Traverse City, Mich. – July 3, 2020 – Hunter competitors took to the ring for the first week of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors LLC, with the first set of champions crowned by the halfway mark of the week. Kicking off the six-week series on a high note, Courtney Lenkart topped both the Green 3’3” Hunters and the Green 3’ Hunters aboard Lori Mathews’ Charleston and La Primera Hacienda L.P.’s Side Hustle, respectively, in addition to winning the USHJA Green 3’-3’3” Incentive. In the GLEF Open 3’3” Hunter division. Kelsey Epperson and Karen Robinson’s Casiro were awarded top call thanks to a series of ribbon-worthy performances.
Nearly sweeping the scorecard in the Green 3’3” Hunters, Lenkart and Charleston won four of the five classes in the division, never placing lower than second. Back-to-back victories over fences placed the duo as the early pair to beat Wednesday, and stepped back in the ring Thursday with skill still on their side. In the stake and the under saddle, Charleston carried Lenkart to two more blue ribbons, then earned second place in the final over fences class to easily capture the championship tricolors. Tiffany Morrissey piloted On Your Mark, owned by Lisa Berger, to the reserve championship.
In the Green 3’ Hunters, Lenkart and Side Hustle earned the championship honors thanks to top performances in all five of the division’s classes. The duo started strong with a first-place and third-place finish over fences to emerge as the early frontrunners, then returned to the ring Thursday to maintain momentum. Turning in more quality over fences trips, Lenkart and Side Hustle were awarded second place and third place, and finished in fifth position under saddle to secure the championship. Ridden by Steven Gregorio, Aster Hill and Bill Schaub’s Arabesque nabbed the overall reserve honors.
Adding to her success in only the first week of the summer series, Lenkart also won the USHJA Green 3’-3’3” Incentive aboard Charleston and finished in sixth position on Side Hustle.
Topping the overall scorecard in the GLEF Open 3’3” Hunter division was Epperson and Casiro, who routinely placed in the ribbons to propel them to the winning position on the leaderboard. The first day of competition, Epperson and Casiro turned in noteworthy efforts that earned high marks on the judge’s card, resulting in a first-place finish and a fourth-place result over fences. On Thursday in the Polk Family Ring, their efforts stayed strong with a third-place finish and fifth-place result over fences to emerge as the division leaders.
The Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors, will continue throughout the weekend. The Polk Family ring will feature the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby on Sunday morning, followed by the crowning of the series’ first Platinum Performance Hunter Horse of the Week.
Courtney Lenkart – Green 3’3” Hunter and Green 3’ Hunter champion
“He is an 8-year-old that we imported at the beginning of the year. We took him to a few weeks in Florida, then of course we have been on a little break, and now this is his first week back. Je jumped really well today.”
On Side Hustle:
“He is a 5-year-old that we imported a month and a half ago. We got to do one show in Texas before we came here, and he is amazing. He has a really good mind and doesn’t have a problem with any spooky jumpers. He jumped really well this week. He was awesome.”
On competing in Traverse City:
“We always love going to GLEF. They do such a beautiful job and management always makes sure everything is run so well. This year it has improved so much. It gets better every single time we come. I think I have been here six years in a row. They have done a really good job this year with making everyone feel really safe. Everyone is nice about it, but they do a good job about having everyone wear masks, social distancing. They have done a really good job at keeping everyone feeling comfortable.”
On activities outside of the horse show:
“Our family loves coming here to go out on the water all the time. The days have been really nice this year so we have been able to go out after we are done showing. We go out on Mondays and the water is beautiful. There are great restaurants too, and it is just one of our favorite places to show.”
Kelsey Epperson – GLEF Open 3’3” Hunter champion
“We have had him in the barn for a while. He is actually on his third owner now, but we try to keep him in the barn because he is so good. I can pretty much just count on him. I love showing him because he is the same every time. I have a good partnership with him so I love prepping him for anybody that has him that week. We have had him for a while and I hope we get to keep him forever. His job now is the Adult Hunters, so he will do that for most of the season, and then hopefully he will get to do a National Derby with his owner later in the season.”
On riding Casiro in the hunter rings:
“The Polk Ring is a lot easier for him because I can just get on a nice big gallop. Today there was an oxer at the far end of the ring so it was fun to just gallop him right down to it. He is always fun like that – I can count on him to gallop right up to the base of the jump. I can jump anything on him, so it’s super fun.”
On competing in Traverse City:
“We come here every year. I don’t even know how many times it has been. We actually bought a house up here this year, so we come up here the whole time. We love it up here. Everybody does! The footing has been really good. The rings are so nice and the new fencing everywhere, the paths and the new pavilions are so nice. Every time we come here there is something new here. We look forward to coming each year just to see what’s new.”