Lexington, KY - November 2, 2013 - Everybody dreams of having that once-in-a-lifetime mount, and for countless junior hunter riders that horse has been Lyle. His name has been synonymous with hunter championships for over a decade. With Taylor Sutton in the irons, Lyle swept all three over fences class in the Small Junior 16-17 Hunters to capture the division's championship award today at the Alltech National Horse Show. They went on to garner the Grand Champion Junior Hunter title for owner Stephanie Keen of Ocala, FL.
"It's been amazing," said Sutton. "Stephanie has been so nice to let me show him. ," expressed Sutton. "He's a horse of a lifetime. He's old, but I love him to death. He is the sweetest horse ever."
At 20 years old, Lyle continues to lay down flawless hunter trips without showing any signs of stopping. "There's nothing like it," said Sutton. "You don't think he still can jump like he did when he was six, but he can. He's amazing!" Sutton added, "He is in shape. He still bucks and plays. At [the Washington International Horse Show] he let out a buck after one of the jumps, and I was like, 'Well, that is probably a good thing.' He's so sweet and definitely a showman at his finest."
Sutton has come a long way - both literally and figuratively - to win the Grand Champion Junior Hunter title. "I had a pony, but we didn't do the pony division. I managed to fall off every day in the warm up classes in Austin," said the Austin, TX native. "My very first trainer told me I should quit riding, so I made it a thing to keep going. Once I started reading about Tori and everybody I thought 'I want to do that. I want to be able to experience these things.' I really don't know how I ended up here. I just got lucky, I guess."
While she may not know how she got to this point, Sutton definitely knows where she is headed. Her next stop is Sunday's APSCA Alfred B. Maclay National Championship, and from there, Sutton will head to Baylor University in January.
Finishing in reserve in the Small Junior 16-17 Hunters behind Sutton and Lyle were Sydney Shulman and Good Humor, owned by Meridian Partners LLC of Boulder, CO.
Prior to Lyle being named Grand Hunter Champion, history was made by another horse that is equally familiar with the winner's circle. Dr. Betsee Parker's Ovation became the first horse in United States Equestrian Federation history to win a Junior Hunter division championship at all three of the major year-end Indoor horse shows (the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, the Washington International Horse Show and the Alltech National Horse Show.) With Victoria Colvin at the reins, Ovation earned the grand championship title in the Junior 15 and Under Hunters.
"It's amazing to be able to win all three on the same horse," owner Dr. Betsee Parker said. "Ovation is such a great horse; it's very special."
Dr. Betsee Parker continued, "It is a tremendous moment because my trainer George Morris was here to see it happen. It meant so much to me. I was a bit of a dickens as junior rider, and he sometimes read me the riot act. I am very delighted that my mentor and beloved trainer was here to see that. I am swelling with pride. I am so thrilled with Tori."
In an impressive sweep, Colvin also rode away with the Small Junior 15 and Under Hunter division reserve championship aboard Canadian Blue, also owned by Dr. Betsee Parker.
Colvin again returned to the winner's circle in the Large Junior 15 and Under Hunters, this time with Dr. Betsee Parker's Way Cool. They finished with the championship honor, while the reserve championship went to Hunter Holloway and Cascina, owned by Hays Investment Corp. of Topeka, KS.
In the Large Junior 16 & 17 Hunters, the championship went to Samantha Sommers and Small Affair, owned by Iwasaki & Reilly of Calabasas, CA. Sommers came into the day with a win over fences and a third place under saddle already under her belt, but today proved to be a bit more of a challenge.
"I was really sick before my handy round," Sommers shared. "I think I ate something and got food poisoning. We had Lillie Keenan on standby in case I wasn't able to do the handy, but I was able to pull through on that one. Then I felt better, but then that next round was my worst round, which was very ironic."
While Sommers had a chip to the first fence of the stake round, it did not affect her overall strong performance throughout the past two days, which secured her the division championship and gave her a strong finish to her junior career. "My last stake round was not how I wanted to end it, but going in and being champion was sure a way to finish it," Sommers said.
Today marked the conclusion of the hunter divisions at the Alltech National Horse Show, but 148 junior riders will return to the Alltech Arena tomorrow morning to compete in the ASPCA Alfred B. Maclay National Championship.
For more information or to view the competition live please visit www.alltechnationalhorseshow.com. Coverage is provided by Shownet.biz, iHigh, and HRTV.