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Geoffrey Hesslink and Jos Van Kouterhoeve

Sarah Mechlin and Southside

Maria Rasmussen and Quite Chocolate_

Maria Rasmussen and Subject To Change

Maria Rasmussen and Corporate

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Week III of Great Lakes Equestrian Festival Begins with Maria Rasmussen Taking the Lead in the Professional Hunter Divisions

Written by: Elaine Wessel
Client: Morrissey Management Group (MMG)
Release Date: 2015-07-15

Traverse City, MI – July 15, 2015 – Into its third week of competition, the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival began on a picturesque day welcoming numerous competitors, family, friends and spectators to Flintfields Horse Park. Under blue skies, the quaint tourist town played host to a series of strong performances from exhibitors in the Polk Family Main Hunter Ring. Perhaps the hunter rider who took best advantage of the day was Maria Rasmussen, who started out her show week with high-scoring rounds in multiple back-to-back divisions. She was followed closely by the likes of Geoffrey Hesslink, Sarah Mechlin, Hillary Johnson, and Peter Pletcher, all hoping to surpass the early leader tomorrow.

The Performance Working Hunters at the 3’6” fence height began with Mechlin and Hesslink tied for the lead after the first two classes, both earning a first and fourth place. It is no wonder that Mechlin and her mount, Barney Jacob’s Southside, were at the top considering that the rider has been competing with the horse for nearly four years. Although the gelding trains with Heather Irvine and Tammy Nimbach of Michigan-based Hillside Farm, the Missourian claims that he has been one of her more consistent rides over the years.

“Heather [Irvine] and Tammy [Nimbach] have been long-time supporters of mine, and I really love riding this horse for them, Mechlin said. “Unlike some of the horses I ride, I meet them for the first time on the show day, Southside is a return horse for me and I really enjoy him; he is definitely one of my favorite.”

The horse also competes with his owner in the Large Junior Hunters, and will be on the showgrounds two more weeks to finish out the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival series.

It was a different story for Hesslink and Jos Van Kouterhoeve, owned by Salim Radi., as Hesslink just picked up the ride after the 7-year- old gelding’s recent importation from across the pond.

“He just came in from Europe and is just starting to do the hunters, but he is picking it up pretty quickly,” Hesslink said of the horse.

Of the courses, Hesslink sung praises for designer Keith Bollette’s tracks. “I like the courses a lot today, especially the option jumps in the first fences classes. The handy really allowed you to be handy. The first and second jump had a double inside turn, which we did and he was really good at it.”

Unfortunately for the initial leaders, Rasmussen and Over Fences Farm LLC’s Quite Chocolate overtook them in the point standings with a blue ribbon in the hack. Mechlin took third followed closely by Hesslink in fourth. The horse and rider pair of Rasmussen and Quite Chocolate consistently improved their placings throughout the first half of the division, having been awarded a third spot finish in the over fences phase and a runner-up placing in the handy round.

The First Year Green Working Hunters will kick off on Thursday with Rasmussen in the lead after earning the top two spots in both of the day’s classes with two different mounts. Memorable, another Over Fences Farm LLC horse, and Ashley Netzky’s Corporate swapped places between the two over fences classes, each awarded first and second places from the judges to top the leaderboard early on in competition.

Michigan-native Hillary Johnson, also with two rides in the division, earned both third positions, first with Copper Fox LLC’s grey Moonwalk and then with Rolling Acres’ Rogelio. Just behind her with two fourth place ribbons was Caroline Weeden in the irons aboard Margaret Shank Benjamin’s Oak Grove. Both competitors will have to fend off Rasmussen with solid performances tomorrow over fences and in the hack if they hope to claim the rosettes.

As if leading two divisions on only the first day of competition wasn’t enough, Rasmussen will head into tomorrow tied for the top spot with Peter Pletcher and the stallion Thanks For The Gold in the Green Conformation Hunters. This time aboard Netzky’s chestnut Subject To Change, the pair clinched a blue and red ribbon to match those of Pletcher and Rancho de los Arboles LLC’s ‘Hank.’ It was the latter horse-and-rider pair who navigated their way to the champion honors last week. The two partnerships will vie for needed points in the conclusion of the division tomorrow, with two over fences trips and a hack still to go.

“I have no reason for complaint,” Rasmussen reflected. “All the horses have been great and have been jumping really well, helping us to earn great ribbons. I’m looking forward to closing out the divisions tomorrow and sticking around for the next two weeks.”

The second day of competition continues tomorrow in Traverse City at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival with champions named in the professional hunter divisions. Later in the week, a number of $2,500 Hunter Classics will give riders the opportunity to compete for a share of the prize money. In the jumper ring, the $50,000 Flintfields Farm Grand Prix will take place Sunday in the Grand Prix Ring.

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