What does it take to make a champion hunter horse? It takes a good, quiet mind and personality. Hunter horses have to arrive at a showgrounds they may never have seen before, step off the trailer, and perform without any evidence of nerves or excessive excitement. It takes athleticism which is showcased in correct, forward movement. It takes good conformation, or build, with all the parts in place so the horse can stay sound and perform for many years. Of course, it takes a little good looks and charisma to truly make it to the top. Here in the United States, breeders are creating the hunters of the future with all these attributes. The Devon hunter breeding classes are an opportunity to show off these future stars.
Competitors come from far and wide to compete in hunter breeding classes. Yearling Alika Bay came all the way from Tennessee to compete this year. Breeder Lynlee Dutton is excited to see the results of her hard work. She explains that Alika Bay, known around the barn as Piper, has been champion every time she's shown but "there's nothing like being at Devon."
Unlike Piper, who spent hours on the trailer, other hunter breeding horses hail from much closer to Devon. Appaloosa cross Impre' Czario, owned by Julianna Potteiger and handled by Emily Belin hails from Ephrata, PA. Impre' Czario won the Yearling PA Bred Colts and Geldings class. Thoroughbred Nygel hails from Coatesville where he is owned by Cheryll Francella. He was shown to first place in the 2 Year Old PA Bred Colts and Geldings class by William Howland. The best young horse this year has had no shortage of success in the hunter breeding ring. Sabrina handled by Bucky Reynolds and owned by Donna Struve was named best young horse. This beautiful bay Warmblood 2 year old filly rose to the top of all the young horses shown this year at Devon.
Handlers come from all locations as well, and many have made hunter breeding their specialty. Raymond Francis has produced and shown some of the top hunter breeding horses over the past four decades, including many winners at Devon. He handled top hunter pony yearling Land's End Miss Moppet at Devon as well as several well-presented horses.
Emily Belin is newer to the hunter breeding scene but has also had her share of success. Her Drum Roll Please won the young hunter under saddle in 2011 and his full sibling, De Feiner Star, won several classes at Dressage at Devon. This year, she not only handled Impre' Czario but several winning horses and ponies as well. As a result of her success, she was named leading handler. If these hunter breeding horses are the future stars of the show ring, it looks like an exciting future.