Lexington, Ky. – May 14, 2023 – Hunter competition peaked on Sunday, May 14 at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show when 11 horse and rider combinations navigated the StoneLea Ring course in the USHJA International Hunter Derby. After a number of the most successful names in the hunter discipline demonstrated their best, it was Christopher Payne and Reign that made the most of the day by completing the class with a score of 354.00.
The course was set by senior “R” designer, Kevin Holowack, again this year, drawing on the classic ideals of how a perfect hunter ride should look: full of scope, ridability, artful adjustability and fluidity. Holowack put to use his background in architecture and horse training to develop a track that challenged these ideals, making it a tough go for many of today’s athletes.
Payne dominated the ring in the first round, holding first and second place spots by the time all nine riders had made their laps. He and Reign, the Provence, LLC-owned 10-year-old Holsteiner stallion, impressed the judges to a 181.00 popular score. The pair was recently awarded the 2023 Winter Equestrian Festival circuit championship title for the Antares Sellier France High Performance Hunter division, making their lead characteristic for the two.
Payne didn’t stray too far from his strategies on Reign when he took over second place on Can Can, a 13-year-old gelding owned by Mason, Ohio’s Stephanie Ring, scoring 179.00 points prior to the second round. Sarah Young and Helen Gilbert’s Lucio followed closely in third place at 176.00 total points.
The handy round in the USHJA International Derby served as the determining factor for setting each combination apart, with Alex Granato and Rena Lalley’s Day Glow heading the charge for a second chance at winning the prestigious title. The new course was complete with a trot jump, rollbacks and high options, making the challenge to awe the panel of judges even more difficult.
Tim Goguen and Perhaps ended their second track in good graces, sitting in first with base scores of 172.50 and 177.00 points by the time the last three athletes were set to round out the order. Perhaps, an 11-year-old Warmblood gelding owned by Belhaven Stables, LLC, has made a strong impact in the hunter rings this week, scoring in the mid- to high-80s with each round he’s put down.
In the end, the panel was unable to shake Payne’s pure mastery from the first round, crowning him Champion and Reserve Champion on Reign and Can Can respectively. Him and Provence, LLC’s Reign ended with scores of 181.00 and 173.00, making them the winning pair with a total of 354.00 points. Maintaining his position in second place as well, Payne and Can Can demonstrated clean turns and forward, fluid movement to earn 352.00 points overall.
The mark of the Kentucky Spring Horse Show’s ending will be made once all of the rings have completed at the end of the day today, but the spring series will continue on Wednesday, May 17 with the Kentucky Horse Shows Spring Classic. Many riders and horses will return then to try again for hunter winning titles in classes such as the Take2 Hunters and the National Hunter Derby-Open, in which the coverage will continue.