Maybe you, like me, are at that age where you’re closer to retirement than your high school graduation. If you are, you might also have been struck by the fact that one of the most notable aspects of 2011 in Hunter Jumper Land was the unprecedented success of the under-20 crowd in classes where they competed against older professionals. A few examples:

Nineteen year old Lucy Davis was en fuego on the HITS Desert Circuit this year, winning a couple of the Smartpak Grands Prix on her mount Hannah, then finishing the circuit with wins in the HITS Grand Prix and the Lamborghini Grand Prix with her Nemo 119.

Lucy Davis and Hannah

Fourteen year old Lillie Keenan showed the pros how it’s done at the 2011 USHJA International Derby Finals in Kentucky.

Samantha Schaefer, 18, took first prize in the inaugural Diamond Mills Hunter Prix at HITS on the Hudson

Meg O’Mara, all of 15 years old, beat speedsters Wilhelm Genn and Happy Z at the Jacksonville Winter Series’ North Florida Hunter Jumper Association Grand Prix.

Anne Kursinski’s protégée Karen Polle (18) won the Grand Prix of Sussex (her first Grand Prix win) on Bottom Line and were second by 1/100th of a second in the HITS on the Hudson VII Grand Prix.

It runs in the genes, maybe? 19 year-old Martin Fuchs came in second in the Spruce Meadows CN International behind Eric Lamaze. Uncle Markus Fuchs, rider of the great Tinka’s Boy, former chef d’equipe of the Italian team and now consultant and coach of the Swiss team, must be proud.

Finally, Caitlin Zeigler, a 16 year-old trained by Canadian Olympic Gold Medallist and 2-time IJRC Rider of the Year Eric Lamaze, stepped onto the hallowed grounds of Spruce Meadows and became the youngest rider to ever win an FEI sanctioned event in the International Ring. Caitlin best a field that included Lamaze, Beezie Madden, Richard Spooner, Amy Millar, and Mario Deslauriers.

True, some of the professionals these kids beat may be close to qualifying for their AARP card and some of these kids don’t even have their driver’s licenses yet. Can we look at the success of the younger generation a job well done by their trainers, in many cases the professionals they’ve bested, and a sign of a bright future for the success of the sport?

The Jumpers

The culmination of the 2010/2011 indoor show jumping season, the Rolex FEI World Cup, was held in Leipzing in conjunction with three other equestrian disciplines (dressage, driving, and vaulting) for the first time in its 33 year history. Germany’s Christian Ahlmann took the honors on Leon Melchior’s stunning and speedy Taloubet Z. Canada’s Eric Lamaze on Hickstead took second, and the Netherlands’ Jeroen Dubbledam took third on BMC Van Grunsven’s Simon (now the ride of Beezie Madden).

Christian Ahlmann on Leon Melchior

The World Equestrian Festival, CHIO Aachen, took place July 8-17. The Dutch took home first prize, their third in the FEI Nations Cup series, and there was a three-way tie for second between Ireland, Great Britain and Germany. The famed Aachen Grand Prix was won by home crowd favorite Janne-Friederike Meyer on Cellagon Lambrasco. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the show was the emotional retirement ceremony of Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum’s longtime great partner, the inimitable Shutterfly.

Shutterfly’s Last Start and Farewell – Aachen 2011

The vaunted Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament hosted a record 89,000 fans that were privileged to see Canadian master Eric Lamaze and the unforgettable Hickstead win a second CN International. Sadly for the home crowd, the Canadians were edged out in the BMO Nations Cup by the French team, with the Swiss coming in third.

Eric Lamaze and Hickstead – 2011 CN International

Rolf-Goran Bengtsson and the diminutive yet ageless, Ninja La Silla were the individual gold medalists at the European championships, the first ever for Sweden. Team results were Germany in first, the French second, and Great Britain in third.

Rolf-Goran Bengtsson and Ninja La Silla

2011 will stand out as the year the US show jumping team will want to forget; the year a series of less than stellar performances saw retiring chef d’equipe George Morris’ squad relegated to the Promotional League Nations Cups for the 2012 season.

That being said, the team did rally to bring home team gold and individual gold and silver in the Pan American Games, as well as earn a qualifying spot in the 2012 London Olympics.

The Hunters

(Many thanks to my friend Marissa, a self-described Hunter Princess, as she offered some of her insights on this portion.) Arguably, the most significant win in the Hunter universe went to C Coast Z with 14 year old Lillie Keenan in the irons, winners of the USHJA International Derby Finals.

Perhaps of even greater significance to those of us adult ammies out there, fellow ammie Susie Baker showed her own Tell All when her trainer Peter Pletcher injured his back prior to the Finals. Susie decided to take on the challenge herself and piloted her gelding to 14th. Baker was subsequently awarded top Amateur Rider.  Whoohoo! Let’s hear it for the ammies!!

Taken, the ride of Kelley Farmer, is ranked first in the Derby standings for money won. Kelley had a pretty amazing year and has a stable full of hunter stars – she also has the rides on Praise, Bases Loaded, and Clearly, and they’re all in the top rankings. Scott Stewart’s horses are all up there too (Carlos Boy, Declaration, Garfield, Empire).  And oh yeah, let’s not forget about John French, (as if a Hunter Princess could) winner of the 2011 WCHR Professional Finals at The Capital Challenge Horse Show (as well as a few other classes!)  Perennial winners Jennifer Alfano and SBS Farm’s Jersey Boy continued to dominate, winning the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, the High Performance Reserve Championship at the Capital Challenge Horse Show, the 2011 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Devon, just to name a few.

Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy – 2011 $50,000 USHJA Hunter Derby

This year HITS on the Hudson held the first ever $500,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix, the biggest prize in hunter history, won by 18 year-old Samantha Schaefer. There was some discussion over the 3’3″ height of this class, as some industry insiders felt to truly showcase top hunters the fence heights should range from 3’6″ to 4’ with options to 4’3”.

“Leaping” Leslie Burr Howard won the Derby at the Putnam Boston Equestrian Classic, which is noteworthy in that it’s kind of cool that an Olympian was doing a 3′ derby.

The Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament, former host of the ASPCA Maclay Finals and the National Horse Show, announced it was closing its doors when the National Horse Show moved to Lexington, KY.

The Washington International Horse show reached an agreement with the Verizon Center to extend their run until at least 2013.

Victoria Colvin won every junior hunter award in sight at the Capital Challenge Horse Show. Colvin was also named Best Junior Rider. No surprise there!

Sarah Milliren, 17, of Oklahoma, led the victory gallop at the 128th ASPCA Maclay Finals in Lexington, KY. Millren bested a field of 198 competitors to take top honors upon equitation veteran Terrapin Station.

ASPCA Maclay Finals Sarah Milliren Winning Round 2011

The winner of the 2011 Pessoa/USEF Hunter Seat Equitation Medal Final was Schaefer Raposa on Charlie Z. Raposa kept her cool despite her horse’s pulled shoe minutes before she was due to enter the ring.

And, just because I’m losing steam and find this vastly amusing, there is a former UVA soccer player just drafted 16th by the LA Galaxy named Hunter Jumper. I’m not kidding you.