Top hunter rider and trainer Scott Stewart is no stranger to the Devon Horse Show & Country Fair, nor is he unfamiliar with the Devon Leading Hunter Rider award. For the 17th time, Stewart claimed the prestigious title, which is presented to the rider who accumulates the greatest number of points in one or more of the following classes: Green Conformation Hunter, High Performance Conformation Hunter, Green 3’6″ Hunter, Green 3’9″ Hunter or High Performance Working Hunter.
Stewart’s Top Two Contributors
Over two days of Green 3’6” Hunter competition in the Dixon Oval, Stewart piloted Bikoff Equestrian’s Ever After to a total of 22 points, securing championship honors in the division. “He hasn’t shown that much,” remarked Stewart of the 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding. “The hunter ring is new to him,” he added, noting that his mount gained most of his experience in Europe.
“When we get to the show ring, the first time he goes in the ring, he thinks he’s going to be a little bit more of a jumper ride and it takes him sometimes a moment to realize he can just go quietly with a loop in the reins. But he’s a really good jumper and really scopey and a top mover. So he’s a blast to ride.”
Ever After’s first time in the Dixon Oval, Stewart wasn’t sure what to expect. “I thought maybe he’d be really impressed and be a lot more horse, but he was actually … amazingly good.”
Also contributing to Stewart’s Leading Hunter Rider title was Dr. Betsee Parker’s Nottingham. He and the 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding accumulated 34 points in the Green 3’9” Hunter division over two days of competition, laying claim to the championship tricolor.
Stewart began his partnership with Nottingham during the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival season in Wellington, Florida. “He stepped right up and started winning right away in the [First Year Green Hunters] and did quite well all last year. This year, he’s been even better.”
Stewart commented that the Dixon Oval is one of the few rings that riders can “still go in and really pick up a big gallop,” which he said encourages Nottingham. “The ring at Devon really suits [him] because he’s definitely one that you can toss the reins away and just gallop around and he’s really comfortable with it.”
A Glorious Return
The 2022 Devon Horse Show & Country Fair marked the event’s return after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stewart managed to pick right back up where he left off, his last Devon Leading Hunter Rider win being in 2019.
The accomplished hunter rider claimed the title in 1998, consecutively between 2003—2012, consecutively between 2015—2019 and now again in 2022. “I can’t believe it’s been 17 times,” reflected Stewart.
Stewart nodded to the owners of his mounts for his continued success. “I think having owners that, especially Betsee, who has horses just for me, I get to really pick and choose my shows and bring the horses along for me to do. It’s a little bit of a unique situation for me that I can just develop the horses for me to ride.”
“We Pick and Choose”
Though Stewart is frequently at the top of the leaderboard, he doesn’t show as often as one might believe. “My horses that I show myself, ideally, they only do 12 to 15 shows a year.”
“As long as [the horses] win enough for the professional divisions, they [don’t] have to show all that much. So unless they really need the mileage, we just pick and choose the shows that we enjoy going to.”
In his downtime, Stewart rides his horses at home. “I never really jump big at home,” said Stewart. “Usually, in my course at home, it’s set probably anywhere from 2’6″ to 3’3″. They don’t really jump a whole lot bigger than that.”
In between jump schools, Stewart likes to take his horses out on trail. “In Florida, they go out on the trail ride a lot, even just go out and walk. So, it’s just relaxing. And then here in New Jersey, we have a big field at our barn, so they get to go hack out there a lot just to stay fresh.”
For full results and live scoring from the 2022 Devon Horse Show & Country Fair, click here.