2018 USHJA World Championship Hunter Rider Professional Finals Bring New Challenges and Rewards for Top Professionals

Liza Boyd won the 2017 WCHR Pro Finals. Credit: Tricia Booker/USHJA

Upper Marlboro, Md. – Aug. 2, 2018 -Each year, the USHJA World Championship Hunter Rider Professional Finals, held during The Capital Challenge Horse Show, bring together the top Hunter professionals in a unique head-to-head competition, and this year, changes to the class bring back elements from past WCHR Pro Finals with a new twist to add excitement for riders and spectators alike.

The 2018 class will feature $10,000 in prize money, a new “Playoff” format, a possible wild card spot and the top four competitors from the first two rounds facing off each riding the same horses in a Final Four competition.

“WCHR has always strived for the highest level of competition in the Hunter ring,” said Caroline Weeden, chair of the WCHR Task Force. “This innovative Pro Finals format is the perfect mix of old and new and offers true head-to-head competition while keeping a level playing field and putting the horses first.”

The top six riders in the 2018 WCHR Professional National Standings after the WCHR Professional Challenge, which concludes Wednesday evening, Oct. 3, during the Capital Challenge Horse Show, will automatically move forward to the second round of the Playoffs. Additionally, if a rider who is not in the top six national standings wins the Pro Challenge, they will also move forward.

Scores from these riders’ first round of the Pro Challenge will count as their first round score of the Playoffs. The second round of the Playoffs will take place Friday evening, Oct. 5, and consist of a handy course on a horse of the rider’s choosing. The four riders with the highest two-round cumulative Playoffs score will qualify for the Final Four, which will be held after the second round of the Playoffs on Friday evening.

The Final Four will start on a clean slate, where each rider will show four horses provided by the horse show over four different courses. Riders will compete in reverse order of their standings from the Playoffs, and the order of the horses will be determined by random draw. The horses will remain in the same order, while riders rotate, and each rider will ride all four horses.

Oliver Kennedy, longtime USHJA volunteer and competition manager for the host competition, the Capital Challenge Horse Show, played an important role in working with the WCHR Task Force to develop the new format for 2018.

“I wanted to get back to the “Final Four” concept where the top four riders all ride the same horses, because that is a true test of who is the best rider,” said Kennedy. “In the new format, the top six professionals from the national WCHR standings will be invited to compete in the Pro Finals. But this year, we have opened up a wild card spot, so if someone outside the top six nationally ranked riders wins the Pro Challenge, they advance as a seventh rider in the Playoffs for the Pro Finals. It makes that Wednesday night class even more special.

“Bringing back the Final Four is really special with it being the 25th anniversary of the horse show,” continued Kennedy. “It’s a hybrid of the two ways that we’ve done the class, and I think it will add a lot of excitement.”

Entries are currently open for the 25th annual Capital Challenge Horse Show, which hosts the WCHR Finals each year. Learn more at www.capitalchallenge.com.

“We thank Oliver Kennedy and his team for helping put this in place,” continued Weeden, “And, we hope it will be very exciting to watch.”

The World Championship Hunter Rider Program was founded in 1992 to recognize and celebrate the hunter rider. Since the inaugural WCHR Professional Finals in the early 1990s the WCHR program has expanded to include coveted year-end awards for Professionals, Developing Professionals, Amateur Owners, Adult Amateurs, Juniors, Children’s and Pony riders. WCHR Program Members qualify for National and Regional Awards by earning points at Member Events held across the country throughout the qualifying year. Points from a rider’s top four WCHR Member Events will be used to determine the National and Regional standings. Each year the top 10 nationally ranked riders and top six regionally ranked riders in each category, come together to compete in the WCHR Finals during the Capital Challenge Horse Show in Upper Marlboro, Md. Learn more about the WCHR Program at ushja.org/WCHR.