Closing out hunter competition at the 140th National Horse Show, Champion and Reserve Champion horse-and-rider combinations from professional, amateur, and junior hunter sections 3’3” or higher were invited back for the highlight hunter class of the week, the $50,000 National Horse Show Hunter Classic.
Drumroll, ridden by Geoffrey Hesslink and owned by Meridian Farm LLC, emerged as the deserving champions with consistently high scores of 91.5 in the first round and 92 in the second. This 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding maintained a firm grip on the leading position.
“He’s a brave horse that tries 110 percent every time, and I don’t think very many horses put that much effort in that many rounds in a row,” remarked Hesslink on his partnership with Drumroll, who has consistently claimed top titles this year. “He’s just so consistent that I think it really helps him in events like these.”
Jagerbomb, partnered with Jacob Pope and owned by Donald Stewart, displayed remarkable performance, scoring 90 in the first round and 89 in the second, closely trailing the champion; the 10-year-old Oldenburg showcased impressive consistency.
Pope, who just came off a bronze medal with Team USA at the National Cup of Vejer de la Frontera, reflected, “To be able to come here and trust Don [Stewart] and Jagerbomb so much to be able just to switch gears and come and be able to qualify for this class is really special.”
Private I, an 11-year-old Oldenburg, under the guidance of Michel Brit Leon, claimed the third-place honors. Leon shared his strategy, saying, “I was coming back in tenth. I thought the handy course showed so many different options for us to really kind of be slick and turn and gallop and show off our horse as much as we can. So, I opted to take all the inside turns and try to climb my way up that way.” This approach paid off with an impressive score of 87.5 in the second round after an initial score of 83 in the first round.
Speaking about the significance of the competition, Leon added, “We spend all year doing these kinds of big staple [classes]…kind of gearing up for here. I think this is the finale.”
About the $50,000 Hunter Classic:
Founded in honor of legendary horseman Charlie Weaver and implemented by the late NHS Co-Manager and member of the NHS Board of Directors, Leo Conroy, the $50,000 Classic has become an exhibitor favorite since its premiere in 2010.
Invitations for the classic were extended to the champion and reserve champion horse-and-rider combinations of the hunter sections 3’3″ or higher. Official qualifying rules stipulated that in cases where the champion or reserve champion horse-and-rider combination from any section declined to participate, the next highest placing horse-and-rider combinations from that same section qualified.
The classic consisted of two rounds; both were evaluated by two judging panels, each composed of two judges. Each panel’s scores were announced and subsequently averaged to calculate a final numerical score for each participating horse. Following this initial assessment, the top twelve horses, advanced to the second round. The second round aimed to test the brilliance, rideability, and handiness of the horse and rider. The final average score from round one was combined with the final average score from round two to determine the comprehensive final score.