As the 2024 Winter Equestrian Festival at Wellington International continues to showcase top-tier equestrian talent, the spotlight turns to a special event on Friday, February 9, during Week 5, the Kristen Baran $100,000 Neil S Hirsch Boys and Girls club Team Hunter Exhibition. Entries are now open for this unique competition and points will continue to be updated through WEF 4. All entries will close on February 4th, and silent auction bids for the wild card buy-in for charity will close on February 6th at 4 PM. This unique competition is not only a testament to hunter competition but also a significant charitable event, with proceeds benefiting the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Beach County.
Team Formation and Qualification Process
The event is open to 15 teams, with the top 12 teams qualifying based on their performance in rated divisions with jumps set at 3’3” or higher during the ESP Holiday Series and the Winter Equestrian Festival up to and including WEF 4. The point totals, based on the WEF point chart used for WEF Circuit Awards, will determine the qualifying teams. In the event of a tie for the twelfth position, the team with the highest professional point value will secure the spot.
For those not making the cut through the standard qualification process, a unique opportunity lies in the Wild Card Buy-In for Charity. Three additional teams can secure their spot in the class by participating in a silent auction, with the top three bids winning entry. This aspect not only introduces a thrilling twist to the qualification process but also furthers the event's charitable goals by donating 100% of the top three team bids directly to the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Beach County Charity.
Team Composition and Rules
Each team must be comprised of one professional, one amateur, and one junior rider, creating a dynamic mix of experience and emerging talent. To ensure eligibility, all horses and riders must have competed in at least one rated hunter division with jumps 3’3” or higher at any competition held during the ESP Holiday Series, or the Winter Equestrian Festival up to and including WEF 4. Additionally, each rider is limited to competing on one team only and must have a designated trainer and groom.
The class is set to unfold over one round, with each rider competing once for their team. The professional rider on each team must be the last to compete. Judging will be meticulous, focusing on performance and soundness, with an emphasis on brilliance. Three judging panels, each consisting of two judges in good standing with the Federation and the USHJA, will use an open numerical scoring system to evaluate each rider. The scores from all panels will be averaged to derive a final score for each rider. In a strategic twist, the lowest score from each team will be dropped, with the remaining two scores added to determine the team's final total score.
Reflecting the essence of riding over hunt country, the course will feature a minimum of ten obstacles set at 3’3” with up to 3’ spreads, including at least one in and out. The design will transition from a classic hunter style to a handy style section and back, offering riders opportunities to demonstrate pace, brilliance, and classic jumping style. The course will also incorporate a variety of jumps that simulate those found in the hunt field, adding to the event's authenticity and challenge.
Awards and Recognition
Prize money totaling $100,000 will be distributed among the top twelve teams, with a coveted Silver Trophy and individual recognition for the winning team. Additionally, the event honors the trainers and grooms of the top three teams with monetary awards, acknowledging their crucial role in preparing the riders and horses for this prestigious competition. Style awards will also be presented, further celebrating excellence in equestrian sport.
As the Kristen Baran $100,000 Neil S Hirsch Boys and Girls club Team Hunter Exhibition Class approaches, excitement builds for this blend of competitive spirit, community involvement, and equestrian excellence. Wellington International is set to provide a magnificent backdrop for an event that promises to be a highlight of the 2024 Winter Equestrian Festival. For more details, please review the class description in the Official 2024 Winter Equestrian Festival Prize List, which can be found here. Registrations for the class can be completed in the horse show office.