Wellington, FL. – Jan. 26, 2023 –The Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) Week 3 started off with a fantastic hunter display in the Grand Hunter Ring at Wellington International. Horse-and-rider combinations demonstrated an impressive display of hunter competition over the two days as they tackled Kevin Holowack’s (USA) tracks. At the conclusion of the division, it was Gratitude and Christopher Payne who took home the championship ribbon, with Only Always and Nick Haness securing the reserve honors.
During day one of competition, Gratitude and Payne laid down flowing and rhythmic courses putting them in a strong spot going into day two. Payne and the 8-year-old Warmblood gelding took home first place in the Under Saddle, the $750 High Performance Conformation Hunter, and the $900 High Performance Conformation Hunter Stake.
Payne piloted Gratitude consistently through each course they faced, racking up top scores each time they entered the arena. Gratitude displayed a textbook hunter style throughout each round and maneuvered the fences with ease, propelling the pair to the top of the podium as High Performance Conformation Hunter Champion.
During Wednesday’s portion of the competition Only Always, an 11-year-old Warmblood gelding piloted by Haness scored an 87.5 points in the first over-fences class to take the win. With the combination of these first-place honors, the pair was able to secure their place in the top three overall as they headed into day two. They continued their streak Thursday, securing two second-place ribbons to help them clench the Reserve Champion title in the High Performance Conformation Hunter.
Hunter competition at the Winter Equestrian Festival is slated to continue Friday in the Grand Hunter Ring, with the $100 Adult Amateur Hunter 50 and over at 8:00 am EST.