Lexington KY - July 28, 2012 - Spectators gathered on shaded picnic benches as they looked onward to the NAL/WIHS Adult Hunter Classic in the Murphy Ring at the Kentucky Horse Park on the third day of the Kentucky Summer Horse Show. They watched as the top amateur riders went against one another, showcasing their mount's talents as they vied for the top honors. It was Julie Holzberger and Revealed who took on the Classic with a vengeance, winning the prestigious title with an overwhelming 10-point difference. Their high scoring second round set a bar no other participant could reach.
The NAL/WIHS Adult Hunter Classic consisted of two courses designed by Joe Carnicom. Each round was made up of natural obstacles, and a challenging vertical-vertical-oxer combination set down the inside of the Murphy Ring. Rachel Boggus and Cassino Z, from Toledo, OH, set the bar for other competitors with an impressive score of 85 in the first round, but it was Julie Holzberger and Revealed who overtook the competition with an 86 point score over the second course.
"I think the course was nice, and I think the last turn to the oxer was a tight turn and really made you think. You have to be on your toes all the time," Holzberger described. "When I'm consistent, that's when it happens. You want to start to be consistent in your riding you have to do the best you can do-for me it is consistency and pace. Each horse rides differently, and I focus on what that horse needs to make it work."
With a combined score of 165 points, Holzberger guided by trainers Christopher Payne and David Belford, accomplished their goal of earning the class' blue ribbon prize. It was a feat for Holzberger, and she was ecstatic about the win, tearing as she spoke about the connection she has built with her horses.
"Today was a beautiful day, I feel blessed. It's been a long week, and my horses are amazing-we click. I think the biggest thing is having great mentors, they give me positive encouragement," Holzberger explained. "It felt good this morning, it is just natural with both of them, there is just a connection. I feel what they need and they feel what I need. Honestly, it is just like a direct connection. It is what makes it work. Chemistry is everything. The chemistry with both of my horses is spectacular."
Although Boggus and Cassino Z had the high first round score, they eventually took the second place ribbon with their overall score of 155 points. Michelle Power and Change Order were awarded the third place award for their total of 148 points.
Prior to the Classic, the Amateur-Owner 50 and Older Hunter division saw competitors return for day two of competition in a new ring. Camille McNeill entered the ring with Tuckahoe, bringing the same edge that shaped their scores in the Stonelea Arena, yesterday. The pair caught the eyes of the judges, riding to the first place finish. The second round saw a different talent take the top score. Written In the Stars, ridden by Kathy Dixon of Galena, Ohio, stole the final course of the division, but it was McNeill and Tuckahoe who took the championship for the division with an additional third and fourth place ribbon. Southern Comfort and Mary Canner were awarded the reserve championship.
"I didn't want to be nervous, I always get nervous," McNeill laughed. "My plan was to take three deep breaths and just ride consistently. The Murphy rides differently, he tends to look out at everything, so I had to focus him more today. I needed to have him going a little more forward, he does exactly what I tell him to do. The first round was his best today. He had a great rhythm and he always takes care of me. He is a good guy, he really is."
Earlier in the morning, amidst the pristine jumps in the Stonelea Arena, the Amateur-Owner 3'3" Hunters named their champions. Dominus, guided by Maria Takacs of Rumson, NJ, won the first place prize in the handy, as well as an additional second place ribbon in the over fences. They also were awarded the second place for their efforts in the under saddle. It was Dominus who posed for the presentation photo as the division's champion.
"This is his fourth day of showing, and he really rose to the occasion. I have a lot of nice horses, but this one is really special and I have always believed in him, it just took a while to put all of the pieces together," Takacs stated. "I always thought he could be a star, he has matured so much. He really loves being on the road and all of the attention. I think he knows when he wins, and really loves the spotlight. He puts his ears forward to the jumps, and the interesting thing is that he likes performing."
Elizabeth Degolian and Quite Simply were awarded the reserve championship honors for their brilliant efforts over the day's courses. With the second place in the first round of the over fences, and a fourth place ribbon in the under saddle, the duo took the reserve championship with pride. Sarah Ingram and Four Iron also rode to good ribbons, but they fell just shy of the championship awards.
The morning also saw the Amateur-Owner Hunter division showing in the Stonelea Arena, completing their second day of competition. Coming to a close with competitive anticipation, the finals yielded Kelli Scherill of Alpharetta, GA, aboard Caruso to take home the Amateur-Owner Hunter Championship, while Emily Morin of Mcclean, VA, and Ace of Spades took reserve championship honors.
"This was our first time showing in Kentucky together, but he acted like he has shown here his entire life. He couldn't have been better. I was here for Pony Finals way back when, but I love it here! The footing is great, and I would love to be here every weekend, it is just beautiful," Scherill concluded.
The Kentucky Summer Horse Show will conclude tomorrow with the $5,000 Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby in the Stonelea Arena. Professional, Junior and Amateur riders will have the opportunity to compete for the top honors, as well as points for the $10,000 Hallway Feeds Leading Rider Award.
For more information about the Kentucky Summer Horse Shows, please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
Photo Credit: Julie Holzberger and Revealed won the NAL/WIHS Adult Hunter Classic the Kentucky Summer Horse Show. Photo By: Shawn McMillen Photography.