Amateur and Junior Hunter Riders Show Off in International Arena on Friday of WCHR Week
Amateur and junior hunter divisions took center stage in the International Arena on Friday to mark the third day of the World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) week. Riders continue to compete for a spot in the coveted $100,000 United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA)/WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular, which will take place on Saturday night.
The first division to compete in the International Arena on Friday was the 3’3” Junior 15 and Under Hunters, and the class was held in a California-split format due to the high number of entries. Top honors in Section A went to Sterling Malnik of Ocean Ridge, FL, and Rockette, owned by Ramble On Farm.
Sterling Malnik and Rockette. Photo © Sportfot
Malnik rode the 12-year-old mare to two firsts, a second, and a ninth-place finish, and she is thankful to have the experienced mare as her partner.
“I thought yesterday she was so perfect and jumping amazing!” said Malnik. “Both of our rounds were really good, and in the International Arena today she really took care of me.”
The Section B championship went to Raina Swani aboard Fetching, owned by Shadowfax Equestrian LLC. Swani, of Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, and Fetching earned a first, second, fourth, and fifth place in the division. Swani has only been riding the 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Catoki x Riene I’Ve) since December when she took over the ride from her sister, Isha Swani.
Raina Swani and Fetching. Photo © Sportfot
“He’s a really good horse and really tries for you in the ring,” Swani explained. “Geoffrey Hesslink, my trainer, always tells me that he just channels his nerves into having a good round, so I tried to do that today, and it worked out.”
Swani also received the reserve championship with Brendan William’s Knightly. Swani and Knightly earned a first, second, and fourth place in the division. The reserve champion of Section B was Elle Gibbs aboard her mount Candid. Gibbs, of Charlotte, NC, rode Candid to a first, fourth, and seventh place ribbon.
Caroline Tinsley and Tristram 7 were the next champions to be crowned, after they topped the 3’3” Junior 16-17 Hunters Section A. Tinsley rode Holly Hill Farm’s 13-year-old gelding (Ramsey x Atlantis) to win all three over fences classes and to finish second in the under saddle. Tristram 7 is a catch ride for Tinsley, who is only showing the horse for this week.
Caroline Tinsley and Tristram 7. Photo © Sportfot
“He was jumping really well yesterday, and today he came out here like a pro and like he’d been doing it his whole life,” Tinsley, of Sudbury, MA, explained. “The best of the best are here, and given that I don’t know the horse, I was really happy with how he went and how I was able to ride him.”
Alexander Goet of Delmar, NY, rode Augustine Walsh’s Stakkato Grande to the reserve championship honor in Section A. The duo earned two thirds and a seventh to claim the reserve title.
The tri-color ribbon for Section B of the 3’3” Junior 16-17 Hunter division, sponsored by Bruno Delgrange, went to Susannah Gerhardt and Madison, owned by Christopher Payne. Gerhardt, of Warrenton, VA, is very thankful for Madison and also her trainer, Jonelle Mullen, for getting them to this point.
Susannah Gerhardt and Madison. Photo © Sporfot
“That was [Madison]’s first time ever showing in the International Arena!” said Gerhardt. “I took him in there, and he was awesome. He just jumped around like he had been in there a million times.”
Hensley Humphries, of Austin, TX, rode Curill to the reserve championship in the division. Humphries and Curill, owned by Raquel and Alexandra Lopez, Inc, received a first, third, sixth, and eighth-place ribbon.
The amateurs were the next to step into the International Arena, with Stephanie Danhakl riding to both the champion and reserve titles in the 3’3” Amateur-Owner 18-35 Hunter division, sponsored by Adequan.
Danhakl, of Pacific Palisades, CA, took top honors with her horse Enough Said, receiving three firsts and a third. Quest and Danhakl took home the reserve with two seconds and two third-place finishes. Both horses have been competing with Danhakl for the past seven years.
“They give it their all week in, week out. I’m so lucky to have them and have them still going as well as they are going. I think Enough Said really loves this ring; there’s a lot of space to flow. I was really happy with him,” Danhakl said of the 14-year-old Warmblood gelding.
Stephanie Danhakl and Enough Said. Photo © Sportfot
Ellen Toon and JT Farm’s Gabriel took home the championship in the 3’3” Amateur-Owner 36+ Hunter Division, sponsored by Equiline. Toon rode the nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Azteca VDL x Ribaliah H.B.) to two scores of 87 to win two over fences classes, as well as receive a third place.
Toon, of South Salem, NY, is thankful for her trainers: her husband, Jimmy Toon, as well as Rodney Bross, who have been instrumental in her success with Gabriel.
Ellen Toon and Gabriel. Photo © Sportfot
“[Gabriel] is on your side,” said Toon. “He doesn’t look to do anything bad. When he goes how he was tonight, which we weren’t expecting because we have never shown him this late, then anybody could ride him. He was so easy.”
Not far behind in points were Becky Gochman and Last Man Darling. Gochman, of Wellington, FL, rode Gochman Sport Horses LLC’s 14-year-old gelding to a first, third, and sixth place finish.
The final victory of the evening went to Martha Ingram, who topped 35 entries to win the $5,000 WCHR Amateur-Owner 3’3” Hunter Classic riding Airport 48.
Martha Ingram and Airport 48. Photo © Sporfot
Ingram and the 17-year-old Holsteiner gelding, owned by John & Stephanie Ingram, earned a first-round score of 90. When the top 12 returned for a second course, they pocketed a second-round score of 83.5 for a 173.5 total and the victory.
“There are so many amazing riders here and so many good competitors; a lot of them are my friends too, so it’s just really fun,” said Ingram following her victory. “It’s an honor to win, especially in this big ring too. It means a lot.”
Second place with a 171 total score went to Grace Tuton and Sorbet, owned by Nicodemus Farms, and Kate Ellis and her own Valhalla rounded out the top three with an overall score of 170.5.
Tracy Scheriff-Muser, Raina Swani, and Sterling Malnik Conclude WCHR Week with Wins
World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) Week came to a close on Sunday, with Tracy Scheriff-Muser and Bode Well, Raina Swani and Knightly, and Sterling Malnik and Charlie claiming concluding-day victories in the $5,000 Peggy Cone Memorial WCHR Hunter Classic and the $5,000 WCHR Junior Hunter 3’3” Classic.
The two featured competitions wrapped up a week’s worth of stiff hunter competition with everything from seasoned professionals to green horses taking center stage in the International Arena, usually reserved for top show jumping competition.
Eighty-eight horse-and-rider combinations were present to display their final efforts in the $5,000 Peggy Cone Memorial WCHR Adult Hunter Classic, and the top 12 of those competitors were asked to return for a second round.
Tracy Scheriff-Muser and Bode Well. Photo © Sportfot
Heading into round two, Scheriff-Muser and Bode Well held the highpoint score of 90, and the pair replicated their performance in round two to earn an additional score of 90 for a 180 total. Second place with scores of 86 and 80 for a 166 total went to Christina Kourgelis and her own Cayetano.
“I started riding this horse this summer because I live in Florida all year long, so whatever I can find to ride to keep in shape during the off season I will,” explained Scheriff-Muser of Melissa Burns’ nine-year-old Zweibrucker gelding (Apiro x Desprit).
“He has never been in the International Arena before, but he never puts a foot wrong and is always game, so I was confident going in there,” she continued. “We just picked up a rhythm and everything seemed to come up really well.”
Raina Swani and Knightly. Photo © Sportfot
The final class to go in the International Ring during WCHR Week was the $5,000 WCHR Junior Hunter 3’3” Classic. The class saw 59 competitors and was held in a California-split format. The top 24 horse-and-rider combinations were called back for a second round to determine who would receive top honors for Section A and Section B. Ultimately, it was Raina Swani aboard Knightly who took home the victory for Section A. The pair received two scores of 88 for a total high score of 176.
Swani, of Ponte Verda Beach, FL, has only been partnered with Knightly since December. The 11-year-old Warmblood gelding is owned by Swani’s trainers, Brendan Williams and Geoffrey Hesslink.
“It just feels so special,” said Swani. “Going in last was definitely a bit nerve-wracking but Knightly was such a good girl. She has a great canter and great pace around the ring and a great expression. She’s a really fun horse!”
Sterling Malnik and Charlie. Photo © Sportfot
Taking the top spot in Section B was Sterling Malnik and Charlie with scores of 82 and 88 for a total score of 170. Malnik had three rides in the class, but Charlie, a 12-year-old Holsteriner gelding, was the one who rose to the challenge. Malnik, of Ocean Ridge, FL, has owned Charlie for about a month and currently trains with Bill Schaub.
“It’s a really big deal!” said Malnik of her successful day. “I actually won the [WCHR Large Pony Classic] today too They were dreams of mine! Charlie is actually an equitation horse, so we didn’t expect anything to come from this. We expected him to be a safe ride and get me around the whole course but he really pulled it out.”
Classic rounds with prize money were also held for Children’s Hunter riders with the NAL Children’s Hunter Horse Classic 14 and Under and the NAL Children’s Hunter Horse Classic 15-17. Pony riders also had the opportunity to show in a classic round with the Large, Medium and Small Pony Hunter Classics, as well as the Large Children’s Hunter Pony Classic and Small/Medium Children’s Hunter Classic. These additional classic winners include:
$2,500 NAL Children’s Hunter Horse Classic 14 and Under
Maya Rahaim, Armani II
87, 87, 174
$2,500 NAL Children’s Hunter Horse Classic 15-17
Claire Healy, Ulysses
84, 82, 166
$2,500 Large Pony Hunter Classic
Sterling Malnik, Prestige
88, 86, 174
$2,500 Medium Pony Hunter Classic
Alexa Lignelli, EMC Entourage
87, 87, 174
$2,500 Small Pony Hunter Classic
Olivia Sweetnam, Armani
90, 90, 180
$2,500 Large Children’s Hunter Pony Classic
Sydney Raidy, Blue Me Away
79, 84, 163
$2,500 Small/Medium Children’s Hunter Classic
Rylie True, Farnley Blew Kisses
86, 84, 170