September 16, 2013--The third day of the 67th Buffalo International Horse Show (BIHS) opened to low temperatures, but nothing short of heated competition. The morning was filled with an action-packed hunter schedule, where horse and rider combinations vied for the top honors and prize money in their respective divisions. Today the Amateur-Owner Hunters named not only their hunter champions, but also the Amateur-Owner Grand Hunter Champion. Jazz Johnson Merton claimed the coveted title with her 17-year-old mount Kingston. Junior Caroline Kellogg took the $1,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic victory with Donovan. Merton also captured two wins tonight in the Children's/Adult Amateur Jumpers aboard Biloxi.
The morning got underway with the Amateur-Owner Hunters, where Jazz Johnson Merton and Kingston captured the championship. The duo impressed the judges yesterday with two first place ribbons, and added an additional blue ribbon to their accolades this morning. Not only did they win the division championship, but they were also awarded the overall Amateur-Owner Grand Hunter Champion. Penelope Ayers and her mount Zandor were named the reserve champions for the division.
"Kingston was awesome out there, he always saves me when I make a mistake, and he makes me look good. I have been showing him for nine years and I think we make a great team," Merton said. "He is getting a lot quieter, since he is 17, so the game is changing a little. I kick a lot more now. As long as he is enjoying himself, I will keep showing."
Merton continued, "I was a little burnt out from riding as a junior, so I took a seven-year break. I began riding with Sandy Lobel when I returned to the sport, and we were lucky enough to find Kingston, who is such an amazing horse. Sandy does a great job with him, and we have had a lot of success over the last nine years. I don't get to show too often, normally only 10 shows a year, but we are looking forward to going to Harrisburg and Washington. This show is always a favorite for us though, we love coming up here to visit Susie and the facility, and this show is for a great cause. I am really happy to be able to support it."
Continuing the day, Caroline Kellogg navigated her two mounts to the one-two finish in the $1,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic. Her impressive rounds garnered the scores of 85 and 83 for a cumulative score of 168 points aboard Donovan to take the win. She also piloted Felicci to scores of 83 and 80 in the classic, taking the red ribbon with an overall score of 163 points. Alyssa Bokor and Carafino captured the third place prize with the overall score of 156 points. The Junior Hunters will continue tomorrow morning where the points will be tabulated and the champions announced.
"Donny is the best horse in the whole world," the young Kellogg expressed. "He was a little fresh this morning, but he is always perfect when he gets to the ring. I have to keep my pace consistent and not attack the jumps last minute, which I have a tendency to do. He is such a good boy, and he always takes care of me."
Kellogg continued, "I have been showing at the Buffalo International Horse Show for the last five years, and it's so cool to win the Classic this year. I actually won it two years ago, but it was such a wonderful feeling to place first and second this year. Felicci is a wonderful mount, too. I love them both. I took a month off, so this was the perfect reparation for the quickly approaching Indoors. We've been practicing consistency, and to come back and win with both of these boys is so special because I love them so much."
The show was animated with the excited chattering of onlookers as the evening began with a cocktail party and Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center (BTRC) demonstration. Sponsors and spectators alike gathered inside the Indoor Arena as Executive Director of the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, Susan Schoellkopf addressed the crowd and gave her thanks to the amazing sponsors, volunteers and competitors who make the Buffalo International Horse Show a success each and every year. The show benefits the therapeutic riding programs at the BTRC. Ninety-seven percent of the students can only afford the physical therapy with the help of scholarships from gracious sponsors along with the money raised from the BIHS.
Executive Director of the USEF Lori Rawls was on site at the Buffalo International Horse Show to present the show with the highly esteemed recognition as a USEF Heritage Competition. The designation of a USEF Heritage Competition is reserved for competitions that have been in existence for 25 years or more, have promoted and grown the equestrian sport and have made contributions to the community outside the gates of the horse show by achieving, maintaining and promoting the equestrian ideals of sportsmanship and competition.
"The Buffalo International Horse Show definitely qualified for this honor," Rawls stated. "Their therapeutic program was definitely a big draw, and it was a unanimous vote. We were thrilled to be able to present them with this honor. There are only 16 shows out of the 2,500 licensed competitions that have this recognition, and it is very selective. I was really thrilled that I was able to come, and visiting Buffalo was a first for me. This facility is amazing, and the horses, children and parents are so special. It is a neat program, and it makes it even more special to be here."
The demonstration featured six children and horses from the BTRC. They walked around a small course of obstacles, demonstrating the physical therapy that is used when on a horse.. Not only does it work with the physical strength, but also the mental, working to improve reading and math skills with verbal therapy throughout the program.
President of the BTRC, Susan Kimberly, along with professional rider and trainer of SBS Farms, Inc. Jennifer Alfano, presented Brian Brown with the Stephen A. Comunale, Jr. Sportsmanship Award. Brown is the Show Manager of the Buffalo International Horse Show, and his efforts to support the Stephen A. Comunale, Jr. Family Cancer Foundation through his support and management of the BIHS made him the perfect candidate for the 2013 award. The nonprofit organization endows an outreach program to provide comfort to cancer patients and their families by easing the ancillary financial burdens that confront them. By partnering with social workers, community members, hospitals and other organizations, their efforts empower cancer patients while improving their quality of life. All BTRC are dedicated to the memory of Stephen Comunale, Jr.
After the demonstration, the third day of the Buffalo International Horse Show concluded with the Children's/Adult Amateur Jumpers and the Children's/Adult Amateur Jumper Speed Class. Merton once again rode to the top of the leader board, but this time she was aboard Biloxi. The pair captured the win in each of the Children's/Adult Amateur Jumper classes, sealing their victory with their large stride and inside turns. Jessica Litfin rode to the second place position just shy of the victory aboard Cenzington 002. Jaclyn Steele won the Low Children's/Adult Amateur Jumpers with Snap On, while Paige Kouimanis and Bon Jovi sped to the Speed Class victory.
"Biloxi is so much fun, and he really shows me the way," Merton said. "I was so nervous tonight, I think it was because I haven't shown in a couple of months, but he took really great care of me. It is a fun division, and it is so exhilarating to go out there and jump around at such a fantastic event."
Merton continued, "I know what I need to work on for the next show, but winning is always fun and a great payoff for all of the hard work. The courses were challenging, but really nice. They were really well set up. We went out there, and we just tried to be patient, confident and focused. It was a great way to end our stay at the show."