Lexington, Ky. – Oct. 30, 2020 – The highlight hunter event of the 137th National Horse Show, the $50,000 National Horse Show Hunter Classic, presented by The Chronicle of The Horse, took place Friday evening in the Alltech Arena, the longtime host of the prestigious competition. Thirty qualified entries, each of whom earned places in the class thanks to results earlier in the week, competed over the natural-inspired obstacles, with the pair of Samantha Schaefer and sister Madeline Schaefer’s In The Know outshining them all to emerge as the 2020 victors in the class and third-ever winners since the event’s debut in 2018.
Throughout the first half of the week, invitations were extended to the Champion, Reserve Champion and second Reserve Champion horse-and-rider combinations of hunter sections that competed over jumps at the 3’6″ height or higher. Michael Britt-Leon, Havens Schatt, Samantha Schaefer, Isha Swani, Ellie Dupuis and Kat Fuqua each had two mounts apiece in the class to increase their chances of leaving with a portion of the pot. The competition began with the 3’6” section, which included 21 combinations, then raised the jumps to 3’9” for six pairs and finally finished at the 4’ height for just three duos.
Following the first phase of competition, the 12 highest-scoring partnerships were invited back for the handy round of the class in order to finalize the standings, with the first-round cut-off score sitting at 80.50. The rankings were tight with only 2.5 points separating the top seven returners, led by Fuqua and Consent’s marks of 88.50. Schaefer and In The Know sat in second position with a score of 87.12 and Schatt piloted Mostly Sunny to the third spot with 86.37 points. The next spots were filled by three riders – Christopher Coberly, Schaefer and Britt-Leon – all tied at 86 points on their respective horses. Partnerships returned to jump the handy course, which featured a hand gallop, turn options and plenty of opportunities for boldness, beginning with the 4’ horses and moving down to 3’9”, then followed by 3’6” competitors.
Second to return, Schaefer and her reliable partner In The Know continued to impress with a score of 87 from the judges panel, which pushed them to the early lead with a total score of 174.12 to set a high bar. The 4’ and 3’9” horses made up half of the pack, and the early frontrunners in the handy maintained their status at the midway point of the round with six 3’6” pairs left to ride. Though the latter half of the pack tried to match the efforts of the leaders, none could measure up, leaving Schaefer and In The Know at the top of the scorecard to add another major hunter win to the team’s ever-growing list. Britt-Leon captured second place on Kelly Sims’ Private I not far off the pace with a score of 173 and Coberly rounded out the top three aboard Fox Meadow Farm’s No Introduction with a composite score of 172.50.
For her victory, Schaefer was honored with the Hunter Classic Rider Award, presented by Audi of Lexington and Samuel A. Boone, which featured a $5,000 cash prize. The 2020 National Horse Show has been a successful one for Schaefer, who had already been named the Meralex Farm Grand Champion Professional Hunter with Take 3 LLC’s Trademark and the Meralex Farm Leading Hunter Rider Award, in addition to topping a number of divisions to earn the tricolors. Following the conclusion of the contest, Schaefer’s accomplishments continued as Trademark was awarded the honor of Grand Hunter Champion for his performances over the first four days of riding.
The 137th National Horse Show will return Saturday with the ASPCA Maclay National Championship training class, and hunter competition will resume immediately following for the conclusion of the Junior 3’3” Hunter divisions. Saturday’s highlight classes will include the $25,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Amateur-Owner/Junior Jumper Grand Prix and the highly-anticipated $213,3000 National Horse Show Grand Prix CSI4*. Sunday will conclude the event following the 2020 ASPCA Maclay National Championship, presented by Chansonette Farm.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Samantha Schaefer – $50,000 National Horse Show Hunter Classic, presented by The Chronicle of The Horse, winner
On her plan going into the first round:
“The strategy of the first course was to present him as a nice, fluid hunter horse with brilliant jumping efforts, and to keep everything under wraps. The change of speed in the handy, I think they wanted to see you risk it a little bit. I think having the advantage of going early because of the height changes helped. I went in there, and I know that horse really well, so I rode him how I thought he would perform. As always, he came through for me.”
On what makes In The Know so successful:
“His scope! His expression is another great thing. When he jumps 4’ he seems to do it a little easier than most horses, and he looks like he is really enjoying his job. I think everyone who watches him appreciates that about him.”
On her plan for the handy:
“There were two opportunities to hand gallop, which I love. I actually was going to the first jump and changed my mind about five times. He helped me out for sure with some scope. With him, I never really have an excuse to hold back because he is about as handy and rideable and adjustable as they come. He is kind of known for that. We tried to go for broke a little bit and hope it worked out, and today it did.”
On her success at the National Horse Show:
“Those two horses complement each other really well. I think Trademark is a superstar but he has his moments of young, green-ness. Spyder is my seasoned veteran that I can always rely on. Tonight especially, I thought Trademark was very good and I was really happy with him, but to have In The Know in your back pocket to pull out for these sort of events is nice to be able to count on.”
On her upcoming plans:
“I’m a firm believer that when the horses do something well, they go in the paddock for a few weeks. These horses will go home and have a nice well-deserved vacation and then they will go to Florida sometime next month.”
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score / Total
$50,000 National Horse Show Hunter Classic, presented by The Chronicle of the Horse:
1. In The Know / Samantha Schaefer / Madeline Schaefer / 87.12 / 87 / 174.12
2. Private I / Michael Britt-Leon / Kelly Sims / 86 / 87 / 173
3. No Introduction / Christopher Coberly / Fox Meadow Farm / 86 / 86.5 / 172.5
4. Consent / Kat Fuqua / Kat Fuqua / 88.5 / 83.87 / 172.37
5. Commentary / Julie Curtin / Amy Squier Perez / 84.62 / 85.5 / 170.12
6. Chevito / Sophia Mitchell / Sophia Mitchell / 82.75 / 86.5 / 169.25
7. Trademark / Samantha Schaefer / Take 3 LLC / 86 / 82 / 168
8. Cascartini / Havens Schatt / Ken and Amy Wexler LLC / 81.5 / 84.75 / 166.25
9. Bond / Geoffrey Hesslink / Shadowfax Equestrian LLC / 80.5 / 84 / 164.5
10. Frankly Stated / Hallie Grimes / Can We Keep It? LLC / 83.5 / 80.5 / 164
11. Levland / Christina Fisher / Christian Fisher / 83.12 / 75.5 / 158.62
12. Mostly Sunny / Havens Schatt / Caroline Moran / 86.37 / 45 / 131.37