Classics Conclude on Day Two at Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championship in Traverse City

The Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championship continued on Friday in the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring with junior hunters of all ages showcasing their talents. Both the 16-17 and 15 & Under sections took to Traverse City Horse Shows’ main arena in the Small and Large Junior Hunters at 3’3” and 3’6” heights. A continuation of Thursday’s competition, riders were tested across a classic hunter course—the first of three phases to be seen throughout the week. 

The 15 & Under 3’6” Small Junior Hunter Classic started off the day’s action with 19 competitors aiming for the top spot. Coming out on top with 256 points was Madison Stewart of King George, VA, and Small Kingdom, owned by Elizabeth Reilly. 

Madison Stewart & Small Kingdom. Photograph © Andrew Ryback Photography

“It’s been really fun getting to know him,” said Stewart of the 13-year-old Warmblood gelding. “I started riding him before Devon and since then done a few international derbies with him. He jumps around with great style and is always happy going around the arena.” 

At 15, this is Stewart’s third year competing at the Junior Hunter National Championship. “This show always sticks out to people,” said Stewart. “I love that it’s in Traverse City; it’s always nice here and they do such a good job at making the arena look exciting. It feels like a big show to everyone.” 

Stewart and Small Kingdom will continue to show their talents over the flat and handy phases of competition throughout the weekend, culminating on Sunday with the 3’6” 15 & Under Small Junior Handy. 

The day continued in the International Ring with the 15 & Under 3’6” Large Junior Hunter Classic with 29 taking center stage. Topping the field, Brooke Hagerty of Terrebonne, OR, and Casino Cash, owned by The Hagerty Family, took the win. The pair scored at the top of the leaderboard with a 259. 

Brooke Hagerty & Casino Cash. Photograph © Andrew Ryback Photography

“We’ve been together since the fall of 2021,” said Hagerty of her 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding. “We started off in the Children’s Hunters and moved up to this, so I’ve gotten to know him a lot.” 

Returning for her second Junior Hunter National Championship, Hagerty has hopes of topping her final results from 2023, where she placed third overall in the same division. “Last year was my first year in the 3’6” division so I wasn’t super consistent. This is my last year in the 15 & under age group so I would really like to make this time around more consistent and set myself up for indoors later in the season.” 

Off to a good start, Hagerty felt today’s classic course showcased Casino Cash’s talents. “The course was open and not too challenging so you could show off your horse. He [Casino Cash] is a big classic hunter and really stepped up today.”

Fences were moved down to the 3’3” height for the second half of Friday’s competition, kicking off with the 16-17 3’3” Small Junior Hunter Classic. Forty-two older juniors performed in true hunter fashion ahead of Saturday’s Handy phase but one horse-and-rider combination bested the rest. Clayton Farrel of Venice, FL, and his own Guepard Menil Jean took the top prize. 

Making the most of his first time at Junior Hunter National Championship, Farrell piloted the Selle Français gelding to a final score of 256. 

Clayton Farrell & Guepard Menil Jean. Photograph © Andrew Ryback Photography

“He’s got a really lengthy stride and his canter is beautiful, which in the hunters is important because they want to capture that hunter-feel of brilliance with the stride,” said the 16-year-old.  “I was able to hand gallop in the course and show him off. I think the judges appreciated that.”

At only eight-years-old, Guepard Menil Jean was one of the younger horses in the field on Friday and a partner of Ferrell’s that he’s worked on developing. “We imported him two years ago,” said Ferrell. “Over the past two years he’s been developing under myself and some professionals. We actually brought him to Traverse City last year and that’s when he really started to shine.” 

Continuing the day, the 3’3” Small Junior Hunters took to the ring with the 15 & Under age group in the saddle. Forty-five competitors took to the arena as the final Small Junior group of the day. The win went to Katherine Babun of Miami, FL, and Ladies First, owned by Elysian Stables LLC, topping the field on a score of 251.5. 

Katherine Babun & Ladies First. Photograph © Andrew Ryback Photography

The blue ribbon represented more than just first for Babun and the eight-year-old Warmblood mare, as it was both of their first times stepping into the ring for a championship. 

“We imported her from Europe three years ago and then we had a catch rider for a year before I started riding her,” said 13-year-old Babun. “Since then, I’ve brought her from the low children’s to where we are now. 

“She’s always happy, she loves her job, and we both have a really good connection with each other. So, it’s definitely special.” 

With eyes set on continuing to reach new heights with the mare, Babun hopes to have a successful rest of her Junior Hunter Championship week to set herself up for the indoor season in the fall and possibly moving up to the 3’6” height.

Friday’s classic rounds wrapped up in the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring with the 15 & Under 3’3” Large Junior Hunters. A large field of 54 horse-and-rider combinations braved some evening rain to compete for the final blue ribbon of the day. Ultimately, it was Campbell Cauthen of Lexington, KY, and Lucky Luke, owned by DCTM, LLC, who took the win. 

Thirteen-year-old Cauthen and the eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding claimed the top spot after earning a score of 258.25 over the classic course. This was both Cauthen’s and Lucky Luke’s first time entering the ring at this championship.

Campbell Cauthen & Lucky Luke. Photograph © Andrew Ryback Photography

It’s been a fast success, however, for the pair after having only been together for six months. “When we first got Luke he hadn’t done any equitation or hunters so he’s learned quickly,” said Cauthen. “He walked right into the ring today without looking at anything. This was our first time in this ring since schooling on Tuesday, so I’m super proud of him.” 

Competing in the Main Hunter Ring, under saddle phases got underway for Small & Large 16-17 3’6” Junior Hunters and the Large 16-17 3’3” section on Friday. 

Divided into groups and placed overall, each rider received points that contributed to their overall division score. 

Out of 23 total riders, it was Katharine Reuter and Deja Blue who took home the blue in the 16-17 3’6” Small Junior Hunter Under Saddle. With over double the entries for the 16-17 3’6” Large Junior Hunter Under Saddle, it was Paige Walkenbach and San Pedro 15 who placed at the top out of a field of 50. The 16-17 3’3” Large Junior Hunter Under Saddle, with a whopping 76 entries was last to go on Friday. After being split into seven groups, Alexis Liles, and Stevie Ray ultimately took the top prize. 

The Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championship will continue on Saturday, continuing the Under Saddle portion and beginning the Handy phases of competition across all divisions. All eyes are on overall championship titles at both the 3’3” and 3’6” heights, which will be awarded upon completion of all phases on Sunday, June 30. Live coverage of every round is available on USEF Network

View complete results, here.