Equitation week at the National Horse Show is in full swing. This week, the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park plays host to the Taylor Harris Insurance Services (THIS) NHS Adult Equitation Championships and the Hamel Foundation NHS 3’3” Championship presented by the Hamel Family Foundation, alongside age group equitation children and adults divisions generously sponsored by Pérez and Bennett. 

The NHS hosts three distinctive equitation finals: the THIS NHS Adult Equitation Championships and the Hamel Foundation NHS 3’3” Championship the first week, and the ASPCA MaClay to wrap up the second week of competition. Each class features top equitation riders from across the nation.

NHS caught up with Michael Taylor, sponsor of the THIS NHS Adult Equitation Championships and Kristen Hamel, sponsor of the Hamel Foundation NHS 3’3″ Championship, presented by the Hamel Family Foundation to discuss the importance of each final and what makes them staples on every riders’ calendar: 

“One of the things that we really aim for is to try and give people the opportunity of realizing a dream. And I think this class has our name written all over it,” said Michael Taylor on behalf of THIS. 

Taylor Harris Insurance Services, a leading equestrian insurance provider since 1987, insures all types of equine risk, helping equine owners feel secure. THIS has been a long time sponsor of equestrian events around the world, and in sponsoring the THIS NHS Adult Equitation Championships, it has allowed adults to compete at the same national final level as junior riders for as long as they wish to compete. “Being here as an amateur is just a surreal feeling,” said Hannah Klinedinst, reserve champion of the THIS NHS 25 and Over section. “Competing as a junior was always a fun challenge, but graduating and moving on to the adults, it’s really awesome to have the [same] opportunity as the juniors.”

“From my position which is very much living life vicariously through watching people perform things, it is really good seeing people challenge themselves, doing the very best they can,” said Taylor. “I am very happy that we are able to help them along the way.”

The NHS has long celebrated equitation riders and created finals that riders strive to attend. In more recent years, the show has been a pioneer for adult equitation finals, leading the way in including all riders in national championships.

“I also think it’s really awesome to see the growth of the adult equitation finals in our sport because some of those horses that don’t really want to do a 3’6” final anymore have so much value here. And those relationships that kids develop as juniors get to continue,” said trainer Sarah Mechlin Duhon 

The adults kicked the week off with fierce competition, but the spotlight now turns to the junior equitation riders. The first week culminates on Sunday, October 29 with young riders vying for the much-sought after top spot in the prestigious Hamel Foundation NHS 3’3” Championship.

Kristen Hamel of The Hamel Family Foundation is an avid equestrian. From founding prominent hunter barn Sunset View Farms, to being a horse show parent as well as the sponsor of the Hamel Equitation Final at The National Horse Show, Kristen Hamel and the Hamel Family Foundation have been instrumental in establishing a new equitation final at an alternative height.

For over five years, The Hamel Foundation NHS 3’3” Championship presented by the Hamel Family Foundation hosted at NHS has provided a new goal for junior riders to reach for. “Originally we thought it was going to be a stepping stone to the Maclay and I think it’s become now more of a goal for a lot of riders,” Hamel stated. “We were excited to have 75 riders the first year and here we are at almost 200 or over 200 riders this year.” 

“The Hamel is bringing those kids out that may not have even considered an equitation finals, giving them a new option, ” Hamel continued. “Maybe they have the perfect 3’3” horse. You know? They’ve got that one and they don’t have the 3’6” horse, so I think it’s been great to be able to provide a final for them.”

As well as supporting the medal, the Hamel Family Foundation supports organizations that are committed to advancing the education, health and well-being of individuals that are not able to do this on their own accord. 

The competition will continue Saturday, October 28, with the Pérez and Bennett Open Equitation section champions being awarded, followed by the Children’s Hunter Classic and Adult Hunter Classic. On Sunday, October 29, the prestigious Hamel Foundation NHS 3’3” Championship will be the star of the show.

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