Buffalo, NY- September 17, 2011- Today marked the fourth day of the 65th Buffalo International Horse Show (BIHS), featuring a full schedule of hunter events starting in the morning and continuing well into the evening. The morning and afternoon competition saw the first day of the Junior, Children's and Pony Hunter divisions. The competition then kicked it up a notch in the evening as competitors prepared for the highlight events, the $2,500 DJ Johnson Horse Transportation USHJA National Classic, the $2,500 Up The Creek Children's/Adult Jumper Classic and the $1,000 Stephen Comunale Low Children's/Adult Jumper Classic.
The Buffalo International Horse Show is held each year as a benefit for the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, a non-profit organization that promotes and teaches horseback riding to disadvantaged and emotionally challenged children. The program teaches students with a large range of challenges, using the horses as a beneficial therapeutic tactic to build interactive and physical skills.
Early in the morning, the 3'6" Syracuse PHA Junior Medal began. The class consisted of seven obstacles including a four-stride as the first line, a single oxer and a two-stride vertical to oxer line. Grace Weidner aboard Serato, owned by BTRC, earned the top honors with a smooth round over the hunter-type course. Marguerite Heberle and her mount Starring Role earned the second place ribbon. Alyssa Boker rode Carafino, owned by Redfield Farm of Califon, NJ, to the third place award.
The Washington International Horse Show Equitation class began with its hunter phase this morning. Horse and rider combinations showed over eight obstacles set at 3'6". The idea behind the course design is a very straightforward hunter course consisting of natural jumps, including a combination, hunter lines and a long approach to a single jump. Each rider earned a numerical score, but it was Boker and Carafino who earned the class' top score of 84 and the blue ribbon. With a score of 81 Lilly Ulrich and Athena, owned by Up the Creek Farm of Rochester, NY, claimed the second place award. Weidner returned once again aboard Serato, finishing with a round score of 79, good enough for the third place ribbon.
Morgan Ward and April Rose, owned by Redfield Farm of Califon, NJ, took the top honors for the Washington International Horse Show Pony Equitation class. Their score of 81 for their efforts in the over fences proved hard to beat. Bella Cramer and her large pony, Andaba scored 80 points, falling just shy of Ward's score, earning the second place award. The third place honors went to Katherine Barger aboard True Sport, an entry owned by Redfield Farm of Califon, NJ, for their score of 79 points.
The Small Junior Hunters started the first day of the Junior Hunter divisions. Today, Maryann Osborne aboard Mine, owned by Showcase Ltd of Canton, GA, swept the over fences and earned the second place ribbon under saddle. Caroline Kellogg and Felicci, owned by Alexandra Vespico of Reading, PA, earned the third place ribbon during their first round, and completed a quick and smooth handy round, earning the duo the second place prize. Kellogg also impressed the judges during the under saddle, claiming the first place ribbon. Claudia Freeman and Clockwork, owned by the Morrisville College Foundation of Morrisville, NY, earned the second place ribbon during their first round as well as the third place ribbon during the second course.
The Large Junior Hunters were the next to enter the ring and compete for the division's top awards. Caroline Kellogg and Donovan earned the top call for the first round of the division. The duo also won the third place ribbon during the handy round, as well as the second place award under saddle. Athena and Ulrich returned to the ring to win the second place ribbon and first place ribbon over fences, becoming an instant favorite for the championship prize tomorrow.
April Rose, owned by Redfield Farm of Califon, NJ, and Morgan Ward earned back-to-back blue ribbons in the Small/Medium Pony Hunters. Their score from the second round of 85 carried over into the $500 "Scribbles" Pony Classic, held later in the afternoon. Ward has ridden April Rose for two years, and the talented duo have claimed the Grand Champion award for each of those consecutive years at the Buffalo International Horse Show. Quicksilver Butterfly earned the third place award and second place award over fences with Kate Taylor in the irons. The pair also won the top honors during the under saddle. Katherine Barger and True Sport, owned by Redfield Farm, took home the second place and third place ribbons over fences as well as the second place award for the under saddle.
This year's Green Large Pony Overall Reserve Champion at the USEF Pony Finals, Romeo, owned and ridden by Ward, competed in the Large Pony Hunter division, a recent step up in his otherwise green career. Ward and Romeo claimed the second and third place ribbons over fences as well at the first place ribbon during the under saddle. Sweet Treat, owned by Sarazen Ltd of Honeoye Falls, NY, took the top score of 81 during the handy round, carrying their high score into this afternoon's "Scribbles" Pony Classic.
Riders and horses alike were tested during their rounds of the Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Children's Medal. Riders competed over a hunter course and had to complete two changes of direction as well as a combination. The course tested the riders' equitation, and the top four were asked to return to the ring for individual tests from the USEF Tests. The top four riders lined up at the far end of the ring were the judges instructed them to counter canter to a single vertical in a bending line to the consecutive vertical, they then had to pick up speed and jump the single oxer in the center of the ring with a strong canter and finally return to the line at the sitting trot. Emily Perez and Lord Henry received the top call with their first round score of 84 combined with their flawless test round. The second place award for their score of 85 went to Bella Cramer and Emilio, owned by Elissa Trindle of Palm Coast, FL. Paige Weisberg rode her mount Escara to the first round score of 81 and the third place honors, and Whitney Reynolds aboard Montana Magic, took home the fourth place award due to their first round total of 80.
The Syracuse PHA 3' Medal class was the next in the Indoor Arena. Madison Sellman and Norwegian Wood, owned by Sarazen Ltd of Honboye Falls, NY, impressed the judges over the fences and took the top honors for the division. Perez and Lord Henry earned the second place honors, and Sara McDermott aboard Baxter Black won the third place ribbon.
Next in the ring were the talented horse and rider combinations competing in the first day of the 14 & Under Children's Hunter division. Ava Gurney and Sarafina swept the over fences, and also earned the second place award during the under saddle. Emilio and Bella Cramer dominated the over fences portion of the 15-17 Children's Hunter class, earning two blue ribbons. The Children's Hunter divisions will continue tomorrow along with the Junior and Pony classes. The top call will earn the championship for their division as well as one horse and rider combination from each section will be named overall grand champion.
Wrapping up the afternoon, ponies from all three divisions gathered to attempt the $500 "Scribbles" Pony Hunter Classic. With their previous second round scores carrying over, the Classic got under way with riders competing for the highest total score. Last year's Pony Hunter Classic winner, April Rose, ridden by Ward, did it again. The duo entered the ring with the first class high score of 85. After completing another effortless course, the pair was given an 86, equating to the class' high total of 171 points. Taylor and Quicksilver Butterfly garnered the second place honors with scores of 84 and 71, a grand total of 155 points. Scores of 81 and 73 earned Sweet Treat and Sellman the third place award.
"April Rose is almost like a rocking horse," Ward laughed. "She'll stay at the same pace and never change it. You can put anything in front of her and she'll go over it. We have so much fun out there, and this is our favorite horse show, ranking even above the USEF Pony Finals."
Spectators began to crowd the Indoor Arena at six this evening to enjoy the night's highlight events. Executive Director of the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center Susan B. Schoellkopf presented the dedication of the 65th Buffalo International Horse Show to Jane and Steven Comunale, whose support throughout the years has helped to rebuild the facility and expand the therapeutic riding program. The dedication of the horse show was conceived long before Jane's battle with cancer; however, she lost the fight in August of this year. All of the BTRC series shows have been dedicated to Jane and Steven's son Stephen Comunale, Jr.
Following the presentation of the show's dedication, Caroline Schutte stepped into the ring for the 2011 Peach Taylor Sportsmanship Award. The award is given in memory of Peach Taylor, by her grandson Mason Phelps. Schutte demonstrated all of the qualities of dedication to the welfare of horses as well as her kindness towards her peers and teachers. Schutte has been riding at the Buffalo Equestrian Center for 10 years as well as volunteering at the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center for six years.
After the presentation of the awards, judges Frank Willard and Scott Williamson settled into their seats and prepared to judge the $2,500 DJ Johnson Horse Transportation USHJA National Classic. The riders showed over a course of ten fences, designed by George Heston. The course was reminiscent of a hunt field, using natural looking fences and challenging turns to test the horses and riders. Each rider had the option of higher options set to 3'6" to earn additional points.
Although 19 entries attempted the classic course, only 12 would continue into the handy phase. The last duo to enter the ring was Andy Lomker and Fantabulous, owned by Shelley Shaulinski of Pittsford, NY. Already having the first round high score of 90 points, Lomker opted to give it his all, but still play it safe. Where some of the riders sliced an inside turn at the end of the course, Lomker chose to avoid it. His choice was one that impressed the judges and earned him the second round base score of 87 points. Even though Lomker chose the safe route, he did not hesitate to jump all four of the high options available, making his total for the second round 91 points, and his grand total 181.
"Everything you see with Fantabulous is how he is all the time," Lomker explained. "He's been that way for all four years that we have had him. He never lunges, loves going to the horse shows, loves competing, and is pretty much happy all the time. He's a really special horse. He surprises people over fences, but the size of the jump doesn't matter to him. He doesn't like to touch the jumps at all, so as the jumps get bigger, he jumps bigger."
Head trainer of SBS Farms Inc., Jennifer Alfano, helped train Lomker in preparation for the Classic. "Andy asked me if I could help him out tonight, it's always fun to help them out, especially since Shelley and I are such good friends. We all have a lot of fun together, and the truth is that Fantabulous really is a great horse. He's a tryer, he tries every time and is a great horse to be around," said Alfano.
Megan Holiday rode Nureev Du Houssoit to the second place honors with a two-round total of 172 points. Amherst, owned by Hayley Betts of Penfield, NY, and ridden by Alicia Heberle, followed close behind with a total score of 171. The Showcase Ltd entry, Mine, ridden by Maryann Osborne completed the classic with 168 points. The fifth place honors were given to Jennifer Gurner and The Other Brother for their score of 165.5.
The night continued with the $2,500 Up the Creek Children's/Adult Jumper Classic. Ten riders attempted the course filled with sharp rollbacks, tight turns, single oxers, an in-and-out, and several vertical-oxer combinations. Only four riders were able to clear the course without any faults or time penalties, resulting in a jump-off.
First in the race against the clock was Ben Phillips aboard Amendment 15, owned by Darren Chiacchia of Ocala, FL. The duo soared around the ring making tight turns to each and every jump. An unfortunate rail at the third fence cost them the top call; however, they did claim the third place prize.
Charles Emerson and Pasha were the next to try to go double-clear. They started out the course with a smooth and quick jump to the single oxer, but the second fence posed a challenge with a rail coming down. Although the duo finished in 33.27 seconds, they came in the fourth place right behind Phillips' four-fault time of 30.661.
With only two riders remaining, the audience held its breath as they anxiously waited to see who would win. Grace Weidner and Only Jumping boy cleared every fence with ease, keeping a strong momentum; the duo tripped the beam at 29.194 seconds. Caliente entered the ring with Andrea Bennett in the irons to attempt to beat Weidner's time and go double-clear. When they jumped across the last fence, it seemed as though the duo might do it, but less than a second difference cost them the first place prize. Their time of 30.088 seconds could not compete with the target time Weidner had posted. Weidner lead the victory gallop, and was also presented as the overall champion of the Children's/Adult Jumper divisions as well as the Low Children's/Adult Jumpers for her efforts with Only Jumping Boy and Mick O Angelo.
"The Only Jumping Boy was perfect as usual tonight," Weidner admitted. "I was able to go into the ring confidently, and have trust in my ride. The course was challenging, but I didn't have to worry too much about speed since he already covers so much ground. I wasn't expecting to win the overall grand champion for the divisions, but it felt great!"
The Stephen Comunale Low Child/Adult Jumper Classic concluded this evening's events. Showing over the same course as the previous classic, the riders were faced with the same difficulties. Only two riders went clear in the first round, resulting in a nail-biting jump-off. Shelby Cashman and Lucy Long, owned by the United States Military Academy, went double-clear in a time of 30.933 seconds. The crowd looked on as Gina Oddo and Piercing Glance, owned by Lindsay Cornell of Ransomville, NY, attempted to go clear for a second time and beat Cashman's time. Although the pair raced against the timer, an unlucky rail earned them the second place award.
"My plan was to be quick, but still be safe," explained Cashman. "I didn't want to risk everything for speed. I figured with a clear round I would do better. The course definitely had its challenges and sharp turns, but it also gave a lot of time to recoup and gather, so I used that to my advantage."
Tomorrow concludes the 65th Buffalo International Horse Show with the finale of the junior, children and pony classes. The BIHS has been a tremendous success due to its sponsors and generous supporters such as EMO Insurance, The Hunting Horn and HSBC Bank USA. For more information regarding the 65th Annual Buffalo International Horse Show, please visit www.thebtrc.org or call (716) 877-9295.
Photo Credit: Andy Lomker won the $2,500 DJ Johnson Horse Transportation USHJA National Classic at the Buffalo International Horse Show. Photo © 2011 Kendall Bierer/PMG.