It’s a moment Hunter Holloway has been preparing for her entire junior career.
After narrowly missing the title in 2014 and going off course in 2015, it was the 18-year old’s final shot at the ASPCA Maclay National Championship title. How fitting that this year’s winner put her horse first to finally capture equitation’s most highly sought-after prize.
Holloway won her first major equitation championship at the Washington International Horse Show one week ago with her veteran equitation mount Any Given Sunday. She was looking for Maclay redemption this weekend when the 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding showed symptoms of a fever. Rather than risk her horse, Holloway and her trainer Don Stewart made the last minute decision to change mounts.
She contested the Maclay Final with C’est La Vie instead, the same horse she saw her to a ninth place finish in the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals East last month.
“It was a little last minute switcheroo,” said the 18-year old. “Any Given Sunday wasn’t feeling his best; he had a temperature, but he’ll be back in no time. We got [C’est La Vie] the week before USET finals. He’s a super horse and he wants to do the best he can. He lives to please.”
Riding in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park, Holloway piloted C’est La Vie through two rounds of over-fences competition and one flat phase to capture the title.
“I’m very happy and excited,” said Holloway. “It’s such an honor to win such a prestigious class and I couldn’t be happier with how the day went. My horse was wonderful and it was super. I was trying to focus, and ride to the best of my ability and put my best foot forward.”
Returning to the second over-fences round in third after Saturday’s first over fence round and Sunday’s flat phase, the Kansas native displayed textbook equitation throughout the challenging course.
“Smooth counted first,” said judge Diane Carney. “Smooth always counts first. Today’s course had much more in it about style and what I frequently call ‘good horse IQ.’ They had to think like a horse and they had to have a feel of what was going on; they had to have a plan.
“The course was set so that after fence seven they had that long gallop back around to the three-stride to start the testing portion. The course was designed with those three tests—the counter canter, the trot jump and then the counter canter again. They really had to have a plan out of the three. Just holding the counter lead roughly would not have been better than a smooth simple change, but if you could do the counter canter, hold the lead, keep it and keep the impulsion to that oxer, that was a very big test and very sophisticated to do that well.”
Holloway landed the first counter canter out of the vertical-vertical line around the corner and then executed a clean flying change to the counter lead on the way to the final oxer.
“The real test came off the oxer to the three-stride because I wanted to make sure that I landed left,” Holloway explained. “That allowed us to focus on holding the lead through the corner and having the impulsion to get over the oxer. I was planning on landing the trot fence and getting a nice flying change and he was super!”
ASPCA Maclay National Championship commentator and “founding father” of hunt seat equitation, George Morris, said it was “so classic—execution flawless.”
It was a fairytale end to a brilliant junior career.