Upper Marlboro, Md.–Oct. 4
After years of collecting prestigious titles, from the pony divisions to the junior ranks to “Gosh we need a separate storage room for USHJA International Hunter Derby coolers,” it’s unusual to hear Tori Colvin announced as a first-time winner of a national championship. Yet despite three previous appearances at the World Championship Hunter Rider Professional Finals at the Capital Challenge Horse Show, she’d never earned the blue ribbon.
This time, after a smooth and forward handy round aboard Lindsay Maxwell’s 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding High Society (Diarado–Chance For Ever), Colvin returned with four consistent, stylish trips on unfamiliar horses to come out on top and finally add one victory to her remarkable resume.
“It means a lot to be able to win this,” said Colvin, Loxahatchee, Florida. “It is my third time now. The other years I haven’t been so lucky!”
After earning a spot in the final round two days earlier, 10 riders contested the handy round on their qualifying mount. The top four then came back to ride four more trips, each on a different horse loaned to the competition. These four rounds were judged on the rider’s ability to show off the horse’s style.
Colvin, who made a name for herself riding others’ horses, was comfortable with the unique format.
“I think it’s really important to be able to show and have horses that you can just get on and be able to show your catch-riding abilities,” said the 22-year-old. “All the horses you show, usually, in the divisions like this week, you’ve shown all year, so you know them kind of like the back of your hand, mostly. To be able to get on random horses and for the judges to have to judge you, not really on the horse, but how the horses react to you, I think it’s really important to have a class to be able to do that.”
There was a moment of drama when the horse that had carried Colvin and Gogul to top scores in the first two rounds balked in the third under John French, backing into the panels near the in gate and then hesitating at the far end of the ring before completing the course. French was given a re-ride on an alternate horse, who was then also ridden by Amanda Steege in the final round. French and Steege finished third and fourth overall.
“I appreciate it was a great decision that they did that,” French said. “They stepped up and gave me another horse to ride to try to make it more fair. I really appreciate that.”
Jeff Gogul finished second in his first appearance in the Pro Final.
“Everybody said that there’s a lot of camaraderie and I think that we were all rooting for one another,” he said. “You don’t really want to see what happened to John happen. I mean I guess that’s the nature of the sport, you know, it’s a horse and you can’t control all of that. But it was a lot of fun.”
For Colvin, it was the realization of a long-held goal. “This class means a lot to me. I’ve been watching it since I’ve done the juniors,” she said. “I’ve seen Scott Stewart win it a lot, and I’ve seen a lot of other riders win it. To be able to be somebody who came and won, it feels amazing.”