Lexington, KY - The Kentucky Horse Park, host of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™, was full of visitors for the Kentucky Spring Classic's spectacular hunter competition. Championship ribbons and awards were presented to top hunter riders in the Amateur-Owner Hunter divisions.
Teri Kessler and Carita won the Amateur-Owner 36 and Over Hunters, while the reserve championship accolade went to The Specialist and Meredith Lipke. In the Amateur-Owner 18-35 Hunter division, Rachel Geiger and her long-time-mount Dream Date garnered the championship honors. Tracy Scheriff-Muser and Donovan took home the reserve championship honors for their excellent efforts in the division.
Today's hunter rounds, designed by Bobby Murphy, consisted of an over fences class and a handy hunter round. The handy hunter round utilized many turns, open spaces, and beautiful fences. The championship rosette in the Amateur-Owner 36 and Over Hunters was pinned on the bridle of Carita with rider Terri Kessler. The pair earned the blue ribbon in the handy hunter, a second place ribbon in yesterday's over fences, and a third place ribbon in the under saddle. Meredith Lipke and The Specialist were not far behind with a first in yesterday's over fences class, a second in the handy hunter class, and a third in today's over fences class. Lipke and The Specialist's top ribbons earned the duo the reserve championship.
When Kessler entered the ring, a famous face accompanied her that has not seen the hunter ring in years: Katie Monahan Prudent. Kessler explained, "This is the first time Katie has trained me on Carita. She was nervous the first day because she had not trained at the hunter ring in a really long time. I told her not to worry, I have done this before. Katie was really excited today when she came back to the hunter world. Carita started jumping better, higher, and prettier."
Prudent believes that training is all about the basics. Kessler noted, "When you have a horse that is going forward and going straight you can do a lot of things right. We do not lunge Carita and we do not have her wear ear plugs; that is how we get her to the ring. If she cannot win like that we are not going to worry about it. That is the way we do it and it has really been fun and we are having a good time doing it. It is like a nostalgic trip back to the old days for us."
Today's trips with Carita felt as comfortable as yesterday's for Kessler. She explained, "Carita is exquisitely careful, you never have to think about keeping her off the rail. She is naturally very quiet but she is a girl so there is a little fire in her eyes. She has an extremely long stride so you always have to be careful that you do not get over ambitious and leave out strides."
Kessler considers Carita her last hunter. Carita was originally Reed Kessler's junior hunter but when she decided to show in the jumper ring she handed the reins over to Terri. The Kessler's now consider themselves a jumper family but her heart has never left the hunters. Kessler noted, "It does not fit to have a hunter since we travel a lot to places such as Europe and Spruce Meadows, but Katie had fun doing it with me so we have decided to keep Carita and have some fun with her. It will not be about chasing points or a big production but it will be about the enjoyment of the ride."
After today's hunter competition Kessler hopped in her golf cart and headed to warm-up for the Adult Jumper II Sec2b 1.07 m. Kessler took All That, normally ridden by Murray Kessler, into the Walnut Ring and set a pace that could not be beat. The duo tripped the timers at 38.186 second securing the first place ribbon.
All That had a brief career as a hunter when Kessler started him as a three-year-old. She won some big classes on him but was unhappy with the amount of preparation it took to get him to ring. With some healthy advice from her trainer at the time, Andre Dignelli, she started All That in the jumper ring and it was history from there on out.
Prior to today's Older Amateur-Owner 18-35 Hunter division championship awards were given to Rachel Geiger and Dream Date. The duo won yesterday's over fences class, today's handy hunter class, and today's under saddle class. The trifecta placed Geiger above the other competitors. Winning today's reserve championship rosette was Donovan with Tracy Scheriff-Muser in the irons. The pair earned two second place ribbons in yesterday's over fences class, a third in today's over fences class, and a third in today's handy hunter class.
Geiger commented, "He was perfect. I thought the courses were nice today. I really enjoy the handy courses because they are challenging and yet enjoyable."
The pair has been a team for a full decade, which has allowed them to build a partnership that gives Geiger and Dream Date a bit of an advantage. "I have had Dream Date for ten years now so he knows every mistake that I make and he knows how to handle it," noted Geiger. "As for the type of ride, he is quiet and sensitive so I have to be gentle with him."
Dream Date and Geiger were in Florida for this winter and have made a stop at the Kentucky Horse Shows before heading home to show at Devon. Geiger noted, "Dream Date has been very consistent recently. Florida was a little bit rough but every day is different and every show is different. He has been wonderful last week and this week.
The Kentucky Spring Classic wraps up their last day of competition tomorrow. Championship honors will be presented to the top horse and rider combinations in the Junior Hunter divisions. The Kentucky Horse Shows' Kentucky Summer Horse Show begins July 28, 2010 with many exciting divisions and the best hunter riders around.
For more information about the Kentucky Spring Classic please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
Photo Credit: Terri Kessler and Carita Amateur Owner 36 and Over Hunters at 2010 Kentucky Spring Classic at 2010 Kentucky Spring Classic. Photo © 2010 Lindsay McCall/PMG.