21 issue of the magazine.