Kelly Tropin Whitridge and her Württemberger gelding Chablis are certainly no underdogs. The pair, who have been partnered for nine years, have won the amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, division championship at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg for four of those years, did it again this year, clinching their third grand amateur-owner hunter championship on Thursday, October 19.
But in spite of their winning streak, Whitridge doesn’t take their victories for granted. She can’t help but think of their long road to success and all the work of the team backing the pair.
“Being here [at the Pennsylvania National] has been a lot of success with him, but also it reminds me of when I was a junior and did not have any success here,” Whitridge said. “It just reminds me, honestly, of how long and how hard I’ve worked to have a horse like this and perform well.”
Whitridge, 32, not only has a long history with her horse, she has also worked with trainer Peter Lutz since she was just 13 years old. Lutz bought Chablis more than a decade ago when the gelding was 4, and Whitridge purchased him from Lutz two years later.
“We’ve come a long way,” Whitridge said. “So, I think of the amazing moments but also the tough moments that made all of this possible.”
Because Whitridge knows her longtime partner so well, she carefully observed Chablis over the week at Harrisburg, which she calls the gelding’s “favorite venue.” She was pleased with how good Chablis felt even after long competition days.
“I have a hard time thinking of him as older since we have had him since he was a real baby,” Whitridge said. “With him being 15, I tried to come in with no expectations. It was a long day for him yesterday—two jumping rounds and an under saddle—so a lot of walking back and forth. We rode him this morning, and we thought, ‘Oh my gosh! He feels better than yesterday.’ ”
Chablis’ groom, Leonardo Lachia, was also presented with the Prince Charming Award as the grand amateur-owner hunter groom.
While blue ribbons certainly aren’t new to Whitridge and Chablis, the rider is savoring each win with her horse of a lifetime.
“I think you can kind of pick how you want to think about it,” Whitridge said. “I could focus on it being a lot of pressure to perform again, but instead I told myself to just be grateful. I know I’m never going to have a horse like this again, so I really try to enjoy every second.”
Caroline Ingalls and Concerto weren’t far behind Whitridge and Chablis, taking the reserve championship in the amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, division. The duo also won the $10,000 Amateur-Owner Hunter Winners Stake, the EMO Agency Amateur-Owner Hunter High Five Award, and the overall Amateur-Owner Hunter High Five Award with the highest score of the horse show, a 93.
In the amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, division, Margot Peroni and her gelding Just Apple took the lead. Peroni and the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood topped the field in the closely contested division, earning a win, two fourth-place finishes over fences and a fourth place in the under saddle class. Lee Kellogg Sadrian and Augustine earned the reserve championship.
Just Apple was imported to the U.S. only last year after competing up to 1.40 meters in Europe.
“He has such a big step and a beautiful floaty canter and such a scopey jump,” Peroni said. “We went to try him and instantly loved him from the first time we sat on him. He just makes you feel so confident and brave, and he’s just a joy to ride every day.”
Peroni reflected on the long road to her first championship win at Harrisburg, where she has been competing since childhood.
“I’ll probably cry again, but I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid on ponies; this is my first time being champion here,” Peroni said.
The rider added that her groom for the week, Judy Frederick of Lowkey Farm, helped put the victory into perspective.
“Also, the woman that’s grooming for me this week was the barn manager at my very first barn as a little kid,” Peroni said. “I needed someone to come help me because I left a bunch of horses at home, so I put a little post on Facebook, and she called me immediately and came to help me this week, so it’s a total full circle moment.”
Brad Wolf And Sebastian Clean Up The 3’3” Amateur-Owner Hunters
Brad Wolf and Sebastian are no strangers to winning, but this year’s 3’3” amateur-owner hunter grand championship was a landmark victory for the already successful pair.
“This is the first time in my career that I have ever won all four classes in the division at indoors, so it’s really special,” Wolf said, who rode Sebastian to the top of the 3’3″ amateur-owner, 36 and over, division.
The rider said that his talented 13-year-old Holsteiner gelding makes Wolf’s job feel effortless.
“He just likes you to sit still, don’t touch his mouth, just let him do his thing,” Wolf said. “If you do, he’s fine. He’ll take care of you, and he’s just easy—probably the easiest horse I’ve had.”
Sebastian will now take some much deserved time off. The gelding is headed south from Harrisburg to Florida, where Wolf plans to give him some time to rest before the start of the winter season in Wellington.
Martha Ingram and Private Practice took the top call in the 3’3” amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, division. After the pair won two classes on Wednesday and finished second in the under saddle, Ingram and her 13-year-old Holsteiner gelding went into Thursday with a strong lead in their division’s championship standing, which they were able to maintain.
Private Practice, who Ingram describes as eager to please his people, went above her expectations to clinch the division.
“He’s just such a wonderful horse,” Ingram said. “Every day, before I get on him, I give him a little hug on his head; he’ll turn to look at me to do that, and he just has so much personality. He really aims to please.”
Callie Seaman and Moonshine earned the win in Thursday’s $10,000 3’3” Amateur-Owner Hunter Winners stake.