Paige Walkenbach and Babylon Clinch Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championship Title

The final lap of honor for the 2024 Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championship at Flintfields Horse Park in Traverse City, MI, was led by Paige Walkenbach aboard Babylon on Sunday. After tackling a final phase of intricately designed handy courses in the Turtle Creek Hotel & Casino International Ring on the final day of the coveted final, overall champion titles were decided at both 3’6” and 3’3” heights. 

The overall grand champion, coming from the 3’6” Small Junior Hunter section was Paige Walkenbach of Paradise Valley, AZ, riding the already decorated Babylon, owned by Marnell Sport Horses. Walkenbach made her mark with Babylon after winning both Thursday’s classic round and Saturday’s handy round, as well as taking second under saddle. 

Walkenbach walked away with more than one championship to her name this week after also winning the tricolor in the 3’6” Large Junior Hunter atop her second mount, San Pedro 15. Walkenbach and Babylon were paired together in 2023 after the nine-year-old Oldenburg gelding established his impressive talents with fellow junior rider, Ariana Marnell. 

“Winning a championship with both of them is really special because it proved that I can not only do it on Babylon—who’s won pretty much everything—but also with the one that I’ve kind of brought up and developed, so that really made it for me,” said 17-year-old Walkenbach. 

Becoming well-known as a fierce competitor as her junior career continues, Walkenbach finds herself starstruck by the four-legged partners she gets to work with on a daily basis. “I’m so lucky to be able to ride them. It’s honestly incredible and I’m still blown away by it,” she said. 

Paige Walkenbach & Babylon. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Babylon adds an Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championship to a trophy case that includes winning multiple junior hunter titles throughout the country with owner Ariana Marnell—including the Junior Hunter National Championship reserve placing in 2022—in addition to professional and derby accolades with John French. “Crumbles” as the gelding is called after sire Crumbie is now taking Walkenbach straight to the top. 

“I think right when he walks in the ring he knows what he wants,” she concluded. “Every time I get to go in the ring with him I learn so much, and he teaches me a lot about the hunters. Every moment with him is special in its own way.” 

Overall reserve champion honors over the 3’6” height went to Kate Hagerty of Terrebonne, OR, and small junior hunter Magic Moment, owned by The Hagerty Family.

Over fences measured at 3’3”, Caroline Olsen of Sherborn, MA, guided Spencer, owned by Andesite Equestrian, to the overall title. The horse-and-rider combination topped the rest after winning Saturday’s 16-17 Large Junior Hunter Handy, taking second under saddle and second in Thursday’s classic round. 

“I’m incredibly grateful to the Hesslink Williams team for the ride on this horse. He’s truly incredible,” said Olsen of the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding. 

Caroline Olsen & Spencer are presented as overall champions at the 3’3″ height. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

This is Olsen’s fourth Junior Hunter National Championship, but her first overall title. Spending lots of time catch-riding horses, Olsen reflected on how every ride has brought her to today. “It really teaches you how to be confident in yourself and then turn that into confidence with your horse.” 

At the completion of the lower height divisions, Olsen and Spencer returned through the arena arch donned in cooler and ribbon after 259.9 points in their division signaled their win of the overall title.

“This is my first time winning the Grand Champion here and it’s so incredibly exciting,” she gushed. “I’m so grateful to the Sonneborn family for the ride on Spencer. I’m so appreciative of the opportunity to ride different horses and learn how to be confident in a variety of situations.” 

Taking top call in the handy round of the Large Junior Hunter 3’3” 16-17 division and second in the division’s classic round, the pair proved to be a consistent threat throughout the week. 

“I thought the courses were really good this week,” she added. “They gave the opportunity for all kinds of riders and horses to show off and had the ability to work to everyone’s advantage.”

Caroline Olsen & Spencer. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Thirteen year old Campbell Cauthen of Lexington, KY, claimed the height’s Reserve Grand Champion award after taking the final champion title at the 3’3” height as she piloted Lucky Luke to the tricolor win in the Large Junior Hunter 15 and Under division. Taking the win in the handy round of the division to cap off her week of success, Cauthen claimed a total of 256.93 points with DCTM, LLC’s eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding. The division’s reserve champion title went to Ava Berman of Baltimore, MD and her eight-year-old Holsteiner gelding, All Inklusive, with their overall score of 250.44 points.

The first of the two 3’6” divisions of the day to name their champion—the 3’6” Small Junior Hunter 15 and Under—crowned Baylee Rowan of Little Compton, RI. Rowan and Isalou, Inc.’s 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Moonlight, earned a division total of 249.26 total points in order to receive the tricolor ribbon. A top contender throughout the weekend, Madison Stewart of King Georga, VA, piloted Iwasaki & Reilly’s 13-year-old Warmblood gelding, Small Kingdom, to a total score of 247.22 points and the reserve championship. 

The 3’6” Large Junior Hunter 15 and Under division rounded out the full day of hunter action. On a total score of 255.83, J.J. Torano of Wellington, FL, earned the final coveted champion ribbon with Isalou, Inc.’s well-decorated 12-year-old Westphalian gelding, Laskano. With just a slightly lower score, Brooke Hagerty of Terrebonne, OR, and The Hagerty Family’s 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Casino Cash, received the reserve champion honors with their score of 254.69. 

In the Small Junior Hunter 3’3” 16-17 division, Clayton Farrell of Venice, FL, totaled two points higher in the overall scoring than the closest runner-up and rode home with the tricolor ribbon aboard his own eight-year-old Selle Français gelding, Guepard Menil Jean, with a three-day total of 242.14 points. The debut class’ reserve champion honors went to Lydia Callard of Marietta, GA, and her own seven-year-old Warmblood gelding, Souvenir, with a total of 240.43 overall points.

At the completion of the day’s second handy round, the champion ribbon in the 3’3” Small Junior Hunter 15 and Under division was awarded to Lily Sonneborn of Washington, DC. Compiling a total of 253.28 points throughout the division’s classic round, under saddle, and handy round, Sonneborn claimed her first biggest win to date aboard the Andesite Equestrian’s 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Juan Carlos. On a total score of 242.64 points, Mimi Maddock of New York, NY, and the Marnell Sport Horses’ 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, Ocean Road, proudly donned the division’s reserve champion ribbon. 

After a week of new champions, memories to last a lifetime and another year of championship action in the books, the 2024 Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championship concluded at Traverse City Horse Shows, sending Walkenbach and Olsen home as the year’s overall champions. Relive all the action on USEF Network

View complete results, here.