Temecula, Calif. – May 1, 2021 – On the fourth day of the Temecula Valley Premier II, young riders returned to the Grand Hunter Arena Saturday afternoon in hopes of claiming the coveted title of champion in the Junior 3’3” Hunter division. With two Junior Hunter 3’3” Champion titles up for grabs this week due to a ‘California Split’, twelve competitors put their names forward, all vying for the championship tricolors. In Section A, Paige Walkenbach aboard Classic rode away with the division championship, while Kara Fritz on Coolboy earned Section B’s championship title.
Following Friday’s stiff competition in the opening rounds, the titles for both sections were up for grabs. Coming off of wins in the undersaddle and first classic round, and a second place in Friday’s over fences, Walkenbach had positioned herself within striking position of the tricolor. The Arizona resident needed one high-scoring over fences round and a solid handy trip to secure the win. Focusing on rhythm and pace, her efforts on Walkenbach Equestrian LLC’s 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding impressed the judges in the handy to take the win and place second in their final over fences round. After two days and some of the best rounds of the division, the duo took home the tricolor in Section A with 42 points. Earning the Section A reserve championship with 23 points was Nicole Wilson on Centerfold K, a 17-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Henge Hill Investments.
With a win in Friday’s classic round, a second place finish in the undersaddle and a third place in the over fences round, Fritz knew she needed to lay down impressive performances Saturday if she wanted to take home the tricolor for Section B. Determined to close the gap, Fritz of Encinitas, California, put in a quality round during the final over fences course to win aboard Jump Higher Equine’s Coolboy, an 11-year-old Westphalian gelding. Following several spooks at the far end of the ring from her fellow competitors, Fritz kept her leg on, completing the course with style and grace to take the win in the over fences.
Having moved up from 2’9” to 3’3” and 3’6” aboard Coolboy over the course of three years, the long-time pair are no strangers to handy courses, frequently competing in national hunter derbies and equitation classes. Following a confident first round of the day, the pair kept on the energy, securing a third place finish in the handy, which was necessary to earn the Junior Hunter 3’3” Champion title in Section B. Multiple riders earned 21 total points in the division, but at the end of the day, the reserve championship ribbon for Section B went to the rider with the best over fences performance – Walkenbach on Intrepido, a 12-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Kirby McCool.
Also taking place in the Grand Hunter Arena, the $1,000 Begonia Farms Junior Hunter 3’3/3’6” Classic win went to Walkenbach and Classic after they earned two impressive scores of 82 for a total of 164. Earning second was Nicole Wilson aboard Centerfold K with scores of 73 and 78 adding up to a total of 151. Right on her toes sliding into third place in the Classic was Fritz on Coolboy with scores of 80 and 70 adding to a total of 150.
Hunter competition resumes in the Grand Hunter Arena Sunday, May 2 for the final day of Temecula Valley Premier II with the CPHA Amateur Medal, the CPHA Junior 3’6’ Medal and the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Paige Walkenbach – Junior 3’3” Hunter Division Champion & $1,000 Begonia Farms Junior Hunter 3’3/3’6” Classic Winner
“I got Classic at the beginning of the show season. Classic has a really beautiful expression around the ring and I really enjoy riding him. At the beginning of the year, it was my first time doing the 3’3” so Classic is my confidence booster. He’s grown a lot since we got him and so have I. He definitely helps me get stronger as a rider. He was very good both yesterday and today. He went around great and I love the ring – it’s so different from all the other shows and the jumps are different. It’s such a fun experience here.”
“I know Intrepido a bit more than Classic as I’ve had him for about a year and a half. He’s very smooth around the ring so it’s easy to navigate. He went around super and jumped amazing.”
On competing at the Temecula Valley Premier II:
“This is my first time competing here and I really love it. The rings are different shapes and I love the trees in the ring. It’s so pretty here and a fun experience. My horses are kept with Elvenstar in California so they were coming to this show. “
On her goals for 2021:
“With Classic, I hope to do Junior Hunter Finals and indoors, so I’m really excited for that. With Intrepido, he’s kind of a three-ring horse so he will do whatever we need him to do! Classic is in the hunters, and my sister and I share Intrepido. I do the eq on a few other horses.”