Edited Press Release
The 2023 HITS Equitation Championship, sponsored by Antares Sellier, took center stage on Friday night at the HITS Ocala Stadium as part of the Ocala Championship Week. Working hard to qualify for this special event, 26 riders showcased their skills over two rounds of competition under the lights in the Stadium. At the end of the night, it was Schuyler Dayner whose top scores garnered the winning title with Billy Awesome and earned a new Skylla jumping saddle thanks to Antares. Isabelle Ehman placed second aboard Yung Gravy, while third place went to Kendall Deal riding Charon.
“It’s really special to win the HITS Equitation Championship,” expressed Dayner. “This is my fifth year doing the class, so I’ve definitely been working toward winning and it feels really great to climb to the top. I knew this would be a fun class, so I wanted to be competitive in it and finish the circuit on a high note.”
Open to junior and young riders who placed first, second or third in the USEF Medal, ASPCA Maclay, USEF Talent Search, WIHS Equitation, M&S Junior Medal or EJ Haun Medal during the 2023 HITS Ocala circuit, 26 qualified entries competed Friday night. Course designer Timmy Hott set a smooth, technical track for the gymnastics round with a bending ‘S’ to start, a ground line to a bounce, trot poles to a trot fence, and a hand gallop to the final oxer. Riders worked individually, as trainers were not allowed to walk the course with the participants or assist with schooling. While the schooling area was not scored, observations were shared with the judges and could be considered in scoring.
Following the first round of competition, judges Scott Williamson and Scott Fitton invited the top 12 riders to return in reverse order to showcase their skills over a shortened course with an in-and-out and multiple options to be conservative or leave strides out in bending lines.
During Dayner’s first round, she kept a forward pace and flowed through the course with Billy Awesome, a 7-year-old British Warmblood gelding owned by Don Stewart. She earned the high score during the first round, and after another flawless performance, she returned to lead the lap of honor at the end of the night.
Working without a trainer did not phase Dayner, who rides with her mother out of Baxter Lane Farm. “It’s something I’m a little bit used to,” she explained. “My mom’s a trainer, so I’m a little bit independent and I’m used to the training side of it, so it wasn’t anything that out of the normal.”
This is Dayner’s second horse show with Billy Awesome, and she hopes to continue working with him through the Devon Horse Show later this spring. “He’s a little bit green, so he definitely needs a little stronger ride,” she noted. “A lot of leg, but he’s a super brave, confident horse and he is great to the jumps.
Dayner added, “He has very goofy personality. He loves to be in your lap all the time. He definitely doesn’t think he’s a giant horse. He thinks he’s a little puppy dog.”
With beautiful rounds during both the first and second rounds of competition, Isabelle Ehman and Yung Gravy earned the night’s second-place award, while Kendall Dean and Charon rounded out the top three.
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