Sunny Drescher and Sting Shine in HITS Equitation Championship at HITS Ocala

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Sunny Drescher and Sting on their way to a HITS Equitation Championship win at HITS Ocala. (C) ESI Photography
Sunny Drescher and Sting on their way to a HITS Equitation Championship win at HITS Ocala. (C) ESI Photography

Ocala, FL: It was a picturesque evening under the lights of the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium for the return of the HITS Equitation Championship. High school senior Sunny Drescher, of Hinesburg, Vermont, and her own Sting proved that determination and drive pay off, moving up five spots from the 2014 event, to take home the blue ribbon and top honors.

After ten weeks of qualifying opportunities throughout the HITS Ocala Winter Show Circuit, thirty-one juniors took their chance at the technical course, set at 3’6”, designed by Buddy Brown of Menlo Park, California.  Testing not only their competence in the ring, but also their efforts in the schooling area, competitors were judged by two sets of officials who evaluated their abilities as rising horsemen.

“At the riders meeting, Buddy Brown, gave us his expectations as riders. He told us what he wanted to see from us, which I thought was really helpful,” said Drescher. “I loved the course for Round One. I thought it rode really well and it was fun to ride. There were parts that were tricky but if you did it well, you were rewarded for that.”

Leading the class with a first round score of 184, Drescher went into Round Two feeling confident in her craft and she referenced her fifth place finish in the 2014 HITS Equitation Championship and knew she was ready for the challenge.

“My horse went so well in the first round. I was thrilled with how he stepped up to the plate in the ring. He was super under of the lights and I was hoping to find some momentum going into the second round,” said Drescher.

“Last year, in the first round, I had the best ride of my life, except I failed to trot the trot jump. [This year] I knew I was capable of putting in good rounds, I just needed to focus and make sure I got all the pieces done,” she continued. “Last year was a confidence booster, but it was also a motivator to work harder to get my testing better, so that I could come back and be better."

Although riders were not permitted to discuss strategy or technique with their trainers throughout the evening, they found support in one another and used that as fuel for success.

“All of the riders walk together, we watch each other go, and we all root for one another. It feels like a team sport because we’re all helping each other out,” said Drescher. “Even though we didn’t have trainers last night, I couldn’t have done it without Annie Dotoli and Aster Pieters’ support over the years.”

Ashton Alexander of Ocala, Florida, and Ullrich, owned by Don Stewart, went home with second place honors and scores of 181 and 174.5, for a total of 355.5. Catherine Apostol of Wycoff, New Jersey, and her own Courage followed, with scores of 172 and 172.5, for a combined total of 344.5 and third place. Fourth place went to Kennedy Knapic of Smithtown, New York, riding her own Zedulon, to scores of 171 and 172, totaling 343. Rounding out the top five was Rhian Murphy of Charlotte, Vermont, and his Finnigan with scores of 183 and 159, for a total of 342.

Competition continues in the Ocala Horse Properties today at 1pm with the $25,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix and on Monday, March 23 at 6pm with the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix. For a complete schedule of events and information, visit

HITS Equitation Championship
Place    Horse    Owner    Rider    Rd. 1    Rd. 2    Total
1  Sting  Sunny Drescher  Sunny Drescher 184  177.5  361.5
2  Ullrich  Donald Stewart  Ashton Alexander  181  174.5  355.5
3  Courage  Catherine Apostol  Catherine Apostol  172    172.5    344.5
4  Zedulon  Kennedy Knapic  Kennedy Knapic  171  172  343
5  Finnigan  Rhian Murphy  Rhian Murphy     183  159  342
6  Fitz    Fairfield Farms LLC  Meghan Flanagan  157  170    327
7  Crimea River    Donald Stewart    Carly Hoft  152    162  314
8  Crimson Z  Fiona Steinmetz  Fiona Steinmetz    161  150  311
9  Acado  Nevergreen Farm LLC  Claudia Payor  167  142  309
10  Fermoso  Lisa Kerkorian  Katie Eppinger  156  152  308
11  Eamon  Dawson Equine Investments, LLC  Shannon Hogue  148  88  236
12  Fedelio  Liza Finsness  Mackenzie Michaels  151.5  65  216.5