Lexington, Ky – May 11, 2023 – The StoneLea Ring, on the beautiful grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park, plays host to top notch hunter competition year in and year out. Every year, the Kentucky Horse Show series crowns a Grand Hunter Champion, sponsored by Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, to the athlete that put together pristine performances in several classes throughout Wednesday and Thursday competition. To ultimately be crowned Grand Hunter champion, the horse and rider partnership needs to separate themselves from the pack by presenting top form to the judges both over fences and in the flat during the Green Hunter 3′, Green 3’6” and 3’9” Hunter, Green Confirmation Hunter, High Performance Confirmation Hunter and High Performance Working Hunter classes. At the conclusion of competition Thursday, it was a three way tie between Scott Stewart and two of his mounts, Nottingham and For Always, and Havens Schatt and Verity with the most accumulated points across the board.
The group of hunter competitors at the Kentucky Spring Horse show were challenged to courses designed by Kevin Holowack in both the StoneLea and Claiborne rings. Holowack put the riders and their mounts to the test with several difficult tracks that forced them to work together effectively and efficiently in order to achieve a good scoring round. High level skill was on display as the riders kept their counterparts in stride, while also presenting top form riding posture. The horses responded to commands with confidence through the bending lines and first-class jumping form over fences. The elite group was judged by Thomas Brennan, Kim Dorfman, Scott Fitton, and Chris Wynn throughout both days of competition.
A cloudy morning in the Bluegrass set the scene for Stewart and Betsee Parker’s Oldenburg gelding to impress the judges with their presentation of preparation and skill to top the leaderboard in High Performance Working Hunter during both days of competition. Wednesday, the pair showcased the ultimate hunter cadence to overwhelm the crowd with two stellar rounds and scores of 92 and 93, and followed up their winning ways Thursday with an 87 in round one and a 90 in the Handy round.
No stranger to the Kentucky Spring Horse Show, Stewart also put together impressive performances aboard another Betsee Parker owned mount, For Always. The pair dominated the confirmation hunter division on during both days of competition. The pair laid down great rounds Wednesday in the Confirmation Hunter with scores of 86 and 90 to top to the leaderboard. Stewart and the 9-year-old Springferd gelding kept the foot on the gas pedal during Thursday with scores of 89 and 85 (Handy) in the High Performance Confirmation division.
Havens Schatt, already off to a great start at the 2023 Kentucky Spring Horse Show, did not let up as she rode Verity to great rounds in the Green Hunter 3′ division. Julia McNerney’s 6-year-old Oldenburg stallion jumped with confidence and impressed the judges with his hunter cadence. The pair had great rounds to score an 87 and 89 during Wednesday’s class, and followed it up with scores of 89 and 85 Thursday.
Hunter competition will continue in the StoneLea Ring at 8:00 a.m. EST Friday morning. Friday’s schedule will be highlighted by the USHJA National Hunter Derby Open and USHJA National Hunter Derby JR/AM divisions.