Scott Stewart and John French were the big winners at the Wednesday afternoon session of the Capital Challenge Horse Show, which featured the $25,000 Future Hunter North American Championships and the professional hunter grand championships. Stewart rode Private Life to the win in the $25,000 Future Hunter North American Championship before taking reserve on Lucador in the Grand Hunter Championship, which was ultimately awarded to Boss, with John French in the irons.
The $25,000 Future Hunter North American Championships featured a start list of 30 of the best young horses in the country, with the top 12 returning for a second round. Stewart and Private Life scored an 88.00 in the first round to move into the third place position and sealed their victory with a score of 90.16 in the second round for a 178.16 total.
“He was awesome. This is his first time jumping indoors with me, so I was really happy with him,” Stewart said of Private Life, a five-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding purchased by Stewart’s own Rivers Edge in November 2015.
“He’s five, but he acts like he’s ten. He acts like an old horse. He’s really easy going.”
Private Life was not the only mount ridden to success by Stewart. With six total entries in the class, Stewart claimed five of the top seven placings.
“All of my horses were good today. I was really happy with all of them,” Stewart said. “This is a great class. It’s just a great showcase for the young horses.”
The only rider able to edge Stewart out of the top four was the 2014 and 2015 class winner, Hunt Tosh. This time, Tosh finished in second riding Chicago for owner Douglas Wheeler. Tosh and the seven-year-old gelding earned scores of 89.33 and 88.50 for a 177.83 total.
“This is such a good class,” Tosh said. “They always have such nice horses here. It can be a little overwhelming (being in) this ring for the first time, but he went in there very relaxed. I think he was a little tired with it being day three [of competition], but the atmosphere helped out a little bit. He jumped beautifully both rounds.”
Rounding out the top three were Stewart and Luster, also owned by Rivers Edge. The pair earned a 173.99 total with a first round score of 87.33 and a second round score of 86.66.
Following the conclusion of the $25,000 Future Hunter North American Championships, Tosh and Chicago were also presented with the Grand Future Hunter Championship title. The EMO Future Trip of the Show went to Peter Pletcher riding Entourage, who scored 91.5.
Capital Challenge Names Grand Hunter Champions
Concluding the 2016 Capital Challenge professional hunter divisions, the Regular Conformation Hunter Championship went to French and Boss, owned by Laura Wasserman. The ten-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding claimed two firsts and two seconds over fences, as well as second in the model and second under saddle before taking the championship.
The competition came down to an extremely close race between French and Boss and the eventual reserve champions, Stewart and Lucador, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker. Stewart and the eight-year-old gelding claimed two firsts and a second over fences and the wins in both the model and the under saddle.
“I didn’t even know I was champion!” French said. “It was so close between Scott and I. Lucador is awesome to be champion over. It’s pretty hard, and that’s a super horse. We were kind of neck-and-neck. There was just one class where Lucador maybe had a mistake, and I guess that was enough.”
French started riding Boss as a pre-green horse and has brought him along ever since, successfully earning numerous championships along the way.
“He used to have steering issues at the beginning,” French said. “He just wants to pose with his neck instead of turning his neck. He just keeps it in his posed position. We had to work on turning. He’s gotten better and better. I was really happy with him today in the handy because of that. Sometimes that can be a little bit harder. He really was good in that.
“He has such a nice head carriage. Some horses you have to try to get them round. He has such a beautiful arch in his neck; his way of going just always looks like he’s posing because of the way he’s going around the course, but it’s just the way that he’s put together,” French said.
French and Boss’s performance was not only enough for the Regular Conformation Hunter Championship, it secured them the Grand Conformation Championship, the Grand Hunter Championship, and the Tribute Perpetual Trophy, donated by Scott Stewart. It also earned French his first Capital Challenge Leading Hunter Rider Award.
“Again, I didn’t even realize that was going to happen,” French said. “This is the toughest, I think, of all the horse shows because everybody’s here. There are a lot more horses here than any of the other indoors. To be grand champion at this show is pretty special.”
For French, making the trip to Capital Challenge from California each year is extra special, as he called Maryland home for 25 years.
“To come back home is always nice,” French said. “I’ve gotten a few people who have come up to me today: ‘Do you remember me from 25 years ago?’ or ‘We used to ride together when we were kids!’ It’s always fun when people come up and say things like that.”
The Capital Challenge Horse Show, presented by the World Equestrian Center and held at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Marlboro, Maryland, continues through Sunday, October 9.
You can watch the live stream of every class here or visit: www.capitalchallenge.org.