Lexington, KY - May 14, 2015 - Havens Schatt and Jennifer Alfano battled neck and neck for the blue ribbons on day one of the professional hunter divisions at the Kentucky Spring Classic. The two friendly leading riders and their horses were back it today, eventually tying for the grand championship.
Beginning with the First Year Green Hunters, Schatt demonstrated her determination atop two entries, Custom Made and Capital City. In the over-fences class, Schatt piloted Custom Made to a first-place finish, ending up second in the handy and first on the flat to earn the division championship.
Custom Made, who is owned by Shaw Johnson Price, became a minor celebrity after jumping out of the Rost Arena with Schatt aboard at the Winter Equestrian Festival, but today the 10-year-old gelding was on his best behavior.
"I think Custom Made is really in a good place right now," Schatt commented. "I'm a big believer that if you just take your time and help them try to understand, it's not that difficult. They learn a lot."
Schatt and Capital City were awarded the reserve championship for their winning handy round combined with a third-place and finish over fences.
"Everything you ask Capital City to do, he's game to do it," Schatt said. "He's always right there to pick up the slack. This was the first week that he was really able to put everything together in every class, but he's only 7, so he has way less experience than a horse like Custom Made."
The Green and Regular Conformation Hunters were the next to show, with both Kelley Farmer and Peter Wylde in contention for the top spots. In the over-fences class, Farmer took home the blue atop Back Story, the big bay gelding owned by Tia Schurecht. The pair finished third in the handy and first on the flat, racking up enough points for the division championship.
"Back Story had a little break, but it's awesome to have him back," Farmer said. "As a First Year horse, he was champion at Devon, reserve at Capital Challenge, but he pretty much took the last year off. I think we're right on track for being ready for Devon again. He's a big, strong horse, and it's not hard for him at all."
Wylde and Levland, the 8-year-old entry owned by The Levland Group, were hot on her heels, taking home first place in the handy and coming in second to Farmer over fences and on the flat. The duo earned the division's reserve championship for their efforts.
"We bought Levland to be a Grand Prix jumping star, but turns out Levland doesn't like the water jump very much," Wylde laughed. "He's so beautiful and he's such a good jumper that I thought maybe he would make a good hunter. We're just starting with him, and I think he's going to be a really good horse. I'm just so excited because he does it really well, and he's beautiful to ride; he has Grand Prix scope."
The day continued with the Second Year Green Hunter division, with Alfano and Schatt returning to face off once again. Schatt and Set to Music, owned by Deborah Perkins, improved from Wednesday's second-place finishes, delivering three winning rounds to sweep day two and earn the division's championship. The duo also accumulated enough points to tie Alfano and High Performance Hunter Maggie May for the overall co-grand championship.
"Set to Music is just so scopey," Schatt said. "He's like 15.2, so when you're cantering to those big jumps, it's a little nerve-wracking, but then he just does it with no problem. He's just now coming into his own to put everything together, each and every time. That little horse knows how to turn it on at the big shows, but in between at the smaller shows, you're like 'come on, Calvin!' He just knows when it matters."
Rounding out the Second Years were Alfano and Candid, the previous day's victors. The pair finished second over fences and third on the flat, earning the reserve championship.
It was Alfano's time to shine in the High Performance Hunters with Helen Lenahan's Maggie May. The mare won four out of the division's five blue ribbons, earning the championship and joining Schatt for the overall co-grand championship.
"Maggie was great today," Alfano remarked. "She went beautifully, and I'm so happy with her. I've had her for several years, and she's just really coming into her own. She always was a great athlete, but she wasn't really consistent. Now, you can call on her, and it's really nice. We went slowly with her, and it's paying off. She's so smooth and pretty that when she does it right, she is so nice."
The division's reserve champion award went to Schatt and Mostly Sunny, the flashy chestnut owned by CH Farm LLC.
"Mostly Sunny is like my child," Schatt gushed. "He can do no wrong in my eyes. He's only 7, he's inexperienced, but he's so scopey that he won't learn anything from the 3'3. At 3'6, he's not really ready beat all of Scott's great horses, but he's got to go in there and learn."
At the end of the day, both Alfano and Schatt were happy to share the Grand Championship honors. Alfano commented, "Getting co-grand champion with Havens was really fun. We're friends, so it is always nice to be able to have this award at this show."
Schatt agreed, saying "It's nice; it's a great award. The level of competition at this horse show is so great, I think it's really nice to have a grand championship. Jen's a great rider, and she had an amazing day yesterday, and I couldn't beat her," Schatt laughed. "My horses were super today, and everything just fell into place. That's how it goes with horse showing."
Coverage will continue Friday with the USEF Platinum Performance Talent Search 2*. Saturday is "Derby Day," with the $5,000 Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby taking center stage.
For more information on Kentucky Horse Shows LLC and the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.