Articles: Press Release
Pletcher Wins Second Pro WCHR Rider Title
Diana DeRosa/Shyrlee Greenberg, 631-773-6155, cell: 516-848-4867,
AHJF Continues to Change the Face of the Hunters with
Innovative Challenge Showcasing Professional Hunter Riders
October 8, 2004 -- Upper Marlboro, MD -- Peter Pletcher, Magnolia, TX, was bubbling with enthusiasm after he won the 2004 Monarch International's Show Circuit Magazine Professional World Championship Hunter Rider title on October 8TH during the eight-day Capital Challenge Horse Show at the Prince George's Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD. This was his fifth time competing in the class and his second victory.
Pletcher as the last rider to go needed close to a 90 point score to secure the win. Figuring he had nothing to lose, Pletcher decided to go for broke. His final score of 90.6 put him one point ahead of second place finisher Sandy Ferrell, Bernville, PA to clinch the victory in this coveted class. And that victory was sure sweet for Pletcher. "It's such a great feeling. It was so close and I respect all three of the other riders and to win...It felt great."
This year the final four in the National Point Standings were Ferrell (1890 pts); Pletcher (1748 pts); Heidi Fish (1807 pts.), Hebron, IL (who won the WCHR Professional Challenge Class) and Jenny Karazissis, Calabassas, CA (who led the National Professional Standings with 1914 points).
Karazissis, who finished third, was surprised that "I wasn't nervous. It was my first time and it was really fun and the horses were great."
Fourth place finisher, Fish, thought "It's a blast," despite the fact that after her horse refused a jump in the first round the judges opted to take advantage of the option to use an alternate horse, since riders were competing on donated horses they had never ridden before. This meant that Fish was given time to school before again making her first complete round. But she took it in stride.
Before the class took place Pletcher used his experience to offer advice to the other riders but added that it didn't matter if you came in fourth. "We are all winners whether you are first or fourth. We worked hard to get here and it's fine wherever we place. The fact that we made it in this class is the greatest achievement."
The Challenge was sponsored by Carol & Gordon Stillwell, Stillwell Hansen, Inc., The Levick Family and Jaguar Equestrian, presented by the American Hunter Jumper Foundation (AHJF) and included a media sponsorship by Monarch International's Show Circuit Magazine.
In order to be named to one of the four spots for the Professional Rider Finals, riders had to qualify during the year by competing in WCHR recognized shows (of which there are 40 throughout the U.S.). AHJF keeps point totals based on each rider's top four WCHR shows. Added to that is their top score (in WCHR recognized divisions) earned at the Capital Challenge. The top six riders from each region and the top 10 riders in the standing are then invited to compete at the Capital Challenge Horse Show in the WCHR Challenge Class (the one Fish won). Those points are then added to the overall points to determine the final four.
The riders alternated on riding four different horses which they had not ridden before. These included Cento, a 16.1 hand grey gelding (by Double Cento) owned by Bliss Heers; Matrix, a 5-year-old bay Warmblood gelding, owned by Montoga, Inc.; Foyle Primetime, an 8-year-old brown Dutch/Irish Warmblood gelding, owned by Chetana Daniels; and Maverick, a 17.1 hand bay gelding owned by Don Stewart Stables).
The riders were allowed to briefly warm-up on their first horse but for all subsequent rides they had to go directly to the 3'6" course in the ring. And while the fences were the same for all four courses, the order in which they were jumped changed each time.
Pletcher warned the riders beforehand to pay attention to the course they were on knowing how easy it was to confuse the courses and go off course.
The rounds were scored by five judges using the open numerical system. The four riders who qualified were being judged by Jeff Ayers, Sellersville, PA; Russell Frey, Argyle, TX; Hap Hansen, Encinitas, CA; Mike Rosser, Southern Pines, NC; and Steve Wall, Waukesha, WI.
The judges were really impressed with the riders and with Pletcher's final round.
"Where else could you go and have four of your best professionals school your horses," explained Frey, adding that the horses got better after each round. "Everyone rode great. They are all winners and that's why they got here."
Ayers agreed noting that here you had the top hunter riders competing on horses they'd never ridden before and you could see the horses improve as a result of this.
Rosser noted, "I thought the class and the riders were exceptional. Where else can you have four of the best professional riders all in one spot?"
Wall supported everyone else adding, "They all rode really well. Each time they went the horses went better. It was a lot of fun to judge."
Hansen agreed, "They rode beautifully."
IT CAME DOWN TO THE LAST ROUND
While Pletcher was leading going into the last round, Ferrell looked like she may have taken that victory away from him when she had the highest score of the day (91) on her final horse. But Pletcher knew he had nothing to lose, so he went for broke on his final horse and the judges noticed. That courage earned him the next to highest score of the night (90.6).
The class began with Ferrell taking the early lead with a score of 87.6 (Pletcher-86.6, Karazissis-85.2, Fish- 83.2). In the second round Karazissis and Pletcher tied with a score of 88.4 but when the scores of all the rounds were combined it was Pletcher leading with 175 with Karazissis not far behind (173.6), then Ferrell (173) and Fish (168.6). In round three the high score went to Ferrell (89), but overall Pletcher maintained the lead with 263.4 (Ferrell-262, Karazissis-259.8, Fish-256.5).
With only one round to go it was a fight to the finish. Fish went first and scored 86.87 for a final tally of 343.3. Then Ferrell put in a brilliant round (91) and her tally went to 353, putting a lot of pressure on the final two riders. Karazissis then scored 88.4 and totaled 348.20. Now it was Pletcher's turn and he met the challenge. His total of 90.6 gave him a final total of 354, the closest margin in the history of this class. Pletcher's bold performance was met by a loud applause from the audience and all five judges later agreed that his final round had impressed them, especially his bold gallop to the last stand alone jump.
THE PLAN AND PREPARATION
Once the riders had qualified and before competing in the class the riders met with AHJF Vice President Louise Serio, Executive Director Michele Perla, Announcer Kenny Kraus and Show Manager Billy Glass to discuss strategy, the plan for the event and to express their thoughts about this annual event.
Pletcher, who won the class in 2002, was bubbling with enthusiasm as he encouraged Fish and Karazissis, who were competing in this competition for the first time, to have fun. "Everybody works together," he commented. "It is not cut throat like the way it is in the other classes throughout the year." Pletcher explained that the first year you compete in this class "it's nerve wracking," as it was his first time. Afterwards he realized that had he just relaxed he would have had a lot more fun. "It's important not to worry and just to have fun doing it. It's about not letting the nerves get to you."
Fish, who had lived in Texas for 21 years but now lives in Illinois, was going to do her best to take Pletcher's advice, adding, "I am really honored to be a part of this especially with the people I am riding with." Fish secured her spot by winning the WCHR Professional Rider Challenge just two days earlier. She took the win in that class with only 1/10 of a point lead.
Karazissis felt very much like Fish. "I feel honored to be riding against some of the people I admire and respect. This class has been a goal of mine. It's a great thing for the hunters." Karazissis added (after taking in all the information provided at the meeting), "I'm grateful for all the information. I'm going to be really careful. I'm hoping I don't go off course and I'm going to try to have fun just like Peter said."
Ferrell agreed with Pletcher recalling how nervous she was in 2003 when she competed for the first time. She planned to not get nervous this time around. Ferrell applauds the AHJF for having a class like this, the only one of its kind throughout the year. "It is a great opportunity for us to be recognized."
Pletcher echoed Ferrell. "It's a great class. It's special and I really like it. It's just a great class."
Teall recalls the very first class ten years ago and how different it was back then. Then they had to encourage people to enter the class. Now, "they know about it, plan for it and try to qualify. It's a BIG deal!"
Teall went on to explain that over the years they've tweaked the class after figuring out what would make it better. He recalls in the beginning thinking, "I hope this works." He added, "We had to really sell it and now it sells itself. People really work to get in it. They really want to get there and they start the next day trying to qualify for the next year."
Serio agrees, "The fight to get in is amazing. It is the end goal. It is really important. Here they are highlighted and made to feel really important. No one else does this."
Teall went on to say that "it's a great test for them and their skills and their experience. It's a great learning tool. They can really show themselves off and they do. They show off and try and win based on their skills and not their horses."
Serio supported that theme noting, "For one time as professionals we make the choice that is best for us as riders. You can go and do what you want."
Perla added, "this is the only thing the professional riders have to put their own name on. Their names are usually hidden behind the horses but in this class it's all about them. And they really have a great time."
AMERICAN HUNTER-JUMPER FOUNDATION
It was the AHJF that started the trend towards innovation in hunters beginning back when it was founded in 1992. It is a member-supported non-profit organization. The AHJF was formed to further the development of the sport of show hunter competition by providing a national office to organize, coordinate and support hunter rider and show jumping equestrian competition. Programs of the AHJF include the World Championship Hunter Rider Awards, the AHJF Emergency Relief Fund, AHJF Educational Programs, the AHJF 401k and Profit Sharing Plan, and the AHJF/Dover Saddlery Junior Hunter Challenge.
The AHJF also sponsors other feature events throughout the year, including the AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular of Palm Beach (February 19, 2005), which is done as an Add-Back competition with $12,000 going to the winner and the Legacy Cup in at the Kentucky Springs Horse Show, May 11-22, 2005.
At the Capital Challenge the Professional Championship honors were part of an overall World Championship Hunter Rider Awards Program, which included junior, professional, amateur-owner, adult amateur, children's and pony hunter riders. The program was established by the AHJF to recognize and reward excellence among hunter riders. In order to qualify, a rider's top four WCHR shows plus their performance at the Capital Challenge determined the ultimate champions. A number of special awards were given out as well. Linda Hough was the winner of the Old Springhouse Lifetime Achievement Award. The Jeffery Katz Memorial Award went to Ocean Park, ridden by Peter Pletcher and owned by Lynn Walsh, who won the Rox Dene Award. The China Blue Hunter Challenge went to Gray Slipper, ridden by Louise Serio and owned by Bridgett Hallman. Archie Cox won the Winter's Run Sportsmanship Award.
RISING TO THE TOP
This was the tenth year that the AHJF had hosted the Monarch International's Show Circuit Magazine Professional World Championship Hunter Rider finals. The winner not only received the trophy but also a Jaguar XJS customized saddle. John Moncada, President of Jaguar Equestrian USA, commented, "We are very strong in dressage and show jumpers worldwide and now are making our move into the U.S. hunter market. We feel that there can be no better place to showcase our saddle to today's hunter rider's then by presenting the World Champion Professional Rider with one of our saddles, which we will tailor to their needs."
Pletcher also received a sponsorship from Monarch International's Show Circuit Magazine, which designates money to be used specifically to ensure coverage of both the championship and of Pletcher as its winner. Press Link of America, an equine focused PR firm, handles that sponsorship.
A special thanks also goes to Capital Challenge co-managers Oliver Kennedy, Brookville, MD and Billy Glass, Bokeelia, FL, who invited the AHJF to host its Finals at the Capital Challenge Horse Show, which has been home to these classes ever since.
For more information, the AHJF can be contacted at 335 Lancaster Street, West Boylston, MA 01583-0369, 508-835-8813, fax: 508-835-6125, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For complete results go to www.ahjf.org.
2004 PROFESSIONAL WCHR: 1. Peter Pletcher (86.6, 88.4, 88.4, 90.6 = 354, $2,750), 2. Sandy Ferrell (87.6, 85.4, 89, 91 = 353, $1,000), 3. Jenny Karazissis (85.2, 88.4, 86.2, 88.4 = 348.2, $750), 4. Heidi Fish (83.2, 85.4, 87.9, 86.8 = 343.3, $500)
AHJF OLD SPRINGHOUSE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Linda Hough, Wellington, FL
(Presented to a person who exemplifies great support and lifetime commitment to the sport of hunter and jumper competition.)
JEFFERY KATZ MEMORIAL AWARD: Ocean Park, r/Peter Pletcher, o/Lynn Walsh
Total Points: 1626 (Jeffery Katz was a 38-year-old trainer from Chicago who was killed in a car accident in 1999. The award goes to the horse/rider combination that accumulates the most points in the 1st Year Green, 2nd Year Green, or Green Conformation Hunter Divisions at their best four WCHR shows, plus the divisions at the Capital Challenge.)
CHINA BLUE FARM WORKING HUNTER CHALLENGE AWARD: Gray Slipper (rider/Louise Serio, owner/Bridget Hallman). The owner, rider and trainer each receive a check for $3,500 and the groom receives a check for $500. (1402 points)
(Donated by Priscilla Tamkin and China Blue Farm, this award honors the horse and rider combination that accumulates the most points in either of the 4' hunter divisions at their best four WCHR shows, plus their divisions at the Capital Challenge.)
AHJF/DOVER SADDLERY JUNIOR HUNTER CHALLENGE: Shana O'Connor, Terryville, CT and Felicia Davis, Rivertown, Utah.
This annual competition was specifically designed to provide a goal for junior riders currently competing at the non-recognized level. Horse shows which hold the Challenge class all follow the same set of class specifications and judging criteria. The winners are invited to the Capital Challenge Horse Show as guests of the AHJF and Dover Saddlery. Their agenda includes sitting with a horse show judge to learn how they mark their card, meeting the show vet and farrier and discussing their rolls at the show, and spending time in the stables with barn managers to experience all that goes in to prepping horses for the show ring.
WINTER'S RUN SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD: Archie Cox, Los Angeles, CA
(Sponsored by Tricia Bosley in memory of her mother Sylvia Hechter. The boot trophy is one of Sylvia's treasured Vogel boots which was bronzed and mounted on a walnut base. The purpose of the award is to encourage better sportsmanship throughout the entire horse show community.)
ALABAMA CLAY CONFORMATION HUNTER AWARD: Popeye K, owned by Elizabeth Spencer & Spencer Ranch, Keswick, VA
(Presented for the first time in 2004 by the Weisman Family. To be awarded to the horse and owner of the WCHR high score horse who has accumulated the most points at their best four WCHR shows plus their divisions at the Capital Challenge Horse Show in the Green and Regular Conformation Hunter divisions.)
ROX DENE AWARD: Lynn Walsh (owner of Ocean Park who was ridden by Peter Pletcher to 1626 points)
(Donated by Elaine and Chanda Boylen, this award is presented to the Owner of the WCHR High Score Horse ridden by a professional, which has accumulated the most points using the four best WCHR sanctioned shows plus the divisions at the Capital Challenge.)
FINAL RESULTS OF THE WCHR NATIONAL PROGRAM
PROFESSIONAL: 1. Jenny Karazissis, Calabasas, CA, 1695 pts.; 2. Sandy Ferrell, Bernville, PA, 1519 pts., Heidi Fish, Hebron, IL, 1489 pts; 4. Scott Stewart, Flemington, NJ, 1452 pts.
JUNIOR: 1. Stephanie Danhakl, Pacific Palisades, CA, 1793 pts.; 2. Jack Hardin Towell, Jr., Camden, SC, 1725 pts.; 3. Addison Phillips, New York, NY, 1570 pts.; 4. Sloane Coles, The Plains, VA, 1464 pts.
PONY: 1. Alexandra Arute, Avon, CT, 1571 pts.; 2. Sofie Applegate, Rancho Santa Fe, CA, 1563 pts.; 3. Samantha Schaefer, Westminster, MD, 1553 pts.; 4. Jessica Springsteen, Colts Neck, NJ, 1501 pts.
AMATEUR-OWNER: 1. Leah Schwendeman, Belleville, IL, 1793 pts.; 2. Caroline Moran, Bedford, NY, 1778 pts.; 3. Ellen Toon, South Salme, NY, 1740 pts.; 4. Francesca Caroli, St. Placide Quebec, Canada, 1720 pts.
ADULT AMATEUR: 1. Becky Gochman, Houston, TX, 1820; 2. Carolyn Becker, Woodland Hills, CA, 1562 pts.; 3. Carol Cone, Weston, MA, 1508 pts.; 4. Lauren Agni, Buckley, WA, 1469 pts.
FINAL RESULTS FOR REGIONAL STANDINGS
SOUTHWEST: Professional: Jenny Karazissis, Calabasas, CA, pts.; Amateur-Owner: Mary Ann Weisberg-Perry, Los Angeles, CA, pts.; Junior: Stephanie Danhakl, Pacific Palisades, CA, pts.; Pony: Olivia Esse, Los Angeles, CA, pts.; Children: Katrina Gargiulo, Aptos, CA; Adult Amateur: Carolyn Becker, Woodland Hills, CA,
MIDWEST: Professional: Heidi Fish, Hebron, IL, pts.; Amateur-Owner: Leah Schwendeman, Belleville, IL, pts.; Junior: Rachel Tulipan, Nashville, TN pts.; Pony: Jennifer Waxman, Chagrin Falls, OH pts.; Children: Elizabeth Votruba, Gates Mills, OH, pts.; Adult Amateur: Wendy H. Kraus Lewis, Willoughby Hills, OH, pts.
SOUTH CENTRAL: Professional: Russell Frey, Argyle, TX pts.; Amateur-Owner: Didi Mackenzie, Flower Mound, TX, pts.; Junior: Caroline Gilley, Dallas, TX pts.; Pony: Emma Roberts, Houston, TX, pts.; Children: Caroline Gibson, Magnolia, TX, pts.; Adult Amateur: Johnnie Martin-Carey, Argyle, TX, pts..
NORTH EAST: Professional: Scott Stewart, Flemington, NJ, pts.; Amateur-Owner: Ellen Toon, South Salem, NY, pts.; Junior: Addison Phillips, New York, NY, pts.; Pony: Alexandra Arute, Farmington, CT, pts.; Children: Paige Allardice, Sagaponack, NY pts.; Adult Amateur: Pamela Vance, Amenia, NY pts..
SOUTH EAST: Professional: Hunt Tosh, Cumming, GA, pts.; Amateur-Owner: Kimberley A. Quinn, Charlotte, NC, pts.; Junior: Jack Harden Towell, Camden, SC, pts.; Pony: Lauren Hogan, Tampa, FL pts.; Children: Maggie Schottenfeld, Alpharetta, CA, pts.; Adult Amateur: Bruce Duchossois, Aiken, SC, pts.
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN: Professional: Paul Rohrbach, Elizabeth, CA, pts.; Amateur-Owner: Karen Tanner-Smith, Littleton, CA pts.; Junior: Katie Rosenzweig, Phoenix, AZ, pts.; Pony: Sara Ketcham, Vail, CO, pts.; Adult Amateur: Page Tredennick, Littleton, CO
NORTH WEST: Professional: Jill Pierce, Kirkland, WA, pts.; Amateur-Owner: Tracy Sully, Aldergrove, BC, Canada, pts.; Junior: Jill Folkestad, Wilsonville, OR, pts.; Pony: Amanda Moore, Bothell, WA, pts.; Children: Kendall Bourgeois, Sherwood, OR, pts.; Adult Amateur: Lauren Agni, Buckley, WA, pts.
MID ATLANTIC: Professional: Tommy Serio, Keswick, VA, pts.; Amateur-Owner: Francesca Caroli, St. Placide, Quebec, Canada, pts.; Junior: Erin N. Hastings, Silver Spring, MD, pts.; Pony: Nellie Ann Foosaner, Middleburg, VA, pts.; Children: Marisa Messina, McLean, VA, pts.; Adult Amateur: Alex Johnson, Portsmouth, VA, pts..