Jean McLaren and Pearl Of Grey VDL. Photo by Alison Hartwell Photography

The final week of the 2024 Lamplight Spring Classic Series concluded on Sunday, May 26, with professionals, juniors, and amateurs competing for winning honors and sizable purses. Held at the historic Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois, the HITS Chicago series spans the spring and summer, bringing top-tier hunter, jumper, and equitation competition to this beloved Midwest location.

In the venue’s Douglas Elliman Stadium, spectators gathered to view one of Sunday’s biggest events — the $3,000 Adequan/NAL/Jr/Am 1.25m/1.35m Jumper Classic. was Blue Mountain Farm rider Jean McLaren, 67, of Evanston, Illinois, who had also earned the blue ribbon in the same classic the week prior, returned to the winner’s circle

with her own eight-year-old KWPN mare, Pearl of Grey VHL (Cordess 2 x D. Amelusina). 

McLaren’s jump-off was quick and tidy, clocking in fault-free at 46.527 seconds. Following closely was Bellis Farm rider Caelinn Leahy on Godspeed Sport Horses LLC’s 13-year-old Selle Françcais gelding, Bel Star (Untouchable x Living Star). Glynn Way rider Anya Haverfield on her own 13-year-old KWPN mare, Galanthos B (Arthos R x Borina VDL), rounded out the top three with a double clear and a jump-off time of 49.6 seconds.

“Last year was really our first full year of showing, and she was amazing,” shared Mclaren of her mount. “We ended up being fifth in the country in the division even though we didn’t start competing in it until May. 

McLaren’s strong partnership with “Pearl” was on full display over the past two weeks of competition  with consistent and impressive placings in addition to her consecutive classic wins. 

“She’s just a perfect fit for me. She likes the way I ride, and I like the way she goes. She’s super careful, so even when I make a mistake, she finds a way to get over the jump. She’s got a lot of foot speed, so we tend to do pretty well unless I make some sort of catastrophic mistake.”

Beyond her success in the show ring, McLaren has a passion for giving back to her community, specifically through the Chicago chapter of Girls Inc., a national organization. McLaren decided to compete in the $10,000 STX Open Speed class on Thursday and pledged to donate any of her purse winnings to Girls Inc. of Chicago, even securing a few sponsors to match her potential winnings. Although McLaren was kept out of her usual top placings due to a rail, she managed to take home tenth in the class. With her $375 donation and her sponsors’ matched contributions, McLaren raised an estimated $5,000 for the organization.

“From 2016 to 2019, I served as the founding board chair, and since then, I’ve remained on the board,” explained McLaren. “The organization is designed to mentor girls from ages five through twelfth grade. Its mission is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold, which is a mission that’s near and dear to my heart. We are focused primarily on girls of color who live in some of Chicago’s most challenged neighborhoods.”

Having spent many years in the Chicagoland area, McLaren has extensive experience at the HITS Chicago Lamplight Equestrian Center and enjoys showing at lthe boutique venue.

“I’ve really been riding at Lamplight for several decades now,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite shows. It’s wonderful to be local, but it’s also such a beautiful facility. My horses have almost always done well here. I’m really lucky to have this venue so close to home.”

The $3,000 Adequan/NAL/Jr/Am 1.25m/1.35m Jumper Classic was just one of many events in the action-packed weekend schedule. On Saturday, May 25, exhibitors participated in the exciting $2,500 Gambler’s Choice Class. In a gambler’s choice format, riders accumulate points by jumping various obstacles with different point values within a set time limit, aiming for the highest total score  Optional high-risk “Joker” jumps offer significant bonuses but potential penalties. In the end, it was Kate Cornell on her own 16-year-old Warmblood mare, Dolltaire (Coltaire Z), who emerged as the winner with a score of 910 points.

The $750 Puddle Jumper Classic closed out the final day of the Lamplight Spring Classic Series. Angelina Foley and Tammy McConnell’s 21-year-old Welsh Pony Cross gelding, Tap Dance, performed flawlessly to claim the winning honors.

Although the Lamplight Spring Classic Series has concluded, the action at HITS Chicago will continue Wednesday, May 29, with the start of the three-week-long Lamplight Spring Spectacular Series.