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AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular Has A Record Of Champions

In 1997 the first ever American Hunter-Jumper Foundation Hunter Classic took place at the Winter Equestrian Festival in West Palm Beach, FL and now seven years later this prestigious event, which will take place on February 15, 2003, is still considered one of the best hunter events in the nation. Up to 26 riders qualify to compete in this annual competition and each of those riders hopes to add his or her name to a very prestigious winners list.


Strapless, a Dutch Warmblood mare, earned back-to-back victories in 2001 and 2002 with Emily Williams, Cincinnati, OH, in the irons. (She was also fourth on Azure in 2001.) Strapless competed under very different conditions for her wins. In 2001, the class was held in its usual setting, the main grass International Arena. However, in 2002 after heavy downpours made the International Arena a sea of mud the class was moved to a different arena with footing designed to work in all kinds of weather. Again Strapless showed the style and form that has brought the mare to numerous victories over her long career in the hunter arena. Eight judges, grouped in teams of two, gave Strapless the highest mark of 91.375 ahead of second place finisher Dream Date, ridden by Louise Serio (90).

Williams is not only a talented hunter rider but has done well in equitation competition, having won both the AHSA Medal and the prestigious ASPCA Maclay classes, the highest honors for an equitation rider to achieve in hunter seat equitation. “As a junior that is the biggest goal you can ever have,” explains Williams. When Williams won the Hunter Classic in 2001 she commented, “I haven’t been so excited…since I won the Medal.”

Then when she won again in 2002 Williams commented, “Strapless was so amazing. I tried as hard as I could but she tried harder,” adding, “Winning it once was enough. Winning it twice means a lot.” “I love her,” says Williams about Strapless, who competes in the Regular Working Hunter division, which is a 4’ division. Strapless, who is owned by Clara Lindner, loves peppermints.

Williams’s horse career is not without its tough memories. In 1996, at 15 years old, Williams had a crash that almost ended her career. After a fall at a fence her horse stepped on her face crushing most of the bones and dislodging all of her teeth. After a long recuperation, she was back in the saddle again and this victory was just another indication of how talented a rider she is. As if that fall weren’t enough, Williams’s mom, Lynn, died of cancer in 2001.


In 1997 Liza Towell rode Monday Morning to the victory. In 1998 it was Hudson ridden by Elizabeth Bross who claimed top honors. High Hearts, with Clara Lindner aboard, was the 1999 winner. In 2000, the Hanoverian chestnut gelding Most Wanted carried the youngest rider, 13-year-old Cody Baird (CT) to the win.

For Cody Baird winning the event in 2000 was a surprise. “I wasn’t planning on winning a ribbon. The victory for me was just getting here.” Baird’s trainer, Scott Stewart, 1999 Chronicle of the Horse Professional World Championship Hunter Rider, wasn’t surprised. “We knew she could do it.” Most Wanted placed eighth in the 2001 Classic and was fourth in 2002. Baird also placed ninth in 2002 on Allstar.

While all the horses compete over the same course of fences, the height is changed according to the level they qualified at. Junior (such as Most Wanted), Amateur-Owner, and the Green Professional Hunters compete over a height of 3’6”. There is no entry fee and riders have to qualify in order to compete by winning Championships in a variety of hunter classes held during the February 11-15 Winter Equestrian Festival. The class is unique in that it is run in the evening under the lights and attracts an unusually large audience for a hunter competition. And there is no charge to come through the gates.

Also featured is a sponsored dinner which is the major fundraiser for the American Hunter Jumper Foundation and its programs. The AHJF was formed to further the development of the sport of show hunting by providing a national office to organize, coordinate and support hunter rider and show jumping equestrian competition. Programs of the AHJF include the World Championship Hunter Rider Awards, the AHJF Emergency Relief Fund, AHJF Educational Programs, the AHJF BSA Inc. 401k and Profit Sharing Plan and the Legacy Cup.

For information about purchasing tables for the fundraising dinner call the Winter Equestrian Festival Special Events Office – 561-753-3389, Fax 561-753-3386 or email For information about the Hunter Classic contact the AHJF at 335 Lancaster Street, West Boylston, MA 01583-0369, call 508-835-8813, fax 508-835-6124 or email For WCHR point standings:


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