Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 15, 2020 – Each year, the sixth week of the Winter Equestrian Festival, a twelve-week competition, highlights top hunter talent from around the United States with the World Champion Hunter Rider (WCHR) Week. As a special edition of the famous “Saturday Night Lights”, the annual $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular kicked off at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center on February 15, bringing top-of-the-line hunter horses and riders to the International Arena. Once again finishing at the top of the scorecard, Victoria Colvin and Private Practice logged their second consecutive victory in the class as the reigning champions, marking Colvin’s sixth time as the champion.
Back for its 24th year, the 2020 Hunter Spectacular saw 37 of the best professional, amateur and junior athletes compete head to head, each of whom qualified for the evening’s event by earning division champion or reserve champion on their respective mounts throughout the week. Designed by Patrick Rodes, a 12-obstacle course was offered to riders and horses, who navigated the pattern under the lights through intermittent rain. The natural fences began at 3’6” in height, were raised to 3’9” and finally set at 4’ to allow riders to jump the corresponding height of the division from which they qualified. While the majority of riders rode the course at the 3’6” height, six riders tackled the course at the 3’9” height and two competed at the 4’ height.
As the fifth pair on course, Colvin piloted Private Practice, the first of her two mounts of the night, as the pair to beat with an average first round score of 90.33. Colvin, the reigning champion and a household name in the hunter and equestrian world, had already claimed victory in the WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular five times prior with consecutive wins as a junior rider from 2012-2015, and another win in 2019 as a professional. Private Practice, a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Lordanos, was her mount in 2019’s WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular.
Heading into the second round, a cutoff score of 83.66 brought 12 pairs back to the ring to try their hands at the second, shorter course. Competing in reverse order, horse-and-rider duos showed off their talents in an attempt to impress the judges. Though not a handy round, riders executed tight turns and impressive maneuvers in an attempt to move up in the placings.
Sitting in third position and just two points behind the leader after the first round, Katie Taylor and Kindred put in a beautiful second round with a score of 90.16 for a total of 178.82, an impressive feat considering Saturday was the first time the two had been paired together. Finishing the final jump with a smile on her face, Taylor ascended into the top spot with just Colvin left to ride. The final combination of the evening, Colvin and Brad Wolf’s Private Practice left it all on the course with an impressive, tight turn from the inside rollback to the birch oxer. Their efforts proved enough to earn Colvin a sixth WCHR Hunter Spectacular win with scores of 90, 91.5, and 94, the highest of the night, for an average of 91.83 and a combined total of 182.16. Stewart and Private Life, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker, sat in second place prior to his final ride, but fell into the third position after their second go with a total score of 177.82 behind Taylor and Kindred.
Hunter competition will continue in the International Arena on Sunday, Feb. 16 with the $5,000 Peggy Cone Memorial WCHR Adult Hunter Classic and the $5,000 WCHR Junior Hunter 3’3” Hunter Classic. As the last day of WCHR Week, the final round of championships will be crowned at WEF.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Victoria Colvin – $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular winner
On defending her title:
“Private Practice, ‘Peter,’ is an amazing horse; he’s incredible and always a blast to ride. He’s one of my favorite horses, and this class is one of my favorites because it’s a blast to ride under the lights and in the International Arena. They don’t host many derbies in this arena anymore so to be able to go back in this ring is a lot of fun.”
On her second round:
“I watched a couple of rounds before me and all of them earned high scores so I felt like I had to go into the ring and get above an 87 or 88. I just thought I had to go for it. Tom [Wright] said that if I saw the inside turn to just go for it but I didn’t see it at all. It looked impossible to me, and I was worried I’d have a swap so I just cruised around and kept my pace. Kudos to Augusta [Iwasaki] for doing the inside turn! That was super impressive.”
Katie Taylor – $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular second place
On her second round:
“I saw Augusta do that turn so I asked if I should do it too. This was my first day riding this horse so I wasn’t sure how he would handle that, and I just galloped right around instead. She did that so smoothly that it looked easier than it was.”
On representing the West Coast with Kindred:
“It’s pretty amazing. I got the email a few months ago that I was going to be able to come out here, and I’ve always wanted to come out and do this. I ride with David Bustillos of Durango Farms back home, and we were going to send my horse out here to do the class, but it was a lot to send him out here just for this class. I was put on this horse this morning and I loved everything about him so I got to show him today.”
On riding Kindred for the first time today:
“I jumped 10 single jumps this morning to feel him out and I was a little unsure about the stride, but everyone who has ridden him has given me a lot of pointers and I felt connected with him immediately. His rhythm is amazing. I believe Jen Alfano had him as a young horse. I had been riding Small Affair this week but he has done this so many times. To have the opportunity to show another horse was great.”
Scott Stewart – $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular third place
On the class:
“I think it is an incredible opportunity to go out there and do some different courses, especially tonight under the lights. It’s a great opportunity to promote the hunters and show what we do every week.”
On Private Life:
“I was really pleased with him. I haven’t shown him since the National Horse Show and then I gave him a month off. I had to get him fit again, and he was great all week long. His best round was this final round. He’s always dependable and still fairly young so I’m excited to have him.”
$100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 / R2 / Total
1. Private Practice / Victoria Colvin / Brad Wolf / 90.33 / 91.83 / 182.16
2. Kindred / Katie Taylor / Gabrielle Sokolow / 88.66 / 90.16 / 178.82
3. Private Life / Scott Stewart / Dr. Betsee Parker / 89.16 / 88.66 / 177.82
4. Seaside / Augusta Iwasaki / Eliza Kimball / 85.5 / 91.33 / 176.83
5. Big Shot / Jenny Karazissis / Dulcie Lou Morris / 86 / 89.33 / 175.33
6. Heaven’s Dream / Kate Conover / Isabella Griffin / 86.83 / 88.41 / 175.24
7. Carento / Elizabeth Towell Boyd / Sherri Crawford / 84.5 / 89.66 / 174.16
8. Luminosity / Geoffrey Hesslink / Sabrina Hellman / 85.83 / 88.16 / 173.99
9. Ocean Road / John French / Keri Kampsen & Lexy Reed / 85.16 / 87 / 172.16
10. Tufton Avenue / Stephanie Danhakl / Stephanie Danhakl / 84.66 / 86.91 / 171.57
11. In Writing / Kelley Farmer / Larry Glefke & Wendy Hofmeister / 85.66 / 85.75 / 171.41
12. Park City / Holly Orlando / Privet Farm LLC / 83.66 / 84.66 / 168.32
For full results, click here.