Age is Just a Number: Junior Hunters Ride to National Titles

Propp and Leong Nab Overall Honors

Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships drew to a close Saturday afternoon Flintfields Horse Park as eight national champions were crowned, including two grand champions at the two fence heights offered.

Clara Propp and Arabesque. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Clara Propp of New York, NY, is following in her sisters’ footsteps and riding to top finishes, taking three wins in the Large 3’6” Juniors 15 & Under and claiming championship honors with Arabesque, owned by Aquitaine Equine. Her three wins across the competitive division also earned her the overall 3’6” grand championship.

“She has a good personality, and she’s always super sweet and really spoiled,” Propp, 14, said of Arabesque. “She’s just been amazing ever since we got her. I got her when she was eight and she was still green, but she’s just proved herself time and time again.”

Ariana Marnell and Babylon. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Trained by Brianne Goutal-Marteau, the young rider has many impactful mentors in her life, including her sisters, Stella and Juliette. “I have two sisters, and I’ve learned a lot from them,” Propp continued. “They both did the 3’6″ [hunters] and the jumpers before me. I just tried to follow in their footsteps. They were both super successful, and I try to be like them. We don’t have a competitive nature, so we’re just all super supportive of each other, and that’s really nice to have built-in friends.”

New to Traverse City but a previous overall grand champion at Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships with the same horse, Propp is enjoying her time and hopes to continue her success in future years. “This is not only my first Junior Hunter Finals in Traverse City, but my first time being here in general,” she continued. “I love the venue. It is so pretty. The ring felt really special. It was big and they built up the jumps a lot, and it was very decorative. It was just super fun to compete in this ring.”

Ariana Marnell and Babylon. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

The day got underway with the Small 3’6” Junior Hunters 15 & Under in the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring. Ariana Marnell and the Marnell Sport Horses-owned Babylon laid down a flawless handy round to rise from second place overall and claim the division championship. Her score would also prove good enough to take the overall reserve 3’6” championship when all the sections came to a close.

Stella Wasserman and Graphite penciled in three wins over the three days of competition in the Small 3’6” Junior Hunters 16-17, dominating the division and taking the championship.

Concluding 3’6” competition was the Large 3’6” Junior Hunter 16-17, which was topped by Lauren Little and Paisley Park, owned by Little Brook, LLC.

Alexa Leong and Dom Perignon. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

In the Main Hunter Arena, the first section of hunters, the Small 3’3” Junior Hunter 15 & Under division, got underway first thing and in the winner’s circle was Sydney Raidy with Flavia Callari’s Desiigner. The pair’s impressive performance landed them in the reserve championship spot overall at the 3’3” fence height. Quickly following, Nightcap and Abigail Roberts topped the Small 3’3” Junior Hunters 16-17.

Alexa Leong and Dom Perignon. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

In the Large 3’3” Junior Hunters 15 & Under, it was Mary Rose Canterbury and Caracalla taking the win, followed by a win in the Large 3’3” Junior Hunters 16-17 by Alexa Leong to cap off a week of wins with Dom Perignon. Riding for Samantha O’Brien, Leong claimed the overall 3’3” grand championship with the 9-year-old Warmblood gelding by Cassini I.

“I knew going in I was leading, and I really wanted to play it safe, but be handy in some places,” Leong, 17, reflected on her handy round. “I was going in not knowing my horse very well – I just started riding him last week. There were a lot of questions I had going in on what I should do. I asked my trainer, and he was very helpful on how to ride the course. I felt that every jump was even; I didn’t want to change any big pace movements. I think that was the biggest aspect of how my horse and I ended up on top.”

Sydney Raidy and Desiigner. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

The rider from Sacramento, CA, just rode Dom Perignon last week for the first time. “I was really lucky to ride him this week,” she said. [Dom Perignon] is gorgeous. He’s big-strided and he really feels like an even horse; he’s low and very rhythmic, which I really love. He’s the flowy hunter type for sure. This is my first and last Junior Hunter [National Championships]. I came here mostly for the experience and I didn’t expect how well today would go. I’m very happy, and it was such a good experience.”

Sydney Raidy and Desiigner. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Leong will go home to California before returning to Traverse City for the FEI North American Youth Championships in August and hopes to compete on Nations Cup teams for the United States. “While I’ve been competing in the jumper and equitation divisions for a long time, I just recently started competing in the Junior Hunter divisions over the past year or two,” she said of her experience in all three rings. “I’ve competed in the pony hunters a little bit, which helped me prepare a little bit for the competition this week, along with hunter derbies. I love the jumpers. I think it definitely helped me in the handy round to be really efficient everywhere and with my quick turns.”

The Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors kicks off July 6 at Flintfields Horse Park featuring six weeks of FEI show jumping and top hunter competition.