Wellington, Fla. — Feb. 13, 2020 — The Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) is currently in its sixth week of competition with the World Champion Hunter Rider week. Hunters are the main event and riders are determined to qualify to compete in Saturday’s $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular held in the International Ring. During Thursday’s competition in the E.R. Mische Grand Hunter arena, 14 horse-and-rider pairs jumped to impress the judges in the High Performance Hunter division and it was Amanda Steege with Lafitte De Muze who took the blue in the Stake round and ultimately won the championship ribbon.
Steege piloted Lafitte De Muze, a 9 year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding owned by Cheryl Olsten to the tricolor victory. Combined with Wednesday’s impressive rounds, the pair clinched the champion ribbon in the division by placing first in both the the High Performance Hunter Stake class with a score of 89 points and the under saddle. This marks Steege’s first championship ribbon win while competing during the WCHR Week at the Winter Equestrian Festival. The tricolor also earned them a spot to compete in Saturday night’s coveted Hunter Spectacular.
Lafitte De Muze and Steege have an impeccable history of accomplishments together. Just last year they earned the reserve championship spot in the $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular during the Winter Equestrian Festival. In 2019, they were the champions of the $50,000 National Horse Show Hunter Classic and in 2018 were victors of the $50,000 WCHR Professional Challenge at the Capital Challenge Horse Show. They rounded out an amazing 2019 show season by getting the news that Lafitte De Muze was named 2019 WCHR Hunter of the Year, earning the Peter Wetherill Cup that will be presented during this year’s Hunter Spectacular awards ceremony.
Reserve champion of the High Performance division was awarded to Elizabeth Towell Boyd and Carento. Carento is a 13-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Sherri Crawford. The pair earned first place in the handy round from Wednesday’s competition and rounded out Thursday’s classes with a third in Stake with a score of 86.5 points, ultimately winning reserve champion for the division. Boyd and Carento’s performance also earned them a spot in Saturday’s Hunter Spectacular.
During the rest of the week at the Winter Equestrian Festival, riders will be aiming to qualify for Saturday’s $100,000 Peter Wetherill WCHR Hunter Spectacular held under the lights in the International Arena. A champion or reserve ribbon in their respective divisions will provide them with the opportunity to compete Saturday night. Points from this week will also be added to help riders qualify for the end of year WCHR finals held at Capital Challenge Horse Show.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Amanda Steege – High Performance Hunter Champion
On feelings of this week’s competition:
“This is Lafitte’s first year doing the High Performance. I was feeling a little anxious when I woke up this morning because everybody’s goal this week is to make it into the [$100,000 WCHR Hunter Spectacular] and it is so hard to do. You have to be champion or reserve in your division to make it in there. Last year this part wasn’t stressful at all because I had bye, it just felt like practice. This year, I was really feeling it and a little anxious this morning to just get in there and get it done. Especially with only having three jumping classes, I was just feeling a little behind.”
On rounds from Thursday:
“We started the day with the undersaddle and Lafitte won the undersaddle, which was great and took a little pressure off – made me feel like it was possible to be champion. I went last in the class. I feel like he knew just as much as I did that we had to win that class. Just from the moment I got on him today, he was totally focused and on it. I don’t think he put a foot wrong in the class and he got an 89. I ended up winning the jumping class and being champion, which was a huge thrill.”
On past show seasons:
“I spend most of my time in Ocala, so I really only come to Wellington for WEF Six. I don’t think I have ever been champion at WEF Six in one of the big professional divisions. I have, maybe, in Pre-Greens. I was reserve champion on him last year and I had the bye. It is a thrill.”
On expectations for WEF Week Six:
“Saturday night is just one of those classes that we look forward to all year. I think all of us as riders feel a ton of pressure this week. It is the best horses and the best riders and every division is full and has a lot of horses with a lot of competition. It feels really exciting to be champion and to get to compete on Saturday night.”