Nick Haness Scores Hat Trick in $100,000 USHJA World Championship Hunter Rider Central Spectacular

The Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring took on a unique form on Sunday evening as hunters elegantly soaked up the spotlight of the $100,000 USHJA World Championship Hunter Rider Central Spectacular, presented by Debbie Smith, Ltd. Coming off WCHR Spectacular wins from coast to coast in Florida and California during the winter season, Nick Haness of Temecula, CA, made USHJA history with a hat trick victory. 

Nick Haness & McQueen. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“I feel completely spectacular at the moment, to be honest,” Haness enthused after he led the victory gallop aboard McQueen. “It’s an amazing feeling. I try not to think about those statistics before a class this big and exciting, but now that it’s all said and done and the results are in, the fact that I’ve won all three coasts this year is an incredible feeling. I think you really just can’t even fathom how amazing it is and how much you hope and you dream this moment could come true someday.”

A perfect exclamation mark on the Traverse City Spring Series, presented by Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel, Haness and McQueen, owned by Walkenbach Equestrian, combined averaged scores of 87.12 from the first round and a high-score of 92 in the second to the win on a final 89.56. Together, Haness and McQueen won the $100,000 USHJA WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular earlier in the season before Haness followed by a victory in the $100,000 USHJA WCHR Hunter West Coast Spectacular riding Golden Road.

Rick Cram of Aiken, SC, designed Sunday’s two-round class that allowed the field of 43 to show off their horses over a classic first round and then a handy track. The panel one judges consisted of Rob Bielefled and Jeremy Green, panel two was Bob Crandall and Tyler Smith.

After the first round, Geoffrey Hesslink and Monarchy held the class lead with an averaged score of 91 points from the two panels. An unfortunate rail in the handy phase caused Hesslink to retire and save the gelding for another day, opening the door for Haness. 

Haness and McQueen brought their best to the handy round and delivered on every inside turn and long gallop to earn the 92 that sealed the win. 

“This horse knows when it’s time to shine; he knows it’s a special day,” explained Haness of the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Cornet Obolensky. “When it’s a special event, he kicks into another gear. Something that he exemplifies so perfectly is bring a true hunter. He can gallop the ring on a loose rein and get to the jump and give you this expressive, huge, textbook style jump. He’s a horse that doesn’t need to be produced to make him jump well, he just jumps that well naturally. I think that’s why he’s ultimately ended up being where he is right now.

“This is a huge, exciting win for McQueen,” continued Haness, 36, who spends the majority of his spring and summer season in Traverse City. “It’s a class that really showcases the best of the best and it’s so important to showcase hunters in this light. There are weekly grand prix and big money classes, but the hunter sport needs classes like this too. I had a lot of support, not only here at the show but worldwide too. We had people tuning in from Europe and the west coast, and I had a lot of support and friends and family watching. It’s great that people get excited about the hunters and classes, and this is the reason why that happens.”

Jacob Pope & Small Love. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Before the second round, Jacob Pope of Columbia, MD, sat neck-and-neck with Haness on a score of 87. After posting a 90 for an overall average of 88.50, the reserve title went to his 11-year-old Hanoverian Chacco Blue-sired mare, Small Love, owned by Iwasaki & Reilly. The top three were rounded out by Greg Crolick of Clarkston, MI, and Jon Cotton’s 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding Testify by Cassini II. Always a consistent pair, the two joined average scores of 85.75 and 86.50 for an overall score of 86.12 to don the yellow ribbon. 

Greg Crolick & Testify. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

As a pair, McQueen and Haness have a long list of accolades, but Haness still has one final dream on their docket. 

“I would love to win the [Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship] with McQueen someday,” he stated. “We’ve had a lot of success together and I always say, ‘okay that event is the last one I’m going to win, there’s nothing else we could do better than that being the last one’, and this horse just proves to us that no matter where we go or what we do, he is always in it to win it.”

As part of the afternoon of hunter action, Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan was presented with $1,361 from ticket-sale proceeds as part of Traverse City Horse Shows Charity Ticket Program.

Samantha Meyer of TCHS; Emma Smith, Director of Development; board member Patrick Lavis; Adam Fitzpatrick and TCHS Director of Marketing, Gary Howe. Photo © Megan Giese/TCHS

Capping competition in the Main Hunter Ring for the Traverse City Spring Series, 46 entries consisting of professional, amateur, and junior riders navigated across the hunt-and-go course of the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, presented by the Karet Family. Taking top call in the junior/amateur section, Alexa Bing of Royersford, PA, and her 18-year-old Selle Français gelding, Subtil, rode to the first of the class’ blue ribbons. In the professional section, Jacob Pope of Columbia, MD, earned another blue ribbon on Don Stewart’s eight-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Story Hour. 

Alexa Bing and Subtil and Jacob Pope aboard Story Hour won their respective junior/amateur and professional sections of the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, presented by the Karet Family. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

A new addition for junior and amateur riders this year, junior Eva Mackenzie currently sits atop the $5,000 Leading Junior Hunter Rider Bonus standings, while amateur Natalie Jayne leads the $5,000 Leading Amateur Hunter Rider Bonus race. These new bonuses are presented by Makoto Farms and Walkenbach Equestrian and will be awarded to the overall leading riders at the conclusion of GLEF IV.

Action at Traverse City Horse Shows will resume on Wednesday, July 26, as up-and-coming juniors shine in the highly anticipated Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships. International competition at Flintfields Horse Park returns with the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented B&D Builders, running for six weeks from July 3 through August 11.

For complete results, click here.