Week 1 at the Gulf Coast Winter Classic Pensacola Circuit
Lauren Hester, of Lexington, Kentucky, and Hester Equestrian's Wender galloped off with the blue ribbon after posting a first round time of 68.96 seconds and a clean second round in a time of 40.50 well within the 48 seconds time allowed.
Hester competed five horses, all owned by Hester Equestrian, LLC. "I missed watching all the other horses go because I was jumping off and on all of mine," said Hester. "I have three people helping me here, and I'm thankful that we're stabled so close to the ring that they could bring them up as I was getting off."
Hester was the first to go in the class in the irons of Hester Equestrian's Katie Riddle, and the pair posted a time of 69.63 seconds with 4 faults. "I haven't had her quite that long, but she has a big stride, and after I walked the course, I felt like it was geared for a more normal horse stride. Most of the lines were set really nice. The last line walked a touch long, but since it was the last line heading toward the gate, I knew it would come up short," she said. "I just rode it pretty normal and was very satisfied with how she [Katie Riddle] went and I couldn't ask more of her."
Christi Israel, in the irons of her own Cracky Z, followed and turned in a clean first round effort in a time of 76.05 seconds, just within the time allowed of 77 seconds. Their second round resulted in 4 faults, and the pair finished in seventh place overall.
Mary Lisa Leffler, of Brookeville, Maryland, and Rolling Acres' Bling Bling followed Israel and were the first pair to turn in double-clean rounds in times of 70.46 seconds and 43.33 seconds, respectively, setting the new time to beat.
Southland Stables' Vancouver IV, piloted by Christina Jason, followed Leffler and Bling Bling, but with 4 faults in a time of 70.15 seconds, would finish in ninth place overall.
Hester returned to the arena, this time in the irons of Hester Equestrian's Lorstakov. The pair posted a first round time in 71.63 seconds with 8 jump faults. "I've had him a little over a year," commented Hester. "He is just 7 and has all the scope in the world, but we are working on his 'rideability' because he's a little difficult," said Hester.
Leffler and Bling Bling continued to hold the lead until Jason Berry and Willoughby Stable's Varios turned in double-clean rounds in times of 71.89 seconds and 40.63 seconds, respectively, setting the new time to beat.
Leffler returned to the ring, this time in the irons of Rolling Acres' Carlot. Although the pair posted double-clean rounds in times of 71.86 seconds and 42.29 seconds, respectively, their time wasn't fast enough to take the lead from Berry and the pair settled for third place overall.
Hester and Wender followed Leffler. "He [Wender] turns really tight and smooth," said Hester. "I don't need to gallop, and I can just let him go. He knows his job and likes to win."
The pair turned in double-clean rounds in times of 68.96 seconds and 40.50 seconds, respectively, grabbing the lead and setting a pace that couldn't be topped.
Hester returned to the ring again, this time in the irons of Hester Equestrian's Clueless P. After turning in a clean first round, a rail in the second round in 40.74 seconds would see them receive the sixth-placed ribbon.
"We've had Clueless for less than a year, and she was third in the Atlanta Grand Prix," said Hester. "She [Clueless] has a shorter stride, which helped us in the jump-off because I had to gallop her more. She could have beat Wender, but after I got the rail, I slowed her down a bit. She's 10 years old and only 15.1 hands. People say, 'Oh, look at the pony!' And I tell them not to say that because we just let her think she's a big horse!"
Hester also had the last ride in the class, in the irons of Hester Equestrian's Arly. Despite double-clean rounds in times of 72.36 and 44.39 seconds, respectively, the pair finished in fourth place overall. "We just bought Arly, and we've had him about a year. He was kind of hanging out after recovering from an injury, and I've been bringing him back slowly," said Hester. "He's a grand prix horse, and since he's on his way back, I didn't want to run him around and he just jumped it so easy."
"I'm really excited how well Wender is going," said Hester. "Last year he was sick for a long time. He was found to have PSSM Type 2, which is basically an insulin resistance for horses. It's a genetic disorder, and he can't have any sugar. For instance, he gets celery instead of carrots. He has just been coming back into competition again, and I just started showing in November. He's been doing really well, and I anticipate that he will continue to do so all winter."
"This is our first time showing in Pensacola," added Hester. "We like it a lot here! It's very warm, and the people are so nice."
In addition to the win in the $10,000 EMO Jumper Classic, Hester also received the Kastel Denmark Style of Riding Award. Hester was selected by the Classic Company staff as the rider who exhibited the best American style of riding and possessed the respectful, dignified, courteous and workmanlike manner of a true sportsman.
Press release courtesy of the Classic Company.