Samantha Schaefer and Trademark Make Their Mark in Traverse City’s $5K USHJA National Hunter Derby

Much-anticipated hunter competition kicked off Wednesday, June 17 at Flintfields Horse Park, the home of the Traverse City Spring Horse Show, presented by Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel, with the show’s first set of champions crowned Thursday afternoon. A native Michigander and longtime Traverse City exhibitor, Hillary Johnson wasted no time rising to the top of the leaderboard as champion and reserve champion on Copper Fox LLC’s Lonesome Dove and Sorrento, respectively, in the Performance Working 3’3” Hunters ahead of a talented field. In the Green ranks, Samantha Schaefer and Trademark deftly topped the Green 3’3″/3’6″ Hunter division, while Kelsey Epperson and Twilight nabbed the tricolors in the Green 3’ Hunters.

Samantha Schaefer on Trademark. Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography.

Set in the picturesque Main Hunter Ring at Flintfields Horse Park, the talented partnerships vied for two rounds over course designer Bobby Murphy’s tracks. Though most riders entered the competition with a single mount, a number of contenders improved their chances of winning thanks to multiple entries, with Hillary Johnson leading the way with three horses. Paige Beisel, David Beisel and Madeline Schaefer each piloted two horses apiece. At the conclusion of the classic round of riding, Trademark had carried Samantha to the early frontrunner position with a score of 94, trailed by Cameron Brown and her own KT Lansini in second position boasting 91 points, shy of the lead by three points. Only half of a point behind Brown, the other Schaefer, owner-rider Madeline, and Sutton Place sat in third place with a score of 90.5 while Grace Duffy and Easy Company were in fourth position with 89 points.

Following the first round and a series of strong performances from the field, the cut-off score for the top 12 sat at 72 points. As the handy round progressed, the husband half of the Beisel duo, David, had earned the leading score of 177, composed of individual scores of 88 and 89, on MTM Bentley with only the top three left to ride. Tensions increased as the top three made their way into the arena, each hoping to improve their scores and gain or maintain the lead. Brown rode a consistent round aboard KT Lansini to score an 89, resulting in an overall score of 180, which would retain the lead by a point above Madeline and Sutton Place, who finished on a total of 179 points, with one duo remaining. As the final combination, Samantha and Trademark tackled the handy track with confidence and were rewarded with 96 points, once again topping the scoreboard to finish on a cumulative 10-point lead with their 190 overall score.

Madeline Schaefer on Checkmate. Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography.

Earlier in the day, the $1,000 Voltaire Design Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic attracted a pack of contenders to the ring, but it was ultimately Madeline Schaefer aboard Samantha Schaefer’s Checkmate who secured victory. The pair’s performance over the natural obstacles earned them the highest marks from the judges to top the leaderboard. Claiming second position was Gabrielle Smoller and Promise Me, owned by Queen Bean Investments LLC, and Paige Beisel navigated David Beisel’s The Boy Friend to third place overall.

On Trademark, Samantha Schaefer remarked:
“His name is Trademark and we call him Mark in the barn. He has been a part of our family for almost five years now, so we have brought him along ever since he was barely broke. He is nine years old now and he has been competing in the First Year Greens and the 3’6″ Greens this year.”

On his performance today:
“He was really good. I entered him just as another class to go in this week since we drove all this way. It was a good experience for him. I didn’t really have too high of expectations for him because he is still green. I thought he handled it really well. Sometimes in the handy he will wake up a little bit and get a little tense with all the turns and with the jumps coming up quick, but today he was very relaxed and seemed to really like the jumps in the ring and the atmosphere.”

On competing in Traverse City:
“I agree with Trademark, we love it. I brought nine horses here this week, and we have really enjoyed our time. We spent some time on Torch Lake already and the show and atmosphere have been great. Obviously, the town has a lot to offer, so we will definitely be coming back if I have anything to do with it.”

On competing against her sister:
“It was interesting. Before I put her in the ring, I was training from my horse’s back because she went right before me. I have her a game plan that I thought would suit her. This was only her first show with [Sutton Place] and it seems like every round this week she has gotten better. I gave her a basic game plan and she told me that she wants to be competitive and she wants to do all the inside turns, so I said ‘OK go for it! Do whatever you want.’ She felt comfortable, so I thought she put the pressure on nicely. IT was fun to go after her. I know my horse very well, which was a real advantage. But it was fun competing – friendly competition.”

Madeline Schaefer,  $1,000 Voltaire Design Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic champion, added her own thoughts:

On Checkmate, Samantha’s sister, Madeline Schaefer stated:
“He is nine years old now and we got him when he was about six-ish. We imported him and he was supposed to be my sister’s, but I kind of stole him away this year as an amateur. He shined today. He was really good. He tried to be really good in the derby and I messed up a little bit, but he was a star. He is quite a character and kind of a garbage disposal – you can feed him just about anything. Rice Krispies, he really likes those and vanilla ice cream. He is a good boy. He put on his big boy pants and jumped excellent. He was a star.”

On competing in Traverse City:
“We have never been here. It’s amazing. I’m sad we are only staying for two weeks. It was not in the plan, but hopefully next year we can make three weeks out of it. We rented a boat and went out on Torch Lake so that was a lot of fun. We went downtown and had dinner and went shopping, it was nice. It’s a cute town.”

On competing against her sister:
“I definitely wanted to beat her, and I went too slow to the last jump to the last jump on my last horse. I’m going to live with that one for a while, but I’ll get her again, or try to at least. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually beaten her showing on a horse. She’s unbeatable!” 


Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score / Total
1. Trademark / Samantha Schaefer / Take 3 LLC / 94 / 96 / 190
2. KT Lansini / Cameron Brown / Cameron Brown / 91 / 89 / 180
3. Sutton Place / Madeline Schaefer / Madeline Schaefer / 90.5 / 88.5 / 179
4. MTM Bentley / David Beisel / Lori Taylor / 88 / 89 / 177
5. Easy Company / Grace Duffy / Grace Duffy / 89 / 79 / 168
6. Athos Van Het Poeleind Z / Jacob Pope / Michelle Caroli / 79 / 88 / 167
7. Con-Grande / Nicholas Pongracz / Victoria Herran / 78 / 86 / 164
8. Suede / Hillary Johnson / Copper Fox LLC / 86 / 76 / 162
9. Salem / Paige Beisel / M/M David Beisel / 72 / 75 / 147
10. Skorekeeper / Ava Berman / Ava Berman / 73 / 67 / 140
11. Copper Mountain / David Beisel / Claire Peters / 80 / 48 / 128
12. The Boy Friend / Paige Beisel / David Beisel / 82 / 45 / 127

The Traverse City Spring Horse Show, presented by Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel, will return Wednesday for its second week of competition. Sunday, July 5, will once again feature a $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby for hunter competitors.