September 2018 - Hunterdon Cup
Written by photos: Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 29 August 2018 22:10
PDF Print E-mail


Lovingfoss locks in win in a competition unique for more than its horse-switching work-off.

photos: Kim F. Miller

Of the 47 riders who competed in the third annual USHJA Hunterdon Cup Equitation Classic - West Coast, presented by Intermont Equestrian at Emory & Henry College, Kaitlyn Lovingfoss stood out with the top score in each round to take the win. On a gorgeous day, July 23, at the Del Mar Horse Park, the unique equitation class challenged riders to show their skills over courses set by Thomas Hern.

The Cup’s already unusual horse-switching final work-off became all the more so when all six riders omitted what the judges intended to be jump #2, resulting in no scores for that round. At the press conference afterward, the riders graciously accepted their mistake, some noting that they’d privately questioned the judge’s course instructions but set those aside when the first few riders left out that fence.

The upside, said one judge, was that they’d never make that mistake again.

The final group of 6, out of 47 starters, had a short warm-up on their swapped horse before tackling the work-off.

Although relatively new on the West Coast, the Hunterdon Cup has been an annual event for East Coast riders since 2005. The class, named after George Morris’s farm, Hunterdon, tests each rider’s ability to adjust to a hunter course on an equitation mount. It is unique as one of the few remaining competitions in which finalists typically switch horses for a final work-off.

This year’s West Coast judges were Joseph Dotoli of Chepachet, RI, and Robert Crandall of Wellington, FL. They both valued course designer Thomas Hern’s choices in creating the tracks, and reflected that his designing gave both rider and horse opportunity to shine.

“Tommy’s courses were terrific. They gave enough challenges to the riders so that they had to work at it a little bit, and the handy round really helped show which riders could take advantage of the track,” said Dotoli.

Winner Kaitlyn Lovingfoss, right, and reserve champ Tessa Darling celebrate great efforts before knowing the final standings.

Round One is a classic hunter course. Round Two is handy hunter course, and Hern’s track included going up and down a sloping hill, with a trot fence at the top, while fences #5 through #8 included two combinations and two option fences. The top 20 riders returned for round two in reverse of first round scores. As a final test, the judges brought back the top six overall to switch horses and complete a work-off.

Lovingfoss, aboard Elvenstar’s Caracas 89, earned a two-round total of 178 points with a 90 in Round One and an 88 in Round Two, which appropriately averaged out to 89, given her mount’s name. Trained by Jim Hagman and the Elvenstar team, the 16-year-old had the highest scores in both rounds. (For the story on this horse’s miraculous recovery from a huge stomach tumor, search “Caracas: Miracle Horse” on

Horse Swapping

During the work-off, Lovingfoss switched mounts with second place finisher Tessa Darling, whose horse Lolita, owned by Ashland Farms, was awarded Best Equitation Horse overall. Darling, of Corona Del Mar, California, remarked that their horses “could not be more different,” but that she was proud of how they both adjusted to their respective new rides.

Fourth placers Emily Williams & Carlo

“My favorite part was definitely switching horses,” said Lovingfoss of Canyon Country. “I love the pressure and I love riding other horses, so that was really fun for me.”

Each of the top riders expressed their gratitude for the amazing horses they have had the opportunity to ride. Lovingfoss described Caracas 89 as “brave” and “a great partner,” while Darling said that Lolita gives her the confidence she lacks in the show ring.

Sixteen-year-old Darling, who rides with John Bragg of Bridgeport Farms, was the only one of the top four who had never competed in USHJA Hunterdon Cup before. Her scores of 85 and 87 were impressive, earning her that second spot just six points behind Lovingfoss.

Fourth place finisher, 16-year-old Emily Williams of Santa Clarita, regularly trains with Stephanie Haney and was assisted by Archie Cox during the class. Williams worked on her consistency and timing throughout her rounds, and she was grateful for the ride Allen’s mount, Durango, in the work off.

Third place, Jordan Allen & Durango

The class featured a highly unusual situation in that all six riders in the work-off missed one jump called for in the test. The result was that nobody received scores for the work-off and the placings going into it became the final standings.

The top two finishers were recognized with prizes from the class’s extraordinary sponsors, and riders were pinned through 10th place. Sponsors included Intermont Equestrian at Emory & Henry College, Essex Classics, Charles Owen, Inc., CWD, Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital and Pharmacy, Parlanti and Professional’s Choice. A keeper trophy was donated by Diane Carney and Lynn Jayne.

Edited from a USHJA press release.