CULPEPER, VA (September 29)-Bert Mutch of Berryville, Virginia, riding Nelson B won the $25,000 Pre-Green Hunter Invitational Sponsored by Stillwell-Hansen, Inc. & Four Winds Farm at the Cosequin® U.S. Grand Prix League Finals in Culpeper, Virginia, today. The judges scored the duo as the best in a field of 32 horses. Mutch and Nelson earned an average score of 85.5 after two rounds, taking first place and $7,500 for owner Pierre Jolicoeur of Culpeper, Virginia.
"I was so nervous, I rode the whole course, every flying change with them," said Jolicoeur. Jolicoeur imported the six-year-old Dutch gelding a year ago as a jumper prospect and noted that the horse's pedigree includes jumping stars Nimmerdor and Marco Polo. Both Jolicoeur and Mutch rode Nelson in classes and earned the points to qualify for the finals, but Jolicoeur gave the ride to Mutch for today's class.
"I've spent most of the past 10 years riding jumpers since my hunter days with Rox Dene," said Mutch. "It would be hard to top the princess, but this horse really peaked today at the right time. When we made it to the second round, I knew after the third jump we could just float to the jumps. I was thinking about my father who trained me. After the last jump, inside I said, 'Thank you, Ronzo'." Burt is the son of Ronnie Mutch, a leading hunter rider and trainer in the U.S. in the 1960s and '70s.
To participate in the Invitational Final today, Pre-Green Hunters were required to earn points at Cosequin® USGPL member event shows throughout the season. The top 30 horses that accumulated the most points in the Pre-Green Hunter Section were invited to compete without entry fees. The riders were not limited in the number of horses they qualified, but were allowed to compete in the Final on only two horses. Mutch also rode Free Spirit owned by Sanmar Farm of Culpeper, Virginia, who tied for ninth place.
Jerry Dougherty of Geneva, Illinois, designed the courses. The Pre-Green Hunters are judged on performance and soundness with manners emphasized. The class was scored under the open numerical judging system. Each competitor jumped one round of 10 fences at 3'. The top 12 horses from the first round returned to jump a second round in reverse order of their scores in the first round, with the lowest score going first and the highest score going last. Scores were averaged from both rounds to determine the winner.
Mutch was in third place going into the second round with a score of 83. In the second round he earned a score of 88, which stepped him up to first with a final average of 85.5. "I watched everybody go," said Mutch. "The course and this ring really allowed you to show off your horse. You could show nice lead changes and there was room to gallop. You have to look flawless, and I was a bit worried about that because I've been doing the jumpers where you can kick and turn. Here you have to be perfect and very discreet with your aids, almost hide what you're doing. With this horse, in the second round I could just drop the reins and float to the jumps. He can jump a lot higher, but I think he'll stay in the hunters." Mutch also took the opportunity to acknowledge the sponsors, Cosequin and Stillwell Hansen, Inc. & Four Winds Farm. "I'd like to thank the sponsors of this class. We spend so much time and money getting our horses to this level, and it's nice to be rewarded with this kind of money, especially in the hunters."
Course Designer Dougherty summed up the Pre-Green Finals, "It was great being able to use the main hunter ring here at Culpeper. It allowed me to open the lines up and let the horses canter on. The footing is great and the horses covered a lot of ground easily in the ring today. Bert's horse was awesome. He was very competent in the second round and looks like an up and coming star."
$25,000 Pre-Green Hunter Invitational Sponsored by Stillwell-Hansen, Inc. & Four Winds Farm
September 29, 2001
HITS Culpeper VI, Cosequin® USGPL Finals, Culpeper, Virginia
Course Designer: Jerry Dougherty
1/Nelson B/Bert Mutch/Pierre Jolicoeur/85.5/$7,500
2/Urban Legend/Pat Vogtle/Don Stewart Jr./84.25/$5,500
3/Tuxedo Park/Jimmy Torano/Jessica Coppola/84/$3,250
4/Alias Grace/Shachine Bell/Elizabeth Kilgallon/79.5/$2,000
5/Elvis/Winn Alden/Nicole Brown/82/$1,500
6/Jeffery/Robert Coluccio/Abigale Gonzalez/81/$1,250
7/Aragorn/Sandy Ferrell/Edward H. Lane/82/$1,000
8/I Am/Jimmy Torano/Jimmy Torano/80/$750
9/Free Spirit/Bert Mutch/Sanmar Farm/77/$625
9/Powerman/Nona Garson/The Ridge Farm LLC/77/$625
11/Fern Walk/Pat Vogtle/Don Stewart Jr/74/$500
12/Aquavit/Jenny Fischer/Ian Michaels/72.5/$500
Number of horses who competed in this class: 32
Class Prize Money: $25,000