We caught up with the professional and amateur hunter champions, along with the generous sponsors of the 140th National Horse Show:
Holly Orlando & Kalvarie: Champion of the Goshen Hill Green Hunter 3’6” presented by Caroline Moran
Q: Can you tell us about the horse and your partnership?
A: “It’s a big partnership; It’s a team effort for sure. We got Fig in the middle of last summer, and he was a jumper at the time I jumped him around, and the jump was so lofty and slow. We thought maybe we should give it a try and see if we can make him into a hunter. And it took a little bit of time, but it’s good. It’s really been so rewarding, and it’s paid off in the end as a special horse.”
Q: How does it feel to be a champion at the 140th National Horse Show?
A: “It feels great, actually. One of our other horses, Adler, was champion in the first year last year. So I kept thinking, come on, Fig, you gotta defend the title, and he did. So, we were beyond proud.”
Q: Is there anything you feel helped Kalvarie make the transition from jumpers to hunters?
A: “I think he’s just such a natural to begin with. There’s really nothing to work on with him. His style is beautiful. He’s straight. He lands on both leads. It was just the mental aspect of it that he didn’t think; even still now, when he sees two jumps in a row at a two stride, he powers up a little bit. So it’s just more keeping his brain a little bit calm than anything, but he could not be a nicer horse to ride. It is the coolest feeling, and it’s unbelievable. It’s very soft. Just the jump is so lofty. It feels great.”
Q: And did he show at all last year?
A: “He was pre-green last year, so he did. We showed him a little bit just in the fall, putting him together. He won a class at Capital Challenge, and that was pretty much the only indoor horse show we brought him to. He was great this year. He got ribbons, great ribbons, at Devon. Two seconds and a third. He was reserve at Upperville, champion at the Hampton Classic, and reserve at Capital Challenge. We’ve had a great year with him. He won his first Derby this summer in Saratoga. His name is Fig. The Kalvarie group is an unbelievable group of owners that all came together, and we would also have to thank Donald and Cara Cheska for helping us to have him and letting us try to turn him into a hunter. They were really patient with us.”
Scott Steward & California Love: Champion of the Selma Garber Green Conformation Hunter
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the horse and your partnership?
A: “California Love, Ken and I bought as a three-year-old. So, we’ve had him for a long time. I think he’s just eight years old. He was very young, obviously. We were taking our time. And so it’s really exciting when it worked out.”
Q: What was it about him that you liked as a three-year-old?
A: “He looks exactly the same as he did as a three-year-old. He’s very beautiful. He has a great personality, and he was a beautiful mover and a really scopey athletic horse. I think he has a lot of scope to jump much higher jumps.”
Q: Is there anything in particular you’re hoping to accomplish with him in the future?
A: “I’m hoping I get to keep him for myself, just to do the regular confirmation next year.”
Q: And what was he like coming along from three to now, eight?
A: “He was actually a stallion; We imported him a stallion. He was always well-behaved, but he just had too much exuberance. He would actually jump really high, and he wasn’t that stallion. But, a little bit too much. So he’s developed, and he’s really quiet and easy to get ready now. He’s just an easy horse.”
Geoffrey Hesslink & Drumroll: Champion of the Green Hunter 3’9″
Q: Can you talk a little about the horse and your partnership?
A: “Drumroll is like a once-in-a-lifetime horse. He’s, I feel like I say it every time, but he’s just a born winner. So, just every time I get to show him, it’s a treat. I’m really glad that I was able to give him what he deserved here.”
Q: Can you talk about the year overall with him? It seems like he just keeps getting better and better and better.
A: “Yeah, I think that’s a perfect way to put it. Every time he shows up, he gets better. Which is hard to do because the first class I ever rode him in was the [Hunter] Spectacular, which he won. He was second in derby finals by a quarter of a point and won section B. He’s basically won every big event ever, big or small. His owner has only shown him four times, and she was champion all four times, two of which were Capital Challenge in Harrisburg. We just pinch ourselves every day. We’re so lucky to have a horse like that.”
Q: How did you feel coming into this horse show, having had so much success leading up to it?
A: “I am always a little nervous to show a horse of that caliber. Like I said, I just want to give them the ride they deserve and let them have the results they’re owed. I knew he wouldn’t care about the atmosphere or anything like that, so I thought this particular venue would be good for him because I think he really thrives in a bigger arena. I was able to really kind of let his stride go and gallop around the course, which was nice.”
Q: What’s Drumroll’s personality like?
A: “We call him Doug in the barn, which I think is the most fitting name. He is like the biggest, mushiest goofball. He was a stallion for quite a while and a breeding stallion. So, I would say he’s a little nudgy, but in a very good way. He does not know what personal space is, but we don’t care about that.”
Christopher Payne & Can Can: Champion of the High-Performance Conformation Hunter; recipient of The Rockstar Grand Champion Professional Hunter Award presented by Jennifer Burger, receiving The “Baroness of Locheil” Perpetual Trophy, which was presented by Dr. Betsee Parker, Baroness of Locheil in Scotland.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about how you felt Can Can did this week?
A: “I was really quite excited with him this week. He has never shown in this indoor, and the way Bobby Murphy set the course was a little bit gallop-y and with quite substantial oxers. Which actually allowed him to go really well because I could ride him, and he likes to get high in the air. So it was nice that I could use a gallop and then get the height in the air. I thought he really enjoyed this a lot.
“He [Can Can] had done the jumpers a little bit, and then Ilan Ferder called us and was like, “I have this horse. I think it’s quite talented as a hunter, but we have never done it as that.” So we bought him to be a hunter; Stephanie Ring bought him for me to do in derbies and things like that. He was in the top 13 this year in the International Hunter Derby Finals. That was kind of why she found him. She always wanted a derby horse.”
Q: And how do you feel like he’s progressed?
A: “He’s grown up a lot. The reason they wanted to transition him out of the jumpers is that he jumped too high. So that was the thing he had to get comfortable with because of the verticals he’s beautiful at. But out of oxers, he would take a little seriously, and sometimes some judges didn’t like it because he got too high. So I really think this year he’s kind of leveled out and found just a nice balance to put in a beautiful effort, but not too much.”
Q: What does it mean to you to win here with him?
A: “It means a lot. This is the National Horse Show, and you spend all summer and winter trying to get to this because this is the pinnacle of the show, the season of the hunters. It just really means a lot to be able to get here and compete. It’s the best of the best, and it feels quite nice to be competitive in that group and come out right in.”
Christopher Payne & Reign: Champion of the Judith C. Murch High-Performance Working Hunter Champion, presented by Winner’s Circle Trailer Sales and the Corrigan Family; recipient of The “Judith C. Murch” Memorial Trophy.
Q: Tell us a little bit about Reign.
A: “Reign, I had the most fun on. He went in there today, and the gallop-y course, and beautiful jumps, he just rode beautifully around there. He took it seriously but just really had a fun time with it.”
Q: Remind us a little bit about your history with him because you’ve had him for a few years.
A: “I’ve had him for a few years, and you know, I won the Green Incentive on him. I’ve won a few derbies on him, and he was in Derby Finals and, I think, fifth. Lisa Levine has a couple of horses that she loves to come and watch and have me show. And he’s just been a wonderful horse.”
Q: What does it mean to not only be champion twice but also the leading hunter rider award here?
A: “It’s amazing. It’s a dream come true. I’ve never been grand here. So, to be at the National Horse Show, which is the pinnacle of the hunters of the year. And once again, such amazing horses, amazing riders, incredible competition. It just really means a lot to accomplish what I did.”
Q: So what does it mean to have horses that you continually get to ride?
A: “It’s amazing. Stephanie Ring, who owns Can Can, and Lisa Lavine, who owns Reign, are the most wonderful, supportive owners that there are, and I feel so incredibly blessed that they’re on my team and they support me to have these amazing horses and be able to do what I love.”
Q: Any plans for breeding him?
A: “A lot of people wanted to breed to him, but, you know, I’ve heard, they’re just stories about things that can go wrong, whatever, and he doesn’t act like a stallion at all. He’s so easy on a daily basis, so I figure, you know, he’ll show a few years, and then, you know, probably settle down in his retirement and have some babies. But right now, no breeding.”
Kelley Corrigan & Diatendro: Suzanne Thoben Marquard Amateur-Owner Hunter Over 35 Champion; “William & Margaret Marquard” Memorial Trophy recipient
Q: Would you mind starting off by talking a little bit about the horse and your partnership?
A: “We bought Dendro in 2017 through the PSI auction, and Havens [Schatt] worked with him and did obviously a phenomenal job. And then I’ve taken over the reins kind of the last three years, sort of right after Covid started.”
Q: And he had such a great career with Havens. What was it like to be able to go in and ride him yourself the first few times?
A: “I mean, it’s hard when, you know, you have a horse that can win and, you know, stay out of his way of letting him do his job. This is the first year we’ve consistently shown throughout the year, and it’s finally really clicking for us. We had some issues with my kid having too many sports and not being able to get to Florida often, and regular horse things like his foot hurt one time or whatever. I try to stick to showing pretty much in Kentucky and Florida so I can get to some of my kid’s games.”
Q: What is his [Diatendro’s] barn name?
A: “Mikey. Mikey. So we named him when I was in Europe buying him at the auction when Mike Reinhardt passed away. My husband and I say that if it weren’t for Mike, we would not be together because my husband started working at horse shows because of Mike and worked for him for years and years and years. So when I got that call, it would have been 6 a.m. in the morning for my husband, their time, because I was in Europe. I knew something was wrong, and then he told me that. So it was very easy to make the call in the barn name.”
Q: How do you balance everything, your horses and your kids?
A: “It’s a lot, but you know, one day at a time when I try to plan things out. I also judge too. The only time I can even take judging jobs is in between my kid’s sports seasons when I know he won’t have any games because I don’t want to miss anything. So, it’s just a lot of work. But again, that’s why we kind of show only in Florida and Kentucky. So I’m not off at, you know, Tryon [North Carolina] or Saugerties [New York] or somewhere else where it’s far away, and I can’t be with my family.”
Q: What made you want to become a judge?
A: “My mom had done a little bit. She also competed as an amateur, and we actually sponsored the division right before us in her honor. She would judge some little local shows and one day, they said, ‘We need another judge for the walk/trot ring.’ And she’s like, ‘Can my daughter come?’ I think I was 18 at the time. And they agreed. So I just kind of got started there. It makes you a better rider by knowing what to look for and what the judges are looking for from that viewpoint.”
Stephanie Danhakl & Brightside – Amateur Owner Hunter 35 and Under Champion
Q: do you mind starting off by telling us a little bit about the horse and the partnership?
A: “Rio is what we call him in the barn. I’ve had him I think I’ve had him for six years. He was imported as a jumper and was in California with Meadow Grove Farm, and they quickly realized that he was more of a hunter. And so I was home for Thanksgiving, and I thought, well, I might as well just drive out and try it. The second I got on him and trotted around, I knew he was the horse for me. He has, he gives. He has the floatiest canter and trot, and his canter is like a rocking horse. Over the jumps, he can just, you really feel like you’re flying. Even though I’ve had him for a while, we haven’t made it indoors until this year. I just had a baby, not even two months ago. I knew that we had qualified, of course, and I was thinking, I really want to go for him because he’s such a special horse, and he hasn’t had the opportunity to show the horse world what he can do.”
“That gave me the motivation to get back in the saddle quickly, and I tried to get prepared for this event. He was grand champion last week at Washington, and I knew it was possible for him to do it again, but obviously, the pieces have to all come together, and the stars have to be aligned. And I knew after our first round yesterday that he was up to it. I’m really thrilled with the result.”
Q: And how does it feel to, like you said, finally get indoors with this horse that you always kind of knew was capable of doing this?
A: “It’s a little bit surreal. I’m so lucky to have had, and still have, a lot of really exceptional horses. And I’ve been here a lot, but there’s something about being here with a new horse. I know he’s brave, I know he’s scopey, but to come to this environment and have it all pieced together is really special. I’m glad that everyone else can see that now.”
Q: And how’s it kind of been, now that you have two kids?
A: “It’s definitely crazy. I’m so thankful to have such an amazing family and the support of my parents and my husband. And sometimes I think, why do I do this? It’s so much stress on everybody else. I put so much into this, and I have such high expectations for myself. It’s definitely stressful, and it’s hard to navigate everything. But there’s nothing like the feeling you get when you go into the ring, and you’re jumping around, and you need to perform. And I think that feeling is something that can be addicting, and I love my horses, and I also love to compete and have to perform right here, right now.”
“There’s really nothing like it, and I think that feeling sustains me, even when I’m not at the show, and I always kind of strive for that feeling, and I’m lucky that I have horses that can help me with that. I can’t imagine my life without horses. I love everything about this. I love the community. I’ve been showing at this level since I was 13, I think. And it really doesn’t get old. Every year is exciting, but what’s really nice is the continuity. I love coming to the horse show and seeing so many familiar faces and friends that I’ve had over the years. It’s really special to have that.”
Q: And you’ve, you know, won so many things at so many big shows. Do you still kind of get nervous and feel the pressure? If so, kind of, how do you handle that?
A: “I definitely get jittery, and I prefer showing up earlier in the morning. I’m definitely on edge when I’m showing, especially when I have a big event like this. So I can’t relax, but I also really thrive on that feeling. I like it, but sometimes I’m like, I’m making myself crazy. Why am I doing this? But it’s also, it’s exciting. No matter how many times you show up in this ring or at any of these big events, it’s thrilling.”
Meghan Rohrbaugh Bear & Waverly: The Mr. & Mrs. Ernest Oare Amateur Owner Hunter 3’3” over 35 Champion
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your week?
A: “Well, yesterday started off amazing. We won both, so it was a really great day. And it was nice to start off that way and kind of take the pressure off for today. Today was a little tricky and handy. We trotted, so that put the pressure on for the last class. And the last class was lovely. I think we ended up third, so nice.”
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your partnership with Poppy?
A: “I’ve had Poppy for about two years now, and I knew she was the right horse for me the second I got on her. She’s just easy, and you just stay out of her way. Do things poppy’s way, and yeah, the trainers always tell me, they’re like, just ride your horse. Ride your horse. Let her, let her show you the way.”
Q: How did you find her [Waverly]?
A: “Kate [Conover] found her. We got her from calling Orlando and Jenny Dunion, but Kate had actually come up to me. We were showing in Wellington, and she said, I have this little horse. I think it would be perfect for you. We went and tried her, and that was it. I knew it. I jumped a few jumps and just knew it for sure.”
Q: What does it mean to you to win here?
A: “Oh my gosh. I’m going to try not to cry because I’m so excited. But it just means everything. I mean… Last year, we didn’t have her for indoors. I wasn’t showing at 3’3” consistently, and so we didn’t get to. This is our first year doing indoors, so it’s just really exciting. It’s so funny because everyone’s like, Oh, you have to go to Kentucky; it’s the most fun, and here we are.”
Q: What’s her personality like?
A: “Oh my gosh, she’s the queen. She is so sweet to work around. She’s just the most loving. She’s begging for treats at all times. You saw she was trying to eat out of the trophy. But she’s a pleaser. I mean, she wants to win. When you go in and something goes wrong, it’s usually not Poppy’s fault. She’s, she’s trying to help you, and she’s a winner.”
“I’ve been riding for a long time. I’ve had all sorts of different amateur horses and stuff. And I took some time off, and I had three children. And so this, like, this past year is really the first year I’ve been showing a lot.”
“And, you know, just consistently trying to get to indoors and everything. So, it’s been, it’s been fun. But I’ve never been champion at the National Horse Show. Never won a class at the National Horse Show before this, so it’s really a dream.”
CALLIE SEAMAN & Moonshine: Champion in The Rencourt Foundation Amateur Owner Hunter 3’3” 35 and under.
Q: Do you want to tell us a little bit about your week and about Moonshine?
A: “Obviously, the Nationals are kind of the pinnacle of the show season. It’s the ending. You always want it to go well. I couldn’t have asked for a better horse yesterday. He went beautifully in the first round. I think I was just a hair conservative, but we still got a good ribbon.”
“He won the hack. He’s a beautiful mover. Today, the handy did not go our way. So I really knew that if I wanted it and it was going to be within reach, the two of us were going just to have to come into that ring and both be hungry for it. And I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. He was relaxed that round.”
“He really jumped beautifully. and it was kind of more along the lines of how we normally feel together. Can you tell us a little bit about kind of like how long you’ve known him and growing with him? Yeah. So I’ve had moonshine for, I would say, almost three years. he’s kind of been my heart horse since I got him.”
“He’s really special to me. He just wants attention. He wants to cuddle. He loves to nuzzle you. So he’s just like this really affectionate, sweet animal. And so I’ve had this very deep connection with him from the beginning. He’s one of those horses that you kind of get on every day, and you know exactly who he is. You kind of know he’s always going to do his job. So he’s been a really important partner for me these last couple of years. The two horses that I had here, again, are both really special horses. Diamante does the high performance. He’s a horse I’ve had for years now, too, and like a solid partner. So I couldn’t have asked if I was only going to be here with two. I was here with the two best. So that was great.”
Q: What do you think makes him so special?
A: “Honestly, I think his personality, he’s just a happy horse, and he loves people, and he just wants to do his job. He’s got just this rocky canner that shows you the distance, and he really makes a big effort at the jump. I think, honestly, he just loves people so much that I think he, he knows if he’s good, he’s gonna get lots of cookies and lots of pets and lots of nose kisses, and I think that’s what he performs for.”
Caroline Moran: sponsor of the Goshen Hill Green Hunter 3’6” Stake
“It is an honor for me to support the Hunters at the NHS. There is so much history behind this show. We all remember the glory days of Madison Square Garden, but in this day and age, that would be financially impossible to replicate. Jennifer Burger and the current NHS board have worked tirelessly to retain the traditions and feel of a true championship show. It still stands out as one of the most special events for showcasing the best of the best in hunter competition.
“I have been involved as a sponsor since Mason Phelps took over the reins of the NHS. I have also served as a board member and as a member of the ladies’ committee.”
Clementina Brown: presenter of The Rencourt Foundation Amateur Owner Hunter 3’3”, 35 and under Champion
“It is an honor and a privilege for me to sponsor a Hunter championship at the National Horse Show each year. I always feel so proud to give out the gorgeous NHS ribbons and trophies to the very best of the best hunters in the United States.”
“I have been blessed to serve on the National Horse Show board of directors for the past seven years and have been equally fortunate to show my hunters at this show throughout my life. It is always exciting to contribute to the most sparkling crowning moment of the yearly horse show season every November at the National!”
Dr. Betsee Parker, Baroness of Locheil in Scotland: presenter of The “Baroness of Locheil” Perpetual Trophy, and The “Ovation” Perpetual Trophy
Q: How long have you been involved with the National Horse Show?
A: “Well, even as a child, this was the horse show to go to, and at that time, it was at Madison Square Garden in New York, so we’re talking about the mid-60s. I started riding in 1958. I’m 72 years old, and that’s no secret. And even now, I’m still holding out.”
“And I have a rider in it this year, Maddie Tosh, who just won a Washington medal for me. That’s exciting. Yeah, very exciting. It’s just as exciting to have a junior in it on your horse and work on the team as it is to do it yourself. In fact, it may be more exciting.”
Q: You also sponsored the last class [Grand Hunter Pro Rider], correct? What does it mean for you to sponsor a Hunter Championship at the 140th National Hunter Show?
A: “It’s a very great honor. And represents the pinnacle of our sport. And as far as hunters go, anytime you can go into that ring and actually get a prize, that is a very big honor.
“So, I certainly…I see it that way myself. I came from very modest means, and I was a working student when I was young. I was not a privileged child with several horses on a string to ride. Nothing like that.”
“Those of us who were not fortunate enough to have the means. You rode anything you could possibly find. Polo ponies, workhorses that were being trained into academy horses, anything. You’d get up on anything. A donkey that needed training, you know. Yeah, you’re not too proud.”
Q: What is your favorite part of being here [at the National Horse Show]?
A: “The Maclay final, no question. When my rider won it, Tori Colvin won it on my horse, Patrick, in, uh, 2015. I think that’s right. That was the biggest moment I’ve ever felt personally. Amidst all the wins I’ve ever done. It was a thrill, and I thought I heard my old friend Joey Darby laughing out in the hallway. That was kind of special, too, because he had just been married. It was really special.”
Q: And this year, you have one of your horses in the Maclay, correct?
A: “Yes. The horse, Daktari, that Maddie Tosh just won at a Washington medal final. We were quite surprised at that because she has another year. But Doctari is here, and the wonderful thing about that horse is that he came to me from Missy Clark. She told me she had this skinny, rakish kind of young horse, and could she just put him at my farm for a while because our equitation horse had died. We were kind of lost, and I said, well, I didn’t really want a green horse for her equitation. I wanted an old campaigner for her to be able to get up on and eat with teachers. And she said, well if you could just ride them and break them and work with them, and so we did, and he seemed very interested and like a very good student of this equitation thing. So, about a year later, we tried it in a couple of classes, and he would get first, second, or third from that. So then I thought, you know, this horse is on a learning curve, and he’s really going fast. And he’s very smart and mostly he’s very sanitary with his toes. I bought him because I thought I could see a pattern in him. I have to trace patterns in horses, and if I see a really good pattern, I move when it looks like the trajectory is going the right way. And then he continued to get better and better because he was still green. If he’s even that, he’d be seven rising eight. So it’s exciting to see that too, and to see Maddy come along like that. I’ve worked with Hunt [Tosh] for many years as he was a rising young professional, and the Wheeler Family is his main customer. But I had a couple of horses with him too, and I offered to help his daughter through the equitation because that’s a very expensive proposition for a professional.”
“So, we’ve done that, and Maddie is only the second rider in history to win both the Washington Pony Medal Final and the Washington Horse Medal Final. The only other rider to ever do it was Samantha Schaefer. Daktari is an equitation horse at the national level and a winner, completely and solely produced by a junior. Her father didn’t produce the horse, Missy Clark didn’t. Only Maddie Tosh did. So juniors can really do the whole thing. It’s a thrill. Really a thrill for me. Because it was just one of those horses that got it, and he likes his job.”
Jennifer Burger: sponsor of the Rockstar Grand Champion Professional Hunter Award:
“This year, in honor of my horse, Rockstar, I took over the leading hunter rider and the leading hunter horse, honoring Rocky and all the years of success he had at all these beautiful shows, who passed away in August. So, this is in his memory.
“It’s so important here at the National Horse Show. We’re very committed to honoring the owners who buy these incredible creatures and support our beautiful professional teams. And it’s important that we really take the time to honor all of them, the owners, the riders, the horses, in a way that helps reflect back all the hard work they’ve had throughout the year and bring to the sport. Because that trio is really what makes the sport’s success, no matter what discipline you’re in. Thank you to all of those who participate in those categories.”
Mr. & Mrs. Ernest Oare: sponsors of Amateur Owner Hunter 3’3” over 35 division
Q: What does it mean for you to sponsor a Hunter Championship at the 140th National Horse Show?
Mr. Oare: “We’re past exhibitors too, so… we are such fans, of course, of the National Horse Show in general. We go way back to both of us showing at the [Madison Square] Garden and, it means a lot, and I am on the board, but I don’t take any credit for the wonderful job that they’re doing here. To be a part of it as a presenter, particularly since we’re not showing anything this year, it’s really fun, and it so happens that those are both great friends that we just presented. They are both great friends. I mean, I’m excited about that. We’re really excited.”
Q: You said you have been part of the NHS since Madison Square Garden, How many years ago was that?
Mrs. Oare: “My dad showed before I did as a horseman; we lived in North Carolina. And my first time to ride at Madison Square Garden, I watched him there before, was probably about 1956, and that’s a long time ago. I haven’t missed many of the nationals, riding or judging–I’ve judged here several times, and I’ve done that several times, and it’s one of the most unbelievable experiences. The National Horse Show gives me a little thrill, and we couldn’t have any horses, I got hurt back in the year, so I’m not qualified. I’m back riding now, but to be able to be part of the horse show and have two great friends win in there, it is such a special horse show.”