Written by: Devaney Iglesias
Client: Virginia Horse Center Foundation
Release Date: 2016-09-02
Lexington, Va. – Sept. 2, 2016 – The Virginia Horse Center hosted the second inaugural Virginia Hunter Championships on Tuesday, August 9. The program designed to foster, promote, reward and encourage hunter competition at independent horse shows throughout Virginia was once again a huge success and the planning for next year has already begun.
“You don’t qualify through winning,” Chris Wynne, founder of the Virginia Hunter Championships said. “You qualify through participation. To be eligible you have to participate in a certain amount of shows in Virginia.”
Wynne continued, “You nominate your horse at the beginning of the year, and that’s your only cost. The horse show doesn’t cost anything. There’s no entry fee or anything. We’ve been fortunate to collect enough donations to put this show together. All of the prize money ($65,000) has been donated.”
The 2016 turnout was exciting to witness for Wynne, Leslie Brown, Claiborne Bishop and others who founded and created the cost-effective show. Thanks to donors like Markel Insurance, Southern States, Lynne Rice, the Fauntlaroy family, Keevil family and Wheeler family the 2017 circuit is already in the works.
“We have a special community and hunter niche in Virginia,” Wynne added. “We wanted to give them an event they could be excited about and proud of without costing them a fortune. We grew exponentially from the first year to the second, and look forward to the third.”
One of the well-known locals, Jason Berry, took home the blue-ribbon victory in the Professional Hunter Classic aboard Wistful. The two have been working together for two years and have earned a fair-share of victories in that time.
“He’s a great jumper and super brave,” Berry said. “He’s really scopey. He can jump a mountain. The course was built great and rode great, and the venue is so nice. It was a good two-class format.”
Sharing sentiments of the well-designed courses provided at the Virginia Hunter Championships was Haley Redifer. The 16-year-old earned two big wins in the Junior/Amateur Hunter Classic and Pony Hunter Classic.
“The courses were fantastic,” Redifer said. “The jumps were nice and big. There were a lot of bending lines that really challenged the riders. I really liked it.”
Redifer earned the Junior Amateur/Owner victory aboard Linus, a horse she has only ridden for four months.
“He’s a new ride for me and different than my other horses, because he’s a little bit greener,” Redifer shared. “Going into the championship class, I wasn’t sure how he’d be. I’ve only showed him in an indoor arena one time. I was nervous going in, but he walked in and went around like he’d been in there 100 times before. I couldn’t have asked him to be anymore perfect.”
Aboard Champlain Sovereign, a catch-ride for Redifer, she took home the top honors in the Pony Hunter Classic. The two have been a dominating pair in the pony hunter division for two years.
“I started riding him last summer,” the junior rider said. “He is one of the easiest ponies I’ve ridden in my entire life. He is a perfect pony. His rhythm is a horse rhythm. The distances just come up and you just have to sit there. It’s fantastic.”
Wynne also joined in on the victories, taking home the blue aboard Silver Lining in the Pre-Green Hunter Classic.
“He’s a fearless horse,” Wynne said proudly. “We imported him a couple years ago. He’s an extremely quiet horse. He’s not scared of anything. He’s the type of horse that would walk right into anything and ride like he’s been there his whole life.”
Wynne continued, “He’s brave and doesn’t look at things on the side of ring. He doesn’t look at the jumps. He’s never going to let you down with being spooky or anything. He’s a careful jumper. He likes to jump higher than he needs to and puts a little more effort into his job.”
With the wrap up of the 2016 show, Wynne and the board advisors have put the planning and organizing for 2017 into motion and look forward to the growth of this show circuit.
For more information about the Virginia Hunter Championships, please visit http://www.vahunterchamps.com/, and for more information about the Virginia Horse Center, please visit http://www.horsecenter.org/.