The WCHR rookie from Georgia bests the veterans to take the title.
Hunt Tosh was hardly the odds-on favorite heading into the World Champion Hunter Rider Professional Finals. Tosh had never even qualified for the class before, and three past winners, who had multiple victories, traveled to Upper Marlboro, Md., to vie for the title.
But four fantastic performances earned the first-time starter the top check during the feature class at Capital Challenge, Sept. 26-Oct. 4, at The Show Place Arena, with lofty scores that only dipped as low as 88.5. Tosh edged three-time winner Scott Stewart, with Kelley Farmer taking third.
The riders declared the quality of the horses the best ever, and judges Linda Andrisani, Shane George, Brian Lenehan, Bobbie Reber, Leo Conroy and Mark Jungherr demonstrated their approval by awarding the highest scores in the competition’s 14-year history, with the night’s poorest round still earning an average mark of 79.
“This class is what we do this for,” said Tosh, Cumming, Ga. “We’re all overly competitive people, and we all hope we can do something like this.”
The top six riders in the WCHR national pro standings—Tosh, Stewart, Farmer, Peter Pletcher, John French and Ken Berkley—earned invitations. The unique format requires riders to bring a mount of their own and trade horses each trip according to a predetermined list, with no chance to school between rounds. Only the top three riders returned to compete over the fourth and final handy course.
Owner Douglas Wheeler urged Tosh to use one of his horses for the big class, so Tosh saddled Lone Star, winner of this year’s regular working hunter championship and the China Blue Farm Working Hunter Challenge Trophy, awarded to the high-score working or conformation hunter.
The pair set the tone for Tosh’s winning evening with a spectacular round. He held on to the lead throughout the competition, taking a turn on Melanie Barnes’ Camira (Peter Pletcher’s ride) and Lindsay Wolf’s Lazy Sunday, whom Stewart brought for the class.
Tosh walked into the arena aboard Fine Kiss for the final handy trip with a seven-point lead over Stewart.
“I’d actually ridden the horse before once, which was nice,” said Tosh of Fine Kiss, Farmer’s original ride. “I knew I had to put in a solid round. After the trot jump I was a little conservative to the last jump because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t make some stupid mistake.”
But Tosh’s strategy paid off, earning a mark of 96 in the handy and clinching the Far West Perpetual Trophy for Ernest and Betty Oare’s Fine Kiss, awarded to the owner of the horse with the highest combined score in the class.
“I’d wanted to do this class for ages, and it just never worked out,” said Tosh. “Last year I came in high in the standings, and after [the regular divisions at] Capital Challenge I’d dropped out of the top six. I’d made it one of my goals for this year, and, luckily, it worked out. I really wanted to win this for the Wheelers.”
Second-placed Stewart clinched his ticket to the head-to-head class with a big win Wednesday evening in the $15,000 WCHR Professional Rider Challenge. Stewart rode his own World Time for the occasion—a change in pace since he’s largely handed the reins over to junior Victoria Colvin.
Stewart hadn’t planned to ride the gelding at Capital Challenge, but when he saw how close the standings were before the final qualifying class for the Finals he tacked up the most reliable mount in his stable.
“He’s very straightforward and super dependable,” said Stewart. “He was perfect tonight.”
Michael Rheinheimer built a forward track for the 25 competitors, and he didn’t cut the country’s top professionals any slack.
“They looked bigger than 3’6″ to me!” said Stewart. “There was plenty of galloping room, and there was plenty of width to the oxers, which meant you could ride up and get a really good jump. I thought that would help me, but I also thought that it would help John [French] because it was quite a scope test.”
Indeed French’s mount, grand green hunter champion Rumba, showed off his signature knees-to-eyeballs style, earning an average score of 90.08. But it wasn’t quite enough to catch World Time, whose spectacular first round earned 90.83, including one score of 95. A second strong trip cemented his lead over Rumba and French to earn Stewart blue.
Newman Emerges Ahead
All of the riders in the Emerging Professional Rider Challenge felt plenty of pressure to distinguish themselves. But when Katherine Newman trotted Day Dream into the arena she had an extra reason to reach for blue.
Day Dream’s owner, Mimi Abel Smith, suffered a broken leg during a riding accident a week earlier, forcing her to stay at her home in Middleburg, Va., and watch the class online.
“It was really nice to be able to do well for her—it’s really good timing!” said Newman. “I so appreciate getting to ride the horse, and it’s extra special to win this for her today.”
Twenty-three emerging professionals—defined as riders who have never won an open championship at Devon (Pa.) or the fall indoor horse shows—contested the single-round class. Newman and Day Dream scored 86, 87 and 90 for the victory.
She joined the professional ranks this year after a decorated junior career, capped off by winning the Washington International Equitation Classic Final (D.C.) last year. She’s had the ride on Day Dream since he was in the pre-green ring.
“It’s been fun to do him for the past four years because he’s changed a lot,” she explained. “He’s really matured, and I know him really well. He’s my favorite horse in the barn.”
Déjà Vu For Brubaker
Most people don’t travel to a horse show without a horse. But Amy Brubaker isn’t like most riders. When the horse she was scheduled to compete was sold just before she arrived at Capital Challenge, the Californian didn’t hesitate to continue on with her plans.
And the resulting catch ride she acquired at the very last moment—Caitlin Ziegler’s Relentless—carried her to victory in the WCHR Adult Amateur Finals.
Ironically, Brubaker, the defending champion in the class, performed the same amazing catch riding feat last year with another horse under a similar circumstance.
“Really, right at the last minute I was without a horse,” said Brubaker. “So Archie [Cox] got out his cell phone and started dialing, saying, ‘Who could we find?’ Interestingly, Archie is trying this horse, Relentless, for one of his customers so he tried him last night. And he said, ‘I don’t know if they’d let you, but this horse would be perfect.’ So they made the appropriate calls and said I’d be able to do it. So I hopped on him right before the first round, and he was amazing.”
Brubaker stood fifth following the first round, but after fine-tuning their partnership in the schooling area before Round 2, she returned with even more confidence. She nailed the course with a flowing round and solid jumping from Relentless. So with scores of 86, 88 and 87, Brubaker and the bay gelding took the lead with 170.66 points, and the remaining four competitors couldn’t catch them.
After finishing second in the 2008 WCHR Adult Amateur National Standings, Brubaker and trainers Cox and Tracy Baer made the national championship their 2009 goal. Even without the added points from winning the WCHR Finals, Brubaker proudly wore the leading rider armband and only solidified her substantial national title with this victory.
Brubaker, 48, a partner at Deloitte Tax, planned her show season carefully to compete at WCHR-sanctioned shows. Because she doesn’t own her own horse, she borrowed mounts throughout the year from various trainers and owners.
“I want to thank everyone who loaned me a horse. People are amazingly generous,” she said with emotion. “I’ve probably had 50 horses offered to me this year, and it’s been a different one every time. And it’s so generous of people to share their horses with me.”
The Right Decision
Alex Arute faced a tough choice this fall: contest the WCHR Junior Hunter Final at Capital Challenge or travel to Gladstone, N.J., for USEF Talent Search Finals—East.
Trainer Missy Clark encouraged Arute to attend the first major equitation final of the season, but after scoring the ride on Old Oak Farm’s Red Rooster Arute longed to contest the hunter class in Maryland. In the end, the hunters won out, and Arute topped the class with Red Rooster over Way Cool and Samantha Schaefer.
“I can do USET Finals until I’m 21, but this is my last chance to do WCHR Finals,” said Arute, 18. “When I found out I had ‘Rooster’ through indoors I knew I wanted to come here. He’s just a dream; he jumps so well, and he’s so animated. And working with Archie [Cox] is great.”
The chestnut normally picks up tri-colors with owner Lucy Davis in California, but he’s proven himself on the East Coast as well, taking top honors at the Syracuse Invitational (N.Y.) last year. He and Arute paired up for the first time in Maryland, but they clicked instantly, winning the small junior hunter, 16-17, reserve title earlier in the week.
“I love the hunters, and I really, really wanted to do a hunter my last year,” said Arute, a freshman at the University of South Carolina.
She established a winning tradition at Capital Challenge four years ago, when she won the WCHR Junior Hunter Final aboard her Folklore.
Madelyn Keck, Allamuchy, N.J., is establishing her own winning tradition at Capital Challenge. She thought she’d have the Sunday of Capital Challenge off, but her plans changed.
She found out too late that her WCHR membership entry never made it to the mailbox, so she hadn’t been accruing points to qualify for the WCHR Pony Hunter Challenge. But a blue ribbon in a medium pony over fences class during the week earned Keck a slot in the challenge class, and she took full advantage, leading the victory gallop on Tuscany.
Keck, 11, marched into the indoor arena and posted a solid trip on West End LLC’s Tuscany to earn an 83 and the blue ribbon over All The Best and Victoria Colvin.
“I was definitely a little nervous before this class,” admitted Keck. “I didn’t know how he was going to be inside. But he was perfect.”
Keck catch rode Tuscany (Pendock Masterpiece—Song And Dance) for the first time in Lake Placid, N.Y., winning top honors in the medium division during I Love New York, then she didn’t ride the pony again until Capital Challenge.
“I’d never seen him go before I rode him, but I’d heard of him, and we clicked right away,” recalled Keck, who got her start following in the footsteps of her older brother Mackenzie. “He’s a lot of fun. He’s easy and smooth.”
This win comes on the heels of a strong season for Keck, who trains with Stacia Madden and Krista Freundlich.
She placed second in the USEF Pony Medal Final (Ky.), had success with plenty of catch rides and has been picking up ribbons all year on her own pony, Tango.
A Sizeable Score
Brianne Link had extra reason to celebrate when she won the WCHR Children’s Hunter Finals on her Silas V. Not only did she pick up blue in the two-round class, she also earned the highest score of her young career: a 90.
“The nearest I’d come before was maybe in the high 80s,” said Link, 11. “I never thought I’d get a 90 here.”
At 6 years old, Silas V doesn’t sound like the perfect first horse for a growing rider, but he and Link get along perfectly. The pair earned tricolors all season, including a children’s hunter title at The Hampton Classic (N.Y.).
“He’s perfect and not spooky at all,” she said. “He’s incredibly sweet. He likes to snuggle, and he gives kisses.”
The East Islip, N.Y., rider trains with Jimmy Toon and Holly Brewster and splits her time between the hunter and jumper rings aboard ponies and full-sized mounts.
Link has embraced her role as an ambassador for Just World, an organization that raises money for non-profit projects in developing countries. This year Link raised enough money to put a roof on a school in Guatemala by donating her jumper prize money, and she took a break from her show schedule to go check it out along with other ambassadors.
On the trip she promised some of her new Guatemalan friends that she would raise the money to help them go to college if they continued to learn English, though she admitted with a laugh that her Spanish wasn’t quite as good as she’d like.
“I’d love to go to Honduras or Cambodia to see what they’re like next,” she said.
Teall’s Equitation Stars
When Jeanine Cash set her sights on winning the Ariat National Adult Medal Finals in August, she wasn’t going to let a little something like not having a horse get in her way.
Trainer Geoff Teall found her a mount in August, and Cash won enough classes to qualify. But that horse had to travel to the USEF Talent Search Finals—East during the Ariat Final, and Cash once again found herself without a partner.
But Teall helped Cash connect with Laura Gamino, who offered Calinka for the class.
“I didn’t know who I was riding until yesterday, and then I walked into the ring with her today,” said Cash.
Watching the pair navigate the course, no one would have guessed that Cash and Calinka had only a day to get to know one another. The talented rider dominated the two-round class, posting top scores for both rounds and winning the class hands down, with a final score nearly 6 points higher than second-placed finisher Brian Feigus on Winston.
Coming back for the second round, Cash didn’t mind being the last to go. She said with a smile, “I like that pressure.”
Though she’d never competed in the Ariat Medal Final before, Cash was no stranger to the equitation ring. She won the 1986 Northeast Maclay Regional.
Fellow Teall student Sylvia DeToledo found success in the Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Children’s Medal Final. After two rounds of competition the top two riders were separated by .2 points, and the judges called for a work-off. An especially fluid round secured the win for DeToledo over Sydney Callaway.
DeToledo, 14, rode Lindsey Mohr’s Lion King, who had won the class twice before. DeToledo made the jump up from third after the first round with increasing scores of 83.4, 88.2, and 89.2. She started riding Lion King a month ago, and she qualified for her first National Children’s Medal Finals by showing different horses throughout the year.
Teall was complimentary about his young rider. “The truth is, whatever is going badly in my barn is what Silvia gets to ride, and she makes it win again,” he said.
Teall said of his two winning riders: “The best thing is that those two girls who won are great riders and great competitors, and they’re really nice people. They both really love the horses, and they’re both appreciative. When you have really good riders and they’re on really good horses, we, the trainers, don’t have to do much except tell them that they can do it and away they go.”
Boggio Is Best
Chase Boggio bested an impressive field of 87 riders to lead the victory gallop in the North American Junior Equitation Championship.
Boggio dominated the class with two top scores (88.6 and 89.4) for 178 points, which was nearly 6 points higher than second-placed Laura King.
Boggio enjoyed both courses aboard Graphiq.
“My horse has such a big stride so the lines aren’t a problem, but I saw a lot of people knocking down the Swedish, so I was really careful to that jump,” he said.
Boggio’s main plan was to stay calm, something his riding reflected in his soft, quiet trip around the ring, but it wasn’t always as easy as it looked.
He admitted that he has worked hard to control his nerves, something he does with sports psychologist Margie Sugarman.
“I used to be very, very nervous, and in some big classes I would make the second round and blow it,” he said. Now he relies on exercises that help him to focus and relax.
Boggio has trained with Christina Schlusemeyer and Bobby Braswell of Quiet Hill in Ocala, Fla., for five years.
“They tell you their tips before you ride the course, then they go away and let you focus on what you’re going to do before you go in,” he explained.
Winning the championship class was a goal for Boggio.
“I knew that I have a really great horse, and I have a really good rapport with him,” he said. “There really wasn’t any expectation to win this, but I knew if I could stay relaxed and ride to the best of my ability we could do well.”