Lexington, Ky. – Nov. 2, 2019 – The 2019 National Horse Show wrapped up hunter competition Saturday ahead of its final day of riding Sunday. In its 136th year of prestige and tradition, the final divisions brought spectators to the Alltech Arena of the Kentucky Horse Park for one last look at some of the nation’s top junior hunter horses and riders. Capping off their indoor season in winning fashion, Nicole Dorwart and her own Varekai were crowned the Junior 3’3” Hunter Grand Champions as well as the tricolor winners in the Junior 3’3” Hunter 16-17 division.
Accruing multiple top placings throughout the Junior 3’3” Hunter 16-17 division, Dorwart and Varekai earned two first-place finishes over fences as well as second position under saddle and eighth place in the handy round to accumulate an impressive number of points over the course of two days. The pair entered Saturday’s competition as the division frontrunners thanks to two superb performances Friday, and continued their winning ways over the weekend to capture the title nearly uncontested.
A fairly new partnership, Dorwart purchased Varekai in March as a 5-year-old green hunter. Dorwart originally had not planned to chase points towards any national finals, but after Varekai’s spectacular early performances, the 18-year-old decided to see what they could make of her last junior year. The now 6-year-old gelding gave Dorwart the rides of her life, ending with a Grand Champion and Champion ribbon hanging from each side of his bridle to cap off her junior career. Looking forward, the perfect pair will be competing in the Amateur-Owner 3’6” Hunter divisions.
Kicking off the day’s competition, Catherine Kramer and her own Casares impressed the judges to earn first prize in the $2,500 Junior 3’3” Hunter 15 & Under stake class ahead of a talented field. Returning to the ring for the the $1,000 handy round, Mia Chimenti and Chase Hollow Equestrian Partners, LLC’s Ericsson topped the scorecard thanks to a seamless ride around designer Bobby Murphy’s natural track. Following consistent results over two days of riding, Jordan Ricker and her own Cosido were honored as the overall division champions, while Maddie Tosh and Dr. Betsee Parker’s Gotham earned the reserve championship
In the slightly older age group, the Junior 3’3” Hunter 16-17 contenders also faced off in stake and handy classes to complete the division ahead of the championship crowning. Turning in the best performance in the $2,500 Junior 3’3” Hunter 16-17 stake class, Dorwart and Varekai were honored as the class winners, which ultimately helped them to solidify the division championship. The pack contested the course one final time in the handy round as they displayed their horses’ responsiveness and smooth way of going, and in the end Emma Walters and Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center’s Crisp proved to be the most impressive duo to earn top honors.
The National Horse Show’s jumper competition will come to a pinnacle Saturday evening with highlight events taking center stage. Juniors and amateurs will be showcased in the afternoon with the $50,000 Hollow Brook Wealth Management Show Jumping Hall of Fame Amateur-Owner/Junior Jumper Grand Prix, while the $225,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Lexington CSI4*-W will bring top show jumping competitors to the ring Saturday evening at 7:00 p.m.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Nicole Dorwart - Junior 3’3” Hunter Grand Champion
On her partnership with Varekai:
“We got [Varekai] from Bobby Braswell in March in Ocala. He just turned six years old not that long ago and he honestly does not do anything wrong, ever. If something goes wrong it is always on me. He has the best brain! He has never been here and he just walked in and did it. He did nothing wrong and acted like he has done this a million times before. We have just been doing the 3’3” Older Large Juniors before this and after this show I actually age out, so we will be doing the 3’6” Amateurs this upcoming season.”
On her handy round:
“I was going to do the inside turn from jump one to two but after my first round my trainer and I decided that it wasn’t needed. I miss the change going to fence two but after that everything was straight forward. We have been struggling with the trot jump a little so we decided on a posting trot to keep the moment, sit the last few strides, and then just keep motoring on from there.”
On being Grand Champion of the Junior 3’3” Hunters:
“It feels amazing, especially on him. We weren’t even expecting to go to finals. We got him as more of a project and he ended up being absolutely fantastic with the best brain ever. It feels incredible.”
On her expectations coming in:
“After Junior Hunter Finals and Harrisburg, I knew we didn’t have the best shows. It wasn’t him, it was me, but because of that I came in here with the thought of just putting everything together. More of counting three-two-one to the jumps, staying out in the corners, getting straight and going back to the basics, and that has honestly helped me focus on that and take a breath.”
On purchasing a green horse:
“After my 2018 Junior Hunter Finals we sold my horse Cupido Z to the Fuqua family. We were then able to get two horses, one green hunter and an equitation horse, Olaf, who actually just got leased out again. With what we had that was what we were able to do and we weren’t planning on going to finals. We were just planning on riding to help me get better and having a fun last junior season. We ended up qualifying for everything and I can’t believe it happened. When we started him we realized he was doing really well so we decided to chase some points and see what we can get into! This was honestly my first time working with a green horse. None of my horses have been veterans but when we got him he was only five so I have never had anything this young. He is very mature for his age and he always has been. He has got so much better with his lead changes, jumping better from the base of the jump and relaxing his head down. He didn’t need any work with the jumps though or being in the ring, he has been great.”
On her plans for the future:
“I am actually in college now. I just started my Freshman year at Westchester and I want to go to Devon and other finals again, but with being in college I might back off a little bit and have one of our professional riders ride him a bit in some of the pro divisions. This was my last show as a junior so I ended on a bang!”
On competing at the National Horse Show:
“Honestly, this horse show is amazing. They have so many vendors, everything is beautiful, including the jumps, the ring is constantly moving and I have no complaints!”