Traverse City, MI - July 17, 2011 - It was a warm final day of Horse Shows by the Bay Series II, but as the temperature rose so did the competition. While the classic was occurring in the main hunter ring, exhibitors and spectators were invited into the main hunter tent for an appetizing brunch, generously provided by Hillside Farm. Many fans were in attendance this morning, happy to cool themselves in the shade and observe the morning's many winning rides. The R.L. Polk Family Main Hunter Ring finished off World Champion Hunter Rider week with two impressive hunter classics, with Erynn Ballard and Peter Pletcher the stars of today's shows.
The day started off with the $10,000 Horse Shows by the Bay Open Hunter Classic, with 18 entries in three different height sections. After a short break, the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Classic commenced with 35 entries. Horses who placed in the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Classic earned Zone Horse of the Year points, and those in the $10,000 HSBB Hunter Classic received National Horse of the Year points. Professional, amateur, and junior riders were all eligible for both classics, significantly increasing the number of participants, as well as the intensity of the competition.
The 3'6" section of the $10,000 Horse Shows by the Bay Open Hunter Classic started the day off well. Of the 18 horses in the first round, a total of 13 competed at the 3'6" height. The course was beautifully designed with flowing turns and a few derby-style jumps. Catherine Inch and Rainier were the first to hit the course, and did so very impressively, holding the high score for the entire first round, throughout all sections of the classic. Pletcher rode Primero and Valobra into round two, Kelley Farmer was invited to bring both Coin Toss and Bases Loaded, and Catherine Inch brought Rainier and Wiroko back for round two. Erynn Ballard was invited to round two aboard Timber Ridge, as were Anna Levy aboard Conelly and Natalie Liberman on Bellagio. There were a total of three horses in the 3'9" section, two of which were expertly guided by Kelley Farmer: Clearly, owned by Jane Gaston, and Red Sky, owned by Larry Glefke. Erynn Ballard and Choco Mousse were the third pair in this challenging category. Choco Mousse and Clearly both jumped gracefully into round two. There were just two horses in the 4' section of the classic, and with one experiencing a refusal, Kelley Farmer and Praise were the only ones to continue onto round two at that height. All height sections were judged and pinned as one class.
With a cutoff score of 72 points, the top 12 horse and rider pairs returned for a second round of competition. Timber Ridge and Erynn Ballard were nearly flawless in their second round, earning 86 points in the first round and an astonishing 90 in the second. The tallying-up of their tally-ho efforts produced a score of 176, taking the top honors in the classic. Kelley Farmer and Clearly also had clearly impressive rounds, receiving a two round score of 175 and landing in second place, just one point behind the top score. Taking home the yellow ribbon was Catherine Inch and Rainier, after a slight mishap in round two. With a total score of 167 points, Peter Pletcher rode Primero to fourth place.
"I've known Timber Ridge since Shane first got him as a four-year-old," noted Ballard of the horse she rode victoriously in today's classic. "We've had a long relationship. I rode him when he was a stallion, we did some jumpers with him, and I just started riding him again as a hunter this year. As a stallion, he was such a big horse, and he's always so proud. Every time he jumps, he's excited to jump, and he's so expressive. When he was a jumper, he would sometimes buck and play a little, but now he's really settled into his job as a hunter. He does the younger amateurs as well, and I think that he really likes to do that. Because he likes to jump, you just have to make sure that you have has his mind in the game, because if he's a little too fresh, he makes a huge effort over the jump. He loves to jump and will let you know that he's really proud of himself. He was really good in the amateurs this week; he won the handy yesterday. I rode him in the ring this morning, and he had his braids in, and he's like 'all right, I got it, I'm here, I know what's happening.'"
Ballard also rode Choco Mousse, owned by Claire Thomas, in today's high-scoring event. "They are two totally different horses," she observed of her two rides this morning. "Choco Mousse is a little green, he's a second year. I also just started him in Florida this year and we did the 3'3" Performance Hunters, and then we've moved up to the second years, and we've done a hunter derby in Houston. He also just wants to go out there and do his job. He jumps in a nice style, he goes on a loose rein, he's a real hunter. In the in-between, he's just a little green. He doesn't quite have the mileage that the other hunters do." In addition to competing in today's hunter classic this morning, Ballard also rode Fun 2 Fly in the $30,000 Grand Traverse Bay Grand Prix this afternoon.
After a water and drag break in the R.L. Polk Family Main Hunter Ring, the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Classic got underway. With a total of 35 entries in the hunter derby style class, the competition was as hot as today's hazy weather. While some wilted under the heat of the competition, others thrived and earned some incredible scores. Kelley Farmer continued her fantastic day, earning the highest score of the day, a 94, after bonus points were added in the first round of the classic on Red Sky. Peter Pletcher also earned great scores on both his mounts, Outta the Park and Isaiah. After the first round came to a halt, the top 12 horses were invited back. These top 12 included Pletcher on Outta the Park and Isaiah, and Farmer on Red Sky and Cavalier. In the handy round, riders had to guide their horses into some tight turns, through a "gate," over a trot jump, and also demonstrate a hand gallop. After a gorgeous second round, Pletcher took home the blue ribbon aboard Outta the Park. Missing just one lead change, Kelley Farmer and Red Sky fell to second place after the final round. Pletcher also earned the third place honors aboard Isaiah. News to Me and Lissa Guyton rode right into fourth place in the classic and Amanda Bozorgi, one of the just two junior riders invited back for the handy round, took home fifth place with a very impressive and competitive ride.
The multi-series Horse Shows by the Bay will continue to offer riders and fans the ideal horse sports venue throughout the next two weeks. Series III, which occurs July 20-24, includes a $20,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, a $10,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Junior Amateur-Owner Jumper Prix, and a $30,000 Grand Prix of the Great Lakes and VIP Sponsor Luncheon. During the fourth and final week of competition, notable events include the $30,000 D-BRAIDER Cherry Capital Classic Grand Prix, as well as a $10,000 Children's/Adult Jumper Prix and VIP Sponsor Luncheon. Over half a million dollars in prize money will be awarded by the conclusion of this month-long celebration of equestrian athletes.
For more information or to view schedules, please visit www.horseshowsbythebay.com or call 231-267-3700.
Photo: Erynn Ballard and Timber Ridge Credit: Katie Anich/PMG