Wellington, FL – Feb. 24, 2022 – The High Performance Hunter division during Week VII of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) came down to the wire Thursday with Haylie Rolfe and Leslie Coolidge’s Michigan ODF ultimately taking home champion honors. After earning two first place ribbons during Wednesday’s portion of the competition, including the High Performance Hunter Handy round, the veteran pair was able to secure the top spot in the division with two more quality rides Thursday.
Over courses designed by Robert McGregor, the duo was able to show off their skills and move efficiently through the track. The coming nine year old American Warmblood Gelding’s preference for the bigger rings proved to be true as he was able to stretch out his legs and show off his impressive stride through the E.R. Mische Grand Hunter Ring. Bred by Rolfe out of her previous small junior hunter mount, Matilda, the close knit pair have built a unique bond that has propelled them to success in the show ring.
With a great scope from the beginning, Rolfe always had her sights set on competing with Michigan ODF in the high performance 4’ division. Exceeding expectations, Rolfe and her sister, Maggie Jayne, have both ridden the gelding to numerous wins, including a win with Jayne in the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby during Lamplight Summertime III in Illinois this past summer. As he continues to grow with Rolfe in the irons, it’s clear the pair has a bright future.
Hannah Isop and Victoria Hart’s Believe didn’t allow for an easy win, however. Following closely behind Rolfe and Michigan ODF with a second and third place ribbon Wednesday, the pair emerged Thursday with two first place finishes but came up just short of the championship. An impressive overall performance in the competition rewarded them reserve champion honors in the division.
Hunter competition at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) will continue Friday with the Amateur Owner 3’3’’ and 3’6’’ Hunter classes, as well as the Large Junior 3’6’’ Hunter classes.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Haylie Rolfe – High Performance Hunter champion
On Michigan ODF:
“Since we bred him, we have been able to bring him along at the pace we feel is best for him. Since he was 5 years old, we knew the goal was the 4’ and he felt great this week. He has such a great scope that we knew he would perform really well at this level. The hardest part about bringing him along was adjusting his impressive stride. But in a ring like this, I was able to let him stretch out his legs a bit and he did really well.”
On Michigan ODF’s experience in hunter derby competition:
“I’ve done two with him during his first green year, and my sister [Maggie Jayne] did three with him last year, in which she won [the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Lamplight Summertime III].”
On the courses:
“The courses were beautiful and really straightforward. I thought the handy rode lovely yesterday, which can always be a tricky one. It’s always nice being in a big ring like this with him because his stride is so big and he really excels with courses like this.”
On her plans for the rest of WEF with Michigan ODF:
“We’re thinking about possibly doing the [$25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby on the Stadium Derby Field] during Week IX. Since we’ve had him so long, we’ve just slowly brought him along and let him do what he wants to do. We don’t want to rush him into anything.”
On plans for the rest of the year:
“We’ll go back to Illinois after we finish up at WEF. We may stop somewhere on the way home. Derby Finals is a goal for this year and we will possibly do indoors. [Michigan ODF] is such a great horse because when he’s not showing, he’s such a great ride at home as well.”