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Goguen and Safari Were Hot in the 2007 AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular

Diana DeRosa

“By far this is my biggest win. I was nervous going into the second round because I didn’t know what to expect but he really rose to the occasion,” commented Tim Goguen, Wellington, FL, after riding Safari to win the 2007 AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL on Saturday evening, February 24. After jumping his last fence as the last entry in the class the five-year-old, 15.3H, bay, gelding received huge applause. The clapping crowd looked on from the surrounding grass seating, a variety of tented parties and from the American Hunter-Jumper Foundation’s fundraiser, which was taking place in The Jockey Club.

The young gelding, which is owned by Janet Read, Wellington, FL, surprised the audience and his owner with his calmness, ability and consistency in jumping both rounds. Safari took over the lead in the first round with a score of 89.50 ahead of Sandy Ferrell on Corofino Gold (88.625), and Elizabeth Boyd on Brunello (86.5). While the scores in the second round proved to be even better (Safari-90.375, Corofino 90.250,Brunello 89.750), the order did not change and the victory stayed with Safari and Goguen (179.875) to Corofino’s 178.875 and Brunello’s 176.250.

“I really didn’t know what he was going to do out in the field but he was amazing!” continued Goguen. “I couldn’t be happier. He was just on his mark. For a five-year-old he was solid. That is a great horse … He’s got a beautiful mouth, great balance and doing this class shows he’s got a great brain. He’s the same even when you are riding him at home.”

Color commentator and AHJF President Geoff Teall agreed, “He jumped every jump in both rounds exactly the same and better than everyone else.”

“Amazing” was also what Ferrell, Bernville, PA, said about the little 15.2H bay gelding which was recently purchased by Megan Bellows. Ferrell, who won the 2006 Hunter Classic on Late Entry, has only been paired with Corofino Gold for two weeks but they are a perfect match.

With only one point separating the first and second place, Ferrell was still pleased with her mount. “He went out there and knocked everyone’s socks off. He never changed throughout the entire course. He pokes his nose, pricks his ears and he is very smooth. Tim had the advantage for athleticism but my horse’s consistency was fantastic.”


The crowd was ready to witness this annual event, something they look forward to every year. Even though the first rider was not scheduled to go until 7:30, by 5:00 spectators were showing up on the grounds to choose their seat location. They reserved their spaces on the grassy hillside with beach and director’s chairs, horse blankets, and anything else that worked. Many brought coolers filled with food and beverages making this a great outing for their respective groups. Since there was no cover charge and the weather was beautiful despite the wind, it was a great way to spend the evening.

The field was still sunlit as people slowly arrived and the setup crew readied the grounds. The colorful fences on the grass gave it that special feeling which was one of the reasons so many tried to qualify for this class. Once the sunset and the lights covered the field it was a different kind of elegance and a new challenge for the horses since the lights left shadows around the field. However, the horses were ready for the challenge as they fought valiantly to win this prestigious class.

The starting field of 25 horses each jumped at their respective showing heights of 3’6”, 3’9” and 4’. The horses were judged by four teams of two judges including Alex Jayne and Liza Dennehy, Mark Jungherr and Mindy Minetto, Randy and Pam Mullins, and Sue Ashe with Brian Lenehan. Each team of judges gave one score and then the four scores were averaged for a final round total. The eight horses with the highest points returned for a second round, which was then added to the first for a final tally.

Both Teall and Goguen praised the Michael Rheinheimer designed course.

“The whole field was used and you had judges everywhere,” commented Teall.

“The course was great,” added Goguen. “There were a lot of single jumps where the horses could find the distance to the jumps.”

Ferrell agreed adding, “Mike did a great job with the course. It was fun, twisty, turny, long, all over the place; It was different. It was a beautiful night. I don’t think anybody can complain about anything. Hat’s off to Mike.”

AHJF Vice President Louise Serio was equally pleased with the course saying, “I thought the course and the jumps were the best that we’ve had. It was an awesome night. There were a lot of things going on out there and a lot for the spectators to watch.”

This was exactly what Rheinheimer had planned for his second time designing the novel hunter class under the lights. Before the class, Rheinheimer, Chardon, OH, was keenly aware of the size of the arena and the fact that the lighting created shadows on the field.

“Because of the lights the more symmetrical the jump is the more inviting it is,” he explained. “For the course I wanted to make it as interesting as possible without horses just cantering around just jumping jumps. I wanted to have a little fun with it myself.”

Rheinheimer started out with a flowing course with no related distances and then added some related distances “to balance the horse up and get them jumping great.”

To make it “interesting,” Rheinheimer put fences everywhere, including a few roll backs, two in and out combinations and a bold final jump designed specifically by the AHJF. The idea of this final jump came from Louise Serio, who wanted to have a jump designed that was different from the same hunter fences they jump all the time. “It had trees as the standards and was wider than the normal jump (at 16’),” explained Serio. “It was a slight change from the normal hunter jump and something fun and different to gallop to.”


The AHJF was formed in 1992 to further the development of the equestrian sport of show hunter rider and show jumping competition by providing a national office to organize, coordinate and support hunter rider and show jumping equestrian competition. Other programs of the AHJF include the World Championship Hunter Rider Awards, AHJF Educational Programs, the AHJF BSA Inc. 401k and Profit Sharing Plan and the Dover/Junior Hunter Challenge program.

The AHJF also hosts the Legacy Cup (May 9-20, 2007 in Kentucky) and the Monarch International's Show Circuit Magazine Professional WCHR Finals (October 5, 2007 in Upper Marlboro, MD). Another featured event this year was a fundraiser for its Emergency Relief Fund, a program that assists equestrians in their time of financial crisis. “Bowling for Equestrians” was held on February 18 and raised approximately $60,000 for the ERF. This year a WCHR World Cup Hunter Challenge will be showcased for the second time at the World Cup in Las Vegas on Saturday, April 21 as a rematch of the 2005 event.

For their victory Safari and Goguen won $12,000 and after that was subtracted from the total purse of $42,800, the money was split between the remaining 11 riders and the top four professional riders. Ferrell also won a saddle from Hadfield’s Saddlery, the Dark Continent Perpetual Trophy courtesy of Jim Green, a custom jacket by Personalized Products, a scooter from Cherney Brother’s, and a cooler donated by Grazing Field’s Farm, Inc. Leather halters were presented to 1st–6th place and leather shanks for the 7th–12th place ribbon winners. Additionally, the winning trainers received a check for $1,000, 2nd place $750, 3rd $500 and 4th $250. The grooms of the 1st through 4th place winners received a check for $500, $300, $200, $100 (consecutively) sponsored by Archie Cox/Brookway Stables.

Gustavo Palacio, groom of Saloon ridden by Jennifer Waxman, owned by Whitney Roper, received the Mark R. Gregory Memorial Trophy for Excellence as the best conditioned and turned out horse in the first round.

Goguen also won the “Let’s Dance Trophy,” which was established by the AHJF in 2005 in honor of friend and horseman Eugene R. Mische for his support of the AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular which is annually held at his horse show.

A special addition to the evening was the retirement of Strapless, who won this event an unprecedented four times in a row (three times with Emily Williams and one time with Clara Lindner). Owner and rider Clara Lindner led Strapless out for her final lap around the Internationale Arena. The horse was graced with an elegant blanket of red roses.

It is with the support of Mische and Stadium Jumping that this event has become so important to the hunter sport. “This is an amazing event,” explained Perla. “I look at the evening from the inside out. On that night, when all is said and done and we are ready to start I look around and am in awe. It takes so many pieces to put this together but in the end it all works like clockwork and a lot of that is thanks to Gene Mische and the staff of Stadium Jumping.”

It is because of the efforts of stadium jumping and the entire AHJF staff that Goguen and the hunter community have this class which Ferrell considers “our Grand Prix. I love this class. For the hunters it is the one time we get to go at night on the grass field. It draws a larger crowd than any other hunter class. It is the thrill of the week. If you can get in it and ride in it it’s a great feeling and if you can’t it’s great to watch.”

“It helps keep the dream alive,” added Teall. “It inspires people to want to compete in hunters and the greatest achievement of all is that it gets people to come and watch the hunters and offers prize money for the top twelve finishers.”

In addition to the class winners a number of special awards were given out during the evening as a result of accomplishments achieved by the riders throughout the week. The Marylon Alexander Memorial Award went to WCHR Adult Amateur High Score Riders (90) Francis Briggs and Sandra Epstein. High Score honors went to Sandy Ferrell (91) on Indian Summer in the Professional division, Brad Wolf on Rio Renoir (90) in the Amateur-Owners, and Junior rider Addison Phillips (90) on Morocco and Mirasol. The Leading Hunter Rider was Ferrell. The Mia Palambella Grooms Award went to Emillio Lopez, groom of Good Night Good Luck ridden by Alexander Cherubini. The Grand Junior Champion for the Lyrick Trophy went to Mirasol, ridden by Phillips.

Next year’s AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular will take place on February 23, 2008 so mark your calendars now. For information about the Hunter Classic, the AHJF or its programs, contact the AHJF at 335 Lancaster Street, West Boylston, MA 01583-0369, call 508-835-8813, fax 508-835-6125, email or visit their web site at

Photo: Tim Goguen and Safari win the 2007 AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular on February 24, at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL. Diana De Rosa Photo