Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 18
It’s never terribly convenient to feel under the weather, but if you’re a top hunter rider, being sick the week of Pennsylvania National  is about as bad as it gets.
Hunt Tosh fell ill after Capital Challenge (Md.), and while he was on the mend by the time he left for Harrisburg, a plane ride and long days brought the illness back full-force. Undeterred, Tosh downed his Z-pack, drank extra fluids and battled through the show. He rode Cold Harbor to the top of today’s regular conformation over fences and handy classes and topped the under saddle to take that division championship.
Tosh was his usual smiling self during the day, reticent to complain about feeling lousy after such great results. But Cold Harbor’s owner, Betsee Parker, called him out.
“Yesterday afternoon he fell asleep in his breeches in a chair in his hotel room and didn’t even come to dinner,” she said, laughing.
Tosh just smiled, shrugged in agreement and admitted that today he worked “Larson” in the morning then went home to take a nap.
“Last year he was reserve here behind [Sandy Ferrell’s ride] Moshi by something like half a point, so to come back and be champion is really special,” said Tosh, Cumming, Ga. “He’s been really good all year and I gave him a bit of a break. We had a few rusty mistakes at Capital Challenge, but he was still good there. To come and win three [classes] in a row today is awesome.”
A Bittersweet Win
Jen Bauersachs has been in tears a lot lately. It’s partly that she’s competing for the last time with Wingman, but the main problem is that his owner is moving away, too.
So when Bauersachs’ husband, Rolf, shoved the phone into her hand as she led Wingman into the ring to accept that horse's green conformation championship, saying “It’s Lee,” Jen didn’t hesitate.
“She’s a really special friend and client,” said Bauersachs of Wingman’s owner, Lee Kellogg Sadrian. “We’ve been together 16 years. She’s always doing right by the horses, and she’s super to be around. It was really sad that she wasn’t there—she’s always here when he shows.”
Sadrian moved to Ross, Calif., as her husband was transferred. She’s moving her horses west to John French’s Waldenbrook Farm, but in a way, the timing couldn’t be better. Wingman, who is by Indoctro, spent a few shows in the first year division before moving into the green conformation ring, and Sadrian dabbled in the amateur-owner ring with him. By now he’s confirmed enough to concentrate on that ring.
French has an established relationship with that horse, as he picked him out in Great Britain three years ago. The horse ended up at Jen’s Frenchtown, N.J., barn after quarantine, and though Sadrian wasn’t looking for a young one, Jen convinced her that there was one that she needed anyway.
Four For Four
Amanda Steege outdid herself at the Pennsylvania National this year.
“I’ve been coming almost every year since 1992, except the four years I was at college, and I’ve never won a class,” she said. “This year I won four different classes on four different horses!”
That included blue in the high pre-green hunter class on a mark of 86 aboard Kingpin, which boosted them to the division championship. Elisabeth McFadden’s Serafino and Melissa Feller earned the reserve title.
Steege, who splits her time between Bedminster, N.J., and Ocala, Fla., started riding “Bruno” for Jim Toon last year. Though he’s a touch light on miles, Steege described him as reliable, dependable and brave right from the start.
“He feels like an old soul, not a 5-year-old pre-green horse,” said Steege. “I’ve helped Jimmy a little over the years, and he thought Bruno and I would be a good fit.”
Toon also asked Steege to ride his wife, Ellen’s, seasoned amateur-owner hunter Invincible in the regular conformation division, a task she described as “a huge treat.” They won the first class of the division.
In addition to proper training and schooling, Steege considers her mental preparation just as important when it comes time to get to the ring. A sports psychology major from Boston College (Mass.) (where she was 13th in her class) Steege admitted that it’s a battle to keep her nerves in check. To her that's not a problem.
“Probably professionals like to tell you they don’t get nervous,” she said. “I feel like the second I don’t get nervous, I shouldn’t do this anymore. I get nervous because I want to be perfect, and I want to win. There’s a point where I can get myself worked up. I use a lot of the sports psychology I learned to get myself in check.”
Around The Showgrounds
-Cold Harbor just missed the grand hunter championship, and in fact was originally awarded the Beaufort Hunt Perpetual Trophy before management pulled out their calculators and the prize list a second time. A second count of the points confirmed that the high performance champion Exupery , owned by Steven Borders, did win the grand award. The leading hunter rider award was also incorrectly initially awarded to Peter Pletcher, who earned the second year title with Empire and the reserve regular conformation title with Sambalino, both owned by Becky Gochman. Exupery’s rider Tommi Clark was confirmed as the winner of the leading hunter rider title.
There are nit-picky requirements for the grand championship, including the fact that points accrued in the model don’t count toward the grand championship or leading hunter rider award. So it's not always straightforward to compare points across divisions.
-Believe it or not, both hunter gurus Peter Pletcher and Jen Bauersachs attended Pennsylvania National for the first time on on jumpers as juniors.
Pletcher was on a Prix de States team for Zone 7. “We won!” said Pletcher, Magnolia, Texas. “It was a good team—I think it was ’77 or ‘78. Back then it was pretty much the craziest group.”
Bauersachs came in the late 1980s with her jumper. She rode jumpers with a local trainer as a junior, and didn’t even start riding hunters seriously until much later. She bought her junior jumper that took her to Harrisburg from her future husband, Rolf Bauersachs. While they always said hello at a few shows after that, they didn’t know each other well. Years later he asked her to ride a horse and they hit it off.
-Lugano, owned by Susan Moriconi, earned the reserve green conformation hunter title with Chris Payne by a very close margin. The Dutch Warmblood of unknown breeding moved up the line while standing for conformation three out of four times, and topped the model at Harrisburg.
For results visit www.panational.org .
See all of the Chronicle's coverage of the Pennsylvania National , including junior weekend.