Jef Lauwers and Sutherland. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Jef Lauwers moved to the United States from Belgium a couple years ago, and found himself dabbling in the great American sport of hunters. This new flame took him down a fresh path in the horse world, and eventually straight to his first visit to our nation’s capital to compete at the Washington International Horse Show.
Despite the many glamorous distractions of Washington and the electric atmosphere of the WIHS arena, Jef stayed focused to the task and piloted Sutherland, an 11-year-old Oldenburg geldling – to the win in the $10,000 WIHS Adult Hunter Championship.
They earned the best score in round one with an 86, and topped the callbacks and their own previous round with an 87 in round two, giving them a 173 final score and a six point lead on their next closest competitors.
“[Washington] is so much different than the other horse shows, and I’m really glad that they do a horse show like this because it brings back the prestige of the horse show,” said Jef after his win. “You feel like you’re in a jumper show, but you’re doing the hunters.”
Jef’s partnership with Sutherland’s owner, Peter Pletcher, was a turning point in Jef’s competitive career which turned him on to the hunters, and more recently matched him up with Sutherland earlier this summer. The two have been having great success throughout the start of the indoor season, and Sutherland has shown plenty of willingness in the small, atmospheric rings.
“He was perfect,” said Jef of Sutherland “I came out of the turn, and normally I would be patient and wait, but I just saw it coming up, and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m just going to close my leg and go for it.’ I saw Peter [Pletcher] sweating in the background, and I was like, ‘I’ve got this. Just leave this to me!’ It was fun.”
Jef also claimed one of the most important prizes of the event – The Jumper Nation Adult Amateur Road Warrior Award as the AA rider who came the farthest distance to compete at WIHS! Not counting Jef’s relocation from Belgium, Jef still hoofed it in all the way from the beautiful city of Magnolia, Texas to compete at WIHS. We hope it’s not the last we see of him in our Nation’s Capital!