Temecula, Calif. – May 21, 2022 – Junior 3’6” Hunter 16-17 division competition resumed Saturday afternoon at Nilforushan Equisport Events’ Temecula Valley National Week I as young hunter riders took to the Grand Hunter Arena for the second day to vie for the championship title as well as a qualification for the Inaugural National Equestrian Tournament. With five jumper divisions and three hunter divisions open to professionals, amateurs, and juniors alike, the NET tournament founded by Ali Nilforushan allows for riders of all ages, disciplines, and levels to compete for real prize money. With a combined division for 3’3″ and 3’6″ Junior and Amateur hunters, the stakes were high with the finals quickly approaching during Week III of the Temecula Valley National Horse Show. At the end of the day, it was Ella Cate Duke and her young mount Understudy who prevailed over the pack of talented riders to take the championship title.
Temecula Valley National Series regular Ella Cate Duke, once again impressed the judges, starting off her three weeks at Galway Downs with near-perfect rounds aboard her personal mount, Understudy. Coming off of a successful opening day of classes for the division, the pair, who have only been partnered for 10 months, seamlessly navigated the winding courses with ease. At just 7-years-old, the Oldenburg gelding showcased poise and composure in the expansive ring beyond his years, earning both blue ribbons in the over fences portion and the handy round. Piloting a mount with far less experience than most others in the ring, Duke showcased the capabilities of that of a professional rider working with her mount to produce the smoothest rounds of the day while highlighting her horse’s natural handiness over the tight and technical track.
California equitation and hunter wiz kid, Skylar Wireman was within striking distance of the champion title boasting top scores in her rounds during the first day of division competition Friday, May 20 aboard Emily Williams’ 7-year-old American Warmblood, Coastal. Also piloting a younger, greener mount, Wireman utilized not just her hunter expertise, but also her extensive equitation skills to guide Coastal to two second-place finishes in both the final over fences round and the handy round. After putting forth applaudable effort over the course of the two days, the promising pair were able to tuck a reserve championship title under their belts.
In the Junior 3’6″ Hunter 15 and under, Violet Tatum dazzled the judges with two stand-out rounds during the final day of competition, placing either first or second in each class of the division with the 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding, For Fun, owned by Tatum and Troy Christiansen. Avery Winston and her own 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Kinship, were hot on their heels swapping on and off first and second with Tatum, coming in a close finish for the Reserve Championship title.
Hunter competition at the Temecula Valley National Week I comes to a dramatic conclusion in the Grand Hunter Arena Sunday, May 22, with the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby with both Professional and Junior/Amateur divisions before returning Wednesday, May 25 for Week II of the Temecula Valley National Series at Galway Downs in Temecula, California.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Ella Cate Duke – Large Junior 3’6” Hunter 16-17 leader
“His barn name is Balou, he’s a 7-year-old gelding that we imported from Germany around 2 years ago. It’s been an amazing opportunity getting to work with him, he has the kindest personality and always tries his hardest. He has always been such a fun horse to ride, I’m so excited for what the future holds.”
On her plan for the division:
“Going into the division, i wanted him to feel relaxed with the big environment. Once he went so well the first day, iI knew the second day we could be more efficient in the handy and focus on smaller details.”
On Nilforushan Equisport Events:
“This is my first time being in Temecula, I love everything about it. So many people work so hard to make it such a great place to show and safe environment!”