Traverse City, Mich. – Sept. 16, 2021 – Hunter riders and their horses took to the Polk Family Hunter Ring to continue competition Friday, September 16. Top hunter competitors from across the United States are looking forward to an exciting finale to the 12-week Traverse City Horse Shows series, the inaugural Traverse City Hunter & Derby Finals, with over $275k in prize money up for grabs. As hunter athletes and their horses gear up for the event, the Staller Shows Performance Hunter 3’6’’ division crowned its champion Thursday afternoon. Following two days of competition, it was Tiffany Morrissey aboard Heartfelt II who rode away with the tricolor honors.
Morrissey and Heartfelt II, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Diener Farms, LLC, were the third horse and rider combination to enter the ring to try their hand at the courses set forth by Keith J. Bollotte. The seasoned pair completed two beautiful rounds, showcasing classical form, fluidity, and a trusted partnership, which would ultimately secure them scores high scores. During the first day of division competition Wednesday, Morrissey earned first and sixth place recognition in the first over fences class and handy round respectively. The pair earned a second and fourth place ribbon in the over fences classes Thursday, helping them to earn enough points to secure the division leadership. Heartfelt II has had a strong summer showing in the Performance Hunter 3’6” divisions, earning multiple top placings not only with Morrissey in the irons, but also owner Noa Diener.
Virgo DC, a 13-year-old gelding owned by Evergreen Stables LLC, was also an early entry in the Staller Shows Performance Hunter 3’6” division Thursday. Piloted by Jacob Pope, Virgo DC showcased style and ease to each fence to turn in two solid back-to-back rounds. The judges were impressed with the pair’s athleticism and refinement over the course of the two-day division, awarding them with two blue ribbons over fences, as well as a third and fifth place. In the end, their performances would be beaten out by fellow competitors Morrissey and Heartfelt II who would take home the championship title. Pope and Virgo DC would finish the day donning the reserve champion tricolor.
The Traverse City Hunter and Derby Finals is the focus of almost all of the hunter athletes. The unprecedented sum of $275k in additional prize money during the finals is one of the most substantial purses offered to hunter riders by a horse show in all of the 2021 competition season. Over the course of the summer show series, exhibitors have had the opportunity to enroll in the incentive program and compete for add-back prize money, with 70% of the enrollment fees added to the prize money pot. Horses not enrolled in the program are still eligible to compete in the upcoming finals as long as they have competed during at least three weeks of the Traverse City Horse Shows series.
Hunter competition at the Traverse City Tournament of Champions will continue Friday, September 17, kicking off the first events of the Traverse City Hunter & Derby Finals with the $50,000 Performance Horse Final, the $25,000 3’-3’3’’ Green Hunter Final and the $25,000 3’6’’-3’9’’ Green Hunter Final.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Tiffany Morrissey – Staller Shows Performance Hunter 3’6” champion
On Heartfelt II:
“Heartfelt is owned by an amateur of mine [Noa Diener],she shows in the Amateur 3’6’’ divisions and then I compete with him in the Performance Hunter 3’6” divisions. He does the derbies with both of us and we have him going in the [$50,000 Performance Horse Final] tomorrow and the [$25,000 Non-Pro Traverse City Derby Final, presented by Makoto Farm] with her.”
On her rounds:
“I thought that [Heartfelt II] was really smooth today. The course was really beautiful and the jumps are really nice this week. He jumped in great style.”
On the Traverse City Hunter & Derby Finals:
“We are lucky enough to summer here, and since I have a lot of hunters in my program, we have a lot that are qualified for the Hunter & Derby Finals. We are looking forward to jumping for some good money to bring things to an end. I think it is great that we have the opportunity to jump for this much money and be able to have these horses do their speciality divisions for a nice amount of money Friday as well as the [$25,000 Non-Pro Traverse City Derby Final, presented by Makoto Farm and the $50,000 3’ Pro Traverse City Derby Final] Sunday. It is a lot of money for us in one weekend. It’s nice that the professionals and the amateurs are able to have a chance to have a finals competition and win something special.”
On showing at Traverse City Horse Shows:
“We are lucky enough to be here from June until now. The weather has been beautiful, the rings are very well kept with great jumps and my customers love it here. We look forward to many more summers at this venue.”