The All American Classic is a unique show hosted every September – with national championships for the Dutch Harness Horse breed and finals for pleasure equitation. THF brought two riders this year, Abby Van Kooten and Ella Hartwick.

These finals represented a few “firsts” for both of our young riders. It was Ella’s first time competing in a national championship and Abby’s inaugural trip to the senior finals. If that wasn’t enough, they both also had to complete their first pattern at a show without stirrups (you should’ve seen their faces the moment they saw it, gulp)!

To say we’re proud of how these young women faced these challenges with courage and determination is an understatement. Despite nerves and the daunting task ahead, they turned in strong performances the first day of competition. What we’re especially boastful of, though, is how on the second day, they managed to make the exact improvements they needed to after learning from the first day! It takes a lot of guts to make it to this level, let alone adjust so quickly when the pressure is on.

Both girls made the Top Ten in the Pleasure Equitation Olympics and the UPHA Pleasure Challenge Cup. These accomplishments are only second to the lessons learned and the goals achieved. As Ella said, “That was the hardest but best thing I’ve ever done!” We’re looking forward to watching these two compete in the rest of the pleasure equitation finals at St. Louis.