Traverse City, Mich. – June 19, 2020 – Much-anticipated hunter competition kicked off Wednesday at Flintfields Horse Park, the home of the Traverse City Spring Horse Show, presented by Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel, with the show’s first set of champions crowned Thursday afternoon. A native Michigander and longtime Traverse City exhibitor, Hillary Johnson wasted no time rising to the top of the leaderboard as champion and reserve champion on Copper Fox LLC’s Lonesome Dove and Sorrento, respectively, in the Performance Working 3’3” Hunters ahead of a talented field. In the Green ranks, Sam Schaefer and Trademark deftly topped the Green 3’3″/3’6″ Hunter division, while Kelsey Epperson and Twilight nabbed the tricolors in the Green 3’ Hunters.
The first day of competition proved fruitful for Johnson and Lonesome Dove in the Performance Working 3’3” Hunters as the pair skillfully navigated the natural-looking obstacles in the Main Hunter Ring to earn fourth place and sixth place over fences, in addition to first place under saddle. Returning to the arena Thursday, the duo improved upon their initial performances to accrue back-to-back blue ribbons in the final two over fences classes. Winning three out of the five divisional competition, Johnson and Lonesome Dove swiftly secured the championship as one of the first of the Traverse City series.
Aboard Sorrento, another Copper Fox LLC entry, Johnson garnered top-three finishes in four of the division’s classes, with the partnership putting in their best performance in the handy class to earn first place. Never placing below sixth in any of their outings, Johnson and Sorrento easily picked up the reserve championship.
In the Green 3’3″/3’6″ Hunters, Take 3 LLC’s Trademark turned heads with Sam Schaefer in the irons, nearly sweeping the wins in all five classes. Only once did Schaefer and Trademark earn anything but a blue ribbon, taking home a second place in one of the over fences classes behind Johnson and Copper Fox LLC’s Elliot, the reserve champions. Johnson and Copper Fox LLC added to their already growing list of accolades during week one with five finishes within the top three in the Green 3’3″/3’6″ Hunters.
At the 3’ height, Epperson and Twilight, owned by Bryn Toyama, concluded the division at the head of the overall scorecard thanks to two first-place finishes over fences. The pair scored points in all five classes to help them secure the championship honors, just narrowly edging out Johnson and Copper Fox LLC’s Suede by slim margins. Johnson and Suede ultimately claimed the reserve championship following a series of quality performances.
Equestrian action will continue in Traverse City through Sunday, when the first week of the Traverse City Spring Horse Show, presented by Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel will conclude. Sunday afternoon will feature the highlight hunter event of the week, the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby.
Hillary Johnson – Performance Working 3’3” Hunters champion and reserve champion
On Lonesome Dove:
“Lonesome Dove is owned by Copper Fox, LLC. He is eight years old this year and he is a very, very special horse. We started him in the First Years this winter, but then with the COVID situation we are going to reinstate his First Year status this year so he can have a full year of it next year, so that’s why he did the Performance 3’3″ Hunters this week. We will probably play around in a couple of derbies this year and then we will let him come back next spring as a more mature First Year horse.”
On the Main Hunter Ring:
“He loved riding in it. It is a beautiful ring and the jumps are always so well decorated. It is a nice ring for the hunters to show in.”
On Traverse City Horse Shows:
“This is our favorite horse show! We love it here and are happy to spend our entire summer up here. The facility is beautiful and the footing has been wonderful. Having the new ring down below added last year was really nice. The permanent bathrooms this year are also a big bonus.”
On her favorite activities in Traverse City:
“There are wonderful restaurants up here, which we like to go out to when we finish up early enough. We like to take our whole barn and have some fun dinners with everyone. A day like today, we like to go out on the water if we get done early enough. Of course, Torch Lake is also infamous on Mondays!