Lexington, KY – October 30, 2013 – It’s not every day that you see riders compete over their first hunter course during a national championship, but when four world champion American Saddlebred trainers take the reins of a hunter and grand prix and professional hunter riders take the reins of an American Saddlebred, it makes for a night of fun and excitement. It was a game-changing exhibition at the Alltech National Horse Show as riders traded places for their shot at the night’s championship. Professional hunter rider Jennifer Alfano teamed up with Stephanie Sedlacko to steal the night’s victory as the first place winners in the swap.
Stephanie Sedlacko and Jennifer Alfano rode to the first place finish in the American Saddlebred Hunter Challenge. Photo By: Brooke Jacobs
Six obstacles were set in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park, while riders donned a different set of clothing. Paired up by disciplines, the English riders worked alongside their American Saddlebred counterparts to help direct them through the series of 2’6″ fences.
Hunter rider Hunt Tosh was teamed with Melissa Moore, and together they rode to the score of 156 points. Melissa posted a hunter score of 78 points after having a late lead change from the outside line, while Tosh mimicked her score in the pleasure portion of the class. Their dual 78’s earned them the eventual fourth place award.
“We practiced last night in a little bit more of a controlled environment. It definitely felt different tonight,” Tosh laughed. “It was fun. We had a great time. I am always up for trying stuff, and my partner was great. I couldn’t believe how good they were; I thought they were really good. Everyone on the side was helping us out and giving us tips. It all made for a great night.”
Clark Clouse had never even jumped prior to this week’s competition, but he rode Trade Money through the course with only one chipped distance for a score of 75 points. Olympian Laura Kraut stood ringside as she rooted him on, only to have the favor returned as she mounted Don’t Stop, owned by Melinda Moore. Although Kraut did not have a chance to practice, she came to the exhibition with her game face. She earned the night’s highest pleasure score of 85 points for a cumulative score of 160 points and the third place.
Although they may not be veterans, it came down to a battle between the Devon Horse Show’s Five-Gaited Special victor, McLain Ward and Devon Horse Show third place finisher Jennifer Alfano.
Ward paired up with Melinda Moore for tonight’s American Saddlebred Hunter Challenge, with Moore riding to a score of 80 points during the hunter portion. She stood ringside as she guided Ward to the score of 82 during his ride aboard A Long Good Night Kiss.
“It was totally awesome. I had a great time,” Moore said. “I think they had a great time too. Everybody was smiling; everybody was having fun. I hope we can do it more often at these shows. I think that would be great.”
Melinda continued, “The hunters are a totally different ride. We work such different muscles. The first hunter lesson I took, the next day I had muscles aching that I didn’t even know I had. That made me want to do it more and to have fun doing it. I rode Echo tonight, and he is wonderful. Actually, I’ve leased him now so that I can continue to ride him once or twice a week.”
It was only five months ago that Ward racked to the top of the ranks during the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair in Devon, PA. However, tonight Alfano proved victorious.
McLain Ward and A Long Good Night Kiss
Photo By: Brooke Jacobs
Ward and Moore’s final score of 162 points would prove good enough for the night’s second place, as Alfano and teammate Stephanie Sedlacko took home the championship with the overall score of 168 points. Alfano rode to the score of 80 points aboard The Blue’s Girl, while Sedlacko guided Special Edition to the high score of 88 points. Both riders were in shock as the announcers called their names for the championship presentation.
“I had a blast, but most importantly, thank God for my partner,” Alfano smiled. “She carried the show. She was awesome – an 88! She was unbelievable. I made some mistakes, but my horse was awesome. She’s young and green so I was a little nervous – well, I was a lot nervous actually. But she was awesome tonight. It’s so much fun, and it’s so nice of them to let us ride their horses. I can’t thank Stephanie enough for doing that.”
Alfano explained, “I had so much at Devon in May, and I just thought it was the greatest thing, so when they asked me to do it here I was so excited. Like I said, I was a little nervous because I had a green horse, but it was still so much fun.”
This was not Sedlacko’s first hunter course, but after 10 years of solely riding American Saddlebreds, it definitely proved to be a change. “I had done it in the past, but it’s been about 10 plus years,” Sedlacko explained. “So I hadn’t ridden a hunter until now. I thought Jen did great. I was so proud of her. The horse that she was riding was a 4-year-old. It’s only been shown six or seven times, and she’s been kind of tough. We were a little hesitant when we picked her to bring, but Jen handled her great. She rode her like a pro.”
The American Saddlebred and Hackney classes are one of the many highlights of the Alltech National Horse Show. With the Alltech National Horse Show finding its home in the heart of the American Saddlebred industry, there is not only tremendous talent but also excellent prize money and legendary trophies from the days of the National Horse Show’s past.
For more information or to view the competition live please visit www.alltechnationalhorseshow.com. Coverage is provided by Shownet.biz, iHigh, and HRTV.