Traverse City, Mich. – Sept. 8, 2021 – Debuting in Traverse City for the first time, the inaugural USHJA Young Jumper Championships will welcome top young horses from around the country to compete for top prizes. The competition will offer separate championships for 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8-year-old horses. Four-year-olds will compete in a Style and Jumping Championship, which includes a First Qualifier and Final set at .90m. Horses aged 5-8 years old will compete over a three-round format that features First and Second Qualifiers, culminating in a Final set from 1.15-1.40m based on each age section, as well as a Consolation Classic for horses not competing in the Final. In addition to prize money through fifteenth place, incentives and bonus prize money will be offered for United States breeders and American-bred horses.
Taking the first win of the exciting new event, it was Brooke Kemper and John Porter’s Zangersheide gelding bred by Hunters Stud Farm LVS NV, TikTok Z (Toulon X Mendini Van de Hunters), who rose to the top of the leaderboard in the 4-Year-Old First Qualifier with 57 style points and 10 jumping points. Competing over fences set at the 0.90m height following a mandatory three minutes of flatwork warmup, eight impressive 4-year-old horses took to the Jumper Annex Ring determined to gain valuable points toward their Final, set to take place Thursday, September 9. Taylor Flury and Aliboo Farm, Inc.’s Cool Running VDV Z (Cicero Z X Zianne) placed second, and Lauren Ditallo finished in third aboard High Finance Farm’s HFF Minted Munny (Thunder Van de Zuuthoeve X Elize Van de Broekkant.
Immediately following, Ali Wolff and Fahrenheit Ponthual (Lux Z X Io De La Grange), bred by E.A.R.L. Ponthual Puisset, took the win in the 6-Year-Old First Qualifier. The Selle Francais mare owned by Michael Meller jumped well above the 1.20-1.25m set fences, soaring to victory in a clean 28.679 seconds. Taking second place was Soehnke Theymann who rode Platinum Capital Management LLC’s Henrietta (Contefino X O Black Cherry) to a double-clear round in 29.219 seconds. Mathew Williams and QBS Equestrian’s Doonaveeragh Balou (Wild Balou Bill X Doonaveeragh SE) rounded out the top three for crossing the timers in 29.856 seconds without any faults to their names.
Taking center stage in the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring Wednesday afternoon, the 7-Year-Old First Qualifier saw Jill Gaffney with Freestyling Farms, LLC’s Irish Sport Horse stallion FF Blade Runner (Air Jordan X Bright Eyes) at the forefront of the winner’s circle for their double-clear effort in 27.238 seconds. Riding to second place through the 1.30-1.35m track was Quentin Judge and Double H Farm’s HH Janneke B (Floris X Golden Girl B), who completed the course in 27.811 seconds without knocking any rails. Sydney Shulman and Jill Shulman’s Ad Elite Semilly (Kannan X View of Semilly) finished in third for their clear rides in 27.947 seconds.
Concluding the afternoon, Craig Starr and his very own Christian Dior (Vittorio x Mhilavsca F) rose to the occasion in the 8-Year-Old First Qualifier to ride away with top honors. With fences set at the 1.35-1.40m height, Starr piloted the Warmblood gelding, bred by H. Van Dommelen, through the track with ease, notching 27.136 seconds on the clock to emerge at the top of the leaderboard on a score of zero heading into Thursday’s competition. Kemper nabbed another ribbon during the Championship, this time aboard MTM Kappa Kappa Gamma (Casiro x Sue), owned by Caroline Blum. Bred by Markus Franz, Kemper piloted Kappa Kappa Gamma to a time of 27.981 seconds to finish the day with two points toward the overall standings. Rounding out the top three to conclude the afternoon was Andrew Welles aboard the Itasca Group LLC’s Idol H&H (Action Breaker x Mantana). Welles navigated his way through the course with the H. Stegeman bred gelding to a time of 28.919 seconds to move into the third place spot on the leaderboard.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Ali Wolff – 6-Year-Old First Qualifier winner
On Fahrenheit Ponthual:
“We named her Farah in the barn. She has been with us for a few months – I think we got her in the middle of June from quarantine. She is owned by Michael Meller and she joined our team pretty late, and she also came from Europe with not a ton of muscle or experience. We started off and this is maybe our fourth or fifth show together. She is so smart and just wants to do it right. She loves her job so we have been having such a great time and every week is progress. She is sassy and I love her attitude, so I think we work really well together.”
On her strategy for the USHJA Young Jumper Championships:
“We know better than to predict anything for young horses! You could have a great round one day and then just fall off the next day! I am hoping that is not my tomorrow but we just have to take it day by day. She felt fantastic today. We were here last week and I think that was a great warmup for us. I think she really carried over from last week when we got to go into the big ring. It got her sights a little up and I think that helped us in this ring today. She is the type of horse that needs a bigger fence and more spooky objects to actually get her to pay attention. She is so talented that she thinks this is all beneath her, so I think she really stepped up from last week. She was so focused today, she jumped amazing, she rode amazing and I don’t ever have to teach her to be fast, she does that naturally. We are super pleased with her today and we hope it carries over to tomorrow and in the final, but we are just taking it day by day.”
On the opportunity to compete in the USHJA Young Jumper Championships:
“It is fantastic to have these championships back again. We had them for a little bit and then they kind of dwindled. It is a little bit hard in the U.S. with the expense of breeding and then developing young horses here. But at the same time, we do have a lot of young horses and American-bred horses, so for this kind of championship to reincarnate is amazing. For people like Taylor Flurry who breeds a lot of her own horses and does a lot of it herself, these are great classes to develop these special horses and to get them over a little bit early, and to also develop them for the future.”
On competing at Tournament of Champions:
“This is a great area to host a championship event. It is beautiful weather, we are so lucky! Great footing, beautiful fences, I think it really prepares us for the challenges ahead. They didn’t take it too easy today but they made it fair. The jumps are beautiful, clean, and they just do a really great job here. They want everything to be a class event, a top event, and it shows.”