By: Kimberly Maloomian
The World Champion Hunter Rider (WCHR) awards is a program that honors riders in different divisions by only allowing four member shows to count for points. This is a great concept not only because it keeps people from being able to point chase to win but also means that someone in the adult hunter division doesn’t have to own a horse or show every weekend to be able to participate in the program and qualify for the finals (like you might have to to go to NAL or WIHS finals). However, the riders couldn’t get to that top spot without the horses under them. This trophy is meant to represent the PARTNERSHIP between a rider and his horse.
Lots of people have that one really fancy horse that wins blue ribbons but it isn’t always the horse you can count on. Urlala was just that, the one you could count on. She would do 2’ pre-adult hunters on Friday night with my 70+ year old mother, and Saturday morning at 8am she would be out in the grand prix stadium jumping around the Platinum performance hunter prix for a score in the mid 80s without a tune up in between. She spooked at nothing. I might ride her in the ring in the morning so I didn’t spook but there was nothing she cared about. Every now and then when she trotted into the ring I could see her famous white eye roll around but it was more like she wanted to see who had come to watch her then she was looking for something to be scared of. She is beautiful, completely white with a pink nose and has a canter rhythm to die for. When we bought her in 2010, she was 9 and had already had 5 owners from California to Florida to the Northeast. She had shown in children’s hunters, junior hunters, amateur owners, and big eq and her show record was already 42 pages long. By the time she got to us, she probably thought she had been retired since she was only showing an average of 1-2x/month, 9 months of the year. Any show I had dreamed of attending or fancy class I wanted to participate in (WCHR week Wellington, Old Salem, WIHS, Middleburg etc etc) she went to and competed in and WON! She wasn’t always the fanciest one in the class but she is a competitive mare and she wanted to win for us. There wasn’t a show we attended where someone didn’t come up to us (rider/trainer/groom/braider) and say ‘is that Urlala?!’, followed by a comment about something she did that they didn’t like, but those things she still has never done with us.
"Urlala was just that, the one you could count on."
There seemed to be character traits about her that Mom and I just understood, that others who had her hadn’t, and she appreciates that. We respect each other. I always knew no matter how naughty my other show horses were on a given day, Lala was going to jump every jump and act like a professional. She had to pass one of my other horses every time she walked out of the barn in Ocala and you could tell she said something to him every time like ‘you’re an a$$hole just do your job’ or ‘you think you’re special because you won a class, I’ll win two today’. To watch my mother ride her still and see the smile on both their faces is heart warming. When mom would show her they were so in sync even in their facial expressions. During the under saddle mom and Lala would both have this scowl on their faces that said ‘GET AWAY FROM ME’ it was awesome. Lala lives at home with us now. She can see where I park my car from her stall and every night when I get home from work I see her head out over the stall guard, before I even get out of the card she does her trademark head bob as if to say ‘good your home safe’ then she retreats back into the stall to eat, her most favorite activity.
We are hoping that this trophy helps to recognize that some riders do have that one special horse of their own that they lean on all the time to allow them to accomplish their dreams.
Winning is a team effort and so we want to recognize the horse that makes this happen for one particular rider. The award is set up so that it is won by a horse-rider combination accumulating the most points at their top four shows. This may or may not be the national winner since in adult hunters you could potentially collect points on a different horse at each show and still win the national title. Let’s be realistic that anyone competing in this sport is not ‘poor’ but many don’t have the financial backing to have a string a horses to compete. Sometimes this means that you can’t win something you might want to. The award is designed to honor the horse-rider combination who achieve their dreams as a unit not the rider who has multiple chances (horses to ride) each week to win.