Upper Marlboro, MD - After Kelley Farmer dismounted from Mindful following the Handy Hunter Round of the $5,000 WCHR Professional Finals, she had just one thing to say: "Well, I finally got that monkey off my back."
Her score of 93 had just taken over the lead during the third and final round, and, as it turned out, the remaining riders ahead of her couldn't quite match the scores. So, after her sixth appearance in one of the featured events at the Capital Challenge Horse Show, Farmer led the victory gallop.
"It's a relief," said Farmer. "My horse won tonight. He's an amazing animal, and I couldn't have done it without him. He was incredible."
This was the second year riders competed in a three-round format for the $5,000 WCHR Professional Finals. 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.
Kelley Farmer wins the WCHR Professional Finals aboard Mindful
owned by Ken and Selma Garber
. Photo Credit: Tricia Booker/USHJA Archives
That familiarity turned out to make all the difference in the Handy Round, as Farmer moved up from fourth to secure the victory. She earned the night's highest scores of 92, 92 and 95 for an overall score of 266.66.
"Mindful belongs to Ken and Selma Garber of Kensel. We got him shortly before Devon at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show [last May]," said Farmer. "He's as amazing as you saw this evening. He's never let me down. No matter what you ask him to do, he's capable. I'm very fortunate to have him."
Her solid performances aboard the borrowed horses Askaro and Canthano in Rounds 1 and 2 had put her fourth going into the Handy Round, just within striking distance.
Sandy Ferrell, of Bernville, PA, had a solid lead following the first two rounds, but during the Handy Hunter Round her horse Fifty Shades stepped off his lead behind after the first fence, which dropped her down to fifth overall.
"I didn't get in trouble with the jump, but upon landing he landed hard and spooked from the flowers," she said. "What are you going to do? He's been amazing this week, and I'm certainly not going to be upset with my horse."
Even though Ferrell wasn't able to claim the blue ribbon, she could claim the biggest and brightest cheering squad. Her supporters were all dressed in different shades of pink and nearly filled an entire section in the Show Place Arena.
"It's nice. Obviously, we have breast cancer awareness month," said Ferrell. "It was a little bit for myself and Elizabeth Solter and everyone in general. I guess it's kind of ironic because I got the pink ribbon. But if this breast cancer awareness helps to save a life, I'm OK with a pink ribbon."
Hunt Tosh, of Milton, GA, posted a solid Handy Hunter score aboard Libretto, owned by Alliy Moyer, to place second (262.99).
"I rode him [Libretto] Monday for the first time," said Tosh. "I was in Kentucky and [trainer] Tammy Provost told me I could use Alliy Moyer's horse. He was super and fun to ride. That was the first time I jumped him around a course. He went great. It was a fun class tonight. We all have a good time together; during the week, and on a night like tonight. We had a blast."
Scott Stewart, of Flemington, NJ, a five-time winner of this class, placed third this year (261.66) with his chosen Handy Hunter mount Reality, owned by Krista and Alexa Weisman.
John French, of Woodside, CA, catch-rode Y Wonder Y, owned by West Coast Equine Partners LLC, in the Handy Hunter Round to claim fourth (255.33), and Tara Metzner, this week's WCHR Professional Challenge winner, placed sixth in her first appearance in the Pro Finals, aboard Destry Spielberg's Illusion in the Handy Hunter Round.
Farmer, of Keswick, VA, may not have been one of the favorites to win the class this year because she'd just returned to the show ring after breaking her collarbone and then having surgery on August 11.
Kelley Farmer aboard Mindful
Photo Credit: Tricia Booker/USHJA Archives
"I was a little bit ahead of schedule coming back to riding," she admitted. "I showed at Lexington, Kentucky two weeks ago for the first time because I didn't want to come here without showing. I was going a little stir crazy being on the ground, and my help in the barn and Larry [Glefke] were going more crazy with me not riding and being in the barn 24/7. I'm happy to be back."
Farmer also thanked the owners of the borrowed horses, and the riders agreed that this collection of six was one of the best in recent memory.
"They were lovely, and thank you to Karen Healey and Jim Hagman," she said of the two horses she rode. "Those were really nice horses. I didn't get to see all of the others go, but I think they were all a really good group."
This year's horses were generously donated by: Emily Hilton (Askaro/Horse A); Elvenstar Farm (Canthano/Horse B); Ponies & Palms Show Stables LLC (O So Soxy/Horse C); Emma Tchen (October Road/Horse D); East Coast Sport Horses (All The Right Moves/Horse E); Gabrielle Bendall (Game On/Horse F); and Alan Lohman (Quetzal De Razel/Alternate Horse).
Askaro, the horse donated by Hilton, earned this year's Far West Farms Perpetual Trophy awarded to the high-score horse of the competition. Askaro, trained by Cara Anthony, achieved an average of 89.33 with rides by Farmer and Tosh.
With this victory, Farmer, will have her name engraved on the All The Way Perpetual Trophy. She also won prizes from USHJA/WCHR sponsors Blue Ribbon Blankets, the Official Cooler Sponsor of WCHR and Charles Owen Inc., the Official Helmet of the USHJA.
The Shapley's Champion Groom Award was presented to Marcos Martinez, the groom for Mindful. He received a Shapley's Award Bucket of products.
In other honors, the USHJA Junior Hunter Challenge Regional winners were recognized center ring. This year's participants in the Capital Challenge immersion program included: Grayson Ryan and Samantha Wolfram (North Central Region); Chloe Bellerive, Mary Fraiji and Margaret Hopkins (Southeast Region); Adele Bonomi and Caia Costello (Western Region); and Morgan Islam and David Hodder (Northeast Region).
Rick Fancher 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. Fancher has operated Milesaway Farm in Crestwood, KY, for more than 25 years. He's produced numerous winners in the Green and Amateur hunter sections, including Osczar, Clandestine, Orion, Suncatcher, Hollywood, Viscount, Lyrical and Acappella. His list of successful amateur riders includes Dawn Fogel, Mary Jane King and Nina Bonnie. Fancher was the first exhibitor to be given a perfect numerical score of 100, which he earned while riding Dawn Fogel's Osczar in the Working Hunter section at the 1997 Capital Challenge Horse Show.
Mindy Darst will have her name engraved on the WCHR Old Springhouse Perpetual Trophy for the WCHR Lifetime Achievement Award. A long-time resident of Lebanon, OH, Mindy Darst was a nationally regarded trainer, clinician and USEF R-rated Hunter and Hunter Seat Equitation judge. Darst established Lochmoor Stables in 1992 where she trained riders to top national and local rankings. Known for her ability to connect with children and young riders, Mindy shared her love of horses with her twin children, John and Maddy. Shortly before her death, Mindy described her unique approach to training: "My mission has always been to offer a safe haven with positive energy to train students in classic horsemanship and horse care. From learning the basics to competing internationally, our riders develop not only a passion for the sport, but for the horse as well."
Junior rider Vivian Yowan earned the Charles Johnson Memorial Perpetual Trophy as the high-point rider from the WCHR Midwest Region. She earned 1,103 points in the Junior 3'6" section.
The late Joey Darby received the Daniel P. Lenehan Perpetual Trophy for the person who exemplifies dedication and a lifetime commitment to judging show hunters. Based in Southern Pines, NC, Darby was a rider, trainer and respected judge whose career spanned more than 40 years. Darby exemplified the essence of true horsemanship and tradition in the hunter industry. He was a popular and highly sought-after Hunter judge who presided over many of the industry's most prestigious horse shows. Darby was inducted into the Virginia Horse Shows Association Hall of Fame in 2004, the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame in 2009, and the Maryland Horse Shows Association Hall of Fame in 2013. Darby lost his battle with lung cancer this year at age 69, but he's left a legacy on the industry as a true Renaissance man and advocate of our sport.
Other WCHR National award winners included:
Scott Stewart - WCHR Professional National Champion
Betsee Parker - WCHR Professional National Owner Champion
Jennifer Berol Bliss - WCHR Developing Professional National Champion
Harris Hill LLC - WCHR Developing Professional National Owner Champion
Becky Gochman - WCHR Amateur-Owner 3'6" National Champion
Scott Stewart and Ken Berkley - WCHR Amateur-Owner 3'6" Trainer
Stephanie Danhakl- WCHR Amateur-Owner 3'3" National Champion
Scott Stewart and Ken Berkley - WCHR Amateur-Owner 3'3" Trainer
Brooke Cole - WCHR Adult Amateur National Champion
Winn Alden - WCHR Adult Amateur Trainer
The 2014 WCHR Top-Six Professional Riders included:
- Scott Stewart - 1,939 points
- Kelley Farmer - 1,846
- Hunt Tosh - 1,797
- John French - 1,720
- Sandy Ferrell - 1,658
- Tara Metzner - 1,629
Action concludes at the Capital Challenge Horse Show this weekend with the WCHR Pony, Children's and Junior 3'6" Challenges.
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.
For full results please visit Capital Challenge online.
A special thank you to the 2014 USHJA WCHR Program sponsors: Blue Ribbon Custom Blankets, Official Cooler Sponsor of WCHR Pro-Finals; Shapley's, Best Turned out and Groom Award Sponsor; Charles Owen, Inc. the Official Helmet of the USHJA; Rood & Riddle, Official Equine Hospital and Veterinary Pharmacy of the USHJA; Standlee Hay Company, Official Forage of the USHJA and Nutrena, Official Horse Feed 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 USHJA Foundation. It is through the generosity of supporters that this program is able to continue to achieve its goals.
Visit USHJA online to learn more about the WCHR Program or to enroll for the 2015 season. Questions may be directed to Kelley Douglas at (859) 225-6717.