Harrisburg, PA – Prior to this week, Ariana Marnell’s Babylon had earned a Grand Hunter Championship at all but one of the four major indoor final horse shows. On Friday, October 13, Marnell and Babylon clinched what had previously alluded them: the Grand Junior Hunter Championship at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg, PA.
On their way to the grand championship, sponsored by Don Stewart Stables, Marnell and Babylon first earned the division championship in the Small Junior Hunter 16-17, sponsored by Hesslink Williams LLC. The duo not only swept all three of the division’s over fences classes, they did so while never earning a score lower than 92.
“My weekend was amazing from the start,” said Marnell. “In his first class, Babylon got a 94, which made me so happy. I was really excited that this week went so well. He’s now been grand at all four indoors. That’s awesome. I’m just really proud of him, and I’m happy that I rode well and could do that for him. I think he really deserves to win.”
In addition to notching top results in the junior hunters with Marnell, Babylon has been ridden to great success and acclaim by Marnell’s trainer, John French. French has had the ride on “Crumbles” since the now 8-year-old Oldenburg gelding was 3 years old, and Marnell is quick to credit French with the horse that Babylon is today.
“He definitely goes with some pace, and then you get there and give him his head and neck; that’s when he jumps best,” explained Marnell. “[He likes] a little bit of a gap. We were kind of joking this week, since John really taught him from the beginning, he doesn’t know how to miss or chip. He doesn’t know how because John never misses!”
While Marnell hails from Las Vegas, NV, and often has to commute back and forth to the East Coast, she has spent the past three weeks out east enjoying extra riding and time with her horses.
“This is such a nice thing that I’ve been able to take some lessons and get to spend time just hanging out with my horses and taking them on trails,” said Marnell. “Both of the horses this week are staying at a layover farm. Their day ended with about a half-hour trail ride around there. I think it’s really good for them, and I like spending that time with them.”
In addition to their championship tricolors, Marnell and Babylon’s score of 94 earned them the EMO Agency Junior Hunter High Five Award as the highest-scoring junior hunters.
For their division championship win, Marnell and Babylon were presented with the Tindle Perpetual Trophy, donated by the Robert D. Haas Family. Finishing as the reserve champions in the Small Junior Hunter 16-17 division were Eleanor Rudnicki and Knowingly.
Also earning division championships in the 3’6” Junior Hunters, presented by Bikoff Equestrian, were Paige Walkenbach on Ever So Often, Clara Propp and Arabesque and Caroline Signorino and Drumroll.
Walkenbach and Ever So Often, a 9-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare owned by Walkenbach Equestrian, earned their division tricolor in the Small Junior Hunter 15 & Under division after taking two fourths and a third over fences and the win in the under saddle.
For the championship, Walkenbach was presented with the Dr. Betsee Parker Perpetual Trophy, donated by Dr. Betsee Parker. The reserve championship in the Small Junior Hunters 15 & Under went to fellow West Coast rider Violet Tatum aboard Evermore.
“She was so good!” said Walkenbach of her mare, affectionately known in the barn as “Snooze.” “This is her second time in this ring. She won the hack; she’s a beautiful mover. She was consistent in all the jumping. I’m still getting to know her, jumping this 3’6, so I just wanted to come in and give her a good ride and give her confidence around the course. She has a huge stride, and you kind of feel like you’re floating because she’s such a good mover.”
Walkenbach continued, “She lives up to her name; yesterday, she was taking a nap covered in shavings laying down in the stall. She’s so chill and so perfect; I just love her.”
In the Large Junior Hunter 16-17 division, sponsored by Honor Hill Farms, the championship went to Caroline Signorino and Drumroll, owned by Meridian Farm LLC.
“Drumroll is a newer horse for me,” said Signorino of the 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding. “We purchased him after Devon this year, and I showed him once at Traverse City and was champion there. Then I was champion last week at my second show on him at Capital Challenge. This will be our third championship. He’s different from any of my other horses; he has so much stride and just tries so hard over every jump. I never have to worry about getting him down the lines or getting over a jump. Today, I was just hoping for a smooth round. I knew if I didn’t interfere with him, he would just do the rest, and it would work out.”
For Signorino, who is also competing in the USEF Junior Jumper National Championship and Prix des States and the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final, the Pennsylvania National Horse Show is always a favorite.
“It’s a really special show for me because I’ve had so many pony experiences here, and I come here and remember those days,” said Signorino, who trains with Hesslink Williams LLC. “I was champion in the Medium Pony Hunters quite a few years ago, so it’s definitely special.”
Following Signorinio, the reserve championship went to Twain, ridden by Maddie Tosh. With all horses and riders that have placed in the top six in an over fences class invited to compete in their division’s $10,000 Winners Stake, Tosh and Twain also earned the win in the $10,000 Junior Hunter 3’6” Winners Stake, sponsored by Don Stewart Stables.
For the honor, Tosh and the 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding, owned by Ceil Wheeler, were presented with the Plain Brown Wrapper Challenge Trophy, donated by Don Stewart, Jr. Tosh also received an Essex Classics gift certificate.
Also earning an Essex Classics gift certificate was the winner of the $10,000 Junior Hunter 3’3” Winners Stake, sponsored by The Sugg Family, 13-year-old Elle Boyd aboard La Vida Loca, owned by Camryn Cass.
Elle Boyd and La Vida Loca. Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography
In the Large Junior 15 & Under Hunters, the championship went to a 2022 Winners Stake victor, Arabesque, ridden by Clara Propp and owned by Aquitaine Equine. The pair earned two wins over fences before being presented with the Irene L. Armstrong Memorial Perpetual Trophy, donated by the Bedard Family. The reserve championship was awarded to Vivian Golden and Dialouet.
“It’s super special because it’s the top 30 people in your division in the country, so to be crowned the best of those is an amazing feeling,” said Propp. “[Arabesque] is incredible, and she has the results to prove it. Two years ago, she clean swept all of indoors. This year, we’re just trying to have a consistent good year; she’s giving it her all every time she comes into the ring. She never lets me down, so I have to do my job because she’s always doing hers.”
Mercer, Rinehart, Palmer and Dayner are the 2023 3’3” Junior Hunter Headliners
Four new 3’3” Junior Hunter champions were also named on Friday, October 13, with the honors going to Katherine Mercer on Primrose, Elizabeth Rinehart aboard Bond, Vivian Palmer on Central Park and Schulyer Dayner riding Apanage.
Palmer and Central Park kicked things off with the first tricolor of the day after earning two wins over fences in the 3’3″ Small Junior Hunters 16-17, sponsored by Laura Karet and Glade Run Farm. Earning the reserve championship in the division were Sophia Masnikoff and Heartdancer H.
In the 3’3” Large Junior Hunters 16-17, also sponsored by Laura Karet and Glade Run Farm, the championship went to Schuyler Dayner and Apanage, owned by Chloe Canter.
Dayner just picked up the catch ride on the 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding on Wednesday, and she quickly rode straight to the top of the leaderboard.
“Sam [Schaefer] called me earlier this week and asked if I’d show him,” explained Dayner. “Chloe Canter is showing him next week, so they just kind of wanted him to see the ring and have a good experience before then. He’s very fun! He has a great canter and a super great jump; he’s a very confident ride. With my mom being a trainer, I do a lot of catch riding, and Don Stewart gives me a lot of opportunities to catch ride. It’s something I really enjoy doing.”
Finishing as the reserve champion behind Dayner was Grace Shipman aboard Calamanzo.
The 3’3” Small Junior Hunter 15 & Under championship, and the PNHS Small Junior 3’3” Junior Hunter Perpetual Trophy, were awarded to Elizabeth Rinehart aboard Bond.
Rinehart, 13, just the 11-year-old Warmblood gelding three months ago, but the pair quickly meshed and started earning top results. Taking the PNHS reserve championship behind the winning duo were Lesly Moore and Earnest.
In the 3’3” Large Junior Hunters 15 & Under, sponsored by the Kosloske Family Foundation, the championship went to Katherine Mercer aboard Primrose.
“It was really cool; [we got a] 92 which is my highest score ever!” said Mercer, 12. “Primrose’s jump is amazing. It’s a little hard to sit, but I’ve had her for about nine months now, so I’ve kind of gotten the hang of how to make her jump the best. She’s got a great rhythm that makes it really easy to find the distances. I’ve been doing the junior hunters for four or five months now.”
Finishing as the reserve champions in the 3’3″ Large Junior Hunter 15 & Under were Jessica Gulden and First and Goal.
In addition to the eight 3’3″ and 3’6″ Junior Hunter championships, several special awards were also presented including the following:
- High Point Small Junior Hunter – receiving a Der Dau gift certificate and presented with the Huntland Derby Perpetual Trophy, donated by Dr. Betsee Parker – Babylon, ridden by Ariana Marnell
- High Point Large Junior Hunter – receiving a Der Dau gift certificate – Drumroll, ridden by Caroline Signorino
- 3’6” Junior Hunter Sportsmanship Award, sponsored by Capital Hill Show Stables and Frank Madden – Brooke Hagerty
- 3’3” Junior Hunter Sportsmanship Award, sponsored by Three Ships LLC and Abby Blankenship and also receiving an Essex Classics gift certificate – Schuyler Dayner
- Best Junior Rider on a Horse, sponsored by Elvenstar and James Hagman – Ariana Marnell
- Junior Weekend Tack Room Awards, sponsored by Judith Patton – Stonehenge Stables and Beacon Hill Show Stables
- The Claire Mawdsley Scholarship Award – Small Junior – Hannah Blasdell
- The Claire Mawdsley Scholarship Award – Large Junior – Annabella Bozzuto
For full results of all Junior Hunter competition at the PNHS, visit pnhs.showmanagementsystem.com.