HITS Offers Full Complement of Equitation Classes at Thermal and Ocala Winter Circuits
RELEASE: November 4, 2009
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Jennifer Wood
HITS would like to congratulate all of the riders in this year's 2009 ASPCA Maclay National Championships, which was held on October 31 at the Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament, featuring the 126th National Horse Show. Of the top 10 ribbon winners, nine of the riders compete at HITS winter show circuits, either in Thermal, CA, or Ocala, FL.
Winner Zazou Hoffman of Santa Monica, CA, is a past regular competitor in Thermal, as are Samantha Harrison (fourth place) and Lucy Davis (sixth). Six riders from the top 10 compete in Ocala, including Chase Boggio (second), Morgan Hale (third), Laura Pfeiffer (fifth), Amber Henter (eighth), Hasbrouck Donovan (ninth), and Molly Braswell (10th). Other top 24 finishers are Thermal competitor Tina DiLandri and Ocala competitors Michael Hughes, Samantha Schaefer, and Sara Green.
"I'd like to send our congratulations to all the Finalists," said Tom Struzzieri, HITS President and CEO. "These riders have obviously worked hard all year to make it to the Finals, and to compete so well is a great accomplishment. We are very proud that the HITS Winter Circuits in Thermal and Ocala are home to many of this year's Maclay Finalists. Our focus for the past 30 years has been to support the up-and-coming riders in the sport, and we will continue to provide atmospheres at our show circuits that will help riders prepare for important Finals competitions like the Maclay."
Trainer Christina Schlusemeyer, along with Bob Braswell, runs Quiet Hill Farm in Ocala, FL. She and Braswell trained three of the top 10 finishers in the ASPCA Maclay National Championships, and they show at the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit every year.
"It says a lot for the customers and the fact that these riders develop in Ocala," Schlusemeyer said. "The level of competition is important. The kids are used to that level of competition the rest of the year, and when they go to the finals, they're not overwhelmed. What the shows offer and the fact that they consider equitation important enough to feature is noticed. HITS realizes that people are serious about equitation and cater to us too."
The 2010 HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal, CA, will have six weeks of competition from January 26 to March 14, while the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit will run from January 19 to March 21.
The HITS Desert Circuit is making a concerted effort to help equitation riders in their quest for preparing and qualifying for the year-end equitation finals. For the 2010 circuit, HITS Thermal will offer the indoor arena for equitation classes. The WIHS Equitation Classic, ASPCA Maclay, Central Equine Junior Medal, and the OCHSA Equitation Medal classes will mostly be held in the indoor arena during the World Cup qualifier weeks, in which the World Cup qualifier grand prix classes are held.
Top trainer Karen Healey has consistently had riders in the top 10 of all of the equitation finals every year. She stated, "Having the experience of riding in an indoor, even though it's a long way from fall, gives the equitation riders experience that they don't get the rest of the year, because the rest of the year we show in big fields. It's entirely different indoors; everything comes up faster. The indoor arena is fabulous."
HITS also offers one of the most unique and challenging equitation classes in the nation in the R.W. "Ronnie" Mutch Equitation Championship. The Championship is held in honor of accomplished equestrian and lifelong artist, R.W. "Ronnie" Mutch. An early student of Gordon Wright and Al Homewood, Mutch won the American Horse Shows Association (AHSA) Medal Finals in 1950 at the age of 15. At 18, he was the youngest rider at the time to ride for the USET. It is a highly sought-after honor to be invited to participate in the class and, as a result, it has become a major goal of junior riders across the country.
Last year's winner of the Ronnie Mutch Championship was Caroline Ingalls of Rancho Santa Fe, CA. The Ronnie Mutch Championship provides the opportunity for riders to walk their course, school their horses, and compete against each other without the aid of their trainers to show the true benefit of horsemanship. In Thermal, the Ronnie Mutch Championship is held in the outdoor grand prix ring, as are the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search classes every week.
Healey pointed out that having the opportunity to use the open water jump in the grand prix ring every week for the USEF Talent Search is another benefit at Thermal. "We don't really get to use an open water jump during the rest of the year," she said. "That is a big factor in preparing for the Talent Search Finals, and it's a huge help."
In all, Thermal offers 33 classes in the Medal Section, and eight of them are at the 3'6" height, including: the WIHS Equitation Classic, USEF Medal, ASPCA Maclay, USEF Talent Search, CPHA Hunter Seat Medal for juniors and amateurs, Central Equine Junior Medal, and the WCE Junior/Amateur Medal. Medals at the 3'3" height include the Foxfield Medal, CPHA Foundation Equitation Medal, PCHA Medals for 14 & Under and 35 & Over, the SFVHSA Challenge Medal, and the OCHSA Equitation Medal. There are also a variety of medal classes at the 2'6", 2'9", and 3' heights.
Equitation divisions range from 18" in height for Short Stirrup up to 3'3" for the oldest junior riders. Sixteen divisions are offered in all and are based on age or riding level.
"In general, we have good competition with a lot of numbers in the classes, which I think is better—the more competition, the better," Healey said. "There's something for everyone, for sure. If you have a kid just starting who is not quite ready for 3'6", HITS Thermal has age group equitation divisions, the Taylor Harris medal, and different classes so that they can get a lot of mileage and a lot of experience within one week. A lot of the shows don't offer the full age break equitation divisions, so to have a lot for them in the winter can give you a good start in the year. There is definitely a lot of variety in the equitation classes offered, and they all have different flavors to them."
In Ocala, the USEF Talent Search and the Ronnie Mutch Championship are held in the grand prix ring, which helps expose riders to competing in a larger ring there as well. In 2009, Amber Henter of St. Petersburg, FL, was the winner of the Ronnie Mutch Championship. Henter, who trains with Schlusemeyer and Braswell, went on to place eighth in this year's ASPCA Maclay National Championships.
Schlusemeyer commented, "The kids have to qualify for the Ronnie Mutch class. They have a fun time, and it's great to do a finals-like class at the end of the circuit. We love those classes because they walk the course by themselves. They really get an education that way and find their ride."
Ocala offers 20 classes in the Medal Section, including eight at the 3'6" height. Ocala also has the Marshall & Sterling Children's Medal, THIS National Children's Medal, SCHJA Governor's Cup, Mini Medal, Mini Maclay, and Mini HITS at 3 feet in height, which serves as a great stepping stone to help riders hone their skills as they ramp up for the 3'6" levels.
Equitation classes at the 3'6" height in Ocala include: USEF Hunter Seat Medal, ASPCA Maclay, USEF Talent Search, WIHS Equitation Classic, Central Equine Junior Medal, and the E.J. Haun Medal.
"HITS has a nice variety of classes, and they concentrate to make sure USEF Talent Search is always in one of the grand prix rings, which is nice," Schlusemeyer noted. "We get to be in one a few times, and then the other a few times. They also have the USEF Medal and WIHS Hunter phase be in the main hunter ring."
The USEF Adult Medal is held at 3'3", while the Marshall & Sterling Adult Medal and Ariat National Adult Medal classes are three feet in height. Pony riders can compete at their height level in the USEF Pony Medal and WIHS Pony Equitation, as well as in the Marshall & Sterling Children's Medal for pony riders.
Eighteen different equitation divisions are offered throughout the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit. They range from 18" to 3'3" in height.
Schlusemeyer also pointed out, "There is a good menu of jumper classes too. We use it as a first lesson of the week. They ride it like it's a USET or WIHS jumper phase (class) and practice halting, counter cantering, and get smarter about making decisions."
Make your plans today to compete with HITS during the winter. With a full schedule of classes for riders at any level, HITS offers the best show experience for your money.
Announcements on special classes, judges, course designers, prize money, and more will be made regularly for all of the HITS Horse Show circuits. To learn of the latest news, please become a fan of HITS' page on Facebook and sign up to receive HITS' Twitter updates.
HITS, Inc. produces high-quality, international-level hunter/jumper horse shows. Based in upstate New York in the village of Saugerties, HITS has been producing shows since 1982 and is now a nationwide company with world-class circuits in California, Florida, Arizona, New York and Virginia. In 2010, HITS will take the industry to new heights when it hosts the $1 Million United States Grand Prix League Grand Prix in Saugerties on September 12.
To keep on track with the updates or to request a copy of the winter circuit prize lists, please visit www.HitsShows.com