Lexington, KY - May 9, 2011- Riders gathered at the Stonelea Ring to face the demanding hunter course as the first day of the Kentucky Spring Horse Show got underway. They were greeted with a brisk morning air, and a cloud filled sky, as the divisions commenced with top riders from across the nation competing for the winning honors in their respective divisions.
Opening day marked the beginning of the First Year Green Working Hunter, Second Year Green Working Hunter, Green Conformation, Regular Conformation and High Performance Hunter classes. Leading the way in the Green Conformation Hunters was Hunt Tosh aboard Say Again, while Havens Schatt exhibited both Macallan and Valencia to top honors in the Second Year Green Working Hunters. It was Jennifer Alfano, however, who stole the show in the Regular Conformation Hunters with Lions Paw, as well as the High Performance Hunters with the revered Jersey Boy, sweeping both divisions.
Alfano piloted the nine-year-old thoroughbred, Lion's Paw, owned by Danny Robertshaw of Camden, SC, to two blue ribbons in the Regular Conformation Hunters. She originally began showing the gelding at the beginning of HITS Ocala; however, this was her first time show with him this spring. "I had him since the beginning of Florida, and he hasn't actually been shown since the third week. I was thrilled with him. He was great, and the course rode nicely. He's pretty simple to ride, he never spooks at anything, and he is just a fun horse to ride."
Later in the day, Alfano also piloted Jersey Boy to the top of the pinning in the High Performance Hunters, sweeping the division with two smooth and consistent courses. Jersey Boy fell easily into the rhythm of the course, jumping with precision, calculated distance and caution as he maneuvered the difficult bending line and the vertical-vertical-oxer outside line.
"All of my horses have been wild today, a little cool weather, and they are feeling fresh. I was thrilled with him today; all of our horses have had a little break. Jersey Boy didn't eye anything, it was so unlike him to go in there and not over think," Alfano laughed. "We both love Kentucky though, the courses are great, the fences are beautiful and I love being able to ride in the open field. I think that he enjoys it as much as I do. He did great out there and it was a great way to start the week."
Havens Schatt piloted the nine-year-old gelding Macallan, owned by Tracy Scheriff-Muser of Wellington, FL, to a first place ribbon in the Second Year Green Working Hunters, as well as the fourth place ribbon. She also had success on her second mount of the day, Valencia, owned by CH Farm, LLC of Delano, MN, earning the first place ribbon and the third place ribbon.
"I was getting ready today, and I was thinking you couldn't find two more opposite types of horses to ride one right after the other," Schatt explained with a smile. "Macallan is just big, stridey and slow. Valencia has huge stride and huge scope, but she's a girl and she's a little thinner and wants to be a little quicker. It's tough to show them at the same time, but they are both great horses."
Schatt continued, "Macallan didn't show very much, because we gelded him after Indoors. He showed a bit at the beginning, but I didn't think he was fit enough, so we went back home and he just showed the last three weeks. Valencia did great in Palm Beach. She was probably champion or reserve six times down there. She's gotten really consistent this year."
Tammy Provost also rode Libretto, owned by Alliy Moyer of Carmel, IN, to top honors in the division, earning the second place ribbon in the first over fences class. Holden, owned by Susan Moriconi of St. Louis, MO, and ridden by Christopher Payne, took the third and second place ribbons for their efforts in the over fences.
Earlier in the morning, the Green Conformation Hunter division saw stiff competition as rider vied for the winning prize. Provost rode Paul Stuart, owned by Wendy Hofmeister of Willowbrook, IL, to the blue ribbon in the first round over fences. Although Schatt put forth another strong effort in the division aboard Shoreline, owned by Carolyn Gouse of Wellington, FL, earning the second and fourth place ribbons, it was Hunt Tosh and Say Again, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Wheeler of Keswick, VA, who caught the judges' eyes during the second round.
"Say Again is a new horse to us, this is the fourth time we have shown him. He did really well in Florida, and then we gave him a break," Tosh explained. "He was a little green during the first round, but then he went in and did really well and won the second one. I thought he went nicely, he's a little green just because this is only his fourth time showing. He is very quiet, and very brave. He has been going very well for us."
The course was exactly what Tosh imagined it should be for the opening day. "The lines rode nicely, they do great courses here and the footing is perfect. The horses are jumping great, and it has been a great first day."
Out of a field of 22 competitors, Louie Serio proceeded to amaze with two talented mounts, Casino and Aate'. Serio earned the second place ribbon for her efforts over the first course with Casino, owned by Bridget Hallman and Merrylegs South of Oyster Bay, NY, falling just behind Jeff Gogul aboard Rose Bud. In the second round, Serio left nothing to chance. She showed Casino to the blue ribbon prize, and also saw great success aboard Aate', owned by Bright Star 158, LLC of Snyder, NY, earning the third and fourth place ribbons with him, too.
"This is our first horse show with Casino since Florida, so I was very happy with him because he doesn't have a lot of experience showing, but he went in that ring and did extremely well," Serio explained. "Casino is huge strided and kind of slow, and his rounds today were beautiful. I was very happy with the way he went, and it is so great to see how far he has already come."
"Aate' went beautifully, he gallops and jumps hard. After we did a warm-up with him, he was spectacular; I am so pleased with him. The truth is, that Casino and Aate' are both two very different rides, but they are exceptional horses," Serio stated. "This course was perfectly set for the first day-it was challenging enough with long lines, beautiful fences and a broken line. It's great to be back in Kentucky."
Tomorrow brings the conclusion of the professional hunter divisions where the top rider and horse combinations will compete for the tricolor awards. This week also features the Amateur-Owner Hunter and Junior Hunter divisions. The week holds many highlights, including the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby and the latest addition to the lineup, the $5,000 Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby.
For more information about the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows or to download the prize list, please go to www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy scored two blue ribbons at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show in the High Performance Hunters, sweeping the first day of classes. Photo By: Kendall Bierer/PMG.