Week 8 in the Hunter Ring at WEF

Melissa Feller Rides In Love to Performance Hunter 3’3” Championship

The Performance Hunter 3’3” division, sponsored by FarmVet, came to a close on Thursday with Melissa Feller and In Love earning the championship title. Feller piloted In Love to two firsts, two seconds, and an eighth place.

In Love is a seven-year-old Warmblood gelding that both Feller and Jennifer Bauersachs share the ride on. He was purchased from Emil Spadone and is currently owned by Meritage Stables LLC. Feller enjoys riding In Love because he is very brave and “perfect to the jumps.”

Melissa Feller on In Love. Photo by Sportfot.

“He’s really fun to jump,” said Feller. “He has a great feel in the air. His canter is also something that is especially nice about him.”

The pair placed in the top two in every over fences class, winning both the handy and stake round. “He went perfectly yesterday,” said Feller. “Today he was a little fresh but still really good since it was a lot cooler.”

Feller described this year as In Love’s “blossoming year,” and she hopes to continue having consistent rounds on him to prepare for next year. “He’s finally coming along and growing up. Next year hopefully he will do the first year greens and qualify to go to indoors,” Feller explained.

The reserve championship came down to a tie between Geoffrey Hesslink on Brendan William’s Knightly and Tara Metzner on Davlyn Farm Inc.’s Lion. Hesslink, of Shelbourne, VT, and Knightly received a first place, and Metzner, of Rancho Santa Fe, CA, and Lion also earned a first place in the division.

Hannah Isop and Believe are Victorious in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby

Hunter competition began on Friday with more than 55 horse-and-rider combinations competing for the top spot in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. It was Hannah Isop aboard Believe who took top honors with high scores in both the classic and handy round of the class.

The class was held in the combination of Rings 11 and 12 on “Pony Island”. Hunter riders first competed in a classic hunter round and then the top-12 combinations returned for the handy round. Isop and Believe went into the lead in the first round after receiving a high score of 183 points. The pair was able to maintain their top spot in the handy round with another high score of 199, resulting in a total score of 382.

Hannah Isop on Believe. Photo by Sportfot.

Isop, of Pawling, NY, and Believe have been partnered for several years. Believe, the 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Stolzenberg x Lesley), was originally a jumper in Europe and began his hunter career when Isop took over the reins for owners, the Hart family. “Without the owners this wouldn’t all be possible, so I would like to thank the Hart Family. He’s got terrific people behind him. Also everyone at Harkaway Farm, it really does take a village,” Isop commented.

After receiving champion in the High Performance Hunters during week eight, Isop and Believe were confident going into round one.

“He’s got a big stride to him so I could really show off in round one and I thought the ring and the course let me do that,” Isop described. “This is a really lovely venue. I’m so happy that WEF decided to open up these rings to the International and Nationalderbies.”

The pair was the last of twelve to return for the handy and after a flawless performance, Isop and Believe were able to keep their lead.

“My plan going into the handy was just to keep it cool. As well as having a really big stride, he is incredibly handy and I think that really helped us with this course,” Isop explained. “He’s plenty scopey, he let me gallop right on down to the last oxer, which was quite big, and I think that actually was our best part of the course!”

Isop plans to continue to show Believe in International hunter derbies, while also getting him ready for owners, Madison and Victoria Hart, to ride him. “He has two fabulous twins that own him. They have started to take over the reins on him, so I’m hoping that their partnership can develop,” Isop said.

Jennifer Hannan on Olympic Fire. Photo by Sportfot.

Second-place honors went to Jennifer Hannan, of Wakefield, RI, and her horse Olympic Fire. The duo received a score of 178 in the first round and 196 in the second for a total score of 374. Victoria Colvin rode William Lyles’ Avatar Z to a third-place finish. Colvin, of Loxahatchee, FL, and Avatar Z earned a first round score of 178.25 and a handy round score of 194, for a total score of 372.25.

Becky Gochman Sweeps Equiline Amateur-Owner Hunter 3’3” 36 and Over Division

On Saturday afternoon, Becky Gochman was crowned both champion and reserve in the Equiline Amateur-Owner Hunter 3’3” 36 and Over division. Gochman received top honors with Last Man Darling after earning two firsts, a third, and a fourth place.

Becky Gochman and Last Man Darling. Photo by Sportfot.

Gochman, of Wellington FL, has been paired with Last Man Darling, owned by Gochman Sport Horses LLC, for several years. Prior to Gochman taking over the reins, both of her daughters, Sophie and Mimi, showed Last Man Darling in the junior hunter divisions. The 14-year-old Mecklenburg mare has a beautiful expression going around the show ring and easily stands out to the judges.

“She lives up to her name; she is a total darling,” said Gochman. “She is a great mover, and has a terrific jump.”

The pair won a class each day of the division and received a high score of 87 on the second day. Although Gochman felt a little rusty after having week seven off from showing, she came back strong on Saturday. “I feel like I gave them both nice rides today and they were again perfect,” Gochman explained.

Becky Gochman and Last Man Darling in their champion presentation with Monique Lora of Equiline. Photo by Sportfot.

Gochman also piloted her second mount in the division, Mythical, to reserve champion. Gochman rode Mythical, also owned by Gochman Sport Horses LLC, to a first, third, and seventh-place finishes.

After WEF, Gochman hopes to enjoy a nice summer show season and hopefully attend the Devon Horse Show with both Last Man Darling and Mythical.

“My goal is really just to enjoy them for as long as I can and take the best care of them that we can,” Gochman explained. “Darling and Mythical are true family horses, everyone in our family has ridden them. It makes the success that much sweeter.”

Alexa Lignelli and Olivia Sweetnam Dominate Medium Pony Hunters to Close Out Week Eight

Two champions were crowned in the Medium Pony Hunter division in Ring 11 on Sunday. With over 30 pony-and-rider combinations, the class was held in a California Split format. Champion of Section A went to Alexa Lignelli aboard EMC Entourage. Champion of Section B of the Medium Pony Hunter division went to Olivia Sweetnam and Not So Secret.

Lignelli and EMC Entourage received two firsts, two seconds, and a fourth-place ribbon, while Sweetnam and Not So Secret earned two firsts, a second, a third, and a fifth place in the division.

Lignelli has been partnered with The Lignelli Family’s EMC Entourage for two years. The 11-year-old Warmblood gelding by Jet Blue originally came to the Lignelli family as a breeding stallion, but they decided to geld him. Lignelli, of New York, NY, and EMC Entourage are no strangers to the winner’s circle and won the USEF Pony Finals in 2019.

Alexa Lignelli and EMC Entourage. Photo by Sportfot.

“He’s been so awesome, and we have such a great partnership,” Lignelli commented. “Every time I get on him, he always tries his best and he is very respectful of everyone that gets on him.”

Lignelli, who trains with Christopher Payne and David Belford, felt that her rides both days were very consistent, which helped her to earn the championship in a large and competitive division. The pair received a second in the under saddle and received a high score to win the handy round on the second day.

“Today he got an 88 in the handy; we love the handy classes! He really pushed off his backend, which made him jump even higher,” Lignelli described.

Olivia Sweetnam on Not So Secret. Photo by Sportfot.

A last-minute switch gave Sweetnam the ride on Not So Secret, a 14-year-old gelding by Tapu Kid McCoy and owned by Eva Mackenzie. Even though Sweetnam had only ridden Not So Secret one time before showing him, that did not stop the pair from rising to the top of the class.

“You can kind of just float the reins and he will spot in on the jump,” Sweetnam explained. “A lot of the ones I show now are a little greener so it was nice to get on one that knows its job.”

Sweetnam, of Wellington, FL, and Not So Secret received two scores of 86 to win two over fences classes. Sweetnam felt that Not So Secret’s great rhythm helped the duo create smooth and even rounds.

“All the jumps matched and I didn’t have to make any huge adjustments,” Sweetnam said of her rides. “In the handy, I did an inside turn that only one other person did successfully so I think that stood out.”

Reserve champion of Section A went to Vivian Golden and Renaud Farm, LLC’s Hidden Springs Waltz. Golden, of Reading, PA, rode Hidden Springs Waltz to two firsts, a second, and an eighth-place ribbbon. Sweetnam also received reserve champion of Section B riding Sweet Oak Farm’s On Your Mark. The pair earned a first, second, fifth, and sixth-place ribbon in the division.