Lexington, KY - November 5, 2011 - Today the Junior Hunters showcased their talent during the stake classes this afternoon in the Alltech Arena during the Alltech National Horse Show, 128th Edition. Olivia Esse and her talented mount Illusion garnered the Small Junior 16-17 Championship award for their efforts throughout the division. The duo also was presented with the Junior Hunter Grand Champion award for their excellent placings over the last two days.
Illusion with Olivia Esse of Pasadena, CA, in the irons earned the top call for their score of 83.00 points in the Moyer Family $7,500 Small Junior 16-17 Hunter Stake this afternoon. Coupled with their top honors yesterday, they scored the division's championship tricolor. Esse also earned the reserve championship honors aboard her younger and more recent mount, Clooney.
"I made it a point to come from California and be a part of this show, especially since this is probably going to be my last Indoors as I am going away to college next year, so this win really holds a lot of significance. I was hoping that I would be able to earn both the championship awards, but I didn't want to get too worked up about it," Esse explained. "It really feels great to earn such a coveted award like Grand Champion overall at a show that holds so much history, tradition and prestige."
"Each of my horses are fun and mean the world to me," Esse continued. "Illusion used to be a Junior Jumper, so when I first began riding him in the hunters I was a little nervous that he would be too strong, but he loves being a hunter. He is a quirky horse with a great ride, he has a specific routine, but we work really well together and have a great relationship."
Vivian Yowan and Whatever, owned by Boggs Hill of Wellington, FL, rode to the top honors during the $7,500 Small Junior 15 and Under Hunter Stake today with the score of 86.00 points. Yesterday the duo earned the blue ribbon during the first over fences class as well as the fourth place award for their efforts in the under saddle. With their high scores, the talented horse and rider easily earned the division's championship honors. Ailish Cunnife and Good Times, owned by Whipstick Farm of South Salem, NY, took the reserve championship tricolor after earning three second place ribbons.
"Whatever has a very big stride and is very scopey," Yowan described. "I really admire how big his heart is. Yesterday we had a great first trip, but after a little trouble in the handy, I knew that today I had to really ride the course well if I wanted to be champion. This win really means a lot to me because in Harrisburg I was one point away from reserve championship honors every time, so to win this at the Alltech National Horse Show is such an honor."
Today's Gochman Family Large Junior 15 and Under Champion was decided after a hack-off between Lillie Keenan and Victoria Colvin, two of the sport's foremost Junior Hunter riders. It was Keenan of New York, NY, and C Coast Z who took the championship honors at the end of the judges' decision, while Colvin and Touchdown, owned by Becky Gochman of New York, NY, scored the reserve championship prize. "The funny thing is that we didn't even bother to hack earlier in the division," Keenan laughed. "He felt good in the hack-off though, and being the in the spotlight is his favorite place. He likes the ribbons and is a bit of an attention hog, especially when there are people in the stands cheering him on."
"It was exciting coming back to the Kentucky Horse Park, this is a special place for me, and I think he knew where he was and it was special for him just as much as for me," Keenan continued. "Usually his strongest round is the handy. I was trying to have a smooth round, but at the end I wanted to make it kind of special, so we picked up a strong hand gallop to the final fence. I think it worked out with the course, it was smooth and flowing and everything came up out of the turns. It was a good course for him."
Meg O'Mara and Walk The Line, owned by O'Mara and Don Stewart of Ocala, FL, posted the highest stake score of the afternoon, executing a beautiful round during the Greentree South $7,5000 Large Junior 16-17 Stake. Their top score combined with their second and third place ribbons from yesterday earned them the championship honors. Perfectionist, owned by Richard Prant of Flemington, NJ, and ridden by Heather Hooker, took the reserve championship honors for their efforts throughout the division.
"It's always fun, the kid is competitive, and Walk The Line is a spectacular horse but he's kooky like myself," owner Don Stewart said. "He had the highest score last week in the stake at Washington, and again today in the stake out of all the horses. He's top of the line quality, but there are not many kids who can ride this horse, but Meg is experienced and she rides him so well. She is able to ride difficult and uncooperative horses, and this horse does not want to always be cooperative, but his high-strung temperament also turns out to be one of his best qualities."
O'Mara added, "I love everything about him, this win was really special because I've never ridden in this horse show, but I was really happy to comeback and do a good job. I had to put the pressure on myself today, not only did I take the SATs this morning, but I also had to put the pressure on myself to win the stake this afternoon so I could win the championship."
"This move to the Kentucky Horse Park for the Alltech National Horse Show is what I have been begging for," Stewart continued. "It is finally in a place that is horse friendly and somewhere where everyone can enjoy it, we are loving it! They have really gone overboard for hospitality and bending over backwards to make this a special show."
Today marked the conclusion of the hunter divisions at the Alltech National Horse Show, but 200 junior riders will return to the Alltech Arena tomorrow morning to compete during the Maclay National Championship for the ASCPA Maclay Horsemanship Classes - Presented by Hadfield's Saddlery. The Junior Hunter divisions held to day benefited the Lexington Mounted Police, and tomorrow's special event will benefit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. For more information about the 2011 Alltech National Horse Show, 128th Edition, please visit www.nhs.org.
Photo Credit: Olivia Esse and Illusion won the Junior Hunter Grand Champions at the Alltech National Horse Show. Photo By: Kendall Bierer/PMG.