Buffalo, NY - September 11, 2013 - The first day of the sold out 67th Buffalo International Horse Show (BIHS) opened to top-tier hunter competition as the Indoor Arena at the Buffalo Equestrian Center was alive with action. The premier fundraiser for the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center (BTRC) offered an array of hunter classes for all experience levels, with some of the top hunter professionals vying for the coveted honors. Jennifer Alfano dominated the Professional Hunter Divisions early this morning, while Mandy Bittner piloted Handsome Rob to the championship in the $1,000 Robert-James Sales, Inc. Thoroughbred Hunter division.
The morning began with perfect conditions, as competitors were welcomed to the Indoor Arena. The hunter arena was buzzing with anticipation as BIHS boasted a record high number of entries for their 67th year of competition. The First Year Green Working Hunters were the first to take their turn against Brian Brown's course, where Jennifer Alfano and Jamie George went neck-to-neck to try for the opening day's lead of the division. The course consisted of natural fences, including single oxers, a bending line and two vertical-oxer outside lines. Each horse and rider combination was challenged by the confines of the Indoor Arena, proving the perfect preparation for the quickly approaching Indoor Finals set to start in only a few short weeks.
"She has been great," eventual leader of the First Year Green Working Hunter division Alfano remarked. "We didn't show Maggie May a lot this summer, but she has really grown into herself and become very consistent. I thought she went great today, and she is a really fun horse to ride. She is still green, but she is so straightforward, that she makes my job easier."
It was Alfano and Maggie May, owned by Billie Steffee, who rode away with the first and second place finishes over fences, as well as the under saddle. George captured the second place in the first class over fences, the blue during their second round, and was pinned second in the under saddle.
Alfano showed two mounts this morning, returning during the Working Hunters with Jersey Boy, owned by SBS Farms, Inc. of Buffalo, NY, to capture the lead. They recently rode to the third place finish in the prestigious $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, and their success followed as they continued into today's hunter division. The duo swept the over fences with their picture-perfect rounds, and also were presented with the third place for their efforts in the under saddle. Hot on their heels was Rachel Clawson and Montenegro, owned by Lilly Ulrich, who earned two seconds over fences and the first place award in the under saddle.
"Chicago was probably the first time that he felt totally back to his normal, healthy self," Alfano described. "At the Derby Finals a few weeks ago, I don't think he was quite up to his fitness level. I think if we had had one more week, then we would have been ready, but he shined in Chicago and was on the money. He felt great out there today, too."
Next in the order was the Pre-Green 3' or 3'3" Hunter division. There was no close call as Alfano navigated Candid to two first place ribbons over fences. They took the first-day lead as the pair to watch at the top of the leader board. Andrew Lomker and Tivoli, owned by Chris R. Steer, captured the third place finish over fences, as well as the second place in the under saddle, while Alfano rode Me Again, owned by Helen Lenahan, to the second and third place over fences and the third place in the under saddle.
"I knew Candid was a really nice horse when I originally purchased him, but he turned out to be amazing," Alfano stated. "He was, and still is, so green but I am having so much fun with him. It is unbelievable. He puts a smile on my face every time I ride him."
Alfano also captured the Baby Green Hunter Championship with Uptown Girl, owned by SBS Farms, Inc. Andrew Lomker and Marvelous, owned by Chris R. Steer, were awarded the reserve championship.
Mandy Bittner took control of the Thoroughbred Hunter courses with Handsome Rob, owned by Nancy Bittner. She earned the first and two second place ribbons over fences, and also snatched up the first place in the under saddle to take the class championship. Alfano and Chasin the Red, owned by Joe Alfano, were awarded the reserve championship.
"I have had Handsome Rob for eight years, and he has come a long way since I first got him. This was our first time here, and I was really happy with how he went out there today," Bittner explained. "I am planning on going to Zone 2 Finals, so I wanted to compete somewhere inside-this was the perfect preparation."
Bittner continued, "He needs a helpful ride, but I can't get too nervous, because he feeds off of my energy. I am super happy with how he was, the course was difficult, but he handled it great. He is a good old boy."
Holly Ferrell led the Low Hunter division from start to finish, piloting Tempo to the eventual championship tricolor. They were awarded the first, second and third place over fences. Alicia Heberle picked up the reserve championship with Del Piero, owned by Doreen Tobin. Heberle is a new addition to the SBS Farms, Inc., family, only recently joining as their new Assistant Trainer.
"I rode at SBS as a kid, and then I went to ride for my mom at her barn in Rochester, New York. My sister recently graduated, and was looking for a riding job, so I jumped at the opportunity to work as an assistant trainer at SBS Farms," Heberle elaborated. "I am still settling into the job, and figuring out what to expect. It is an amazing opportunity for me."
The first day of the 67th Buffalo International Horse Show concluded with the Performance 3'3" Hunter division. It was Alfano and Winter Hill, owned by Emma Merritt, who earned the tricolor. The pair picked up the first place and two second place ribbons over fences, and also rode to the first place in the under saddle to seal their championship award. Heberle once again rode to the reserve championship, guiding Rio's Reflection, owned by Harper Hills, LLC, to back-to-back blue ribbons over fences.
"Rio's Reflection is just coming back into the show world, and this was his first time back to his normal self. He was great out there, very comfortable," Heberle explained. "This is such a unique horse show, it has been around for so long, and they really know how to make it special. The courses feature some beautiful jumps, and they go out of their way to make it mean something to the exhibitors."
Tomorrow the hunter action will continue as the second day of the 67th Buffalo International Horse Show gets underway. The professional divisions will come to a close tomorrow, and the Amateur-Owner Hunters will begin. The highlight of the day will be the inaugural USHJA Pre-Green Incentive Stake where riders will compete to get the top points in the hopes of qualifying for the finals to be held in Lexington, KY, in 2014. The well-liked $1,000 Ravenswood Grooms Class will take place in the afternoon, seeing many of the show's grooms approach the center of the ring for their turn at scrutiny as the judges choose the best.
For more information regarding the 67th Annual Buffalo International Horse Show, please visit www.thebtrc.org or call (716) 877-9295. Entries may be faxed to (716) 877-4001.
67th ANNUAL BUFFALO INTERNATIONAL HORSE SHOW FAST FACTS:
EVENT: 67th Annual Buffalo International Horse Show, which benefits the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center.
WHAT: Buffalo's most prestigious horse show. The 'AA' rated show is one of the best ways for exhibitors to prepare themselves and their horses for the fall indoor circuit of finals. BIHS offers a large indoor arena for competition that gives horses and riders a chance to compete indoors before showing at the national finals in Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. or Kentucky. The horse show offers generous prize money in every division.
Sanctioned and recognized by: United States Equestrian Federation, Rated 'AA' Hunter and 2* Jumper; Syracuse Professional Horsemen's Association; Ohio PHA; WPPHA.
WHERE: Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, 950 Amherst Street, Buffalo, NY 14216
WHEN: September 11-15, 2013
HIGHLIGHTS: The Buffalo International Horse Show benefits the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, and is one of the largest fundraisers for the program.
$1,000 Ravenswood Groom's Class
$1,000 "The Full Monty" Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic
$1,000 Up The Creek Junior Hunter Classic
FRIDAY NIGHT (not before 6 p.m.)
$500 "Scribbles" Pony Hunter Classic
SATURDAY NIGHT (not before 6 p.m.):
$3,000 Johnson Horse Transportation USHJA National Hunter Derby
$2,500 Stephen A. Comunale Children's/Adult Jumper Classic
$1,000 Stephen A. Comunale Low Children's/Adult Jumper Classic
$500 "Say Hey" Children's Hunter Classic
$1,000 Johnson Horse Transportation Silver Stirrup