Lexington, KY - The sun beat down on the Walnut Ring today for a hot opening day at the USEF Junior Hunter Finals - East Coast, held at the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park. Junior riders from up-and-down the East Coast qualified their mounts throughout the past horse show season to compete in this week's events.
After four divisions of competition, the lead is currently being held by Hayley Barnhill and Red Panda who won both the handy round and the under saddle class in the Small 16-17 Junior Hunter division.
Today, riders were faced with a tricky handy round created by course designer Bobby Murphy. This opening round tested riders with tight inside turn options, an exit of the ring up a large bank followed by a natural trot jump. Riders then tackled a hedge jump before cantering an uphill two-stride consisting of two verticals.
The day kicked-off with the Small 15 and Under Junior Hunters completing their handy rounds. Shawn Casady and his mount, Scout took top honors receiving scores of 86, 88 and 88 from the panel of three judges for a total of 262. Second place went to Louise Graves and her Suited for Business with scores of 84, 85 and 84 for a 253 total. The third place award was presented to Safari and Caitlin Ziegler with scores of 82, 86 and 80 for a 248 total.
"It was a good course, we had a couple inside turn options," commented Casady on his first round at his first Junior Hunter Finals. "I could use my track to find the distances I wanted. I let him take the time to make the best jump; there was enough time to let him perform his best. Terry (Brown) does a great job, I really appreciate everything she has been teaching me on this horse and it's been a blast."
Next up in the order was the Small 16-17 Junior Hunter Division. Red Panda and Hayley Barnhill topped the class with the overall second high scores for the day earning an 88, 88 and 90 for a total of 266. Samantha Schaefer and her mount, Castle garnered the second place honors after scoring an 87, 87, and 88 for a total of 262. Third was Leah Demartini and Elm Rock LLC's entry Glass Castle who earned scores of 85, 83 and 84 for a total of 252. After the jumping portion of today, Red Panda and Hayley Barnhill were in second place overall for Grand Junior Hunter Champion.
"Red Panda was amazing today," smiled Barnhill. "We just practiced a lot of trot jumps at home to prepare for today. The bank to the trot jump was really fun because it was something we don't get to do very often. I love Kentucky and I was excited Junior Hunter Finals were here."
In the Large 15 and Under Junior Hunters, it was Victoria Colvin and Dr. Bestee Barker's Way Cool in the lead after the final horse completed their round. Colvin and Way Cool received scores of 89, 90 and 88 for a total of 267 for the panel of judges. Colvin and Way Cool's jumping scores were the highest out of the four divisions heading into tomorrow's classic round. Second in the Large 15 and Under Junior Hunters was Lismacbryan Junior and Alyssa Mansfield after receiving scores of 88, 88 and 84 for a total of 260. Shawn Casady and his second mount of the day, Cachet were third with 85, 87 and 86 for a total 258.
"Way Cool was great today," laughed Colvin. "We didn't do anything special to prepare for this, we just wanted to keep it as a normal and low pressure as possible since this is my first time at Junior Hunter Finals. It feels great to have the highest jumping scores heading into tomorrow!"
In the Large 16-17 Junior Hunters, it was Maggie Boylan and her top mount, Poetic to take home the blue ribbon. Boylan and Poetic received scores of 84, 87 and 84.5 totaling 255.5 for their excellent efforts. Second place honors went to Chase Boggio of Canton, GA and his mount Rockford, owned by Norgan Inc. Boggio and Rockford scored 82.5, 82.5 and an 83.5 for a total of 248. Taylor Ann Adams and Rosalynn, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Oare, took home the third place award. Adams and Rosalynn received scores of 88, 82, and 76 for a total of 246 for their consistent efforts.
"It was such a fun course," smiled Boylan. "He was so awesome; I couldn't have asked him to be any better. He's such a quiet horse and was really a blast in all of the handy elements and was right there for the inside turns and up the bank to the trot jump."
Boylan continued, "Last year he was reserve champion of our division, so I'm hoping to improve on that this year. I start school at Texas A&M in the fall, so Junior Hunter Finals in Kentucky is fun way to end the summer before I leave for school and headed into Indoors."
After all of the jumping rounds finished, the jumps were removed from Walnut Ring to give room for junior riders show their mounts in the second portion of today's events, the Under Saddle. Ovation and Victoria Colvin garnered the top prize in the Small 15 and Under Junior Hunter Under Saddle. Red Panda and Hayley Barnhill took home their second blue ribbon of the day in the Small 16-17 Junior Hunter Under Saddle. Destry Spielberg and her top mount, Rumba were awarded the top call in the Larger 15 and Under Junior Hunter Under Saddle for their excellent effort. Maggie Boylan and her Poetic were the other pair to win a set of blue ribbons today after winning the Large 16-17 Junior Hunter Under Saddle.
Barnhill and Red Panda's excellent effort during the course of today's events earned them a total score of 531 points; winning the handy class and the under saddle class. The pair is currently in the lead going into tomorrow's classic round, followed closely by Maggie Boylan and Poetic with 524 points. Red Panda is no stranger to Junior Hunter Finals and was successful winning the Grand Junior Hunter Championship with Jennifer Waxman in 2008.
Junior Hunter Finals continue tomorrow at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Riders will have the opportunity to compete in their assigned sections in their classic round. Champion and Reserve honors will be awarded in each section, along with overall Grand Junior Hunter Champion and Reserve Champion awards. Junior riders will also have the opportunity tomorrow to compete in the Hunterdon Cup, which gets underway at 2pm in the New Indoor Ring.
For more information about the Kentucky Summer Horse Shows, please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
Photo Credit: Hayley Barnhill and Red Panda Lead USEF Junior Hunter Finals - East Coast on Day One. Photo By: Alyson Sanderford/PMG.