Written by: Lauren Baker
Client: Brandywine Valley Summer Series
Release Date: 2016-07-12
Devon, PA – July 12, 2016 – Emma Kurtz certainly proved herself a force to be reckoned with at the 2016 U.S. Junior Hunter National Championship East Coast, taking home the prestigious Grand Championship and Reserve Championship honors after being named champion in the 15 and Under division of both the Large and Small Junior Hunters.
Despite only riding Caldwell, the large junior hunter, and Dominik, the small junior hunter, for the first time two weeks ago, Kurtz piloted the geldings to their respective division championships, mirroring her recent championship-winning performances during week one at Brandywine Horse Shows.
Kurtz said she got the ride on Scott Stewart’s Caldwell while he is showing at Great Lakes Equestrian Festival in Michigan, and piloted him to the division championship as well as the overall Grand Hunter Championship title.
“Caldwell is a simple ride, and he’s really cool,” Kurtz said. “I just want to thank Scott [Stewart], Ken [Berkley], Amanda [Lylerly], Richard [Slocum] and the Gochmans for helping me get here and giving me the opportunity to ride such great horses.”
Similarly, she got the ride on the Gochman family’s Dominik while the family is at Great Lakes Equestrian Festival with Stewart. With top ribbons over the last two days, Dominik and Kurtz took home the Small Junior Hunter 15 and Under Championship and the overall reserve championship. Kurtz said that Sophie Gochman usually rides the gelding but is enjoying the opportunity to ride him.
“It’s really nice to win, especially on a new horse that I don’t know at all,” Kurtz said. “It’s a good feeling to know that I can go in the ring and do well on a horse I don’t know. Dominik has been really fun. He has a really nice rhythm, and no matter what distance you get he always jumps like a 10.
Trainer Amanda Lylery expressed her praise for her talented student, citing Kurtz’s focus and experience with riding new horses as two of her best qualities.
“Obviously Emma is very gifted, but she is used to getting on horses that she doesn’t know,” Lylery explained. “I just think she has an unbelievable amount of focus and determination. She never wants to go in the ring and lose. She is always on her game and you know every time she goes in there she is going to try as hard as she can – there is no lack of commitment or determination.”
In the Small Junior Hunter 16-17 division, Eliza Bienstock rode her own Playlist to the division championship. After coming in third during Monday’s classic round, Beinstock returned on Tuesday to finish third in both the hack and the handy, which gave her the points she needed to secure the championship.
“We got Playlist as an equitation horse, but we realized how awesome he jumps and how well he moves, so we decided to make him a hunter,” Bienstock said. “He’s really smart, so when you ride him it’s really fun. When you ride him it’s more of a mental game, it’s about getting his head in the right place. He performs and wants to do well.”
Bienstock’s trainer, Valerie Renihan, expressed that Bienstock’s knack for spotting distances is one of her greatest assets.
“Eliza goes to boarding school, so sometimes we don’t get to practice as much, but her eye is amazing and she’s had that right from the beginning,” Renihan explained. “She knows her horse and knows the turns and is confident in herself and confident in him. You can always choose a hard track for them and know she is going to have fun with it.”
Next up, the Large Junior Hunter 16-17 division returned for the handy round. The largest of the divisions with 39 entries, it was Caroline Jones and At Last who rose to the top of the pack to claim the championship honors.
“At Last is a blast to ride,” Jones said. “He’s very straightforward and brave; whatever you ask he does. He just loves to win; that’s what he does every day. He’s a really fun horse to ride.”
This show marks the Alabama native’s fourth and final Junior Hunter Finals, as the young rider will be starting college at the University of Alabama in the fall. After five years of training with Don Stewart, Jones said the ending to her junior career is bittersweet.
“I’m just really happy to be here and really excited,” Jones added. “Going to college is going to be a big change because I am used to showing all the time, but I am super exited and couldn’t be happier.”
Rounding out the competition at the 2016 Junior Hunter Finals, the Large and Small Junior Hunter 3’3” divisions wrapped up in the famed Dover Area.
The grand championship and reserve championship honors went home with two of Don Stewart’s horses: Dress Balou, ridden by Devin Seek, and Spalding, ridden by Grace Boston.
“Those two horses I hand picked myself,” Stewart said proudly. “They’re personal favorites of mine. Dress Balou I think is the winningest hunter in America, even though he’s never jumped the 3’6”. Spalding, I judged this winter in California, and I had to have him. He is spectacularly bred, and his look is beyond. Those two horses are like family, and I really want to keep them in the barn. They’re both wonderful and have beautiful brains.”
It’s Seek’s first time at Junior Hunter Finals, but the nerves did not affect the young rider at all.
“It’s amazing and unreal,” Seek said. “It’s always fun when a horse like Dress Balou has a personality when you ride them, because you feel like they want it just as badly as you do. This was my first year here, so it’s really fun to see how it all worked.”
As a closing remark, Stewart added that the show management team, which consists of Geoff Teall, Louise Serio and Jennifer Burger, again did a great job of putting on the event and making sure the competition ran smoothly and the competitors were happy.
For full results and to learn more about the 2016 U.S. Junior Hunter National Championship East Coast, hosted by Brandywine Horse Shows, visit http://www.brandywinehorseshows.com/.