Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023

With A Will To Win, McQueen Earns The Grand Hunter Championship At Washington



Upper Marlboro, Md.—Oct. 24

While a technicality at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show last week meant that Walkenbach Equestrian’s McQueen didn’t earn the grand championship in the professional hunters, this week the gelding capitalized on his next chance to shine, earning the green conformation championship, the grand green championship and the grand hunter championship at the Washington International Horse Show.

Trainer Carleton Brooks and rider Nick Haness accepted McQueen’s grand hunter championship at the Washington International. Lindsay Berreth Photos

“That horse is a winner,” said Haness, Temecula, California. “He knows when it’s time to shine. He tries his hardest to always give you that blue ribbon every single time. That is an unusual and exceptional feeling in a horse. We ride and train these horses day in and day out, and many of them are winners, but they have to want to be the winner, and McQueen wants to be the winner.”

“This is absolutely a huge honor for us and our team today,” he continued. “It’s a big and very exciting, important win for us. McQueen has been an amazing horse all year long and has delivered outstanding performances throughout the entire indoor circuit. Being grand here is just exceptional and incredible, being that he had also been undefeated last week in Harrisburg, winning every single class, and was grand champion at Capital Challenge [Maryland] here a few weeks before then. So, for us, this feels like a three-peat.”

Nick Haness piloted McQueen to the top of the green conformation division on the way to the grand hunter championship.

Haness calls the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Cornet Obolensky—Sanea) a dream to ride. He’s been paired with the gelding since the beginning of the year. The Walkenbach family purchased the gelding this summer and along with trainer Jim Hagaman, decided to leave him in his previous program with Carleton and Traci Brooks through the end of the year.

“This is our final show together of the year, so it was a great way to finish it off with a bang,” Haness said. “We could not be more happy for everyone involved. He has a great team of people behind the scenes that get him to shine. The program and the preparation and the care for this horse through Traci and Carleton Brooks with Balmoral, the Walkenbach family and trainer Jim Hagman, and myself as the rider. I feel like [we] really as horsemen have come together to produce results like this, and it feels extremely proud for all of us to be crowned the grand champion this week at Washington.”

Haness is hoping to be able to compete the gelding next year and perhaps try some international derbies, but if not, he’ll be happy to watch him shine with his new owner.

“McQueen has a lot left in him,” he said. “He’s a very athletic horse. I think he could win [the Platinum Performance USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship (Kentucky)] some day, so I hope to be his rider if that is ever the case.”

Haness also earned the 3’9” green hunter championship on B R Farms LLC’s C’est Jolie, an 11-year-old Westphalian mare (Cornet Obolensky—Petite Jolie). Geoffrey Hesslink earned the reserve championship on Meridian Farm LLC’s Drumroll, a 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Diamant De Semilly—A-Comme-Ci).

Haness and C’est Jolie were first in the ring at 8 a.m. for the stake class and laid down a 95, the highest score awarded today in the open divisions.

C’est Jolie jumped to the 3’9″ green hunter championship with Nick Haness up.

“She’s been knocking on the door all year,” said Haness. “I think she really has been trying to jump her best in every single show. Last week in Harrisburg she had scored almost every round in the 90s. Today we had to go first in the order of go, and I knew she was in a great mood. It was a little bit cold out this morning, but once she walked down the tunnel to the show ring, I could feel she was just focused. Any time you score a 95, it’s an exceptional and exciting feeling, of course, but she went in the ring, and from start to finish, she pricked her ears, picked up a gallop, and just jerked her legs over every single jump, and she put her heart into every single effort today, and it really paid off.”


“Dolly” is a smaller mare, just a hair over 16 hands, but she has a lot of jump.

“This was a division with many famous horses behind us, and it added a lot of pressure to our performances this week,” Haness said. “She’s a horse who’s climbing the ranks and proving herself. She’s sweet and very fancy. This was a great week for her.”

Dolly also spends time in the amateur-owner ring with Ashley Kaplan. Haness first showed her at Washington last year.

“She always aims to please, she’s very brave, and this year she’s tapped into a new level,” he said.

Nick Haness (left) and Scott Stewart congratulated each other on great performances.

Stewart Sweeps The High Performance Conformation Hunters

Scott Stewart had a stellar week, culminating in his namesake trophy, the Scott Stewart High Point Hunter Rider award, which he’s now won 13 times since 2006.

He topped the high performance conformation hunter championship on Betsee Parker’s Nottingham, an 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Verdi—Calibelle) and earned the reserve championship on Sophie Gochman’s Jordan, a 10-year-old Selle Français gelding (Tsunami De Hus—Paname De Varnel).

Nottingham and Scott Stewart jumped to the high performance conformation title at Washington International.

He also won swept the 3’6” green division, winning the championship on Gochman’s Colter, a 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Franziscus—Sophie) and the reserve championship on Haylie Rolfe’s Daydream, a 7-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Mosito Van Het Hellehof—L’Histoire D’O).

“I did Capital Challenge, and he was quite good. This was his second indoors, and I was really happy with him. He won the first class and went beautifully,” said Stewart of Colter.

The gelding spends most of his time in the amateur-owner ring with Gochman, and Stewart rides the him when she’s busy with college.

Scott Stewart rode Colter to the 3’6″ green hunter division title.

“He gets a little nervous around people [he doesn’t know,]” Stewart said of Colter. “He’s very sensitive. He’s not great with traffic, and he’s just a little bit of a worrier. You have to keep everything pretty much the same with him.”


Colter will be heading to the National Horse Show (Kentucky) next.

Stewart’s had the ride on Nottingham for three years, and they know each other well.

“I know him the best of all, probably,” he said. “He’s pretty much laid back all the time, and he’s really super to ride. When he’s good, he’s probably the easiest horse you can imagine riding. He’s very simple. He’s a dream to ride.

“I was really happy with him,” he added. “I did the high performance yesterday morning, and he was actually quite fresh! He hasn’t done much recently; he had some great jumping rounds in the 4′, but he was landing and playing. By the time we got to the regular conformation he was all business. He’ll go on and do the National next week.”

Autograph Earns Another Win

Ceil Wheeler’s Autograph finished out his year with a bang, earning the high performance hunter championship with Hunt Tosh up. He also earned the Protocol Trophy, which is given to the high-point high performance hunter from the Devon Horse Show (Pennsylvania), the Pennsylvania National and Washington.

Ceil Wheeler’s Autograph claimed the high performance hunter championship and the Protocol Trophy with Hunt Tosh up.

“Washington’s such a great horse show,” Tosh said. “We’ve been lucky enough to win the Protocol a couple of times.

“He’s a great horse,” he added about Autograph. “He can be a little quirky sometimes inside—he can be a little nervous, but he went well here. They do such a good job dressing up the ring and great courses, so I was really happy with him.”

“He had a little rub in the first class yesterday, but today went beautiful,” Tosh added. “Today he went early, but I was thrilled with him. Cannon Creek’s usually our Steady Eddie, and Autograph’s always hanging in there, but to come and be champion on him this week is great.”

The 10-year-old warmblood of unrecorded breeding won the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Devon this summer and has been a consistent campaigner for Tosh, of Milton, Georgia.

“We’ve had him for a while. He’s been so consistent,” he said. “There’s a little bit of quirkiness, that you just kind of know and have to let him work through that, but he’s good. He’s won at big venues, and he’s so scopey, and he’s fun to ride.”

Find full results here. Get full analysis from the competition in the Nov. 27 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.




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