Dominic Gibbs & Hannah Brown Reign Supreme in Hamel Foundation & Taylor Harris Equitation Championships at NHS

The second day of the 2018 National Horse Show returned to the Kentucky Horse Park on Sunday, with exhibitors in the Hamel Foundation National Horse Show 3’3″ Equitation Championship and Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Horse Show Adult Equitation Championship taking center stage. Adding his name as only the second champion of the prestigious class in as many years, Dominic Gibbs piloted Limitless to the top honors in the Hamel Foundation NHS 3’3” Equitation Championship, while Hannah Brown outshone the pack aboard Dimacho in the Taylor Harris NHS Adult Equitation Championships.

Dominic Gibbs and Limitless won the Hamel Foundation National Horse Show 3’3″ Equitation Championship at the National Horse Show. Photo by Phelps Media Group

For 85 years, the National Horse Show has hosted the ASPCA Maclay National Championship, the most highly sought-after prize in equitation for the country’s top junior athletes. Added to the schedule in 2017, the Hamel Foundation National Horse Show 3’3″ Equitation Championship gives riders who have dreams of becoming the next winner of the ASPCA Maclay National Championship the opportunity to hone their skills in the same ring as their 3’6″ counterparts. The Hamel Foundation National Horse Show 3’3″ Equitation Championship is now held annually the weekend before the National Horse Show in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park using the same format as the ASPCA Maclay National Championship with fences set at 3’3″ in height.

A familiar face in Kentucky, course designer Bobby Murphy challenged the original crop of 104 horse-and-rider combinations over his winding track that served to distinguish the frontrunners from the rest of the field. Whittled down to the highest-scoring 25 pairs, eligible competitors returned for a flat phase and a second trip over fences in front of the watchful eyes of the judges to determine the elite four that would test for the title.

Separated from their peers as the top performers, Blythe Goguen, Sophie Bluhm, Gibbs and Layla Kurbanov were each given one final opportunity to exhibit their skills. The abridged testing course challenged the four contenders to walk, canter fences one and two, then counter-canter fence three before transitioning to a trot for fence four, after which they were asked to halt and exit at a walk.

Photo by Shawn McMillen

“When they were calling us back for the best, I was very excited that I made it in,” Gibbs recounted. “This is only my second National Medal Finals, so obviously I’m very happy to be here. I’ve done a lot of work with sports psychologists to keep my emotions in check throughout the competition because I really had a problem with nerves in the past. I have worked a lot lately on keeping those down and that really helped me today.”

Proving his consistency and performing masterfully for the fourth time Sunday, Gibbs directed 8-year-old Limitless to a textbook trip that earned him the high marks of the day to secure the championship rosette. Gibbs, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, joins inaugural winner Jaden Porter as the newest name to be inscribed on the commemorative trophy, which is proudly displayed throughout the year at the Kentucky Horse Park Museum.

Bluhm and her own Quadro D’ Ag claimed the reserve honors, followed by Kurbanov and Olga Kurbanov’s Calberon B in third place. Goguen and Z Jappoo Sow, owned by Colette Cacciatore, rounded out the top four in the standings.

In its inaugural year as a National Horse Show class, the Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Horse Show Adult Equitation Championship attracted a talented field of contenders each vying for the top prize. Like their junior counterparts, the adult entries in the equitation class aimed to showcase their talents over Murphy’s course during the preliminary round of competition in order to earn the advantage headed into the subsequent under saddle phase and final jumping round.

Hannah Brown and Dimacho won the Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Horse Show Adult Equitation Championship. Photo by Lenore Phillips

Maneuvering their way to the lead thanks to a series of strong performances, Brown and A. Brooke Farr’s Dimacho ultimately clinched the coveted rosette and the lead spot in the victory gallop. Brown hails from Manchester, Connecticut, and is already on a hot streak at the National Horse Show, having won the blue ribbon Saturday in the Adult Equitation over fences class in addition to the second place finish under saddle, also with Dimacho.

“I’ll try not to cry,” said an emotional Brown. “I’m not like most riders here. I’ve never really had the opportunity to come to something like this, so it was great that I didn’t have to qualify and my trainer let me use her horse, who I have been showing at a couple finals for the past few years. He was amazing. I’m very emotional because I never would have been able to do this so it’s really nice.”

Photo by Shawn McMillen

Jeanine Cash of Winthrop, Massachusetts earned the reserve honors with MTM Magnum, owned by Olivia Rubin, followed by Darby Mazzarisi of Chesterfield, New Jersey in third position aboard West Hill’s Resonate. Coincidentally, the three podium finishers in Sunday’s championship were also the top three in Saturday’s Adult Equitation over fences class, with Cash and Mazzarisi swapping spots.

Throughout the National Horse Show’s opening weekend, the hospitality in the Taylor Harris Club and Maxwell Place is courtesy of the World Equestrian Center. The exclusive and stylish Taylor Harris Club features an unbeatable view overlooking the Alltech Arena – perfect for equestrians, families and business professionals to enjoy the exciting competition in VIP fashion. Maxwell Place offers Riders’ Lounge hospitality with exciting food options, as well as a select number of premier boutique vendors. It is open to the public for shopping and dining throughout the horse show, with the Riders’ Lounge hospitality open during show hours.