Wayne, IL - The Showplace Spring Spectacular I opened to cloudless skies and strong jumper competition as the Junior and Amateur-Owner Jumpers took the spotlight in the Grand Prix Ring at the Lamplight Equestrian Center. Fifteen horse and rider combinations faced off in the $10,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame (SJHOF) High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, presented by Upper Echelon Academy, but Kelsey Thatcher led from start to finish with Athena, tripping the timers in 43.093 seconds for the win.
Héctor J. Loyola of Puerto Rico designed a challenging course for the High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers today. He included back-to-back double combinations, a liverpool, a tricky vertical-vertical double combination set on the outside, as well as several sharp turns and tight rollbacks. Only five riders were able to master Loyola's opening course, but it was Thatcher who paved the way as the first rider to tackle the track.
Thatcher laid down a speedy round by opting for the inside track, guiding Athena through the slices and rollbacks with ease and efficiency. Her time of 43.093 seconds would prove untouchable, even with Laura Linback in hot pursuit.
"The course was hairy, but my horses handled it well," Thatcher said. "Athena is great, and she can pretty much handle anything. I love her because she has so much heart. She goes out there and every single jump she twists and turns to get from one side to the next."
Although Linback was able to qualify two horses for the jump-off, Attention Please was just behind Thatcher's pace collecting the second place. She returned on Carmina to take on the daunting track. Although she beat Thatcher's time by 1/10th of a second, a fault at the fifth obstacle, would cost them today's victory. They eventually took the fourth place finish.
"I think down to the last fence was where I was able to beat Laura in time," Thatcher described. "Athena is great at picking up on jumps, to the point that you can't have her zoned in too much. After the in-and-out I just pointed her at the final fence, knowing I can leave out so many strides on her. She was incredible."
Thatcher was also able to take home the third place ribbon with Dulf Van Den Bisschop, owned by Pony Lane Farm. She left all rails intact during the jump-off, but one time fault pushed the pair into third. Giavanna Rinaldi and G.P.S. Brilliant Disguise rounded out the top five with a four-fault round in 46.301 seconds.
Thatcher elaborated, "Danny [Dulf Van Den Bisschop] is a stallion and has so much scope. I did a leave out across the middle and just jumped right back and left the jumps up, which was nice. Some horses would have just left it out and tried to do crazy things, but they were both great out there today."
The Show Jumping Hall of Fame Jumper Classic Series holds classes under Grand Prix rules and specifications at more than 100 horse shows across the country. The series keeps separate standings for juniors and amateur-owners in two conferences, East and West. The series is designed to give amateur-owner and junior riders an opportunity to compete at higher levels and serves as a proving ground for many riders who aspire to someday represent the United States in international competition.
"I think this series is really important," Thatcher smiled. "You can keep at it all year. The Show Jumping Hall of Fame classes are always challenging, which is great. Every show will have one that you really have to raise your game, no matter what horse show you are at." Nathan Rolfe of Upper Echelon Academy was onsite for the presentation.
It was a rewarding moment for Rolfe, who is married to Pony Lane Farm's Haylie Jayne Rolfe. It was only a few years ago that he was working jump crew at the Lamplight Equestrian Center, and now that the Upper Echelon Academy has become a reality, he was proud to sponsor the first of three SJHOF Classics set to take place during the Showplace Spring Spectacular Series.
"We started Upper Echelon a few years ago, and we have had so many students and riders from the Midwest, and who compete in the Midwest, that we thought it would be a great place to get together with Pat [Boyle] and help support his shows," Rolfe said. "It is kind of fun to have come full circle, from jump crew to a class sponsor."
"Having Kelsey [Thatcher], from our barn, win this class couldn't have been any better," Rolfe smiled. "She is such a good rider and person. My partner, who I started the Academy with, tutored all of the Jayne kids and the Thatcher kids all through high school, and we started the company together. I have been able to see Kelsey as both a rider and a person, and I could not have been more proud to be a part of the presentation."
Earlier in the morning the $2,500 Low Child/Adult Jumper Classic got underway in the Grand Prix Ring. Only four riders were able to master the first round of the classic course, with trailblazers Margaret Mac Harg of Elgin, IL, and Winston securing the win early on in a time of 38.899 seconds. Kennedy Mc Caulley and Upside, owned by Southview, Inc. of Ft. Wayne, IN, finished second, while Hailey Royce and Rapidash took third.
Madalyn Hill and Poison Ivy, owned by Alexis Muuss of Bartlett, IL, rode to the $2,500 Modified Children's Jumper Classic win. Shortly after, the $2,500 Modified Adult Jumper Classic got underway where Laura Lafnitzegger and Rocwell, owned by Lise Shellenback of Barrington, IL, rode to the top of the leader board. The $1,500 M & S Children's Jumpers saw intense competition in the Grand Prix Ring, but Sarah Scarnechia and One Direction, owned by Emily Scarnechia of Barrington Hills, IL, rode away victorious. Holly Yeterian beat out 15 other competitors in the $1,500 M & S Adult Jumpers with Zero Point, owned by Matt Yeterian of Barrington Hills, IL.
Tomorrow marks the final day of the Showplace Spring Spectacular I, featuring several highlight events for exhibitors and spectators alike. The NAL Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers will take place in the Grand Prix Ring at 11 a.m., ushering in the finale of the first week, the $30,000 Barrington Saddlery Grand Prix, set to begin at 3 p.m. For more information on the Showplace Spring Spectacular Series please visit: www.showplaceproductions.com.