Girl Power Reigns Supreme in WIHS Children’s and Adult Jumper Championships

October 25, 2023 - Upper Marlboro, MD

Hailey Guidry and Colina SN celebrate their winning presentation with trainer Abby Blankenship, MARS Equestrian™ Director Bridgett McIntosh, WIHS President Vicki Lowell, ringmaster Steve Rector, and groom Alberto Gomez Martinez.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Hailey Guidry rode Colina SN to victory in the $12,500 WIHS Children's Jumper Championship.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Groom Jose Francisco, MARS Equestrian™ Director Bridgett McIntosh, ringmaster Steve Rector, WIHS President Vicki Lowell, and trainer Sarah Redman join Kristan Lassiter and Elsa in the winning presentation.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Last to go in the jump-off, Kristan Lassiter and Elsa sped to the win in the $12,500 WIHS Adult Jumper Championship.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Stephanie Danhakl won her first Grand Amateur-Owner Hunter Championship in the 3'6 section with Bright Side.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Stephanie Danhakl and Bright Side in their winning presentation with WIHS Vice President Archie Cox.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Austen and Stephanie Danhakl had a near sweep of the Amateur-Owner Hunter 3'3 division for the Grand Championship.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Stephanie Danhakl and Austen are joined in their winning presentation by Bradley Bowns of WIHS.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

The 2023 Washington International Horse Show (WIHS), presented by MARS Equestrian™ continued on Wednesday, October 25, at Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD, where the day concluded with the $12,500 WIHS Children’s Jumper and $12,500 WIHS Adult Jumper Championships, both sponsored by MARS Equestrian™. Hailey Guidry and Colina SN were victorious in the children’s championship, while Kristan Lassiter on Elsa claimed the win in the adult class.

For their achievements, Guidry was awarded the H. Fenwick Kollock Memorial Perpetual Trophy, donated by Friends of Fen, and Lassiter was presented with the Dorothy Foote “Goodie” Taylor Memorial Perpetual Trophy, donated by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Ashton Hill and Miss Linden Joan Hill.

The children’s championship was the first title up for grabs, and it was Hailey Guidry, 13, of Wellington, FL, who saved the best for last, galloping into the top spot with Colina SN in 29.094 seconds.

Bernardo Costa Cabral (POR) and assistant Nick Granat (USA) were the masterminds behind the course, which saw 15 combinations jump a fault-free first round to advance to the jump-off. Colin Sweetnam, 13, of Wellington, FL, was the first to race around The Show Place Arena and set the time to beat at 31.460 seconds. He left the rest of the field chasing his time with no one able to duplicate the effort. As the first-place point earner from the WIHS qualifying season, Guidry was last to go and the final challenger to Sweetnam’s time. She and Colina SN gave it all they had, and when the clock stopped at 29.094 seconds, cheers erupted from her support team.

Guidry showed Colina SN at Capital Challenge Horse Show but didn’t quite have the result they wanted when ‘Lina’ ticked a rail out of a one-stride in the first round. With that fresh in her mind, Guidry was determined to not make the same mistake.

“I was mainly thinking about the seven-stride bending line to the one-stride on the far side of the arena,” she explained of her plan for the first round. “That line was challenging because Lina can drift right sometimes. I really tried to keep her left.”

No rails fell for Guidry today, so when she returned for the jump-off, she was ready to lay it all on the line.

“I honestly wasn’t counting strides,” admitted Guidry, who trains with Abby Blankenship of Three Ships LLC. “I was just trying to go for it. I was really debating on doing the inside turn at the end of the course, and I ended up just doing it. It turned out exactly how I wanted it to turn out.”

It was a bittersweet moment for Guidry, who was emotional after the class as it marked her final competition with Lina.

“I’m very proud, and I just love her so much,” expressed Guidry of her mount of two years. “She’s one of the horses I can trust the most. I knew I could go in and have a good round, stick it out, and end up winning, and I’m very happy with how it ended up. This morning I really thought about it hard. I really just love her with all my heart. She’s the sweetest thing ever. I was really going to be happy either way, but she really made me proud. She’s everything anyone could ever want.”

Fittingly, Lina’s groom, Alberto Gomez Martinez, had her all decked out for the occasion in perfect braids with pink plaiting bands, and Guidry had her favorite treats ready to go.

“Her favorite is Snaks 5th Avenchew,” shared Guidry of the 13-year-old Warmblood mare owned by Taylor Landstrom. “She loves any treat, but she really loves the fancy treats.”

Sweetnam ended up finishing in second with Just Noble, a 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare by Character 1243 owned by Sweet Oak Farm. Caroline Hoover, 18, of Bethesda, MD, rode Elinea VDL, Redfield Farm’s 14-year-old Warmblood mare by Marlon, to third place in a time of 31.672.

After the children’s championship, it was time for the adults to step into the spotlight, and it was Kristan Lassiter of New York, NY, with Elsa who let it go all the way to the win with the stop clock frozen at the final time of 33.880 seconds.

From the 25 starters, just five made it to the short course with Lassiter and Elsa last to go. Once again, it ended up being the final competitor to come away victoriously.

“This whole finals season I have been close to the last to go in the first round, and then this is my second time being last to go in the jump-off,” related Lassiter, who trains with Sarah Redman and Nicki Simpson. “This is like a dream come true. Last would not be my chosen spot, but then again, I don’t want to go first either.”

Despite some nerves, Lassiter had confidence in her partner of one year and was ready to ride into the unknown.

“Honestly, my horse is a completely overqualified grand prix horse, and I knew that she could do it, because I knew that she had my back and that I could count on her,” enthused Lassiter of her 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare by Wizzerd WV. “I actually was thrilled that we had the triple combination and that we had the liverpool because it was challenging but I knew my horse would know exactly how to handle that. For myself, I wanted to be careful not to pressure her out of the triple because she has such a huge stride and she jumped in well, so I knew it was going to get tight for her. She was right with me. I think you can tell she literally does whatever I ask her to do.”

The big grey mare was the star of the evening, living up to her in-barn reputation as the resident ice princess.

“She’s the queen without question,” stated Lassiter. “She definitely has told animal communicators that she is the barn favorite, and that is because she is very specific. She does not like other horses. She does not like humans walking by her stall. She doesn’t like other dogs or anything. She has her whole set up where she has her isolation spot. Her best friend is her hay net, which is kept full at all times, and we always greet her with a treat. We do everything in our power to let her be the superstar she obviously is.”

Part of the recipe for success with Elsa is that Lassiter and her team try to keep everything the same for her. Lassiter has a stretching routine with her, always ended with peppermint stretches to both sides, and they try to keep the same protocol in the schooling area so Elsa is never surprised. All of the special care and attention certainly paid off with Lassiter’s biggest Indoors achievement yet.

“It's unbelievable,” said Lassiter. “It’s not even sinking in, because I just wanted to go double clear. I’m so grateful to my trainers and grooms and all my friends. The outpouring of support all day from my team was nonstop, and of course, I have to thank my husband who is the most patient man on the earth.”

Caroline Lloyd of Wellington, FL, rode Fallciana, a 10-year-old Holsteiner mare by Casall owned by Carolex Stables LLC, to second place in a time of 34.550 seconds. Wynter Johnson of Cornelius, NC, and Cessna, her 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare by Cardento, finished in third in a time of 35.862 seconds.

A Grand Day for Danhakl as Bright Side and Austen Earn Amateur-Owner Championships

Amateur-Owner hunters took center stage during the morning’s competition in The Show Place Arena. Stephanie Danhakl had a banner day, winning the Grand Amateur-Owner 3’6” Hunter Championship with Bright Side and the Grand Amateur-Owner 3’3” Hunter Championship with Austen.

For the overall Grand Amateur-Owner 3’6” Hunter title, Danhakl was presented with the Frank Counselman Memorial Perpetual Trophy, donated by friends of Frank Counselman. For the Grand Amateur-Owner 3’3” Hunter honors she was presented with the Bucky Reynolds Memorial Perpetual Trophy, sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Ernest M. Oare. She was also named the Leading Amateur-Owner Rider.

It was a triumphant return to the show ring for Danhakl, who has not competed or seen her horses since the Devon Horse Show in May due to welcoming her second child just seven weeks ago. In the meantime, her horses have been under the guidance of her longtime trainer Scott Stewart and the Rivers Edge team in Flemington, NJ, while Danhakl has been able to spend valuable time with her family at home in Dover, MA.

“I don’t think there are a lot of barns that run as smoothly as Rivers Edge,” commented Danhakl. “I had confidence coming into today that even though I hadn’t seen my horse since Devon, I knew that they were going to be perfectly prepared and that they have been in a program in order to excel at this show.”

While she wasn’t able to ride her show hunters, Danhakl did have a way to get some riding in with her foxhunter horse she keeps at home. With “Happy,” Danhakl gets to enjoy time in the saddle in a different way from the competition environment.

“Happy is the best horse,” said Danhakl of her at-home partner. “I have so much fun with him. We just bomb around the hills. I actually feel like he’s improved my riding so much, because it’s really different than ring riding. It keeps me brave. It keeps me going forward, and my balance is better than when I started doing it, so I give him so much credit.”

Make no mistake, Danhakl was excited to be back in the hunter ring, but even more thrilled with how her horses performed.

“I definitely love the competition, and I like having to produce the round in the moment,” she explained. “It’s really fun for me, so I still really wanted to come to this show to get back into the swing of things, and my horses have just been phenomenal. This week has been beyond my wildest dreams of what I thought would happen.

“I always love coming to this show,” continued Danhakl, who is a member of the WIHS Board of Directors. “I’ve done well in the past. The first time I was champion at this show was 19 years ago in the Small Junior Hunters, so there’s a lot of personal history for me at this show. To come back again after a long break and be grand champion in both sections really means a lot.”

Danhakl’s first Grand title of the day came from Bright Side, who she has had for six years. Danhakl tried the now 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Ultimo for the first time without Stewart, who was in Europe, but felt an instant connection. Despite their long partnership, “Rio” has had some physical setbacks, so this year marked his WIHS debut. He jumped to scores of 90, 89 in the handy, and 92 in the stake, for first, third, and first place, respectively. He also floated to a fourth-place finish in the hack on his way to the Amateur-Owner Hunter 3’6” 18-35 division championship.

“He’s a really consistent horse,” noted Dahakl. “He’s really brave. He always gives it his all, so I knew he was going to be good. The thing about Rio is his jump. It’s such a beautiful feeling because he has so much power and scope. He really gives me so much confidence. He never spooks at anything, so I can really go for it and not have to worry about him. It’s just a matter of if I can produce the round he deserves; he will always deliver. It’s such a gift to be able to ride him.”

As if the day could not get better, Danhakl later entered The Show Place Arena for her second Grand title. With Austen, Danhakl notched a win on the flat, as well as over fences and in the handy with scores of 92 and 88. The pair was also third in the stake class with a score of 89 to seal the deal for the Amateur-Owner 3’3” 18-35 division championship.

“He’s still a little bit green,” admitted Danhakl of the seven-year-old Westphalian stallion by Arpeggio she purchased as a four-year-old. “This was actually his first time showing indoors, and he did not bat an eye at anything. He’s a really brave horse. He just knows his job and is wise beyond his years. I was thrilled with him. He jumped beautifully, was so easy to ride, and acted like he’d been there for years. He can be a little stallion-y, more so than other stallions I’ve had, but once he gets in the program, he’s very calm, and I think that extra oomph that comes from being a stallion really helps him in the ring.”

While Danhakl has multiple horses, they all stay with her for many years, and that is no accident.

“I really feel like they’re family members,” she expressed. “They’re each different. I love them so much. Once they’re part of my family, I really can’t part with them, and I just love the relationship that develops over time.”

Champions in the Amateur-Owner divisions were awarded as follows:

Amateur-Owner Hunter 18-35 Champion: Bright Side, Stephanie Danhakl
Reserve champion: Grand Remo, Stella Propp

Amateur-Owner Hunter 36+ Champion: Augustine, Lee Kellogg Sadrian
Reserve champion: C’est Jolie, Ashley Kaplan

Amateur-Owner Hunter 3’3” 18-35 Champion: Austen, Stephanie Danhakl
Reserve champion: Quest, Stephanie Danhakl

Amateur-Owner Hunter 3’3” 36+ Champion: Waverly, Meghan Rohrbaugh Bear
Reserve champion: Hemingway, Stephanie Bulger

Daytime competition at the 2023 WIHS picks right back up at 7:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, October 25, with the start of the junior hunter divisions and the continuation of the junior jumper divisions. Thursday also marks the first evening session, starting at 6:30 p.m. ET, and the beginning of the international jumper classes, featuring the $78,000 Welcome Stake and the $40,000 Accumulator Costume Class during the fan-favorite MARS Barn Night, where WIHS will go western.