Pfizer Million Preview

West coast riders come east for Pfizer Million Weekend; HITS bids to bring Olympic Trials to HITS Desert Horse Park
As the summer show season nears its end, the excitement and anticipation for this year’s Pfizer Million Weekend is gaining momentum. Exhibitors are clamoring to get their qualifying classes in and add to their winnings to ensure their place in the Rider Rankings for both the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix and the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final. After the Desert Circuit it was clear that riders from the west coast were serious about ensuring they’d make the cut for these two monumental events. And with the grand finale weekend just about a month away, west coast riders are making their plans to come east for their chance at show jumping history – the opportunity to compete for $1.5 million in prize money!

The group of High-Performance riders coming east includes a mix of both returning and first time qualifiers with John Pearce, Helen McNaught, Duncan McFarlane, and Saer Coulter, while young phenom Lucy Davis, who took the Desert Circuit by storm when she won the last four Grand Prix at the Thermal including the $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix, presented by Lamborghini of Newport Beach, is making her first trip to Saugerties.

The crop of Hunter riders making their plans to show in Saugerties is equally as impressive with top professional riders John French, Hope Glynn, Nick Haness and Jenny Karazissis each committed to show in the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final. Amateur riders Erin Bland and Avery Hellman, who both train with Ned and Hope Glynn, will also be on the scene, as will Archie Cox with a group of his students.

“I am very excited to be coming to compete in the [Diamond Mills] $500,000 Hunter Prix,” said Cox. “Cruise, owned by Jessica Singer, has already proven himself from coast to coast and I am anxious to add a top placing to his resume.”

Jerry Dougherty of Bokeelia, Florida will set the courses for the Hunter Prix and Olympic Course Designer Steve Stephens of Palmetto, Florida will set the track for the Pfizer Million. Olympic Course Decorator Flora Baptiston of Brazil will bring her magic touch to the courses.

There’s quite a buzz about the weekend throughout both the equestrian and local communities, as VIP tables are selling quickly and ticket sales for Motown legends The Temptations are picking up momentum. Adding to the ceremony of the day will be an appearance by the West Point Equestrian Team and a special 9/11 commemoration ceremony with members from the local fire, police and emergency service workers. Plans are also in the works for a special head-set rental program for round-by-round commentary for both the Hunter Prix and the Pfizer Million.

More exciting news pertaining to live-webcasting and TV coverage along with other plans will be announced soon, so stay tuned. For more information about VIP or general ticket information, please visit

HITS bids to bring Olympic Trials to HITS Desert Horse Park
For the second time in two years, HITS put in a bid to host a USEF selection trial competition at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California. In the summer of 2009, HITS bid to host the USEF Show Jumping Selection Trials for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG). The proposal included unprecedented prize money, $775,000 to be exact, and a commitment to waive the entry fees for all Selection Trials classes for horses competing in every leg of the Trials. This time around, HITS submitted another extraordinary bid proposal to host the USEF Selection Trials for the 2012 Olympic Games and National Championship.

The highlights from the Olympic Trials bid included $200,000 in prize money to be divided among the winners, waived entry fees and complementary accommodations for all exhibitors participating in the trials. News came in early August that the selection committees had met and voted to award the bid to another management company, despite the innovative package prepared by HITS.

When news of the decision came, HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri offered his insights on the vote. “If there’s a bright side to this, we’ve got our bid packet fine tuned! Perhaps more importantly, these Trials will not take place during the Thermal Circuit, so customers can enjoy their regular circuit schedule with us in the Desert and still have the opportunity to travel for the chance to compete on the Olympic Team in Florida at the end of March.”

Struzzieri was pleased to have the opportunity to submit a bid and was pragmatic about the outcome. “I can’t say that I disagree with the decision of the committees, geography has to play a big role in this type of decision. We will continue to stay in this process and hopefully we will be awarded this type of event in the near future.”

In the end, Struzzieri believes, “Our bid had an impact in raising the stakes for the competition. As it turned out the other bid was modified to match what we had offered and include free entries for the riders, so that’s another positive outcome for the exhibitors. Having just completed hosting the East Coast Junior Hunter Finals here in Saugerties, I feel strongly that HITS has a product to offer that will ultimately be the right one for trials of this nature and we’ll keep going after it… for us, our customers and the sport.”

Photos by Flying Horse Photography.

Highlights From 2011 HITS Desert Circuit

By Selena Frederick and Jackie McFarland

In what seemed a newfound rhythm for the HITS Desert Circuit, the winter circuit sailed relatively smoothly for six straight weeks. With increased entries and a positive response from many of the competitors we approached, we asked what was the formula for success this year? Challenging course designers, well maintained footing, improvements and additions to the VIP areas, big money classes, and of course the grand prix highlights from fantastic afternoons to fabulous evening events.

Beautiful sunsets and cool breezes welcomed the four World Cup Qualifiers in the intimate indoor arena. Actually for a majority of the six weeks the California desert weather was pretty perfect. To top it off, during the final week the facility sparkled with Lamborghinis, Rolls Royces and even a pristine private jet parked on site.

John French and Chawi de Laubry

The west coast circuit drew a slew of legendary grand prix riders from near and far, including Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Hap Hansen, Eduardo Menezes, John Pearce, Rich Fellers, Jill Henselwood, Charlie Jayne, John French, Susan Hutchison, John Perez, Gabriella Salick, Kate Levy…

And that is just a short list. Stars of the circuit Rich Fellers and Lucy Davis each earned four grand prix wins, simply amazing. These two athletes and their horse mates, mind you they each won on different mounts, were fast, clean and cool as ice.

The hunter rings were bustling as well. West coast greats such as John French, Hope Glynn, Nick Haness, Chance Arakelian, Jenny Karazissis and John Bragg were vying for the various championships and derby wins. The ever-versatile John French, who won his usual lion’s share in this arena, also suited up for several outdoor grand prix events. French was seen ‘speaking’ both hunter and jumper on the same day, literally running from the jump off to the hunter derby, garnering top ribbons if not wins in both places. The calm, cool and collected French commented, “It’s an adrenaline rush with the jumpers and everything is so fast; I’m not used to being so hyper.”

Hansen and Michaels-Beerbaum
discuss the course

Quite a few competitors, sponsors and spectators noted the family-friendly aspect of the area. Lamborghini of Newport Beach’s Director Donny Gath brought his entire family. As is often seen when outside sponsorship comes on board, Gath’s company became a sponsor after his 9-year-old daughter Kendal started competing at HITS two years ago, so it is both business and pleasure. Grand prix princess and high-school senior Lucy Davis mentioned that her family can easily come out from Los Angeles and watch her compete as well as enjoy the desert treasures. “My dad can golf in the morning, and then come and watch me ride in the evenings.” Internationally acclaimed rider Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, also Davis’ trainer, expressed how nice it was for her to spend time in a family friendly environment. She explained, “In Europe the cold indoor circuits typically have late class times making it not very baby or family friendly. It’s also good to be back in California, and see people I haven’t seen in years.” Baby Brianna Beerbaum celebrated her first birthday in California with Mom (Meredith) and mount Lancaster winning the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix. Great day to celebrate.

Of course there were ups and downs. One particular grand prix Sunday took its toll on some top riders. Beginning the circuit with wins, Canadian John Pearce, as well as riding legend Hap Hansen, and the daring John Perez all took a spill at the same fence (#7). Unfortunately Pearce went on the injured list for the remainder of the circuit, whereas Hansen and Perez were able to walk away.

The close to the circuit $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert was nothing short of poetic. After 53 riders attempted Olaf Peterson’s technical and big and wide course of jumps, five riders remained in the running for the $200,000 in prize money. The 90-degree southern California sun apparently didn’t faze the riders or the Sunday afternoon crowd. Cheers were rampant at the end of Lucy Davis and Nemo 119’s clear

Lucy Davis and Nemo 119

jump off round, on a streak after winning three grand prix events in a row, as she crossed the timers in the lead.

The class was far from over with two riders left. next in the ring was speed demon Rich Fellers, aboard the amazing Flexible. And following that pair was Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum aboard the talented Kismet 50. The crowd gasped in disbelief as Rich and Flexible took the inside turn to the wide oxer heading down the last line and a rail fell. When the final pair of Beerbaum and Kismet 50 heading towards the first tall pink and white vertical – down went the top rail and Davis had clinched the win. It was a day to remember for competitor and spectator alike.

As Davis said in her interview with HITS after her victory, “I could never believe this in a million years. I was so happy to just win one Grand Prix and I kept thinking that there was no way that this could ever happen. Some of the best riders in the world were competing here today and to come out on top is just surreal.” (Read more in the HITS press release)

International riders, sizeable prize money, classy cars, big jumps, fans galore and increased attendance makes for sporty splendor indeed. Congratulations to all and good luck at HITS Saugerties in their fall finales for both hunters and jumpers.

Photos by Cheval Photos

The Derby Journals

Jenny & Kosti Karazissis go to Kentucky

Tuesday, August 18th: Kosti
Tuesday morning found us with sand paper eyes and rumpled clothes. Jenny and I were standing under threatening skies and the odor of steaming tarmac in front of the baggage claim at the Cincinnati Airport. We were waiting for Peter and Tonia Looker, the owners of Forbes and Aragon, the horses that Jenny was to ride in the first ever International Hunter Derby Finals held at the ever-expanding Kentucky Horse Park. Peter and Tonia arrived in a large rental car with a cavernous trunk that barely accommodated Jenny’s three forty-five pound bags and my carry on. The one-hour ride to the inside of yet another hotel room was uneventful. A short nap and we were back in the rental car on the way to the Horse Park.

As we left the drab scenery made up of hotels and Waffle Houses that seemed to out number the McDonalds in the multiple strip malls, things began to change dramatically. Suddenly we were seeing miles of perfectly maintained fence lines surrounding beautiful pastures covered with actual Kentucky bluegrass (I don’t care what anybody says, it’s green). Perfectly stacked limestone walls defined the entrances to one stunning farm after another. The Kentucky Horse Park is spectacular. From the logo and vistas to the footing, management, arenas, stadium and stabling. We arrived to find our horses meticulously cared for by Rick Fancher and his Milesaway Farm’s charming and helpful staff. We rode and schooled our horses. Later that afternoon we enjoyed a private tour of the USEF Headquarters by AHSA past-President Alan Balch who happens to be a close friend of the Looker’s. Peter was Alan’s right hand man during the highly successful 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The USEF staff was very gracious and cooperative. It was nice to put a face and location to the people we talk to every now and then.

Wednesday, August 19th: Jenny
On Wednesday I showed my horses in the medium schooling jumpers in preparation for the Derby. Both of them were very good. Aragon felt a little fresh so I galloped him around the cross country course which was something I’ve never done before. Definitely beats longeing, Kentucky truly is horse heaven.

Thursday, August 20th: Jenny
Today I stepped it up a notch and did the high schooling jumpers. I was worried that my horses may be peaking too soon, as they had never jumped better. Kost felt it was due to the outstanding footing and I wholeheartedly agree. Keri Kampsen rode On Top in the Regular Working Hunters on Wednesday and was very competitive. She chose not to finish the division on Thursday. John French, who had been in Europe the week prior, arrived Wednesday and decided to wait to show his mount Rumba on Thursday in the medium schooling jumpers. We were allowed to hack our horses in the Johnson Arena where the Derby Finals would take place from 3:30 – 5:00p.m. This is the same arena where riders from around the world will compete in the 2010 World Equestrian Games.

Friday was the big day – the first round of the finals. 60 horses qualified. To establish the order of go, they took the bottom 30 horses in the national rankings and randomly drew the first half of the class, followed by a random draw of the top 30 horses for the second half of the order. This ensured that someone like Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy, who won an award for the most money won during the qualifying season, would not have to go first. I drew 28th on Aragon and 50th on Forbes. Keri and John both went in the second half of the order. We were given the classic hunter course diagram that night.

Friday, August 21st: Jenny
We were allowed to walk the course prior to the start time of 8:00a.m. It was very inviting and the jumps were absolutely beautiful. I had a couple rubs with Aragon and ended up 27th just out of the top 25. Forbes, On Top, and Rumba all made it to the next round. John and Rumba won the first round. The top 25 start with a clean slate going into Round Two, so Friday evening they had a draw party to determine the order of go. The riders were asked to pick a silver cup that had a number engraved on the bottom, you then got to keep your cup along with various other gifts. I drew 13th which I consider to be a lucky number. Kerry drew 9th and John 14th. Each of the top 25 also received a check for $1,000.

Saturday, August 22nd: Jenny
Round Two was scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. During opening ceremonies the riders paraded around the ring while the announcer spoke briefly about our accomplishments. George Morris, who is responsible for bringing this fabulous derby excitement back to the hunter ring, spoke eloquently to the crowd and thanked the sponsors – title sponsor ASG Software Solutions along with Dietrich Equine Insurance, Walsh Harness and Saddlery, Charles Owen, Dover Saddlery, Essex Classics, The Clothes Horse, Personalized Products and Grand Prix – for making this dream possible. He was also one of the eight judges for the Finals.

 This round was also a classic format but the four sets of judges could give up to 10 bonus points on top of their regular score for style and quality of movement. I had a rail down at one of the five option jumps. In hind sight I wish I had done the lower 3’6” option. I didn’t see Keri go but she said she had some difficulty at the squirrel tail jump. The second you exited the ring the media pulled you aside for an interview so I also missed John’s round but I could hear the crowd go crazy when it was over. His score was 400 including the bonus points!

Not making the top 12 was very disappointing mostly because the handy course looked like so much fun to ride. It had its challenges and caused trouble for some of the riders. Trying to get over my disappointment I sat in the stands to watch the exciting finish with my mom and niece who came all the way to Kentucky to support me. John had a very big lead going into the final round. Jennifer Alfano sitting in 2nd place put the pressure on after taking a very handy track and her horse Jersey Boy jumped brilliantly. Since I’ve competed against John week after week back home I was confident he could handle it. And sure enough he did just what he needed to do to insure the win, taking the title in the first ever USHJA Hunter Derby Finals.

Sunday, August 23rd: Jenny
After unwinding from all the excitement we were able to get four hours sleep before catching an early flight back to San Diego where our barn, Far West Farms, had been competing all week.

Even though I personally would like to have had a better end result, I am so grateful for the opportunity that Peter and Tonia Looker and their horses gave me. It was an honor to both witness and participate in an event of this caliber. I hope to return in years to come.

Thank you, Jenny and Kosti, for taking the time to journal your experience.

Highlights From The 2009 Memorial Day Classic

Memorial Day Classic

Exhibitors and spectators alike were treated to excellent competition and fabulous weather at the 2009 Memorial Day Classic.

Gaby Gallops to the Win!

In front of a sold out crowd at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, veteran rider and new mom Gaby Salick rode Gredo la Daviere to the top spot in the $25,000 Memorial Day Classic Grand Prix. Out of the 30 horse field, twelve horses jumped the Scott Starnes course clean and returned to the grass. Despite having to go early in the jump off, Salick and her mount proved to be the best. The pair finished ahead of Ray Texel and Waldman Doo in second and Nicole Shahinian-Simpson who took home third place honors aboard Toyster Gold.

Jenny K and Forbes Heading to Kentucky

Also a crowd pleaser, the ASG Software Solutions USHJA Hunter Derby drew a competitive field of horses with almost forty starting the first round. Watching horses and riders exit the ring and jump back in during the course, an enthusiastic audience cheered the hunters on from both the grandstands and the VIP tables on the LAEC Terrace.  Amongst the VIP were ASG and Charles Owen representatives, who enjoyed top competition and a lovely catered dinner.

Jenny Karazissis was able to pilot Forbes (Tonia Cook Looker, owner) to a solid first round trip which left the pair sitting fifth going into the Handy Round.  The top 20 competitors moved into this round, where bonus points are awarded for handiness.  Jenny and Forbes earned the highest score of that round and took the lead.  Ali Leopold improved her standing one place by piloting Neverland (Gina Groth, owner) to a solid performance in the Handy round to take second overall.

“With Rumba in the class I was resigned to second,” said Karazissis, but then fortunes changed and Rumba was out of the running.  “The next thing I knew we were holding on to first and Tonia was beside herself.  She has wanted to win a Derby since they started.”  Earning two seconds at HITS Thermal Derbies (Rumba won both), with this win Forbes has easily qualified for the Derby Finals and will be heading back to Kentucky later in the summer.  The owner shows the gelding in the Amateur Owner Hunters, but sat out at Memorial Day Classic to let Karazissis focus on the Derby.  “Tonia is so supportive of having a horse do the open classes,” added an appreciative Karazissis.

Yowee – Maui! 

Another professional happy with her victory was Kasey Ament.  She is headed to Maui in December as the professional member of the winning team in the Memorial Day Equitation Challenge. Larry Langer, President and CEO of Langer Equestrian Group started the Trainer Incentive awards in order to recognize the backbone of this sport.  “Trainers are not recognized enough for their hard work.  I remember taking 30 plus horses on the road,” explained Langer. “They deserve a vacation in Hawaii and some cash awards. ”  The other team members, junior Navona Gallegos and amateur Michelle Morris won cool cruiser beach bikes.


Offering a full spectrum of classes for all levels of horses and riders, a number of riders excelled at the Memorial Day Classic.  In the equitation, Rachel Thurman (Jim Hagman, trainer) proved that hard work and consistent riding yield excellent results.  Aboard her seven year old gelding Vermeer, Thurman won a very large Maclay class, the WCE, and earned third place finishes in both the USEF and CPHA Foundation classes.

Over in the jumper ring, Chelsea Curtis proved unbeatable.  She was show champion in both the Adult Amateur Jumpers and the Modified Jr/Am Jumpers with her Tadine (Nancy Prosser, trainer) and then continued her winning streak by winning the $1,000 Children’s/ Adult Amateur Jumper Classic.  “It was awesome and felt, really, really good,” said an exuberant Curtis.  “Our first two years together were difficult, and then we clicked.  I’ve been riding with Nancy since I was eleven and I trust her completely.  We just had to get Tadine to think that things we wanted were her own idea.”  When not in the saddle, Curtis is pursing acting at a local college.

Bowling for CPHA

Strike! Every year George Chatigny, CEO of Los Angeles Equestrian Center, organizes the CPHA Foundation Bowling Benefit during the Memorial Day Classic.  “The Benefit has turned into a fun night for everyone at the bowling alley with beer, pizzas, and snacks.  It is also a great fundraiser and in a couple of hours we raise some much appreciated funds for the CPHA Foundation,” explained Chatigny.  Chris Norden of Norden Equine (affiliated with Markel Insurance) fielded a team for the first time and they had a ball (pun intended).  “I last bowled when I was ten,” laughed Norden “but this was fun.  What a great idea and we will definitely be back next year.”

However, it was the Marlay Farms team that took top honors this year, upsetting previous years’ champions the Bowled Tendons and the LEG Up Bowlers, who finished second and third respectively. The funds raised help support the CPHA Foundation’s worthy programs of aiding professionals in times of need and providing higher education opportunities through scholarships and grants.

LEG Schedule
  Langer Equestrian Group is staying busy coordinating horse shows in four different locations. Our flagship operation here at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center hosts a handful of top events annually.

Northern California riders are enjoying the seven shows at the Horse Park at Woodside. The facility continues to improve and the property with miles of trails and a cross-country course is breathtakingly beautiful.

The Hansen Dam Equestrian Center is under new ownership and management, and LEG is pleased to present the Verdugo Hills Series, five USEF ‘B’ and ‘C’ rated shows. Although held over one weekend, they actually count as two one-day shows, allowing riders and trainers to economize at a quality location. The USEF ‘A’ rated Hansen Dam Fall will be our feature show of the year. Don’t overlook this great local competition option. Verdugo Hills 4 is coming up quick, May 30-31. Stalls are available for both overnight and day use.

The Beauty of Colorado is calling
  Looking for a vacation spot to horse show? Can’t beat the beauty of Colorado. With four weeks of horse shows you can compete, beat the heat and bring the family.  The Colorado Summer Circuit kicks off with the Colorado Circuit Preview (June 25-28) and many special classes and events are featured throughout the four week circuit.  

This year LEG expanded its successful Colorado spring shows from two weeks to three weeks, and the response from competitors was resoundingly positive. LEG manages a total of nine weeks of shows at the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, Colorado.

Conversations With Equestrians: Shelby Wakeman

By Laura Ware

The USHJA International Hunter Derby made its debut at the third week of HITS Thermal, and has proven to be a success every time it was held. This unique class attempts to create spectator interest in Hunters, with difficult courses consisting of bending lines, natural jumps, and four-foot fence options, all set in the main Hunter or Grand Prix arena. Other special features of this class are that it rewards bonus points for brilliant riding, and has a minimum amount of $10,000 prize money.

The most recent Hunter Derby was at the Oaks Spring Tournament in the small, intimate indoor ring, which has never before been used for a hunter class. Shelby Wakeman, a talented and successful rider in the hunter, jumper, and equitation rings, placed second in this past Hunter Derby, making her the highest placing junior rider. She was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me.

Laura: What were the classic and handy courses like?
Shelby: The classic course was more like a hunter course with a forward ride and couple of bending lines. There were natural options, including a skinny plank, multiple brush jumps, and a log under a jump, which made it different from any other hunter course. The handy course was hard, with a lot of tight inside turns that I could not get on Truly because they were more like jumper turns. It was difficult, but fun.

Laura: What was it like showing hunters in such a small arena?
Shelby: I was a little skeptical about showing a hunter in an indoor ring, but the course designer did a good job, and I really enjoyed riding it.

Laura: Tell me about the horse you rode.
Shelby: I rode Truly, who is owned by Ashley Pryde. He was a bit spooky in the Derby at Thermal, so I didn’t know how he’d be, but he ended up being really good and relaxed.

Laura: What makes this class special?
Shelby: The fact that it was in the indoor ring was fun and special, because the hunters never show in there and it is a completely different environment. It was at night and under the lights, so a lot of people came to watch it, adding to the uniqueness of this class.

Laura: Did you get any bonus points for taking risks in the handy round?
Shelby: You can get up to 8 bonus points from each judge team in the handy round, so a maximum of 16 points. This can really add to your score. I watched Jenny Karazissis (who had won the class at Thermal) go before me, and she took all the inside turns and got 7 bonus points. I didn’t know what it would take to earn 8 bonus points, so I planned on taking all the inside turns.

Once I got into the ring, however, I realized that the turns were tighter then I had thought. I ended up missing a couple, but I still ended up with 5 bonus points from one judge and 2 from the other.

Laura: How did it feel to be second in a class with famous professionals?
Shelby: It felt really good. I was honored to do well in such a prestigious class.

Laura: What are your riding goals for 2008?
Shelby: I want to do well at Devon. I’ve never been there and it’s my last junior year, so it would be really special if I did well. I’d also like to compete effectively at Indoors, and end my junior career on a good note.

We congratulate you Shelby, and wish you all the best in your last junior year.

Results of the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby:
1st   On Top    Keri Kampsen
2nd   Truly    Shelby Wakeman
3rd   Cinico    Katie Taylor
4th    Palmar     Jenny Karazissis
5th    Aragon    Jenny Karazissis
6th    Rumba    Erin Duffy
7th    Wesley    Shelby Wakeman
8th    Fiona    Elizabeth Blaisdell
9th    Norah Jones    Ali Leopold
10th    Rascal    Archibald Cox
11th    Mata Hari    Hilary Neff
12th    Chaucer    Peter Lombardo

Laura Listens is brought to you by Laura Ware. Winner of the 2007 LAHSA Junior Medal Finals and a recipient of the 2008 WCAR Jumper Rider Grant, Laura rides with First Field Farm and often trains with Archie Cox. She is very successful in the all three disciplines on her own mounts as well as catch riding other horses.

Highlights From Oaks Blenheim April 2008

Keri Potter and Rockford I win the $50,000 Orange County Register CSI-W World Cup Qualifier Grand Prix

Kudos to the Keris (and a Karazissis) this past week!

Keri Potter garners the win in the $50,000 Orange County Register CSI-W World Cup Qualifier Grand Prix and secures a spot for the World Cup if she chooses to head to Sweden. And in the hunter arena Keri Kampsen topped the field in the $10,000 USHJA Hunter Challenge riding On Top, owned by Monarch International.

Second to go, Potter entered the jump-off thinking ‘just go for it’ which clearly paid off – she was fastest by just over ½ a second. Guy Thomas put in a great ride with a time of 31.28 but couldn’t beat Potter’s 30.71 seconds.

Jenny Karazissis wins the First Annual Arthur Hawkins Award of Excellence.

“The Blenheim EquiSports team has been great and I always enjoy coming to these shows. Riding in the indoor ring here is great practice for future indoor competitions,” Potter commented.

Kampsen was glad to be riding the Hunter Challenge in the covered arena as well. “It was a totally different feel indoors – it worked out well for me.”

“The entire event was well done from start to finish. It was great that it was for Artie Hawkins. Artie judged me when I rode small ponies.”

A final congratulations highlight for Week I of the Oaks Blenheim Spring Series goes to Jenny Karazissis. Recipient of the First Annual Arthur Hawkins Award of Excellence, Karazissis was honored for her contribution to the show hunter discipline.

Keri Kampsen and Monarch International’s On Top win the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Challenge.
Photos © Captured Moment Photography

This week Oaks-Blenheim will host what might be the most interesting event of the entire year. The “You Thought You’d Never Ride Again” Professional Challenge will take place on the main Grand Prix field on Saturday afternoon immediately following the Spring Classic II Grand Prix. With $5,000 in prizes awarded to the winners, this might be your one and only chance to root on some legendary trainers as they hark back to their youth in a two round jumper/equitation competition.

The Handy Hunter

By Tammy Chipko 

With so much excitement in the air over the USHJA Hunter Challenge these days, I thought it might be valuable to understand what a Handy Hunter is all about.

I spoke with a few of our top professionals on the growing popularity of the Handy Hunter.

Tammy Chipko: Can you explain the Handy Hunter Class for people who don’t understand it?

Jenny Karazissis: Ultimately a handy hunter is to be ridden like one was riding in the country. This means bold gallops, tight turns, option jumps if possible, long approaches, and different tests such as a trot jump.

Diane Carney: Handy adds a dimension of difficulty to the standard hunter courses. The Handy Hunter Class presents a true riding contest instead of just requiring a steady pace around the outside and across the diagonal.

Peter Pletcher: The handy hunter evolved years ago to reward the horses and riders who would take a risk. A horse that maybe did not jump as quietly as others could win the handy class because of versatility.

TC: What do you like to see in the Handy Hunter Class?

Archibald Cox: I will take a quote from Frank Chapot. “The handy course should be ridden in a ground-saving manner.”

Jenny K: I look for the shortest track without losing the horse’s form. I think the course should start off with a gallop directly to the first fence. I believe in making all possible inside turns, as well as eliminating the ending circle if the course allows for that.

Peter P: I like to take big risks! Sharp turns, strong gallops, jumping style and smoothness is what I aim for.

Diane C: Good riding on hunters should be rewarded!

TC: With the USHJA Hunter Derby classes offered this year we are guaranteed to see many examples of handy hunter courses. What are you hoping that these classes bring to the hunter discipline?

George Morris: The reason I love this class is that the biggest enemy to riding is artificiality. Artificial riding [as opposed to true riding] is no great friend to the sport. This class brings strong principles and values back to riding.

Jenny K: The idea of these classes taking off and gaining the support of the exhibitors is very exciting. Spectators like to watch the jump off in the Grand Prix. This is happening with the hunters now. The handy round brings an element of surprise. It is exciting and challenging for both the riders and spectators. This is very important for the hunters and I think it will only continue to grow.

Diane C: We are on to something very valuable in the Hunter Industry. I love the creativity that the course designers are bringing to this class. The bonus points awarded in the Handy Class are exciting for everyone. If you do something thrilling you will be rewarded. Both spectators and riders love this!

Karen Healey: This class is going to reward the athletic good jumping horse. There is nothing more beautiful to watch.

TC: How do you feel about the equitation horses and jumpers joining in?

Diane C: I think to say that a horse is only capable of doing “one job” is actually quiet contrary to the truth. Back in the 70’s and 80’s good horses did several different divisions and did them each well. I don’t see any reason that a horse cannot be a jack-of-all-trades and be very successful. A beautiful jumping horse is a beautiful jumping horse.

A perfect example to anyone who remembers him was Starman. Here you had an Olympic Grand Prix jumper that was also a top Working Hunter. We need to appreciate good horses and reward good riders.