August 18, 2011 -- Drawing riders from across the nation, the USEF National Junior Hunter Championships-West Coast event was an action-packed two days of great sport and a chance for the Junior Hunters to stand center stage as they displayed their talents in three phases: a handy hunter round, a classic round, and an under saddle phase. When the dust settles, it is the horse with the highest cumulative score that takes home the title and a year's worth of bragging rights.
With riders from as far away from the Golden Coast as Texas, Colorado, Arizona and even the U.S. East Coast, it was local competitor Morgan Geller from Manhattan Beach, Calif., and her Fabricio (an 11-year-old liver/chestnut Czech Warmblood gelding) that beat out the competition to earn the 2011 Overall Grand Champion Junior Hunter title with a cumulative score of 255.80. Geller, 16, and her mount earned not only the title, but also the perpetual trophy donated by Show Circuit magazine.
"Fabricio is just so amazing," said Geller. "He is the only horse I show, and I've been able to develop a really good bond with him." Also her partner in the equitation arena, the pair won the CPHA Medal Finals last year and will compete back east this fall in both the hunter division and the medal finals. Geller trains with Peter Lombardo.
Living up to his name and "cruising" to the Reserve Champion honors was Jessica Singer's eight-year-old grey Holsteiner gelding Cruise. Ridden by Atlanta's own Chase Boggio, the duo posted an overall total of 254.20. The team of Boggio and Cruise (an eight-year-old bay Holsteiner gelding) were named the Champions of the Small 16-17 division, as well. California's Archie Cox serves as the horse's trainer.
Five separate champion titles were up for grabs during the action, including the Overall Grand Champion Junior Hunter; the Overall Champion Small Junior Hunter-15 & Under (the recipient of Huntover Farm?perpetual trophy); the Overall Champion Large Junior Hunter-15 & Under (the recipient of the Escort Me In perpetual trophy donated by Shalanno Farms); and the Overall Champion Small Junior Hunter-16 to 17 (recipient of the River Edge Farm perpetual trophy), and the Overall Large Junior Hunter- 16 to 17 (recipient of the Magic Word perpetual trophy).
Following Cruise in the Reserve Champion spot for the Small 16 to 17 division was Kennzo de Conte (a nine-year-old bay Finnish Warmblood gelding) ridden by California's Demi Stiegler and owned by the Wudina Group. The pair's cumulative score was 241.40.
The awards weren't over for Fabricio, however, as he and his rider also nabbed the championship honors in the Large 16 to 17 division on their same score of 255.80. It was Azlan ridden by Gabbi Langston who finished their work on a score of 248.6 to take home the Reserve Champion title in the Large 16 to 17 division.
In the Overall Champion Small Junior Hunter-15 & Under contest, it was a winning day for Coffee Talk (a 14-year-old bay Dutch Warmblood gelding) and rider/owner Whitney Downs, another Californian, who posted a final score of 248.0 for the victory. The Reserve Champion title was taken by Samantha Sommers' Small Collection on a score of 243.40.
Texan Taylor Sutton and her eight-year-old bay Oldenburg gelding, MTM Braggin Rights, were the top pair in the Overall Champion Large Junior Hunter-15 & Under division with a cumulative score of 229.70. Owner/rider Amelia Drumm's Lolla Palooza (an 11-year-old dapple grey Belgian Warmblood gelding) ended their work by earning the Reserve Champion honors with a 224.40.
During the two days of competition, there was more than the posting of scores. The event included breakfast both days, and?a reception sponsored by Karen Healey Stables and Brookway Stables. Leo Conroy, George Schneider, and Frank Willard judged the 40 entrants split among the four divisions.
Established in 2001, the USEF Junior Hunter Final showcases the best Junior Hunters in the nationand provides junior riders the opportunity to meet and spend time with other juniors from all over the country. Each year, more than 700 eligible hunters qualify to compete in these prestigious finals.
For more information about the 2011 USEF Junior Hunter Finals, visit http://www.usef.org/_IFrames/breedsdisciplines/discipline/allhunter/JuniorChampionships.aspx.