Wayne, Ill.—July 28, 2021—The inaugural USHJA Hunter Team Challenge kicked off over the weekend at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois, with more than 20 members teaming up to participate. Team Yellow, made up of Mia Martin (Naperville, Illinois), Abigail Rigert (Winfield, Illinois), Madeline Stout (St. Louis, Missouri) and Callie Winkelman (McHenry, Illinois) earned the gold medal after two days of competition.
“It was awesome. I got to meet so many really cool riders doing this; a lot of people I would have never met otherwise,” Stout said about the competition. “I am really proud of how my horse behaved and happy with how I rode, so it was a great experience for sure.”
The silver medal went to Team Teal made up of Sophie Fendler (St. Louis, Missouri), Kyla Figueroa (Houston, Texas), Lillie Granger (Austin, Texas) and Samantha Michael (Plainfield, Illinois), and bronze went to Team Red made up of Shannon Carter (Cape Charles, Virginia), Eliza Cho (West Lake Hills, Texas), Kaylee Dawidiuk (Naperville, Illinois) and Sydney Joiner (Aurora, Illinois).
Teams were each made up of riders competing in different sections including 2’6″ Children’s, 2’6″ Adult Amateurs, 3′ Children’s, 3′ Adult Amateurs and Children’s Pony sections.
For the first day of competition, riders competed in their regular division classes, where their scores were also calculated separately earning points for the Hunter Team Challenge. On the second day of competition, riders competed in the Final Round, a Classic-style over-fences round, which was held in the Grand Prix ring at Lamplight Equestrian Center.
Team Yellow was in the lead after the first day of competition and held on with solid performances to finish with a total team score of 87 after the Final Round. Consistent performances from Team Teal moved them up to earn silver with 72 points after the Final Round. Team Red completed with a total score of 69 for the bronze medal.
“I really liked my first jump and the rest of the course just flowed really nicely,” Winkelman said about her pony Moonshine’s performance in the Final Round. “He was so good. It was our first time in the big ring so it was really nice. I thought it was really cool for all of the riders; we worked so hard, and then the hard work paid off nice for all of us.”
John Manning designed the courses both days of the competition. Jamie Stryker and O. King Hackley III judged the first day of competition, held in two rings. Sara Rhodes judged the Final Round of competition on Sunday.
“I really liked the course; it flowed very nicely,” Martin said. “I didn’t go into this with a lot of expectations. [Nordic van den Bisschop] is still young, so this was a really good experience for him. I really liked how we were able to go from our normal ring to the Grand Prix ring.”
Rigert also enjoyed competing in the spacious Grand Prix ring and thought the course worked well for her horse.
“He was awesome today,” Rigert said. “I really liked being in this big ring; we’ve never been in this ring before so it let him open up because he is such a big horse. I like that there were lots of lines and lots of strides so it was easier for me to keep a nice pace and keep a consistent pace and do the course as well as I could.”
Members of the gold medal team received coolers, ribbons and medals. Silver and bronze medalists also received ribbons and medals. All medalists were invited to participate in a special awards ceremony at the end of the Final Round. Team members also received arm bands with their team colors to wear during the competition and some showed their team spirit by color coordinating their horses’ braids.
Janet Sassmannshausen was the Hunter Team Challenge Liaison during the event and helped coordinate teams and answer questions.
“I love how inclusive it is and how we have a finals-type format for the entry-level people,” Sassmannshausen said. “They are all so excited to be on a team, and they are meeting new people and the camaraderie it has been wonderful. I can’t tell you how many of them have come up to me so excited about their teams and their colors and cheering for each other.”
To learn more about the USHJA Hunter Team Challenge, visit ushja.org/hunterteamchallenge.
Photos by Alison Hartwell Photography