French Steals The Win In The WCHR Professional Finals

October 8, 2011

Upper Marlboro, MD —Oct. 8, 2011 – In the closest finish ever in the 18-year history of the $7,500 World Championship Hunter Rider Professional Finals, John French claimed the title by just .08 points over Hunt Tosh in a nail-biting finish.

The class, presented by the John R. Ingram Fund, Greener Pastures and Bridlewood Farms, was a featured event of the Capital Challenge Horse Show, held at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD.

It all came down to the fourth and final handy round. Tosh, who had led the class for the first three rounds, posted a solid score aboard Sheila Motley’s Ostentacious, taking several inside turns. He then watched and waited to see if any of the three remaining riders could catch his score.

French, who had last won this class in 2006, had the luck of the draw in his favor. His final mount, VIP Z, ended up earning the Far West Perpetual Trophy awarded to the high-score horse of the competition.

“Well, Hunt was definitely in the lead after the first three rounds. I just thought in the handy, since I was in second place, I [would] be safe,” explained French. “I made a couple of the turns, but there were a few turns that other people did that I didn’t want to try. I didn’t want to blow it. I thought the only place to really show off was the hand gallop—I really tried to hand gallop that jump. Maybe that would be good enough. So that was my plan.”

In the end, his strategy succeeded perfectly. He topped a star-studded class in which the top six contenders in the WCHR Professional National standings face-off to determine the national champion. In the unique format, the riders bring a mount of their own and trade horses each trip according to a predetermined list, with no chance to school between rounds.

French finished with 351.57 points, followed by Tosh (351.49), Kelley Farmer (346.64), Scott Stewart (344.99), Liza Towell Boyd (344.98) and Jenny Karazissis (339.15).

When asked where he thought he might have made up that .08 points in the handy, Tosh said: “I questioned whether to go inside after the in-and-out back to the oxer. I was ahead after the first three rounds, and I was hoping for the best. Like I said, John rides too good! Looking back, maybe I would have gone inside there, but other than that I don’t know. It’s one of those things.”

This year’s horses were generously donated by: Havens Farm (Mamba); Kristen Abbatiello-Neff (Kennzo De Conte); Sheila Motley (Ostentacious); Karen Healey (Capilin II and Serendipity); and Scott Stewart (VIP Z).

Towell, Camden, SC, earned the class high-score for her performance in the handy aboard Haven Farm’s Mamba, an 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood. The pair earned a 90.66 from the judging panel of Scott Hofstetter, Brian Lenehan, Mark Jungherr, Jimmy Clapperton, Shane George and Mike Rosser, which was all the more impressive because Mamba is a first year green horse.

With this victory, French, San Juan Bautista, CA, has won this class three times and will have his name engraved once again on the All The Way Perpetual Trophy. He also won an Arc De Triomphe saddle, donated by Jean Pierre and Rebecca Bissilliat, along with prizes from USHJA/WCHR sponsors Blue Ribbon Blankets by Royal Riders and UlcerGard.

“Well, I think this is great group of riders. Every year is good, but this year the group was especially good. I almost don’t think it was fair that I won by that much,” said French laughing. “I loved the handy and loved that there was no trot jump. It was a great class.”

In other awards tonight, Alex Benson, of Lebanon, OH, and Mara Mazar, of Dublin, OH, earned the USHJA Junior Hunter Challenge awards for the Central Region, while Chloe Bellerive, of Keedysville, MD, and Rebecca Edelman, of Reisterstown, MD, earned the awards for the Southeast Region. The Western Region award winners, Hannah Lerner, of Los Angeles, CA, and Paxton Sullivan, of Castaic, CA, were not able to attend.

David “Seymour” Clark 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. Clark is a long-time groom for Phoebe Sheets.

Geoff Teall will have his name engraved on the WCHR Old Springhouse Perpetual Trophy for the WCHR Lifetime Achievement Award.

Junior rider Maddie Darst earned the Charles Johnson Memorial Perpetual Trophy for the third consecutive year as the high-point rider from the Midwest region.

South Carolina-based professional Elizabeth Towell Boyd received the WCHR Winter’s Run Sportsmanship Award awarded by a WCHR membership vote to the person who best exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship.

Judge Linda Andrisani received the Daniel P. Lenehan Perpetual Trophy for the person who exemplifies dedication and a lifetime commitment to judging show hunters.

Other WCHR Award winners this week included:

  • Derbydown Perpetual Trophy: Betsee Parker’s Rosalynn ridden by Hunt Tosh

  • Jeffery Katz Memorial Trophy: Douglas Wheeler’s Cold Harbor ridden by Hunt Tosh

  • Rox Dene Perpetual Trophy: Elizabeth Reilly as owner of Small Affair ridden by John French

  • Alabama Clay Conformation Hunter Award: Becky Gochman’s Empire ridden by Scott Stewart

  • USHJA/WCHR Course Designer Perpetual Trophy: Steve Stephens

Action continues at the Capital Challenge Horse Show this weekend with the $5,000 WCHR Handy Hunter Challenge (Oct. 8) and the $2,500 WCHR Pony and Junior Challenges (Oct. 9)

Professional, Junior and Amateur Riders are invited to compete at the Capital Challenge Horse Show by qualifying through the WCHR National program throughout the year. A rider's top four WCHR shows count toward awards in these categories: Professional and Emerging Professional, Junior, Amateur Owner (3'6" and 3'3"), Adult Amateur, Handy Hunter and Pony. Riders are then invited to contest WCHR Challenge Classes, and the WCHR presents its national awards for eight categories at the Capital Challenge. Regional champions are also recognized in two separate parades.

For live scoring please visit For full results please visit

A special thank you to the 2011 USHJA WCHR Program sponsors, including: Arc de Triomphe, Official Saddlery Sponsor; Blue Ribbon Custom Blankets by Royal Riders, Official Cooler Sponsor; UlcerGard, Merial, Contributing Sponsor.

The WCHR Program was founded in 1995 to recognize and celebrate the hunter rider. Since the inaugural WCHR Professional Finals in 1995, the WCHR program has expanded to include coveted National and Regional year-end awards for Professionals, Emerging Professionals, Amateur-Owners, Amateur Adults, Juniors, Children 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. If you are interested in becoming a supporter please contact Whitney Allen at or (859) 225-6707.

Back to Archived News