Traverse City, Mich. – July 8, 2021 – The Northern Pines Young Hunter 3’3” Division concluded Thursday afternoon during Week I of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors. Riders returned to the Hunter II ring Thursday to vie for division championship honors after putting their best foot forward in Wednesday’s opening classes. At the conclusion of the division’s competitive rounds, it was ultimately Kelsey Epperson who took home the tri-color ribbon and the championship title aboard Debonair.
Epperson and Debra Gross’ 6-year-old KWPN chestnut gelding Debonair wowed the judges over the two days of classes, making their way around the scenic hunter arena at Flintfields Horse Park with ease and displaying textbook form over the presented obstacles. The pair was able to edge out their competition by earning two first place ribbons and two second place ribbons over fences, and also strutted to a win in the under saddle portion of the division to claim the championship title.
Although Debonair is a relatively new partner for Epperson, she explained the 6-year-old gelding, who got his start with her during this winter’s Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) competition circuit in Florida, has acclimated well to the show ring and continues to impress her with his easy going attitude and style around the hunter arena. It was clear that Debonair’s calm and confident demeanor had a lasting impression on the judges as well, as they racked up the most points of the division to claim the crown.
Nicholas Pongracz rode Abracadabra Van Overis Z, owned by Stefano Baruzzo LLC, to the reserve championship honors following his high placings over the course of the Northern Pines Young Hunter 3’3” Division. The 6-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding dazzled the judges as well, earning two first place ribbons and two second place ribbons in their over fences rounds. While the pair made a valiant effort in challenging Epperson and Debonair for the top prize, the pair could not be beat, and Pongracz and Abracadabra took home the reserve championship title after taking home second place under saddle.
Hunter competition will resume during Week I of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors, Friday, July 9 with the Hamel Foundation NHS 3’3” Medal and the USHJA 3’3” Hunter Seat Medal in the afternoon.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Kelsey Epperson – Northern Pines Young Hunter 3’3” Champion
“This horse is very new to us.We bought him right before [the Winter Equestrian Festival] and we took him to Florida. He is only six years old and we just put him in the young hunter division and he’s been amazing to compete. We’ve been having so much fun with him, he’s been great.”
On Debonair’s performance Thursday:
“He really showed up for me today. I was having a little bit of an off day and he came and was all business. He was so perfect and we were kind of joking around because we had a little bit of bad luck in the first round and then the second round he just laid it down. He was so good I couldn’t have asked him to be better. I was thrilled with him with the oxer on the rail because that’s always a hard position for the young hunters to do anyways. He just cantered up to it so nice and didn’t look at anything and wasn’t distracted, he was so focused on his job. He landed off the jump really nicely and was just perfect.”
On being in Traverse City for the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors:
“I just love coming to [the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival]. I love that we have this long circuit. I like that it feels like [WEF] in Florida and we can be here, kind of set up shop permanently and have a great place and great rings and great footing for our horses to show in all summer long.”