"I think this horse show is the most competitive of the year, with all of these great riders, and it's always an honor to be in this group and to try to maintain that," he said. "At this point it's a really fun class, and I think we all encourage each other. It's just a fun evening."
This was the third year riders competed in a three-round format on the Friday night of the Capital Challenge at the Prince George's Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD. The six top riders in the WCHR Professional National standings qualified to compete over two rounds on unfamiliar horses and then rode their own horses for the third and final Handy Round. This year's star-studded field included Stewart, Amanda Steege, Hunt Tosh, Havens Schatt, Kelley Farmer and Jenny Karazissis.
After the first two rounds aboard the donated horses Kinder Scout and Forester, Stewart, of Flemington, NJ, stood first. He returned to the ring for the Handy last in the order aboard Krista and Alexa Weisman's Reality, and he kept the lead with a solid performance and three-round total of 271.99 points. Schatt finished a strong second with 267.49 points, and Karazissis claimed third with 266.99.
"Reality's a horse I've had for six or seven years," said Stewart. "He's a stallion and does the Amateurs. He's a really steady, nice hunter and a blast to ride. He did the Amateurs yesterday, and I used him last year and he was really good, so I thought I'd stick with it."
Scott Stewart and Reality are crowned Champion in the WCHR Pro Finals. Presenting the award from left to right: Chuck Mayer of Blue Ribbon Blankets, Sharon Lynn Campbell, Martha and Stephanie Ingram of class sponsor Well Placed Smiles, Marla Holt of USHJA, Sally Stith-Burdette of Shapley's, and Fernando Bonilla, Reality's groom. Photo Credit: Shawn McMillen
Earlier in the week, Stewart also claimed the $25,000 WCHR Professional Challenge aboard David and Becky Gochman's Catch Me for the top calls in both WCHR Pro featured events this year.
Schatt, of Georgetown, Kentucky, was especially proud of her Handy ride aboard CH Farms, LLC's Mostly Sunny, which moved her up from third to second overall.
"The Handy round was the highlight for me," she said. "My horse is just seven years old and is a First Year horse, so I wasn't quite sure how he was going to handle the night time and going right into the Handy like that and putting the pedal to the metal. I didn't hold his hand, and he responded great, so I was proud of him."
Karazissis, of Calabasas, CA, posted the best Handy score of the night to pick up third overall. Her ride aboard Emily Sukert's Tuscany included brilliant moments over the walk and trot fences in addition to handy turns and bold gallops.
"He was really on this week when I rode him, and I felt like I could really rely on him and I had a great time," she said.
Steege, of Ocala, FL, placed fourth overall after riding Susan Darragh's Zidane in the Handy. Last year's defending champion Farmer, of Lexington, KY, placed fifth overall after a few bobbles in Rounds 1 and 2. Tosh, of Alpharetta, GA, returned to the Handy round in second place, but a refusal at the walk fence and a few other problems with Lucky Times dropped him down to sixth overall
Forester, owned by Ally Marrinan, won the Far West Farms Perpetual Trophy presented to t
he donated horse with the highest cumulative points of the WCHR Professional Finals.
Other donated horses included: Elvenstar Farm's Caracas 89, Radi Salim's Jos, Emily Cherney's Kinder Scout, Georgia Saad's Vogue and Gretchen Draper's Czechers.
Forester, owned by Ally Marrinan, wins the Far West Farms Perpetual Trophy. Presenting the award from left to right: Chuck Mayer of Blue Ribbon Blankets, Forester's groom Abel Sanchez, Stephanie Ingram of class sponsor Well Placed Smiles, and Marla Holt of USHJA. Photo Credit: Tricia Booker/USHJA Archives
With this sixth victory, Stewart will once again have his name engraved on the All The Way Perpetual Trophy. He also won prizes from USHJA/WCHR sponsor Blue Ribbon Blankets, the Official Cooler Sponsor of the WCHR Pro Finals.
The Shapley's Best Turned Out Award was presented to Fernando Bonilla, the groom for Reality. He received a Shapley's Award Bucket of products presented by Sally Stith-Burdette.
Sally Stith-Burdette presents the Shapley's Best Turned Out Award to Fernando Bonilla, Reality's groom. Photo Credit: Tricia Booker/USHJA Archives
Earl Brown earned the WCHR David Peterson Perpetual Trophy, donated by Kavar Kerr and Jim Anderson, for a person who exemplifies dedication and commitment to the care and well being of the horse.
The WCHR Task Force selected Brown as someone who truly personifies the spirit of this trophy.
Brown is a third generation horseman, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who groomed in Middleburg, VA. He was drawn to horses early in life and despite graduating from Virginia Tech, teaching high school for a year and a half, and spending 10 years in the U.S. Marine Corp, Brown kept finding his way back to horses. He's handled race horses, eventing horses and dressage horses, but he's spent most of his career grooming some of the top horses in the Hunter and Jumper disciplines. He groomed for Alison Firestone during the height of her career, caring for and preparing her horses for competition at the highest levels of our sport across Europe and the United States, including successes at the FEI World Cup Show Jumping Finals and the Pan American Games. He worked with Aimee Aron, grooming Jamaica when at just 15 years old Aron won her second straight Atco Structures Double Slalom event at Spruce Meadows (Alberta). Today and for the past eight years, he's worked for Jane Clark, grooming numerous horses, including famed Urico who won the first day of FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010.
R. Bruce Duchossois will have his name engraved on the WCHR Old Springhouse Perpetual Trophy for the WCHR Lifetime Achievement Award.
Duchossois dedicated his life to the equestrian sport as an avid horseman and an exemplary leader within the equestrian community. He was an all-around equestrian, holding lifetime memberships with the USHJA, U.S. Equestrian Federation, U.S. Eventing Association, and the American Quarter Horse Association.
No stranger to the show ring, he garnered numerous national titles in the Adult and Amateur-Owner Hunter sections, and owned horses that competed at the highest level of equestrian sport. In his 16-year involvement in the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation, he served as vice president and chaired both the Nominating Committee and the Development Committee. At the same time, he served on the USHJA Zone 4 Committee, co-chaired the USHJA Owners Task Force, served on the National Horse Show Board of Directors, and chaired the Gentleman's Committee for the prestigious 2013 Alltech National Horse Show.
In July of 2014, Duchossois passed away after a long battle with cancer. The consummate horseman, he rode up until his last days. Havens Schatt and R. Scot Evans accepted the award on his behalf.
Professional rider Kelley Farmer earned the Charles Johnson Memorial Perpetual Trophy as the high-point rider from the WCHR Midwest Region. She earned 1,374 points from the Professional category.
The late Leo Conroy received the Daniel P. Lenehan Perpetual Trophy for the person who exemplifies dedication and a lifetime commitment to judging show hunters.
Conroy's impact on this sport is well known and documented. He was a trainer of many top ponies, junior hunters, and nationally recognized hunters such as Overdressed, Calling Card and Peterbilt Special. He judged some of the most prestigious competitions throughout the United States, including the Winter Equestrian Festival, Devon Horse Show, Pennsylvania National Horse Show, Washington International Horse Show, National Horse Show, and U.S. Pony Finals. Most importantly, he was a horseman, described by many as an "old school horseman."
In addition to his expertise in the arena, Conroy had an enormous impact on the governance of equestrian sport, serving as the assistant executive director of the American Horse Shows Association, as well as on its Board of Directors. He also served as a member of numerous USEF and USHJA committees and was the vice president of the National Horse Show.
In December 2014, Conroy was awarded the 2014 USHJA Lifetime Achievement Award. At the beginning of this year, Conroy passed away due to a stroke.
Other WCHR National award winners included:
- Scott Stewart - WCHR Professional National Champion
- Betsee Parker - WCHR Professional National Owner Champion
- Alexis Silvernale - WCHR Developing Professional National Champion
- Camille Leblond - WCHR Developing Professional National Owner Champion
- Ellen Toon - WCHR Amateur-Owner 3'6" National Champion
- Jimmy Toon and Amanda Steege - WCHR Amateur-Owner 3'6" Trainer
- Lisa Arena Davis - WCHR Amateur-Owner 3'3" National Champion
- Amanda Steege - WCHR Amateur-Owner 3'3" Trainer
- Kimberly Maloomian - WCHR Adult Amateur National Champion
- Amanda Steege - WCHR Adult Amateur Trainer
The 2015 WCHR Top-Six Professional Riders included:
- Scott Stewart - 2,116 points
- Amanda Steege - 1,765
- Hunt Tosh - 1,756
- Havens Schatt - 1,706
- Kelley Farmer - 1,658
- Jenny Karazissis - 1,656
Professional, Junior and Amateur Riders are invited to compete at the Capital Challenge Horse Show by qualifying through the WCHR National and Regional programs throughout the year. A rider's top four WCHR Member Events count toward awards in these categories: Professional and Developing Professional, Junior (3'6" and 3'3"), Amateur-Owner (3'6" and 3'3"), Adult Amateur, Handy Hunter, Children's and Pony. Riders are then invited to contest WCHR Challenge Classes, and the WCHR presents its national awards at the Capital Challenge. Regional champions are also recognized in two separate parades.
A special thank you to the 2015 USHJA WCHR Program sponsors: Blue Ribbon Custom Blankets, Official Cooler Sponsor of WCHR Pro-Finals; Shapley's, Best Turned Out Award Sponsor; Charles Owen, Inc. the Official Helmet of the USHJA; Rood & Riddle, Official Equine Hospital and Veterinary Pharmacy of the USHJA; and Standlee Hay Company, Official Forage of the USHJA.
The WCHR Program was founded in 1992 to recognize and celebrate the hunter rider. Since the inaugural WCHR Professional Finals in 1992, the WCHR program has expanded to include coveted National and Regional year-end awards for Professionals, Developing Professionals, Amateur-Owners, Amateur Adults, Juniors, Children's and Pony riders.
The USHJA World Championship Hunter Rider Program while honoring hunter riders also supports the mission of the
. It is through the generosity of supporters that this program is able to continue to achieve its goals.