Lightning Strikes for McQueen and Nick Haness To Win 2023 WIHS Grand Hunter Championship Title

McQueen and Nick Haness on their way to the Grand Hunter Championship. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

Edited Press Release

The 2023 Washington International Horse Show, presented by MARS Equestrian™ continued on Tuesday, October 24, and at the conclusion of the professional hunter divisions in The Show Place Arena, it was McQueen and Nick Haness who ruled supreme. The formidable duo won the Green Conformation Hunter division championship, the Grand Green Hunter Championship, and the overall WIHS Grand Hunter Championship title.

On the opening day of WIHS, McQueen was second in the model and won both over fences classes with a score of 90 in the first class and a whopping 92 in the handy. On Tuesday’s deciding day of competition, Haness then piloted the beautiful bay to a red ribbon in the stake class with a score of 90. A win in the under saddle sealed the deal for the numerous championship titles that followed.

“I have to say that I feel like McQueen and I think together on course,” explained Haness of his ride with the nine-year-old KWPN gelding by Cornet Obolensky. “I understand him all the time. Riding him by this point of the year just feels like a partnership that’s unlike anything else. I feel like when he thinks, I think with him, and we think together. I just know the cues to let him know this is an impressive venue and this is an important class for us to win.

“That horse is just a winner,” continued Haness. “He’s an absolute dream to ride, and he knows when it’s time to shine. He tries his hardest to always give you that blue ribbon every single time. That is an unusual and exceptional feeling in a horse. We ride and train these horses day in and day out, and many of them are winners, but they have to want to be the winner, and McQueen wants to be the winner.”

Nick Haness (middle) and McQueen in their winning presentation with WIHS President Vicki Lowell, ringmaster Steve Rector, Carlton Brooks, Traci Brooks, Jim Hagman, and Rodrigo Vega. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

McQueen and Haness have racked up an impressive resume this year alone. They won the $100,000 World Champion Hunter Rider (WCHR) West Coast Hunter Spectacular, sponsored by Irene Neuwirth, in early May, the Grand Championship title at the Devon Horse Show later the same month, the Platinum Performance United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) 3’6″/3’9″ Green Hunter Incentive Championship in August, the Grand Hunter Championship at Capital Challenge Horse Show in the beginning of October, and most recently, had a clean sweep of the Green Conformation Hunter division at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. Now, they are WIHS Grand Hunter champions.

“This is absolutely a huge honor for us and our team today,” expressed Haness, who hails from Temecula, CA. “It’s a big, very exciting, and important win for us. McQueen has been an amazing horse all year long and has delivered outstanding performances. Being Grand here is just exceptional and incredible. For us, this feels like an Indoors three-peat. This is our final show together of the year, so it was a great way to finish it off with a bang. We could not be happier for everyone involved.”

The “everyone” that Haness mentions is the big support team around McQueen. It starts with McQueen’s previous owners of Balmoral Farm, Inc., Carlton and Traci Brooks, who have been responsible for the gelding’s preparation and care. Together with new owners Paige and Lanie Walkenbach of Walkenbach Equestrian LLC, along with trainer Jim Hagman and Haness, everyone has united for success.

“I feel like all of us have really come together as horsemen to produce results like this, and it is an extremely proud moment for all of us to be crowned the Grand Hunter Champion this week at Washington,” stated Haness. “McQueen is a character. He’s so athletic and so capable, but he’s such a gentle horse. He’s very, very intelligent. He’s a horse that has potential to jump the mountains because he’s so scopey. He utilizes that and channels his strengths into winning almost every time.”

For the Grand Champion Hunter honor, McQueen and Haness were presented with the Rave Review Challenge Trophy, donated by Stoney Hill.

WIHS President Vicki Lowell, ringmaster Steve Rector, and Betsee Parker honoring Scott Stewart on his seventh straight Leading Hunter Rider title. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

Scott Stewart, of Wellington, FL, was named the Leading Hunter Rider, presented by Betsee Parker, and was awarded the Scott Stewart Leading Hunter Rider Perpetual Trophy.

Professional hunter champions included:

Green Hunter 3’6” Champion: Colter, Scott Stewart, Sophie Gochman
Reserve champion: Daydream, Scott Stewart, Gochman Ventures LLC

Green Hunter 3’9” Champion: C’est Jolie, Nick Haness, B R Farms LLC

Reserve champion: Drumroll, Geoffrey Hesslink, Meridian Farm LLC

Green Conformation Hunter Champion: McQueen, Nick Haness, Walkenbach Equestrian LLC
Reserve champion: California Love, Scott Stewart, Rivers Edge

High Performance Working Hunter Champion: Autograph, Hunt Tosh, Ceil Wheeler
Reserve champion: Milagro, John French, Kent Farrington LLC

High Performance Conformation Hunter Champion: Nottingham, Scott Stewart, Betsee Parker
Reserve champion: Jordan, Scott Stewart, Sophie Gochman