National Sunshine Series Celebrates Inaugural USHJA Hunter Team Challenge

Thermal, Calif. – Nov. 14, 2021 – Hunter riders once again took over the spotlight during Week II of the National Sunshine Series. The USHJA Hunter Team Challenge took place in Hunter 4 on Sunday to wrap an exciting week of hunter competition. Eight teams of riders competed for medals at the final USHJA Hunter Team Challenge of the year, and the big winners of the day were Team Blue, consisting of gold medalists Abigail Steller and Jennifer Burke in the Adult Amateur Hunters, Emma Brand in the Low Children’s Hunters, and Grace Fuller in the Large Children’s Hunter Ponies.

Grace Fuller and Melodie. Photo By: ESI Photography

The USHJA Hunter Team Challenge offers a unique team experience for riders competing across the 2’-2’6” Children’s Pony Hunters, 2’6” Low Child/Adult Hunters and 3’ Children’s/Adult Amateur Hunter divisions. For the first day of competition, riders competed in their regular division classes, where their scores were also calculated separately earning points toward the Hunter Team Challenge. On the second day of competition, riders competed in the Final Round, a Classic-style over-fences round.

Emma Brand and Confession. Photo By: ESI

Abigail Steller and Gavroche. Photo By: ESI

Earlier in the day, equitation riders competed in the CPHA Style of Riding class where Katie Smith and Dever claimed the winning title after earning scores of 87 and 84 for a total of 171 points. Just one point behind her in second place was Brooke Mostman and Goyard with 170 points for second place. The third place honors went to Rebecca Beall and Calino G after they earned a score of 164.

The final equitation class of the day was the DIHP Adult Equitation Challenge, where Jayme Omand emerged victorious aboard Go. Kelsey King and Closing Time took home the second place prize, while Leslie Biederman and Coer De Lion rounded out the top three.

Jayme Omand and Go. Photo By: ESI Photography

Action in the Grand Prix Arena came to a close Sunday with the Junior and Amateur Jumpers and the $15,000 1.35m Open Classic, which ran in a jump-off format and was topped by Tiffany Sullivan and The Gladiator. Only .06 seconds faster than the second place finisher, Sullivan bested 54 entries and only three double-clear efforts, all speeding their way through the short track to try to claim victory.

Tiffany Sullivan and The Gladiator. Photo By: ESI Photography

Sunday marked the conclusion of the National Sunshine Series at the Desert Horse Park. Hunter/jumper competition returns in just two weeks for the start of Desert Holiday, a two-week competition featuring CSI5* and CSI2* show jumping competition, USEF premier hunters, and the culmination of the Major League Show Jumping Tour.

FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE

Jennifer Burke – USHJA Hunter Team Challenge Gold Medalist

Jennifer Burke and Bluejacket. Photo By: ESI Photography

On her horse, Bluejacket:
“My horse is a 9-year-old Oldenburg. I bought him when he was 5 and he’s a really good boy. He’s a lot of fun and has really sweet personality; he’s like a big puppy dog.”

On why she competed in the USHJA Hunter Team Challenge:
“To be honest, it was my trainers, Alicia Saxton and Alysia Lynch-Sherard, that mentioned it. When we were getting the schedule together and deciding what we were all going to compete in they mentioned that class and I thought that it would be fun. I didn’t know much about it, like if it would be barns competing together or if it was a random draw. I just thought it would be fun to try something different other than my regular division, so that’s what factored into my decision to do it.”

“I thought it was a lot of fun, I am so happy that I participated in it. Cheering my team members on and getting to do our sport as a team was really exciting. I would definitely encourage people to show in it. People saw me walking around with my armband and when we won today and we had all our ribbons, medals, sashes and flowers it drew a lot of attention and my friends were asking what class it was and wishing they had signed up. I would definitely encourage people to try it – it’s a lot of fun!”

Tiffany Sullivan – $15,000 1.35m Open Classic Winner

On the course:
“The course was really awesome because it was almost exactly the same as the $100,000 Grand Prix last night. It was really fun to have watched that class and then get to do it at a more stylized height, if you will. I think I just had a really lucky day. I’m not sure why the course took down so many horses but my horse was just in a great mood. I’ve had my horse for seven years. He’s 15, so we do know each other really well; that helps. He’s just been a good solid citizen the entire time I’ve had him.”

On returning to DIHP for the NSS:
“We had the horse show of a lifetime I think. Both Shawn [Casady] and I had made a lot of changes in our personal and professional lives leading up to this show, so I think we were feeling a little trepidation about how it was going to go – change is always hard – but Shawn did amazing. My horses felt great; they were really fit and ready to go and do their jobs and we had a terrific two weeks. The Desert Horse Park management has done so much to make it an enjoyable place. No matter what people want to do. People want to go school and do lessons, so there’s space to do that. They have an awesome track where you can go trot or gallop your horses out in the back. It’s just been wonderful for all of the horses on the show grounds, and I particularly loved it.

 

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