The 25th anniversary Capital Challenge Horse Show spotlighted the show’s youngest and smallest competitors on Saturday, October 6, at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD. The top honor of the day, the Grand Pony Hunter Championship, went to Gabrielle Sokolow of Westlake Village, CA, and Benetton.
On their way to earning the grand championship title, 13-year-old Sokolow and Benetton, a 10-year-old Warmblood gelding owned by Pretty Penny Farm, swept all three of the Large Pony Hunter division over fences classes to also take the Large Pony Hunter Championship, presented by the World Equestrian Center.
“I’m so happy about it,” said Sokolow, who trains with Elizabeth Reilly and only started leasing Benetton in May. “I love this pony. It was such a big accomplishment for me. I’ve only been riding him since Devon, so it wasn’t for very long. He goes back soon, but I’m just so happy with it.
“He’s such a good pony,” continued Sokolow. “He always tries his best to be amazing. He never really cares about anything; he’s always so focused and listens so well. And he’s so cute!”
For the grand championship, Sokolow and Benetton were awarded the VanderMoore Designs Trophy, donated by VanderMoore Designs, and Sokolow was presented with the Best Pony Rider Award, sponsored by Archibald Cox & Brookway Stables.
Following the awarding of the Grand Pony Hunter Championship, Sokolow and Benetton returned to also win the $2,500 World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) Pony Challenge.
“To be a winner here means so much because there are so many people and it takes a village to get here,” said Sokolow, who has competed at Capital Challenge every year since 2014. “I couldn’t have done it without my trainer, my pony, all the grooms, my friends, and my family.
“I wasn’t nervous, which was good,” continued Sokolow. “I usually get nervous in here. I did all of the handy turns in the handy. I’m really happy with it. I just think about having fun.”
Finishing as the reserve champions in the Large Pony Hunter division were Brynn Kuhnell of Cincinnati, OH, and D’Artagnan, owned by Simply Ponies, LLC.
In the Medium Pony Hunters, the division championship, sponsored by Rosemont Farm, went to Amira Kettaneh of Hollis, NH, riding Farnley Corsair, owned by Leigh Kettaneh.
“I was really happy,” said Kettaneh, 13. “I’ve had [Farnley Corsair] since March; we’re leasing him right now. He’s a really sweet pony, and he just has a great brain. This is my first year here. I think it’s really fun.”
Earning the Medium Pony Hunter reserve championship were Tessa Downey of Houston, TX, and her own Anisette.
The Small Pony Hunter championship went to Alexa Lignelli and Rollingwoods Knee Deep, owned by the Lignelli Family. The division’s reserve championship was awarded to Maddie Tosh and Bit of Love, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker. For the championship, Lignelli was given the Harper Taskier Wright Memorial Trophy, given in memory of Harper by her loving parents, Michael and Alexandra Borissoff Wright, and by friends and family whose lives she touched.
Additional Pony Hunter awards presented on Saturday included the EMO Trip of the Show, given to Downey and Anisette for a high score of 89.25, and the Stewart-Warner Cup, given in memory of Laurie Gilbert Stewart & Mary Warner Brown by Donald E. Stewart, Jr. and Louise Serio, and awarded to Allison Coleman of Wellington, FL.
Two junior hunter champions were also named on Saturday afternoon, with the Small Junior 16-17 Hunter division title going to Emma Kurtz of Hudson, OH, and A Million Reasons, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker, and the division’s reserve championship awarded to Kaitlyn Lovingfoss of Santa Clarita, CA, and Castle, owned by Eaton Place, LLC.
With a clean sweep of the division, including wins in all three of the over fences classes and the under saddle, Kurtz and A Million Reasons also claimed the Grand Junior 16-17 Hunter Championship.
In the Large Junior 16-17 Hunters, Kurtz was again the championship winner, this time aboard Dedication, also owned by Parker. The reserve championship went to Chloe White of Berwyn, PA, riding Tztargazer, owned by Steve Schaefer.
The Children’s Hunter Pony Championship went to Xia Tabanou of Tomball, TX, and her own Handsome Honey Do. Winning the division’s reserve championship was Payton Flanders of Lothian, MD, and Jamrock, owned by Willson Sport Horses, LLC.