Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 23
Walking into the press conference after the WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular felt eerily familiar. Like last year, Tori Colvin, Louise Serio and Liza Boyd sat at the table after the class, and like last time around, they looked relieved and relaxed for the first time all week.
All three are serious about winning. There’s Serio, the veteran who helped found the WCHR program 16 years ago, and Boyd, who's worked hard to win the class three times since it started.
Then there’s Colvin, who trounced them both for the second year in a row and wasn’t even born when Boyd first won the class in 1997 aboard Monday Morning. The 15-year-old consistently puts longtime horsemen at a loss for words to describe her innate talent but live commentator Jimmy Torano summed it up best when he—twice—described her as a “freak of nature.”
Aboard a horse she’s comfortable and relaxed, even if it’s a major competition or her partner’s having a bad day. But at a press conference she seems like a regular teenager: a bit overwhelmed at all the fuss and occasionally apologizing for not being as articulate as she’d like.
“I think this was his first or second time under the lights,” said Colvin of Ovation, her winning mount for the occasion. "He felt stronger in the second round. My second round was flowing, and I don't think I touched the reins."
Check out her first round here courtesy of shownet.biz.
Colvin made a television appearence earlier this week to help promote the event.
Ovation, (or “Ohie” as owner Betsee Parker likes to call him, dubbing the pair “Tohie”) is a consistent winner with Colvin in the small junior hunter ring. While he can occasionally be spooky, at the feature class of WCHR Week of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival  he didn’t bat an eye.
To hunter riders, this class is a big deal. Boyd likened it to World Cup Finals for the sport. The brows start furrowing early in the week, when riders scramble to qualify for tonight’s class by winning a champion or reserve ribbon in A-rated divisions set at 3'6" or higher, with a few byes awarded to various riders by virtue of past success in WCHR programs. Pros strategize to optimize their chances to ride under the lights, and divisions swell—think 18 green conformation entries and over 100 in the 3’6” performance division.
Despite the stress, Colvin swears she never gets nervous, but it’s not the same for the competition. Serio had to trot into the ring on top, just as Colvin’s scores—which topped out at 94—were announced.
“Let’s talk about Louise, who couldn’t breathe,” said Serio, when asked if Castle Rock  felt tense heading in on top for Round 2. Watch a video of that round here.  “He was fine! He was more relaxed the second time, the first time he was a little fresher.”
Both Serio and Boyd have been rationing out their rounds on their “horses of a lifetime.” Brunello , whom Boyd co-owns with Janet Peterson, only shows in derby classes, with an occasional jumper class thrown in for good measure. He hasn’t been in a high performance hunter ring since this week last year.
“It’s such a fun week, but it’s so stressful,” said Boyd, who finished an eventual third with Brunello. “I kept telling myself, just enjoy it, enjoy every minute.”
She finally did that in Round 2. That's when Brunello leapfrogged from eighth to second place, with an average score of 91.5. Watch that round here. 
For in-depth coverage of the WCHR Spectacular, see the March 11 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse, which is also the annual Horse Show Issue.
More Notes From Ringside
-Lillie Keenan's ride Parkland caused a ruckus in the schooling area yesterday when he dropped and rolled—with the saddle on—before the first small junior, 16-17, class. Luckily it was a false alarm.
“We were standing at the ring and he was stung by a bee on his stomach. When you’re a bystander you don’t know what’s gong on,” said Keenan who described Parkland as particular about who and what he likes. “Even for me I didn’t realize he’d been stung and right away; our first reaction was is he colicking. We immediately took him back to the barn and our vet was there waiting for him.”
Veterinarian Kit Miller checked out Parkland thoroughly and found just the bee sting. Parkland was his normal self in his stall, eating and happy. So as the class was still running, he returned to the ring to show, picking up a pair of blue ribbons and a yellow, to help him with the grand junior hunter championship. He also finished ninth in the Spectacular, while Keenan’s other ride, Madison, took fourth.
"To me the horse’s wellbeing is extremely important and that's the most important thing. I was panicked that something was wrong. Dr. Miller and staff at Heritage Farm are fantastic, and I'm so glad it was just a bee sting," she said.
-Last year Way Cool won the big class  with Colvin, earning an automatic invitation to this year's class. But he wasn't up to par, stopping out in the large junior hunter, 15 and under, stake class held in the International Ring this morning. Colvin shrugged off the problem, as that quirky but spectacularly talented horse sometimes has his days at lousy times. 
-Caroline Weeden didn’t have the class she was hoping for with Lucky Times in that horse's first night outing. Emma Heise’s second year green mount looked extra frisky under the lights, spooking and sending Weeden into the dirt. Weeden walked off the course on her own feet.
-Kelley Farmer didn’t have the night she was hoping for either. She qualified both her mounts—2012 Wellington Derby winner Taken and first year green headturner Mythical—for Round 2. But Mythical pulled a rail at a fence, and Taken stopped at an oxer near the in gate but jumped on re-approach and finished well.
-The cutoff to advance to Round 2 was a very decent 81.5 average, and there were plenty of pairs who impressed just by qualifying. There’s amateur Tracy Scheriff-Muser, who just returned to the tack after an injury and rode Absolut to 16th, plus pairs like Kirklen Petersen and Cinema, and Maddie Thatcher and Stuck On You, who just coupled up this week and still managed to earn tricolors to get an invitation for tonight.
Check out showgroundslive.com for results, and if you're eager for more photos from hunter week at WEF check out this gallery from the open hunter divisions.