East Dorset, Vermont — Hunter competition heated up on Saturday at the Vermont Summer Festival as the non-professional athletes took their turn in the spotlight competing in the adult, children, and pony divisions. The six-week hunter/jumper competition runs until August 19 and features the world’s top equestrian athletes competing amid the scenic Green Mountains at Harold Beebe Farm north of Manchester, VT.
In the main hunter ring, Maggie Lang of Albuquerque, NM, and Archmage were named the Adult Amateur 18-35 Hunter Champions while Nancy Hooker of Wellington, FL, rode Richard Prant’s Good Point to the title in the Adult Amateur 36-45 Hunters.
The Adult Amateur hunters are split into three age divisions, the youngest for riders aged 18 to 35. Lang rode Archmage to the win in both over fences classes on Friday and placed third in both jumping classes on Saturday to take the overall division championship. Reserve champion in the division was Lexington, ridden by Elizabeth Pemmerl for owner Andrea Robbins. Pemmerl was also champion in the Adult Amateur 18-35 Equitation, while the reserve champion in that division was Kristina Lyons riding Anne Holman’s Volnay.
Lang is from Albuquerque but currently lives in St. Petersburg, FL, where she attends Eckerd College. Her classmate is Archmage’s owner of two years, Krista Dietrich, and both young women train with Keith Powell. Lang successful competed with Archmage this winter in Jacksonville, FL, and she took over the reins again at the Vermont Summer Festival during week three as Dietrich was out of town.
“I rode him for the first time in Jacksonville, and there were not as many in the division as there are here in Vermont,” Lang explained. “I feel that the competition is much more difficult here. I’m very thrilled with how we did. You always feel good when you do well.”
Of Archmage, a nine-year-old warmblood gelding, Lang commented, “He’s very smooth, and he’s really curious about things. He’s very fun to jump. He’s smart, but he’s scared sometimes, so you have to tell him that he’s okay if he gets nervous about something. He’s a pleasure to ride.”
Week three marked Lang’s first time competing at the Vermont Summer Festival, and she will compete again during week four before returning to Florida.
“It’s really beautiful in Vermont, and I like the mountains,” she smiled.
The leading horse in the Adult Amateur 36-45 Hunters during week three was Good Point ridden by Nancy Hooker. They finished first and second over fences on Friday before winning the under saddle class and finishing second and first in Saturday’s jumping classes.
“I think my favorite round of the whole week was my last round that I won, so it was nice to end on a good note,” Hooker reflected.
Reserve champion in the division was Dressed in Gold, ridden and owned by Kate Goodman. Oxbow and Kimberly Jacobs were champions in the Adult Amateur 36-45 Equitation, while the reserve champion in that division was Debi Maloney on Barstool Buddy.
Good Point, a 10-year-old Trakehner gelding, has been with the Hookers for a year and a half, having previously enjoyed a successful career with top hunter rider Scott Stewart.
“My daughter showed him last year in the junior hunters, but their personalities didn’t really mesh well. I’ve adopted him,” Hooker related. “In the last couple years with my daughter, Heather, and my husband, Tim, showing so much, I’m usually the gopher girl, the barn manager, mommy and the driver. When something comes along that I can ride, I pull my boots out and put my hat on.”
Hooker said that Good Point is “a little sensitive, and he’s big. I think he likes me because he can trust me.”
Hooker expressed amusement about the horse’s idiosyncrasies, saying, “We laugh about him in the barn because he’s got his personal space issues, and when he comes out of the ring, he has to have his candy. He’s got all these funny quirks, so he gets along great with me because I play right into all those quirks. He loves being my horse because I’ve always got the candy in my pocket. He’s really enjoying being mom’s horse; he likes being the spoiled one.”
Along with Good Point’s happiness has come Hooker’s satisfaction at winning again in the show ring.
“It’s nice to go in the ring on a lovely horse," she said. "It’s a really good feeling to know that if you can go in the ring and ride well, you’ll get a good ribbon. It’s good to know that the horse is really there for me.”
The highlight of the third week of competition at the Vermont Summer Festival is Sunday’s $30,000 Otter Creek Grand Prix, sponsored by Devoucoux Saddles, scheduled for 2 p.m. In addition to the prize money, riders will also be competing for points toward the $10,000 Open Jumper High Score Award, sponsored by Sir Ruly, Inc. Currently, the top five riders in line for the bonus money are Jimmy Torano, Hillary Dobbs, Erynn Ballard, Sharn Wordley and Kirk Webby.
For the first time the Vermont Summer Festival is pleased to offer live video streaming of all five competition rings for those who cannot attend the horse show in person. Visit www.livebroadcast.tv or www.vt-summerfestival.com for more information.
New England’s largest “AA” rated hunter/jumper horse show, the Vermont Summer Festival offers over $750,000 in prize money, making it the richest sporting event in the state of Vermont. For more information on the 2007 Vermont Summer Festival including complete results, please visit www.vt-summerfestival.com