Lexington, KY - October 30, 2014 - It took a rocket scientist to win the Amateur-Owner 3'3" Hunter Grand Championship at the National Horse Show - literally.
Kathryn Haefner is a graduate student at Stanford University, where she is completing a degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics. Thursday at the Kentucky Horse Park, she and her mount Columbus rocketed to the top of the leader board to clinch the Amateur-Owner 3'3" 18-35 Hunter Championship, sponsored by Fashion Farm and Woodland Way. The pair's performance also ultimately earned them the Amateur-Owner 3'3" Hunter Grand Championship.
"He was champion last year at Capital Challenge, but this was actually the first time that he's shown here," Haefner said of Columbus. "I wasn't sure what to expect. I just came from school so we were both a little bit rusty. I was basically here to have fun and just to say that I got to go to the National Horse Show."
Haefner continued, "He's been super this whole year. He's really grown up a lot. He came in here, wasn't spooky or anything. There was a lot of stuff to look at in there, and he was totally fine with it."
Haefner purchased the 8-year-old Westphalian gelding four years ago, and he is presently one of 17 horses in her string.
"We have 17 horses that are going to Florida with us," Haefner said. "Our barn is just me, and most of them are sale horses. I have a couple like this one that were sale horses and then I decided that they weren't for sale anymore. We have a bunch of new Pre-Green horses, so I'm going to move my amateurs up, and we'll see. Maybe I'll do some of the young ones in the adults, and see how it goes."
Balancing her horses with a challenging course of study is not easy, but both are things that Haefner is passionate about.
"It's my dad's fault [that I chose to study aerospace]," Haefner said. "He's an electrical engineer, but the company that he works for produces sensors specifically for space applications, so I've been exposed to a lot of science and math from a young age. I got to watch rocket launches, and I thought it was the coolest thing. I wanted to be an astronaut, but I get motion sickness, so that's probably not going to happen. This is the next best thing."
Haefner has another year and a half before graduation, but in the meantime, she is just enjoying the opportunity to compete at top competitions like the National Horse Show.
Finishing with the reserve championship in the Amateur-Owner 3'3" 18-35 Hunters were Darby Toben and Peron.
In the Amateur-Owner 3'3" 35 and Older Hunters, the championship, sponsored by Meralex Farm & Hunt, went to Kelley Corrigan and Game Day. Finishing in the reserve championship position were Ainsley Sadlo and Balin.
What made that one-two finish special is that both Corrigan and Sadlo train with Havens Schatt. Corrigan began riding with the Lexington, Kentucky-based trainer last spring, and has enjoyed it immensely since.
"It's a mellow barn. There are a lot of horses, but it's not tense," Corrigan said. "Havens' is great. The horses are all topnotch."
One of those topnotch horses is Corrigan's own Game Day. "I got him a year ago in August, and I have had him for a little over a year. We've been doing the 3'3" every year, and we're hoping to move up to the 3'6"," Corrigan said. "He's 7, but he kind of acts like he's 11 or 12. He's very amateur friendly."
Following his success Thursday, Game Day will enjoy some time off at Corrigan's home farm in Lexington, Kentucky, before getting back into Schatt's program and heading to Wellington, Florida, for the winter, where Corrigan will set her sights on her goals for next year.
"I really, really want to get to Devon next year. It's my favorite show," Corrigan said. "I would like to do Indoors. He's a horse that gets a little bored doing the same jumps all the time so maybe the following year we'll start doing some derbies."
Thursday afternoon marked the conclusion of the Amateur-Owner 3'3" Hunters, but the hunter competition continues tomorrow with the conclusion of the Amateur-Owner 3'6" Hunter divisions.