Gochman and Sambalino, Baker and Q, Robinson and Sutton Place Awarded Grand Hunter Titles for Amateur-Owners and Adults

Friday, October 4, 2013
Posted by Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.


Sambalino and Becky Gochman. Photo copyright Shawn McMillen Photography.
Sambalino and Becky Gochman. Photo copyright Shawn McMillen Photography.
Upper Marlboro, MD – October 3, 2013 – The 2013 Capital Challenge Horse Show continued today with competition for the amateur and adult hunter riders, along with a evening session final for Children's/Adult Jumpers. Grand Championship ribbons were pinned on the bridles of Sambalino and Becky Gochman, Q and Susan Baker, and Sutton Place and Katie Robinson in the Amateur-Owner and Adult Hunter divisions. In the evening session, the fastest jump-off round came from Elizabeth Kirby and Winter White for the win in the $10,000 Children's/Adult Jumper Challenge.

The remaining highlight class of the week for the professional hunter riders is the $5,000 WCHR Professional Finals, presented by the John R. Ingram Fund, for the top six hunter riders in the country on Friday, October 4. The Capital Challenge Horse Show, held at the Prince George's Equestrian Center, will run through Sunday, October 6.

The Amateur-Owner 3'6” Hunter 36 & Over champion, sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Ernest M. Oare, was Sambalino, ridden and owned by Becky Gochman of New York, NY. They won two classes and were second over fences, and they placed third under saddle. The reserve champion was Lyn Pedersen, who rode Silhouette to second, third, and fourth places over fences and the victory under saddle.

For their top finish, Gochman and Sambalino, an 11-year-old Brandenburg gelding by Samba Hit, won the Grand Amateur-Owner 3'6” Hunter Championship, sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Will Roberts. They were presented with the Dr. Harold M.S. Smith Trophy, donated by Dr. Suzanne Smith and Dr. Peter Craig. Gochman was named the Best Amateur-Owner Rider, which was sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Ernest M. Oare. She was presented with The So Many Ways Challenge Trophy, donated by Karen Kramer. They also won the Amateur-Owner 3'6” EMO High Point Trip of the Show with an 89.37.

After a small injury in April, Sambalino was brought back into work slowly, but Gochman made the decision not to ride him. This week was her first time back on him, and she explained, “Samba's the kind of horse that you can have total faith in him to get the job done, even if you haven't practiced. I feel like we're such good friends now.”

It took a short time for them to get to know each other, but Gochman said it's a great partnership after four years. “I was a little scared of him when I first got him because his jump feels so different,” she recalled. “He just has such a long, beautiful stride, but that stride can shorten in an instant. All you have to say is the littlest whoa and he'll shorten that stride up and make any distance look good and jump the heck out of it. With his kind of adjustable stride, he can make anything happen. He gets plenty of opportunity with me to use his athletic ability to cover things up. I think he enjoys the challenge of that.”

Gochman, who trains with Peter Pletcher and Steve Weiss, had never been champion at Capital Challenge before today. “This is a really special show for us. He is by far the best horse I've ever sat on. There is no way that any horse in my mind will ever compare to him,” she expressed.

Kingston and Jazz Johnson Merton. Photo copyright Shawn McMillen Photography.
Kingston and Jazz Johnson Merton. Photo copyright Shawn McMillen Photography.
In the Amateur-Owner 3'6” Hunter 18-35 division, sponsored by The Hallman Family and MerryLegs South LLC, the championship went to Kingston, ridden by Jazz Johnson Merton of Oldwick, NJ, and owned by Jamie Johnson. They placed first, second, and second over fences. Lexi Selldorff and Stone Horse Farm LLC's Soulja Boy were the reserve champions after they won a jumping class and the under saddle.

Johnson Merton and Kingston, a 16-year-old Warmblood gelding, were previous Grand Amateur-Owner Hunter Champions at Capital Challenge, and to return again and win was exciting for her. “It's a wonderful horse show and it's obviously very competitive, so I'm thrilled to be getting champion again. I'm so fortunate to have my horse. At the end of the day, he does all the real hard work!” she said.

She has been paired with Kingston for eight years. “He's just amazing and he takes great care of me. My trainer, Sandy Lobel, with whom I've been riding since I was four years old, has an amazing ability to match a rider and a horse,” she said.

Calling Kingston “extremely opinionated” about the distances she finds to jumps and his sugar treat routine before going into the show ring, Johnson Merton is happy to do what it takes for him, which includes lots of cross-country riding between shows. “He has a whole system that we try to follow as a team,” she explained. “He really does step up to the plate and perform like a real showman when we're at the big shows.”

The WCHR Amateur-Owner 3'6” Challenge, sponsored by Serenity Farm and Tangarae Farm, victory went to Laura Wasserman on Back in the Game. Nancy Hooker place second, while Krista Weisman rode Reality to third.

 Q and Susan Baker. Photo copyright Shawn McMillen Photography.
Q and Susan Baker. Photo copyright Shawn McMillen Photography.
Q Keeps On Winning
The Amateur-Owner 3'3” Hunter 45 & Over division, sponsored by Wood Run Farm/The Tredennick Family and Woodland Way, Inc., had its championship ribbon pinned on the bridle of Q, ridden by and owned by Susan Baker of Argyle, TX. They placed first, third, and third over fences. Daryl Portela and Winner were reserve champions with first and second-place jumping ribbons.

Q and Baker were also named the Grand Amateur-Owner 3'3” Champions, sponsored by Augusta Pines, and Baker was honored with the Best Amateur-Owner 3'3” Rider Award, sponsored by Team Rakowsky. Their EMO Trip of the Show for the 3'3” division was a score of 91.

After watching her seven-year-old Warmblood gelding by Quite Easy win a Future Hunter division championship and triumph in the $20,000 North American Future Hunter Championship, Baker felt a little pressure walking into the ring yesterday. “You feel like everybody is watching and expecting the same thing from you. But I'm an amateur and I do silly things!” she said. “I was glad yesterday when that first class couldn't have gone any better. I think it was the best trip I've ever had in my entire life.”

It has been a big turnaround for Baker since this winter, when her mare passed away and her jumper tore a suspensory. When friends told her about a jumper she needed to see in Florida, Baker wasn't sure until she saw him standing on the cross-ties. “He had this look and presence,” she said. Since then, she noted, “It's just been an incredible year with him. He's exceeded any expectations we could have possible have. He's one of those horses where you're very, very lucky they come into your life. I feel very fortunate.”

She added, “It's been an unbelievable show and an absolute dream week. I just kept thinking I'm going to wake up at some point.”

Columbus and Kathryn Haefner. Photo copyright Shawn McMillen Photography.
Columbus and Kathryn Haefner. Photo copyright Shawn McMillen Photography.
In the Amateur-Owner 3'3” 18-44 Hunters, sponsored by Doug and Missy Smith, Kathryn Haefner of Buffalo, NY, rode Kathryn Haefner LLC's Columbus to the championship. They won an over fences class and placed second in the under saddle. The reserve champion was Crusader, ridden and owned by Jaime Auletto. They placed second, second, and third over fences and was sixth under saddle.

Haefner has been riding Columbus, a seven-year-old Westphalian gelding, for two years. They moved up to the 3'3” this year. Columbus was originally purchased to be a sale horse, but his sweet personality has made him a possible “permanent fixture” in the barn.

“He's a little bit like a pony,” Haefner described. “You just loop the reins and he'll just go around. If you ride him a little bit more, he gives you a really nice jump. That's what taken me a little while to get used to, is making him go a little bit, and then he always gives you a nice jump. He's super smooth. His canter is really comfortable, and he has a perfect lead change. To hack him around at the barn, he's one of the best to ride.”

As a full-time student at the University of Miami, Haefner isn't able to ride very often, so she thanked the group that takes care of her horses, including trainer Stewart Moran. This is the third time that Haefner has competed at Capital Challenge. Although she has won a class each previous year, she related, “This was definitely our biggest moment so far at Capital Challenge. I really love coming to this horse show. There are always so many nice horses. There were almost 40 horses in our division, and I knew it was going to be tough. Being champion here is quite an accomplishment.”

In the $2,500 WCHR Amateur-Owner 3'3” Challenge sponsored by Milestone, LLC and Havens Schatt, Jane Gaston rode Amarillo to the win. Didi Mackenzie and MTM Inside Scoop was second, and Elizabeth de Golian placed third on Quite Simply.

Sutton Place and Katie Robinson. Photo copyright Parker/The Book LLC.
Sutton Place and Katie Robinson. Photo copyright Parker/The Book LLC.
Another Future Hunter Steps Up in the Adult Divisions
At only five years old, Sutton Place has certainly proven that he has what it takes to be a top hunter. The Hanoverian gelding by Valentino was the champion of the Adult Amateur 36-50 Hunters after a championship performance earlier in the week in the Future Hunter 5 & Under division. Sutton Place and Katie Robinson of Bronxville, NY, won both over fences classes and were fifth in the under saddle. The reserve championship went to Brad Wolf's Winterplace, ridden by Laura Karet. They received two third places over fences and won the under saddle.

Robinson and Sutton Place also won the Grand Adult Hunter Championship, which is sponsored by Steve Martines. They were presented with the Equus Entries Challenge Trophy, donated by Equus Entries and Sue and Ralph Caggiano. Robinson won the Best Adult Amateur Rider Award, sponsored by Phoebe Weseley and River Run Farm, LLC. Robinson's trainer, Brady Mitchell, was presented with the Gail Knieriem Memorial Trophy, donated by Lynley Reilly and Randy Johnson.

“I’m glad I didn’t let the team down. That would have been a real bummer,” Robinson said with a smile. “He was just a dream. He’s a real team player and I think that’s what it’s all about. He makes it fun for everyone. He’s not a bummer for the groom or anyone. He’s just an all-around good horse. And the fact that he’s so young only means he’s going to get better. I’m excited.”

Looking into the future was important for Robinson. “I figured I should take the time and find a young one and have some fun with it,” she remarked, “and grow together. Hopefully we’ll have lots of days like today.”

Polly Sweeney and Pimm’s Cup. Photo copyright Parker/The Book LLC.
Polly Sweeney and Pimm’s Cup. Photo copyright Parker/The Book LLC.
Polly Sweeney of Pasadena, CA, rode Karen Long Dwight's Pimm's Cup to the championship in the Adult Amateur 51 & Over Hunters sponsored by R. Bruce Duchossois and H n' D Stables Inc. They place first and fourth over fences. Patricia Raynes and Rockford, owned by John and Stephanie Ingram, LLC picked up the reserve championship after they were first and fourth over fences.

Sweeney, who is 71 years old, has been riding since the age of three. She laughed, “I feel like I’m 30 years older than everyone else here and I’m in the 51 and Older section! But I wear it as a badge of honor.” Although she has had a “few hiatuses” from riding for her career and children, she has been riding regularly since 1990 and now trains with Archie Cox. She debated coming to Capital Challenge, but was assured that she could get the ride on Pimm's Cup, a 10-year-old KWPN gelding by Silverstar, from Long Dwight. In the end, she also brought her mare Duet, who she also rode in the division.

Of her catch ride, she said, “He was just a machine. I’m a violinist by profession, and I told Karen it was like playing chamber music with people you really understand. You just look at each other and you get it. I could read where I was coming to a fence, and he knew that I knew and I knew that he knew.”

Sweeney's daughter, Alison, is the host of “The Biggest Loser” on television, and she is aware of the fitness it takes to ride. “Riding is a very good, vigorous sport. If you do it right you don’t just lounge around. It’s very good for your body and keeping fit. It’s so much more fun than running!” she exclaimed.

The championship in the Adult Amateur 18-35 Hunters, sponsored by Lainie Wimberly and Brigadoon Show Stables, Inc., went to Willow, ridden by Andrea Huber of West Chester, PA, and owned by Bryan Baldwin. They placed first and second over fences and were fourth under saddle. The reserve champion was Scott Stewart's Content, ridden by Alexa Weisman. They placed first over fences.

This was only the third show for Huber and Willow, a seven-year-old Oldenburg mare by Last Man Standing. Huber, who is 19 years old and studies at Centenary College, rides with Louise Serio. This was her first time at Capital Challenge. “Louise gave me the opportunity to show Willow. She asked me if I wanted to show her at Middleburg and Capital Challenge and I was ecstatic about that,” Huber said. “The fact that it was my first time here and Willow is a relatively new ride for me, it’s really incredible. I haven’t had the opportunity to show at many big shows across the country, so this is probably my biggest win.”

She described the mare as “really easy-going, quiet, (with a) sweet personality.” She continued, “She’s very straight forward and easy to get along with. You’d never know she was a mare. I couldn’t have asked for better trips. She was very consistent.”

The WCHR Adult Hunter Under Saddle victory went to Manhatten, ridden by Katie Cook.

Andrea Huber and Willow. Photo copyright Parker/The Book LLC.
Andrea Huber and Willow. Photo copyright Parker/The Book LLC.
Winter White and Elizabeth Kirby Are Fastest
Out of 54 entries in the $10,000 Children's/Adult Jumper Challenge, six of them were clear over Steve Stephens' course to advance to the jump-off, and three of those were double clear. It was Elizabeth Kirby of Mendham, NJ, who was able to speed through the timers on Winter White for a 2.7 second margin of victory. They finished the jump-off in 32.106 seconds.

Kirby was presented with the Best Adult Amateur Jumper Rider Award, sponsored by Mead Grove Farm and The Belfield Trophy, donated by Julie Karpan. The Best Children's Jumper Rider Award, sponsored by Memorial Park Hunters, went to John Darst.

Elizabeth Kirby and Winter White. Photo copyright Shawn McMillen Photography.
Elizabeth Kirby and Winter White. Photo copyright Shawn McMillen Photography.
Second place went to Hope Batchelor on Orlando, who turned in a time of 34.890 seconds. Charlene Graham and Capricette were third in 36.021 seconds with a clear round. With four faults and a quick time of 33.884 seconds, Abigail Walker and James T. Kirk finished fourth. John Darst and Underberg placed fifth with four faults in 38.210 seconds.

Kirby has had Winter White, or 'Patches' as she's known due to her distinct coloring, since May of 2012. Today's win was somewhat bittersweet for Kirby as she recalled how she found the 10-year-old Selle Francais mare by Modesto (NL). “My trainer Gary Zook found her for me the day before he passed away,” she said. “He went to McLain Ward's with me to pick her up and we went back home. I was supposed to have a lesson with him the next day, and he just never showed up.”

Although Zook has never been there to see Kirby and Patches compete, it's clear he chose the right horse for her. “She's been wonderful ever since day one. I never thought I'd get this far, especially with her. It's been a blessing because I wouldn't have been able to do this without Gary,” she expressed. “He picked her out for me, and I tried her and he said, 'You need to get this horse now.' The next day I bought her.”

Kirby also gives credit to her trainer Kelly Wilson for figuring out the horse for her. Patches as a “great work ethic,” Kirby said. “'No' is not in her vocabulary. She is very indifferent. She does her work and doesn't like to be pet. She likes her treats and that's it. She goes in, does her job, and goes out. It's another day for her. I'm blessed, and I love her so much,” she added.

Kirby last competed at Capital Challenge in 2010. Since she graduated college in May, she was able to make time to come this year. She remarked, “I was just happy to even go clear. There are so many great people here. Just being in the top six to make the jump-off, I was so happy. To win, I was shocked."

Final Results: $10,000 Children's/Adult Amateur Jumper Challenge

The Capital Challenge continues tomorrow with the start of the junior and pony hunters and will host the WCHR Adult Amateur Finals, the ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals, and the North American Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Challenge Cup Round 1. The evening session includes one of the highlight classes of the week, the WCHR Professional Finals.

For full results, more information, or to watch the SmartPak live webcast, please visit