Susan Winston Tops National Hunter Derby at Colorado Springs Fall Classic

Audrey Slouka Clinches Maclay Regional Final Win

Susan Winston really has always liked competing in hunter derbies. For her, the USHJA National Hunter Derby is the best class offered at any show and she always has a lot of fun in the class as a result. It certainly showed during the Colorado Springs Fall Classic (Sep 11-14) as she took the class championship aboard her own Quite Nice.

In the first round, Susan rode a wider track on the bending line to add another stride. She wasn’t sure if the judge would mark her down for that. Regardless, she executed a very tight inside turn to the two-stride even though she was worried the jumps may come up too fast. They didn’t, and the judge rewarded her for a smooth and consistent round. And as always, Susan looked forward to the handy round, noting the many options available to riders wanting to take risks and showcase the abilities of their horses. “We’ve been together a long time and we couldn’t know each other any better,” Susan said about her time with Quite Nice. “Sometimes I feel like I know what he’s going to do before he does. That makes doing the derbies so fun; I know his comfort zone which helps me know when we should play it safe, and when we can really take some risks and show off this strong points, especially in the handy rounds.”

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Susan Winston thought it was Quite Nice to win the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby. LEG Up News file photo

Many riders wait a long time to find their “horse of a lifetime.” Susan is thankful that she’s had Quite Nice to help her achieve bigger and bigger milestones as she has risen up the ranks over the course of the last six years. He has been her Junior Hunter horse, her Amateur/Owner Hunter horse, and now is her Performance Hunter/Derby horse.

“As a junior, I had some very specific riding goals,” Susan said. “I aspired to attend the Junior Hunter Finals, win at the Colorado Hunter Jumper Association Medal Finals, and qualify and compete in the Indoor Circuit. Quite Nice has helped me achieve everything I hoped for.” Susan’s success at Colorado Springs this season vaulted her to the top of the Professional category of the $1,000 LEGIS Hunter Rider Challenge.

The big equitation classes also served as a springboard for newly minted amateur and class runner-up, Eva Coringrato (Tracye Ferguson, trainer). “I have been riding in the hunter derbies for about two years. Before I moved up to the amateur classes, I found they helped me do well in the big equitation classes.”

Eva has been riding her Schoe N’ Tell for over six years. She marvels at how far the pair has come, pointing out that she began riding him when she was just twelve years old and he was still very green. “It was surprising that we could accomplish so much considering that I was just a young kid figuring out a young horse.”

Eva noted she and Schoe N’ Tell always have one big “to-do” in the handy round of their derby classes. At the Colorado Springs Fall Classic, her to-do was make the most of the turn options in the handy round. As a result, the pair took some of the lower jump options in order to make the tightest, smoothest turns she could. “We knew it was a bit of a risk to take some of the lower jumps, but Schoe N’ Tell is so good at turning and jumping,” Eva recalled. “I loved how everything came up in that round.”

The Colorado Springs Fall Classic was something of a homecoming for Eva. She always remembers the venue as the first place where she competed in an A-rated horse show. Eva was impressed by the immense changes at the Norris Penrose Equestrian Center, including improved show rings and more rider-friendly attributes. “There is a special place in my heart for Penrose,” she said. “I always love coming back here because I have such great memories of it.”

For those currently competing in the big equitation classes, the Colorado Springs Fall Classic was the site of the Maclay Regional Final, where Regis Jesuit High School senior Audrey Slouka (Michael Dennehy, trainer) earned the championship. Audrey admitted to being nervous going into the event. She knew that only the winner was going to the national finals and had put a lot of pressure on herself to do well and not “make a stupid mistake.” Thankfully, she managed to avoid that. “It was a huge relief to win the regional final,” she said. “I was really happy with my ride because, when I was walking the course, it seemed to be pretty difficult in that it relied a lot on having an accurate track.”

The first line featured a forward six-stride to a one-stride in-and-out. Audrey worried about getting down it in the proper steps, but she ended up riding it perfectly. After that, the rest of the course just flowed. “I couldn’t have been happier walking out of the arena,” she added.

Riding Parrot Bay (Emily Ryan, owner), Audrey was thankful for the opportunity to show the twelve-year-old Holsteiner. While they have only been a team since July, they already have experienced good success. In fact, the duo also topped the Equitation 15-17 section at the show. “Parrot Bay is super sweet and really fun to ride,” Audrey remarked. “The distances are so easy to find on him, and he’s a really forgiving horse. If I make a mistake on him, he covers up really well and he is really reliable and great for my confidence. He is just a great horse in general and I love everything about him.”

Audrey is planning to head to the Indoor Circuit with the goal of making it to the second round.  “I just want to continue to improve my riding and become more consistent.”

Back in the hunter ring, amateur Elizabeth Hund (Michael Dennehy, trainer) earned the championship in the Junior/Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic riding her Holsteiner gelding, Argonaut. The newly matched pair was quite busy in the hunter ring hoping to gain some valuable experience in this, their first season together. In addition to competing in the Amateur Owner Hunters, Elizabeth split riding duties with her trainer and won all but two classes as Argonaut was named Performance Hunter Champion.

Elizabeth’s barnmate Hillary Jean and her D’Amour, who made the trip to the Springs from Castle Rock, earned the tri-color in the Amateur-Owner Hunters. The pair came away with a first, two seconds and a third over fences, and the blue in the under saddle to finish ahead of the section’s reserve champion, Shannan Gossman (Randy Henry, trainer) and her Ever So Clever. Shannan, who has been something of a regular at Penrose since the LEG team began hosting shows there, recently moved her young horse up from the Adult Amateur Hunters and likes how inviting the shows in the Springs are, especially for young horses.

Shannan Gossman tops the World Champion Hunter Rider standings for the Cenral Mountain Region. LEG Up News file photo

This has been a successful season for Shannan and Ever So Clever. As the Colorado Springs Fall Classic was the final show for the Central Mountain Region for the World Championship Hunter Rider, Shannan topped the standings in the Amateur Owner Hunter 3’3″ division with 1,025 points, almost half of which were earned at LEG shows in Colorado Springs. “I was very excited to finish the season on a high note,” Shannan said. “The LEG shows are always very nice and have a relaxed atmosphere, which helps. This was a very tough division to be in with a great group of ladies. They brought out the best in me and my horse through camaraderie and sportsmanship. They made us work for every single point.”

Other familiar names follow right behind her, including Elizabeth Hund and Hillary Jean with 935 and 805 points, respectively. Kelley Buringa leads both the Professional and Developing Professional categories with 330 points.

Colorado Fall Classic wrapped up the season in Colorado Springs, which meant it was time to award the Maui Trainer Incentive to the top professional of the season, Lorelei Cudney. Lorelei will enjoy a five-day stay in the sunshine at a beautiful resort this December. “I have two young girls, my husband is a firefighter/paramedic—which means he is gone every four days for 48 hours—and an active horse business,” Lorelei said.  “I love the thought of some time on a beach and a little fun in the sun.”

Lorelei shares the same sentiment many professionals do, that the horse business isn’t always easy whether you are a horse trainer or a show manager. Long hours, inclement weather, and just making the dollars work can be a struggle. “I know Langer Equestrian Group provides this as a way to say thank you for supporting our shows, but I want to say thank you to LEG for providing quality horse shows, great staff and awards, and a positive environment for the young horse or rider to the experienced partnership,” she added. “Thank you again for this amazing opportunity!”

For more information about Colorado Springs Spring Series, visit the LEG website.

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