Junior Hunters Take Memorable Wins on First Day of Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships

Junior hunters have descended upon Flintfields Horse Park in Traverse City, MI, for the 2023 Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships. On Thursday, eight different winners were crowned as the best of each section as they took to their classic rounds in their respective rings. 

Kicking off action in the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring was the Small Junior Hunter 3’6” 15 & Under division, which was topped by Djuna Lauder of Los Angeles, CA, and Deja Blue, owned by Roaring Fork Farms LLC. The pair’s score of 259.25 earned them the top call.

“I love this horse so much,” said Lauder, who trains with Traci and Carleton Brooks of Balmoral Farm. “It’ll be five years with him this fall. He’s taught me so much. He’s taught me how to love the sport, and not just competing. He’s taught me how to love what goes on behind the scenes. He’s taught me how to love being a horseman.”

Djuna Lauder and Deja Blue. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

At just 10 years old, the Dutch Warmblood gelding has been a significant part of Lauder’s growth in the sport. Celebrating a win like this is very special, but Lauder also knows they have big things ahead of them in years to come.

In her second appearance at the Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships, Lauder had to fight some nerves, but she reminded herself of how strong the partnership was, which ultimately prevailed and helped her take the win. “I went in there with my horse, I gave him a kiss and trusted that we know what we’re doing because we’ve practiced this countless times,” she explained. “The only thing stopping us from winning would be me. So I have to let him do his thing and do what I know how to do best on him.”

The courses for the day were set by Joe Carnicom in the International Ring, and featured unique elements not typically seen in a hunter track. “It was a very technical course,” Lauder continued. “It was definitely a rider’s course today. I like it though; I always like a challenge. This horse likes to stay engaged the whole time, and he loves being put to the test. So I’m really glad it wasn’t an average course. I loved the hand gallop. When I saw it was a hand gallop I knew it was our thing.”

Coming back for the handy round Saturday, Lauder is excited but also knows she has to keep her emotions in check and not expect too much.

“‘DJ’ and I love handy rounds,” she shared. “But I’m not going to go in and try to win it. I’m going to try to be solid and maintain my spot. He moves really nicely and I just want to give him confidence because he’s still green. I’m preparing him for indoors and other big events, and even just next week. I might have to reel it in a little bit. There will be a lot of pressure on me but today we went in last and [still performed] so I feel like it’ll be fun.”

Avery Glynn and Day Won. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Up next in the International Ring, Avery Glynn, of Petaluma, CA, kept the West Coast representation alive in the Small Junior Hunter 3’6” 16-17 division, topping the section with Day Won, owned by Balmoral.

“You might not believe it but he only turned six this year,” Glynn said of the Belgian Warmblood gelding. “It’s a very young horse that only started doing the 3’6” this year. He doesn’t feel like a green horse when you’re in the ring with him. He gives me such confidence that I feel like I’m on a horse that’s done it before. He has a perfect attitude, and he’s always ready to win. He walked in today and was ready to win. I knew it as soon as I trotted in.”

Glynn has had the ride aboard Day Won since February, and she got to take him to the Devon Horse Show and compete in the Junior Hunters, knowing he then could be a top competitor at the Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships. Their overall score of 270 on Thursday made them the standout winner of their section, setting them up for success as the week got underway.

Day Won has an impressive roster of riders in his short time in the hunter ring, so Glynn has quite a few resources when it comes to learning to ride the horse to the best of her abilities. “He’s also been ridden by top professionals like Kaitlin Campbell, Nick Haness, and also Kate Conover here last week,” Glynn continued. “I love watching videos of them on him. I feel like I learn a lot from that. I’m so grateful to get the opportunity on such a fun horse at a big event like this.”

Glynn echoed the sentiment of the interesting course, which featured a hand gallop to fence four. “I love that they had the hand gallop toward the beginning of the course because for me that really helped to get the horse in front of my leg,” she explained. “It set you up to just guide around the rest of the course. I’ve found that the lines walk open but the horses carry a pace out there. Once you’re on the pace everything just comes up.”

Taking grand championship honors at the Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships West last year, Glynn knows she’s capable of a big win, but that’s not her outright goal. “I try not to set goals based off results because sometimes there’s nothing you can do about that,” she shared. “I want to ride consistently and give the horses I’m showing this week good rides and make my trainers proud.”

Clara Propp and Arabesque. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Later in the day, in the Large Junior Hunter 3’6” 15 & Under division, Clara Propp of New York, NY, and Arabesque, owned by Aquitaine Equine, pulled a repeat from 2022, winning the classic round with a score of 266. Caroline Signorino of Basking Ridge, NJ, and Small Love, owned by Elizabeth Reilly, closed out the day of competition by topping the Large Junior Hunter 3’6” 16-17 division, with a score of 268.

Caroline Signorino and Small Love. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

In the Main Hunter Ring, 3’3” Junior Hunters took to their respective divisions, crowning four champions. Winning the Large Junior Hunter 3’3 16-17 division, Aedan Mooney and She’s All That, owned by Lily Sonneborn, bested 85 entries with a score of 270. Having only recently acquired the ride, Mooney knew she was sitting on a champion.

“I got the ride at Old Salem this year,” Mooney, of Golden, CO, said of her partnership with She’s All That. “She was champion in the Junior Hunters that week and I showed her again last week here and she was also champion. It’s been a short partnership but she’s been amazing.”

Aedan Mooney and She’s All That. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

The 8-year-old Westphalian mare is as sweet as she is beautiful, according to Mooney. “She just wants to be in your pocket,” Mooney expressed. “She’s lovely to ride, the jumps always come up super nice. She moves really well and her jump is spectacular. She wants to do well. I have a lot of faith in her because ‘she’s all that’. I definitely thought she’d come home with a good ribbon but I’m very happy with the win.”

With a big finals season in her future, Mooney hopes to perform well at all the indoor horse shows in her last junior year. “I want to finish the week with some consistent placings and riding as well as I can,” she said of her goals. “I’m excited to finish out the year at indoors and do well there, then start my college riding career at SMU this fall.”

Veronica Feeley and Debonair. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Veronica Feeley of Canton, GA, topped the Large Junior Hunter 3’3 15 & Under division with Debonair, owned by Kathleen Feeley, after posting a score of 259.75.

In the Small Junior Hunter 3’3 16-17 division, Vivian Palmer of Radnor, PA, took top call with Central Park with a score of 252.5.

Vivian Palmer and Central Park. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

In the Small Junior Hunter 3’3 15 & Under division, it was Rylie True of Bedminster, NJ, taking the win with High Vigour. The duo rode to a score of 259 for victory.

The 2023 Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships continue Friday with the under saddle portions of each division.

Rylie True and High Vigour. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography