Paige Matthies and Justified Score Second Consecutive Large Junior Hunter Circuit Championship
Keara Obrzut and Cake closed out the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF) with the Large 15 & Under Junior Hunter Championship on Saturday. The pair, who has been working on consistency, laid down solid rounds over the two days of competition to successfully score the capstone of their junior career, a championship win that meant the world to the 15-year-old.
“This is the first time this year that I have won the championship,” Obrzut described. “We were able to put in solid and consistent trips this week, and I was really happy with it. Melissa Hirt helped me this weekend, and I am very grateful for how she pushed me. She taught me to go forward, keep pushing and try harder.”
Obrzut was all smiles as she and her 6-year-old grey Holsteiner gelding Cake walked into the ring to accept the championship. They captured the tricolor with the first and third place finishes Saturday, and overtook the lead when combined with the first and second place ribbons they earned Friday. The pair went a step further in the 15-17 Equitation, laying down back-to-back blue ribbon rides to secure the division championship.
“I feel like things are finally coming together with Cake,” Obrzut said. “He is my all-in-one horse. We did not mean for him to be like that, he was meant to be my junior hunter, but we started to put him in the jumper and equitation classes, and he has done it all for me. He is an amazing horse, and is mature well beyond his years.”
Paige Matthies and Justified, owned by Dudley Smith, were awarded the Large Junior Hunter Reserve Championship for Week Seven, and they capped off they second series of GLEF with the Large Junior Hunter Circuit Championship.
Matthies and Justified, or Rio as he is more affectionately known, are no strangers to the winner’s circle. The pair captured the GLEF Series One Large Junior Hunter Championship, and are also currently ranked number one in the nation for the Large 15 and Under Junior Hunters.
“After the first week, I was feeling really confident about the circuit championship because we were champion and won the classic,” Matthies explained. “The second week, he also was awarded the championship, and he felt amazing. I knew that this week, if I could get some good points, we had a shot at it. He is just an amazing horse. He is so much fun and I am just so grateful.
“Right now, we are number one in the Large 15 & Under Hunters. I never thought that I would be there because there are so many other wonderful horse and rider combinations. I didn’t think that we would have enough points. I didn’t expect it, but I am very happy,” Matthies exclaimed.
Rio is owned by Matthies’ grandfather, Dudley Smith, who also owns Rufus (Icaris Vede), Matthies equitation horse. Smith was onsite at the Flintfields Horse Park to watch Matthies show – a happy occasion for Matthies.
“It was nice to have him come and watch him go,” Matthies acknowledged. “I am so grateful to my grandparents that I get to ride these two amazing horses. My mom and dad also do so much for me as well as Cody [Weverstad] and Melissa [Hirt].”
Matthies made the recent decision to show Rufus in the hunter divisions as well as the equitation. The 8-year-old chestnut surprised everyone when he came out at the top of the divisions as well as capturing second place during the Week Six Glory Days Farm, LLC $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby. The happy surprise continued when Rufus was announced as the Large Junior Hunter Reserve Circuit Champion.
“Last week, Rufus was jumping really cute, and he won a couple of classes,” Matthies explained. “I am really proud of him because he is jumping amazing. He was injured last year, and he has come back better than ever.”
Series Two concludes Sunday, Aug. 28, after featuring three weeks of hunter and jumper competition with a FEI CSI2* rating Week Five and Six and a FEI CSI3* rating during Week Seven. The series culminates with the highlight event, the $100,000 Grand Traverse Grand Prix CSI3*, on Sunday, Aug. 28.