Wayne, IL - June 7, 2015 - It was an emotional win Sunday for Kelsey Thatcher, as she led the $10,000 High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic victory gallop aboard veteran mount Athena. The pair bested a field of 16 contenders in a five-horse jump-off to claim the lion's share of the earnings in the Show Jumping Hall of Fame event, but the triumph came with a melancholy undertone.
"She is 15 years old, and she owes me nothing," Thatcher said of the mare. "I am trying not to be too emotional with this win because I am thinking that it is time for Athena to become a brood mare. It is a tough decision, but she owes me nothing."
Thatcher and Athena, owned by Pony Lane Farm of Bluffdale, UT, are no newcomers to the winner's circle at the Spring Spectacular, with Sunday's success marking their second consecutive time winning the annual event, sponsored by Wisconsin Equestrian. As the pace setters of the class, Thatcher knew she had to lay down a trailblazing round to ride to the win.
Danny Foster (CAN) set a technical track for the class, but Thatcher enjoyed the opportunity to work on the short turns. Utilizing Athena's strong stride, Thatcher made up time on the landing after every vertical of the shortened track.
"Athena is great because she has a great get-away stride. So her first five or six strides after every vertical, we were flying," Thatcher said.
Although Thatcher made a wider turn to the fourth fence of the jump-off, where others risked a slice, her time of 46.362 seconds held strong. "My awesome trainer Maggie [Jayne] said that if I were to make a risky turn to that wall, that it could kill the speed. We saw some of the competitors in the Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers do it, but we didn't want to risk slowing Athena down."
Hunter Holloway and VDL Bravo S, owned by Hays Investment Corporation of Topeka, KS, were one of the pairs to take a gamble on the turn. Instead of slicing the turn as a left rollback from the previous vertical, she made a cut between the two fences and completed a right rollback racing towards the second half of the course to finish in 46.820 seconds, only a half a second behind Thatcher.
Emma Sargent and No Fear were the only other combination to finish double clear. Sargent was awarded the third place for the faultless effort, as well as the fourth place as the fastest of the four faulters aboard Winchester. Paul Yanke and his own Chill Haze finished in the fifth place with a four-fault effort in 46.587 seconds. Ryan Genn and Cookie Monster, owned by Wilhelm Genn of Lebanon, OH, rounded out the top six with two time faults during the opening course.
Thatcher concluded, "No year is ever the same. Every year you have something new to learn from, and every year I am happy to be back here. It is a great show, from the management to the footing. They do such an excellent job making it hospitable."
Dr. Mark Baus of sponsor Wisconsin Equine Clinic was onsite for the presentation, and commented, "I only recently partnered with Wisconsin Equine and I came here to help them out during the Spring Spectacular Series. I have enjoyed this competition; it is a nice venue, challenging courses but a relaxed atmosphere. The people have been very accommodating and the horses are talented so it has been very fun. I think that Wisconsin Equine Clinic sponsors this show to not only give back to the community, but to let people know that they offer a high-quality services through a broad spectrum of equine care."
Wisconsin Equine Clinic & Hospital has a renowned medical team all under one roof with specialists in general medicine, surgery, reproduction, diagnostic imaging, MRI, dentistry, podiatry, eye care, routine care, critical care and sports medicine. The facility boasts world-class technology and cutting edge therapies along with a complete pharmacy.