Junior Hunter Challenge Winners Honored At Capital Challenge


October 10, 2011

Lexington, Kentucky, October 10, 2011 – The USHJA Junior Hunter Challenge concluded a successful and educational year in concert with the Capital Challenge Horse Show, held October 1-9 in Upper Marlboro, MD.

This year’s regional award winners were: Alex Beneson, Powell, OH; Chloe Bellerive, Keedysville, MD; Rebecca Edelman, Baltimore, MD; Hannah Lerner, Los Angeles, CA; Mara Suzanne Mazar, Dublin, OH; and Paxton Sullivan, Castaic, CA. Each winner was invited to attend the Capital Challenge Horse Show as special guests of the World Championship Hunter Rider program. Beneson, Bellerive, Edelman and Mazar were able to make the trip and received some first-hand experiences and rare opportunities to learn from the best in the country.

Under the guidance of Mary Babick, the chairman of the USHJA Youth Committee, and with assistance from Keeley Gogul, WCHR Committee Vice-Chairman, and Julia Hogan, a member of the Youth Committee, the winners attended the WCHR Professional Finals on Friday night. There, they received special recognition center ring during the pre-event awards ceremony and then helped to present John French with the 2011 WCHR Professional Finals Rider of the Year awards.

Over the weekend, the winners received a behind-the-scenes look at one of the country’s most prestigious AA-rated hunter/jumper shows as they experienced the competition from the viewpoint of a variety of equine professionals.

Veterinarians Larry Wexler and Robert Barber explained their work as they treated several equine patients; Steward Karen Golding described her many duties at the show; Louise Serio provided an overall look at being a lifelong professional trainer and rider; judge Geoff Teall went over what a judge looks for in the hunter ring; farrier Bud Adams explained the intricacies of shoeing a high-performance show horse; Tricia Booker explained her duties as an equestrian photographer and magazine editor; Jay Shuttleworth described his work as a custom bit maker; Rachel Kennedy provided a barn tour and a lesson in barn management; Jeff Gogul provided a trainer’s point-of-view from getting the horse to the ring to cooling him down; and course designers Mike Rheinheimer and Ken Krome provided a look at the importance of course design, and Krome led a course walk prior to a junior/amateur-owner class.

“Without fail, every professional said they could come back any time to ask more questions,” said Babick. “I think there’s a misperception that at this level the professionals are elitist. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Each person was ready to meet with them and answer their questions, and they were so encouraging. The kids went away so happy and with a greater appreciation of what each person does and how hard they work.”

As part of the USHJA Outreach Program, the Junior Hunter Challenge is specifically designed to provide a national goal for junior riders competing at the non-recognized level.

“I think this program is absolutely great,” said Edelman, 18. “Learning the ins and outs of what goes into the horse world and that there’s more than just being on the pony and going into the show ring is great. There’s everything else that goes on at the shows and all of the people involved behind the scenes. Hearing all of their stories is really fascinating.”

Eligible junior riders who compete in the USHJA Outreach Hunter Challenge classes held at USHJA Outreach Competitions earn points toward the Junior Hunter Challenge. The points from a rider’s top three competitions count toward their point total and Champion and Reserve Champion from each of the four USHJA Affiliate regions (Western, Central, Southeast and Northeast) are invited to the Capital Challenge.

“I’ve had a great time, and I’ve gotten to meet great people and all of these famous riders,” said Beneson, 12. “It’s been so much fun. It’s an honor to be here, and I’m really proud to have won this whole thing.”

The USHJA staff thanks the many equine professionals who have assisted in making the Junior Hunter Challenge an educational and enlightening experience for the winners.

For more information on the Junior Hunter Challenge and Affiliates opportunities please contact Kimberly Knotek at 859.225.6709 or kknotek@ushja.org.

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