By Emily Riden for Phelps Media Group
Lexington, VA – August 12, 2015 – Nestled across the state of Virginia in beautiful venues are some of the country’s most historic, traditional horse shows, but in recent years, many of these stand-alone shows have seen a decline in participation.
Keeping Virginia horse shows thriving and rewarding the riders and trainers who participate in them is the concept behind the all-new Virginia Hunter Championships, held for the first time on Tuesday, Aug. 4, at the Virginia Horse Center.
“A lot of these great horse shows in Virginia still revolve around hunters, not around jumpers, and that’s a different horse show,” said Chris Wynne, the man who has been the driving force behind the Virginia Hunter Championships. “A lot of horse shows now have so many jumper numbers to make money; it can be hard to make just the hunters work. You have to have very good hunter participation. So we decided to give something to the hunters.”
Presented by Markel, the inaugural Virginia Hunter Championships gave away $60,000 in prize money to riders competing in six different hunter classic divisions: a $15,000 Professional Hunter Classic, a $10,000 Pre-Green Hunter Classic, a $10,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic, a $10,000 Children’s Hunter Classic, a $10,000 Adult Amateur Hunter Classic and a $5,000 Pony/Children’s Pony Classic.
Riders competed over two rounds, each scored by three judges sending in scores on separate radio channels from separate locations around the indoor Anderson Coliseum.
Peg Seals and Son of a Sailor, winners of the $15,000 Professional Hunter Classic. Photo by Teresa Ramsay Photography.
“People were excited with how we did the scoring system,” Wynne said. “The judges obviously didn’t know the other scores, and then we averaged the three scores together for each round’s score. In the end, three of the classics were decided by less than a point, which is amazing and exciting. It was very good for everybody, because it was great, close competition; there was no clear cut winner in anything. Nobody was running away with it.”
In the $15,000 Professional Hunter Classic, both of the close top two spots went to Peg Seals. She earned the top call in the two-round classic aboard Emma Fass’ Son of a Sailor and finished second aboard Jennifer Parish’s Select.
In the $10,000 Pre-Green Hunter Classic, Chris Wynne edged out Maria Shannon and The Barrack’s Chicago by just 0.8 points to earn the win aboard Pemberley, owned by Ashley Billman.
“[Pemberley] is a 5-year-old that we bought a year ago and have brought along, and a young lady in our barn bought him,” Wynne said. “[The Virginia Hunter Championships] felt like a great test before Kentucky [and the Pre-Green Incentive Championships] because the young horses had to be in a demanding, indoor venue. You got to see where your babies were before Kentucky. The timing of it was perfect.”
Chris Wynne and Pemberley, winners of the $10,000 Pre-Green Hunter Classic. Photo by Teresa Ramsay Photography.
It was also a great opportunity for junior and amateur-owner riders, and the win was again determined by less than one point in the $10,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic. The first place honor went to Kelsi Okun and her own Consigliere, and second place went to Madeleine Lohr and Cameo Appearance.
Additional winners on Tuesday, Aug. 4, included Cary Braun and Gratitude, owned by Emily Langhorne, in the $10,000 Adult Amateur Hunter Classic and Lekha Ramachandran and Jennifer Basile’s Playmore in the $10,000 Children’s Hunter Classic. The $5,000 Pony/Children’s Pony Hunter Classic ran separately and in conjunction with the Lexington National Horse Show on Saturday, Aug. 8.
“As a horse show manager, the Virginia Hunter Championships is such a great concept,” said Leslie Brown, who manages shows at the Virginia Horse Center such as the Lexington National Horse Show, the Lexington Spring Premiere and the Lexington Spring Encore. “There were so many horses from our zone here on Tuesday that all jumped so well, and they are all products of our horse shows.”
Lekha Ramachandran and Playmore, winners of the $10,000 Children’s Hunter Classic. Photo by Teresa Ramsay Photography.
In order to be a part of the classics at the Virginia Hunter Championships, horses had to qualify by showing at Virginia horse shows throughout the year. Horses wishing to compete for the professional classic must have shown in at least four of the qualifying shows, while those qualifying for all other classics must have shown in at least six. Listed qualifying shows included:
The Barracks December “A” (12/11-14)* Lexington Spring Encore “AA”(4/29-5/3)
The Barracks January I “A” (1/2-4)* James River Hunt “A” (5/8-10)
The Barracks January II “A” (1/8-11)* Keswick Horse Show “AA” (5/12-17)
Stonewall Country I “A” (1/15-18) Upperville Horse Show “AA”(6/1-7)
Stonewall Country II “A” (1/30-2/1) Loudoun Benefit Horse Show “AA”(6/10-14)
The Barracks February “A” (2/6-8)* Roanoke Valley Horse Show “AA” (6/16-20)
Hollins Spring Welcome “A” (2/26-3/1) Deep Run Horse Show “AA” (6/17-21)
The Barracks March “A” (3/6-8)* Warrenton Pony Show “A” (6/24-28)
Rosemount Farm “AA” (4/8-12) Rosemount Farm “A” (7/24-26)
Lexington Spring Premiere “AA” (4/22-26)
A-rated shows were given a value of 1.5 shows, and AA-rated shows a value of one show.
To stay up to date with the Virginia Hunter Championships like the event on Facebook here.
To learn more about other upcoming horse shows and events at the Virginia Horse Center visitwww.horsecenter.org.