Lexington, Ky. – Oct. 27, 2020 – Hunter competition commenced Tuesday at the 2020 National Horse Show, which is celebrating its 137th year, at its home in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park. Professionals and amateurs vied for the leading positions in their respective divisions throughout the initial day of the competition, which concluded with the first set of frontrunners that will try to defend their status Wednesday. In the Green 3’9” Hunters, Michael Britt-Leon and Kelly Sims’ Private I jumped to the top of the overall scorecard, while Samantha Schaefer piloted Take 3 LLC’S Trademark to the head of the leaderboard in the Goshen Hill Green 3’6” Hunters. In the amateur-owner ranks, Charming carried owner-rider Dorli Burke to the early lead in the Suzanne Thoben Marquard Amateur-Owner Over 35 Hunters.

Over the lofty 3’9” fences, Geoffrey Hesslink and Shadowfax Equestrian LLC’s Bond nabbed the first win of the Green 3’9” Hunter division in the classic over fences round, which saw a pack of skilled partnerships tackle the track. Hot on their heels were Britt-Leon and Private I, who earned the red ribbon in the first class and were eager to show off their skills in the handy round in an attempt to overtake the early leaders. One-upping themselves, the duo of Britt-Leon and Private I put in a swift and effortless trip for which they were awarded first place in the second portion of the competition, pushing them to the top of the standings thanks to two top-two finishes. Britt-Leon and Sims’ 8-year-old Oldenburg gelding entered the National Horse Show hot off recent success at the Capital Challenge Horse Show, where they won the $10,000 World Champion Hunter Rider Professional Finals during their debut in the competition, and the pair will try to maintain momentum Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, a talented field that featured the likes of Daisy Farish, Greg Crolick and Schaefer competed head-to-head over two jumping rounds, one of which was a handy, in the Goshen Hill Green 3’6” Hunter division. Taking home the first blue ribbon of the division was Schaefer aboard Trademark, a pair that has consistently turned in winning rounds at horse shows around the country. Well known for his striking markings and eye-catching way of going, the 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding returned for the handy round to again best the field of 17 horses, earning the lead headed into day two of competition.

Unlike their earlier Green counterparts, the Amateur-Owner competitors had three chances to demonstrate their abilities in front of the judges Tuesday, once over fences and in the handy, as well as under saddle. The first class was won by Burke on her own Charming, and the handy phase saw owner-rider Lynn Seithel at the top of the ranks with Walk The Moon, with Burke and Charming close behind in second position. Returning to the ring for the flat phase, Burke and Charming solidified their ranking as the frontrunners thanks to another top finish, claiming second place behind Michelle Gauchat and her own Le Diplomate.

The National Horse Show will return to the Alltech Arena on Wednesday, when the first batch of champions will be crowned for their respective divisions as well as overall Grand Champions. Jumpers will take to the ring for the first time Thursday.

The remainder of the week will showcase hunter and jumper action that includes Thursday’s Phelps Media Group $72,900 International Welcome Stake, as well as Friday’s T & R Development $36,600 International Speed and National Horse Show $50,000 Hunter Classic. Saturday’s highlights will include the $213,300 National Horse Show Grand Prix CSI4* and the $25,000 SJHF Amateur-Owner/Junior Jumper Grand Prix, and Sunday will conclude the show with the highly-anticipated ASPCA Maclay National Equitation Championship, presented by Chansonette Farm.

 

To learn more about the 2020 National Horse Show, click here. 

 

FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE

Michael Britt-Leon – Green 3’9” Hunter leader

On Private I:

“Private I is owned by Kelly Sims. We have been doing him in the 3’9” Green division all year and [Kelly] does him in the Amateur Owner division. He is currently leading the country in the 3’9” division and was Grand Champion Green Hunter as well. He had an incredible Capital Challenge and this is kind of the end of our indoors, which has been a little bit crazy with COVID and going from Capital Challenge in Ohio, to Washington in Tryon, to here. The National Horse Show is an incredible horse show, so it is exciting to be here and be in the indoor. It is a real privilege to ride here.”

On his trips:

“Private I gives me his all every single time. He never, ever lets me down. We had a great first round and we finished second, then we won the handy. I love the handy, it is my favorite class to do here at the horse show, besides the derbies. You just get to show off a little bit more, it is a little bit more exciting, and there are more tricks to the course. It was a fun course today. The jumps were beautiful and wide, and the bigger the jumps are, the better he jumps, so I was pleased about that.”

On competing at the National Horse Show:

“Being at the National Horse Show is such a privilege. With everything going on in the world right now, the fact that we can horse show period is incredible, but to be at a horse show of this caliber with the best horses and the best riders that we have here in the country is a real honor. You go in each class and you try to do your best, but it is really anybody's day. We have amazing horses here and amazing riders! It is beautiful here in Kentucky, I mean it is horse land in Lexington, so it is very exciting to be here!”

 

Samantha Schaefer – Goshen Hill Green 3’6” Hunter leader

On Trademark:

“Trademark is a horse that I think we have had for almost five years now. We got him when he was barely broke and we have really seen him progress and grow. To see him come to this venue and perform like he did today was pretty exciting. He is kind of like my baby, so it was very rewarding to see all of our hard work, time and patience pay off today.

On taking back-to-back wins:

“It feels great. Without having Harrisburg and Washington this year, it has put a lot of pressure on this event to go well. I am just really happy with how he responded and came out ready to go today.”

On her hopes for the rest of the week:

“[Trademark] will show again tomorrow and hopefully, if we qualify for the Friday night class, we will do well in that.”

On competing at the National Horse Show:

“First of all, I cannot thank everybody enough for making this show happen. I think I had my doubts as we were leading up to it, so it feels great to be here. Seeing the orange everywhere and feeling the prestige of it all feels really special. This is definitely a show I look forward to all year and I’m glad that 2020 didn’t ruin it for us!”

 

Dorli Burke – Suzanne Thoben Marquard Amateur-Owner Over 35 Hunter leader

On Charming:

“Charming is a sweetheart. He is like a puppy dog and he will follow you around for treats. I have had him for a long time, I think seven years now! He has just been wonderful. I had a lot of confidence going in there that he would go around and that I wouldn’t have to worry because he knows his job.”

On her trips:

“He felt great! I think that when I went in the arena he was a little surprised, but he was great and he just marched right around. We tried to keep going forward in the first trip and then in the handy, he was great. I took a very tight turn to the first fence, which ended up being a little tighter than I had anticipated, but he was super. He did not put one foot wrong and I am really excited.”

On competing at the National Horse Show:

“I love the National Horse Show. I haven’t been to it here [in Kenucky] but I had heard so many wonderful things about it. Everyone says what a good job everyone does and what a beautiful show it is. I am really excited to be here!”

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