Edited Press Release
The Hamel Family Foundation 3’3” Equitation Championship began with the bellowing call of a bugle at dawn Sunday, during day five of the 2022 National Horse Show at the Kentucky Horse Park. At the end of the day, it was Juliette Earley aboard Nils On, who emerged victorious above the rest of the class and was crowned champion.
The Hamel Family Foundation is well-revered within the equestrian industry for their continuous commitment to supporting our sport, in addition to their altruistic efforts and generosity in communities throughout the country.
“This is just such a pleasure for me to be a part of,” commented Kristen Hamel. “I know the girls work so hard – I had a daughter in this too, so I know how stressful it can be for kids and parents. I’m just really proud of everyone.”
A field of 162 junior riders circled the Alltech arena throughout the day, studying course designer Bobby Murphy’s technical track in lieu of the stiff competition. The first round course required riders to be in perfect sync with their horse’s stride to meet the base of each jump accurately in the tricky bending lines. Including both a one and two stride, and an S-like track through the center of the arena over the iconic white rail fence resembling the rail of a horse racing track originally debuted in the 2015 Maclay Finals riders.
“The Hamel is now a gateway to Maclay Finals,” comments Murphy. “It prepares you to be a champion, we’ve seen how this class has evolved into an equitation championship that that leaves the riders up to do their best performance. On Saturday, [riders] are jumping the 2019 Maclay finals course just modified a bit. We’ve put Maclay finals jumps in the equitation division leading up to the [Hamel] final so these riders can go in and each morning you probably see them get a bit more comfortable.”
A total of 24 horse and rider combinations returned for a second round based upon their first round scores. Similar to the first round, the course tasked riders with staying consistent in their pace to allow them to find each jump out of stride. Adjustments between course one and two included a doubleback on the gate in round one versus the doubleback on the hedge feature in round two and an end jump near the in and out-gates to complete the course. Riders continued to test the judges by laying down seamless rides, thus forcing a work-off upon the completion of the second round.
Riders Isa Jensen, Rylie True, Juliette Earley, and Eleanor Pieters re-entered the Alltech and listened carefully to the test which included a hand gallop, simple change of lead, counter canter, and sitting trot. First to tackle the shortened track was Jensen aboard her 10 year-old KWPN gelding, Happy Boy. The pair executed a stylish ride that answered all the questions presented to them, setting the tone for the rest of the competitors. True and Reese Merna’s 14 year-old Warmblood gelding Utrillo Du Soleil were next to contest followed by Earley aboard Nils On, the 12 year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding owned by Doris Leventhal. Pieters piloted Tibri’s Rain King, the 10 year-old KWPN gelding owned by TIBRI LLC around the arena for a final time before the riders were crowned their placings.
ROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE:
Juliette Earley – Champion
On her ride:
“Well, my strategy the whole time was to look ahead and keep my eye up. And that stayed pretty consistent. But towards the end of the day, I just started to say to myself, ‘try to trust her (Nils On) to feel and not think too hard about it. Between the three rounds today, I felt that the two S’s both rode slightly differently. So I liked that, it kind of kept me on my toes.”
On what it means to compete at the National Horse Show:
“It’s an honor to compete here, it’s such an amazing show. And it brings up such feelings of gratitude, for everyone – everyone who’s helped you get to where you are today. And just watching all these amazing riders compete…it’s so inspirational.”
1. Juliette Earley / Nils On / Doris Leventhal
2. Eleanor Pieters / TIBRI’s Rain King / TIBRI LLC
3. Isa Jensen / Happy Boy / Isa Jensen
4. Riley True / Utrillo Du Soleil / Reese Merna
5. Kalea Iuliano /Unique De La Chesnee / Kalea Iuliano
6. Greenley Achuck / Son House / Greenley Achuck
7.Willow Mary Wright / Golden Dream / Reverie Sport Horses, LLC
8. Hailey Guidry / Coronado Beach / Honor Hill Farm LLC