Category Archives: Championships

Santiago Lambre Storms to NetJets Grand Prix CSI2* Win

Santiago Lambre and Cetano van Aspergem Z. Photo © Sportfot.

Wellington, FL – January 18, 2020 – Mexico’s Santiago Lambre rode Cetano van Aspergem Z to a speedy victory in the $73,000 NetJets Grand Prix CSI2* on Saturday, January 18, during “Saturday Night Lights” at the 2020 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL.

Clears were hard to come by in the opening round set by course designer Oscar Soberon (MEX). A tight time allowed was first bested by Lillie Keenan (USA) riding Fasther, a mount that lived up to its name and led the way. Keenan was joined by five more riders, setting the stage for a six-horse speed duel over the second round’s short course.

Rails fell for both Keenan and fellow U.S. rider Todd Minikus, riding Calvalou, before U.S. team Olympic gold medalist McLain Ward set the pace on a clear round in 43.60 seconds aboard Jet Blue. His time, however, was quickly beat when Lambre and Cetano van Aspergem Z stopped the clock in 40.22 seconds.

“This horse is naturally fast,” said Lambre of the horse he has been competing internationally for almost three years. “I tried to not lose my mind, and I tried to keep a good, nice rhythm. The horse, at this level, can be very fast, and tonight it was.”

Becky Gochman and Last Man Darling Capture Championship in Equiline Amateur-Owner Hunter 3’3” 36 & Over

The Equiline Amateur-Owner Hunter 3’3” 36 & Over division came to an end on Saturday with Becky Gochman and Last Man Darling earning the title of champion. Gochman piloted Last Man Darling, owned by Gochman Sport Horses LLC, to two firsts, a third, a fifth, and a sixth-place ribbon.

This championship was an extra-special one for Gochman, of Wellington, FL. This season is the mare’s return to the show ring after an injury sidelined them for two years. This was the pair’s second week showing again. “Last week she was a little excited, and I was a little nervous; this week we both calmed down and took a breath,” Gochman described.

Last Man Darling has been in the Gochman family for close to five years. “She started off with my girls, Sophie and Mimi, in the junior hunters, and then I began to show her successfully in the 3’3” amateur-owners,” Gochman explained.

For full results, please visit www.PBIEC.com.

Kent Farrington Tops Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round 2

Kent Farrington and Kaprice. Photo © Sportfot.

Wellington, FL – January 16, 2020 – U.S. Olympic team silver medalist Kent Farrington and Kaprice had the speed to win the $37,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round 2 CSI2* on Thursday, January 16, during the 2020 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL.

The 22-horse jump-off was a who’s who of top sport from a competitive starting field of 103 horses. Farrington utilized Kaprice’s foot speed to stop Oscar Soberon’s (MEX) short track clock at 37.44 seconds over fellow U.S. rider Abigail McArdle riding Victorio 5, who collected a time of 38.36 seconds for owner Victorio Equine Group LLC.

“For this level of competition I’m producing younger horses, so for me it was more about what the horse is ready to do than how fast the class is going,” said Farrington of what shaped his plan for Thursday’s jump-off. “Kaprice is naturally very quick, and she grows in her confidence off riding with a bit of speed because she is extremely careful. It’s an incredible horse and it’s all about keeping her confidence high.”

Scott Stewart Rides Everwonder to Champion in the Equine & Tack Nutritionals Green Hunter 3’9”

For the second week in a row, Scott Stewart and Everwonder earned the championship title for the Green Hunter 3’9” division in the E. R. Mische Grand Hunter Ring. Stewart, of Wellington, FL, rode Everwonder to three first-place ribbons, as well as two second-place finishes to secure champion in the division.

The eight-year-old gelding owned by Ella Bikoff is going into its third season with Stewart. “We bought him when he was a five-year-old stallion from Canada, where he was mostly doing dressage,” Stewart explained. In their first few outings, the pair did a few pre-green classes and had a successful season last year showing in the first year green hunters.

While Stewart will continue to show Everwonder, owner Bikoff, of Whitestone, NY, is also starting to take over the reins. “The idea is to bring him along for Ella to do in the Small Junior Hunters,” said Stewart. Once World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) week during week six is finished, the gelding will mainly just show with Bikoff.

For full results, please visit www.PBIEC.com.

Fuqua Wows at WEF 1

Fuqua and Cornell 22 (Photo by Elegant Equus Photography)

Pony Champion, Big Eq, Juniors, and a Newly Arrived ‘Dream Girl’

Wellington, FL (January 14, 2020) – Starting off Winter Equestrian Festival Week 1 with a bang is the goal of every rider who descends on the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center show grounds. Tri-colored ribbons in the first week set the tone for a season of success, and Kat Fuqua jumped at every opportunity to ride into the spotlight. From the Juniors to the equitation, ponies to dressage, Fuqua is primely positioned for a banner year at WEF 2020.

Bringing her skills in the pony ring back to Palm Beach, Fuqua claimed Large and Medium Pony Championships, including the highest score she’s ever received. In the Larges Fuqua rode Upside, a pony owned by Rivers Edge and trained by Scott Stewart, to victory in 3 over fences classes and a tri-color in the Large Pony Classic. Under the tutelage of her trainer, Jimmy Torano of JET Show Stables, Fuqua and Upside were awarded a 90 and an 86 for a total of 176 in the Classic. While she was once before awarded a 90 aboard her own highly decorated Large Pony Prince, repeating such an impressive score was one of the week’s highlights.

In the Mediums, Fuqua rode another Champion catch ride for Nashville’s Alexa Karet, taking her pony mare Galianna to two firsts Over Fences and first Under Saddle. Galianna is trained by Tom Wright and Mitchell Robinson.

Fuqua changed rein from Ponies to Junior Hunters and Equitation, again riding for a prestigious name in the hunter ring. Riding I Love Lucy, a mare owned by John & Stephanie Ingram and trained by Tom Wright, she finished 3rd in the 3’3″ Under 15 Juniors. With her own Cornell 22, Fuqua began her official 2020 career in the Big Equitation with top finishes under the guidance of trainer Jimmy Torano.

Fuqua and Dream Girl (Photo by Sara Hellner)

While the Ponies, Hunters, and Equitation have been Fuqua’s forte for most of her life, her roots stem from a decidedly dressage family. Her home base of Collecting Gaits Farm recently welcomed a new FEI level dressage mare to their barn, the aptly named Dream Girl. A bay mare shown through the Intermediaire I in Holland, Dream Girl arrived in Miami in the first few days of 2020. Under the guidance of dressage trainer (and Dream Girl’s scout) Jason Canton, Fuqua has already ridden the bay a few times in quarantine with the goal of competing and qualifying in the Junior/Young Rider divisions down the road.

“This was an amazing WEF 1 and I’m really excited for everything happening this year,” said Fuqua. “Riding Upside to a 90 was definitely a highlight, as that is the highest score I’ve ever received at WEF in a pony class. I also was really lucky to be able to ride Tori [Colvin’s] International Hunter Derby horse I Love Lucy in the 3’3″ Juniors to an 84 and third in the class. Dream Girl is a whole different style of riding, but one I’ve grown up around and am excited to develop a relationship with her.”

Kat Fuqua’s passion for horses is reflected not only in her highly decorated Pony Hunter, Equitation, and Junior Hunter rider results, but also in the joy and dedication she shows each time she swings into the saddle. Based out of Atlanta, Georgia and under the guidance of trainer Jimmy Torano, every aspect of Fuqua’s riding, training, and show career reflects a unique ardor for equines and horse sport. She balances her equestrian lifestyle with attendance as a full time 6th grade student at Holy Innocence Episcopal School and takes pride in developing alongside her horses. In addition to riding, Kat enjoys spending time with her school friends and her favorite subject is French.

For more information, visit www.KatFuqua.com.

Cian O’Connor Claims Rosenbaum PLLC Grand Prix at WEF

Cian O’Connor and Lassaro Delle Schiave. Photo © Sportfot.

Wellington, FL – January 11, 2020 – Irish Olympic bronze medalist Cian O’Connor won the $75,000 Rosenbaum PLLC Grand Prix riding Lazzaro Delle Schiave to close out opening week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) on Sunday, January 12, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL.

From a 46-horse field, 17 advanced to the jump-off of the Rosenbaum PLLC Grand Prix set by course designer Eric Hasbrouck (USA). Returning sixth, O’Connor and 11-year-old Italian Sporthorse gelding Lazzaro Delle Schiave gave it all they had, stopping the clock in a time of 35.956 seconds. The time would eventually take the victory by less than a half a second over runner-up Molly Ashe Cawley riding Balous Day Date, owned by Louisburg Farm, to a time of 36.455 seconds.

“We went early and I knew there were some fast ones and good ones behind me, so I took out a few strides, particularly to the last, and really used my horse’s strength there,” said O’Connor, who has settled in Wellington for the duration of the season with his three top horses. “The course was fast and a nice test for the rest of the circuit.”

Lilly Goldstein and Fenway Claim Championship in Small Junior Hunters 15 & Under

WEF hunter competition came to a close during week 1 with Lilly Goldstein and Fenway earning champion in the Small Junior Hunters 15 & Under. Goldstein hails from Argyle, TX and rode her horse Fenway to two firsts, two thirds, and a sixth-place ribbon to earn the tri-color.

Fenway is owned by Goldstein, and proved himself to the judges by winning the hack and staying consistent throughout both days of the division. “The judges really liked him! He jumped very nice and was super smooth during our rounds,” Goldstein said of her horse’s performance.

For full results, please visit www.PBIEC.com.

Men Make a Comeback in $75,000 Battle of the Sexes

Daniel Coyle and Black Pearl. Photo © Sportfot.

Wellington, FL – January 11, 2020 – The first “Saturday Night Lights” of the 2020 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) featured the crowd-favorite $75,000 Battle of the Sexes, presented by Wellington Regional Medical Center, which saw the Men’s team return to the top of the podium.

After unseating the women, who were the 2019 victors, the men’s team is picking up momentum in the Battle of the Sexes with their second win in the class in three years. The men pocketed their first-ever victory in 2018, and on Saturday night, in the second-to-last match race, Ireland’s Daniel Coyle sealed a win for his team with a final score of 29 to the women’s 23.

“The one thing that you get in these classes that you don’t always get in other classes is the crowd really enjoys it because it’s very easy for them to understand: the girl beats the guy, and that’s who wins it,” said Coyle of what he enjoys about the Battle of the Sexes.

Adrienne Sternlicht Storms to Victory in $25,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Classic

Adrienne Sternlicht is kicking off her WEF season with a bang by earning a 1.45m win earlier in the week and again leading the victory gallop in the $25,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Classic on Saturday riding Cadans Z, owned by her own Starlight Farms 1 LLC.

From a field of 31, 10 horses advanced to an Eric Hasbrouck-designed jump-off track where Sternlicht stopped the clock in an uncatchable 36.769 seconds over her trainer and two-time U.S. Olympic team gold medalist McLain Ward. He and Heavenly W, owned by Portfolio Horses LLC, stopped the clock double clear in 38.026 seconds.

“At the end of last year, McLain was riding [Cadans Z], and this is my first week back on her. She’s a great mare, has a lot of quality, and today I was able to get out of her way,” said Sternlicht of her one-year history with the 10-year-old Zangersheide mare (Carosso VDL x Navarone). “She has not been the easiest horse for me to figure out. Having the experience of watching McLain ride any horse, especially one that you’ve been working with, is always incredibly educational.”

Stella Propp and Ellie Ferrigno Ride Inquisitive to Championship in the Small Junior 16-17 Hunters

Saturday morning in the Rost Arena began with Stella Propp riding Inquisitive to the Small Junior 16-17 Hunter championship. Ellie Ferrigno, from Newtown, CT, had the ride for the first day of the division, earning two first places. On the second day, Propp, of New York, NY, took over and earned a fourth and fifth. Together, the two riders were able to pilot Inquisitive, owned by Aquitaine Equine, to the tri-color ribbon.

While Propp had to attend school on the first day of the Small Junior Hunter division, she was lucky enough to have Ferrigno step in.

“I have Ellie to thank for this weekend,” said Propp. “She is amazing and always there when we need her!”

For full results, please visit www.PBIEC.com.

Laura Chapot Finishes One-Two in Bainbridge 1.40m Jumper Speed Challenge at WEF

Laura Chapot and Thornhill Kate. Photo © Sportfot.

Wellington, FL – January 10, 2020 – Laura Chapot had the speed to claim the top two spots in the $6,000 Bainbridge 1.40m Speed Challenge on Friday, January 10, during opening week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL.

Coming off another 1.40m victory on Wednesday, Chapot bested a field of 76 horses over Eric Hasbrouck’s speed track aboard 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare Thornhill Kate. Her time of 57.849 seconds was good enough to bump her second-place mount and Wednesday’s winner, Out of Ireland, a horse she owns with The Edge, into the runner-up position in 57.855 seconds.

Terri Irrer and Café Noir Clinch Adult Hunter Championship

Terri Irrer of South Lyon, MI opened her WEF season with a tricolor in Section A of the Older Adult Amateur Hunter division riding Café Noir. After a year-long break from the show ring, the pair received first, second, and third-place ribbons to earn them the championship in the E. R. Mische Grand Hunter Ring.

For full results, please visit www.PBIEC.com.

Up-and-Coming Stars Set to Feature in National Classes at Olympia

In addition to hosting the world’s top riders, Olympia, The London International Horse Show is proud to welcome the country’s leading national competitors as they contend for National Championship titles.

The Voltaire Design Under 25 British Championship

The Voltaire Design Under 25 British Championship runs under a new format in 2019, with 24 riders selected to compete in the initial qualifying round on Friday 20 December. The top ten from this qualifier will advance to the final on Sunday 22 December.

The new qualification criteria for the class rewards achievements across the year, ensuring a top-class field. The first ten places go to the members of the Great British Junior European and Young Rider European teams, which includes Jack Whitaker, Britain’s top performer at the Junior Europeans, who is also making his mark on the senior international circuit, and William Fletcher, another rising star of the international ranks having already represented Great Britain at Senior FEI Jumping Nations Cup level.

William’s brother, 16-year-old Oliver, will also take his place on the starting line-up having been part of the Junior European Team which finished sixth at this year’s Championships, along with Oli Tuff, Sienna Charles, and Lily Attwood.

Joe Stockdale will be looking to back up his victory in the Under 25 class at Royal Windsor Horse Show in May and will be joined by his Young Rider European teammates Graham Babes, Leonie Aitkenhead, and Jodie Hall McAteer.

Others to automatically gain a coveted spot in the competition are those who have represented Great Britain at Senior FEI Nations Cup level in 2019, including James Wilson and Emily Moffitt, who will also be taking part in the 5* competition at the Show, along with Georgia Tame, Emily Ward, and wildcard Harry Charles, who was second in last year’s Championship.

James Wilson has broken into the top ranks in 2019, representing Great Britain on several occasions, including in the FEI Nations Cups at Hickstead, La Baule, and St Gallen, where he was one of only a few combinations to jump double clear. Another increasingly familiar name on the international scene is Emily Moffitt, who was a pivotal part of the team that won the prestigious Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of Ireland in August.

The final places in the competition go to qualifiers from dedicated classes at selected British Showjumping Shows. Qualifying at the Aintree Equestrian Centre Winter Classic was Charlie Jones, Millie Allen, Chloe Reynolds, and Joe Trickett, whereas Alanna Clutterbuck, Yazmin Davis, Flo Norris, and James Whitaker made it through from the Addington Equestrian Winter Classic.

The Pony Club Mini-Major

The Mini-Major is a popular class which sees Pony Club members pair up with top international riders in a thrilling competition to each complete a fault-free Show Jumping round in the quickest time. Last year’s competition saw leading British female riders Laura Renwick and Holly Smith, as well as crowd favourites William Funnell and Guy Williams, line up alongside young Pony Club riders from across the country.

Travelling across from Northern Ireland to represent the Iveagh Pony Club will be Charlotte McCracken, who along with Millie Lawson from Deeside in Scotland and Tom Hogan from Gwynedd in Wales, will be reigniting the battle with their English counterparts. Essex will have two representatives, Hollie Gerken from the Essex Branch and Liala Ramaci from Essex Hunt North, with Bisley and Sandown Chase, North Warwickshire, and Banwell represented by Tommy Goody, Isabella Beecroft-Luckett, and Emmie Horner, respectively.

The furious competition between the young riders and their 5* counterparts is set to take place during the afternoon of Wednesday 18 December.

BSPS Mountain and Moorland Championship sponsored by LeMieux

The last day of Olympia, Sunday 22 December, will play host to one of the most prestigious Showing finals in the country, The BSPS Ridden Mountain and Moorland Championship sponsored by LeMieux. A place in the Olympia final is the most coveted prize within the native pony ranks and competition to qualify for Olympia has been greater than ever.

The 2019 final will welcome ponies and riders from around the country, including last year’s Reserve Supreme Overall Champion, Cadlanvalley Buzby and 14-year old Libby Grota. Following a hugely successful year, Libby returns to Olympia determined to go one better than 2018 and clinch the top prize aboard her family’s home-bred Welsh Section B stallion.

Libby will face competition from old rival Emma Boardman, owner and producer of last year’s third-placed Dyffryngwy Sir Picasso, a Welsh Section D who scored the highest performance marks at Olympia in 2018.

Competing at Olympia Grand for the first time will be nine-year-old Olivia Brightmore, with her home-produced Shetland Pony Lotuspoint Cassisus. The pair qualified at the BSPS Heritage Championships, where they also won the Restricted Open Ridden Small Breeds and the Open Ridden Small Breeds, an astounding feat given it was the young rider’s first attempt at open level. Following her qualification, Olivia described her debut at Olympia as “beyond exciting.”

Another to make her debut at the Show will be April Gilmartin with her home-produced Gems Malt Whiskey. Blackpool-based April, a beautician, and her mother Kathleen, a former champion ballroom dancer, bought ‘Malty’ as a two-year-old, and form the ultimate amateur team, producing the Welsh Section C at home. Qualifying for Olympia at the BSPS Heritage Championships on their first attempt was extra special for the team as it will provide trainer Pam Prickett, who is battling cancer, the chance to tick off a major event on her bucket list.

Also taking to the Olympia Grand for the first time will be Skellorn Royal Anniversary, the Welsh Section B star of the Netflix series ‘Free Rein’, owned and ridden by Victoria Oakes. Conversely, it will be the last-ever appearance under saddle for Lynda Calcutt’s Dartmoor stallion Shilstone Rocks North Westerly, as the prolific winner will retire at the Show. Ridden by regular partner Chloe Chubb, they recently won their final class at Horse of the Year Show and will hope to bow out in style at Olympia.

The Final of the BSPS Mountain and Moorland Championship sponsored by LeMieux will take place on the afternoon of Sunday 22 December, alongside 5* Show Jumping action and displays from The Musical Ride of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and Jean-François Pignon.

Simon Brooks-Ward, Show Director, said: “The quality of the National classes at Olympia is improving year-on-year, and really adds to the Show. It’s a privilege to see the next generation of riders coming up through the ranks and be able to provide a unique opportunity for them to be able to compete amongst their heroes at a 5* Show like Olympia.”

In addition to the National classes, spectators can also expect top international action, as the Show hosts three FEI World Cup™ competitions across the seven-day event, in Dressage, Driving, and Show Jumping, alongside an exciting array of international display acts and competitions. New features, such as the ‘Dressage Unwrapped’ masterclass, will join old favourites such as The Saracen Horse Feeds Shetland Pony Grand National and classes such as The Cayenne Puissance and the prestigious Turkish Airlines Olympia Grand Prix to provide entertainment for the whole family.

To purchase tickets for Olympia, please visit www.olympiahorseshow.com or telephone the box office on 0871 230 5580.

For more information, please contact:
Gayle Jenkins / gjenkins@revolutionworld.com / +44 (0)203 176 0355

IHSA Members Lead Nation at USHJA Emerging Athletes Program and Horsemanship Challenge Finals

Julianna Empie aboard Woody. Photo by Rachel Sowinski/USHJA.

Fairfield, Conn. – Nov. 16, 2019 – Members of the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) from across the country participated in the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund/USHJA Emerging Athletes Program (EAP) National Training Session and Horsemanship Quiz Challenge held at the University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio Nov. 7-10.

Out of the 252 riders that applied for the EAP this year, 192 participated in a Regional Training Session. Sixteen riders and three stable managers were invited to the finals, six of whom are IHSA members.

The 2019 Horsemanship Quiz Challenge had 426 registrants. Of the entrants, 309 completed the Level One quiz and 106 of those made it to the Level Two quiz. Only 24 were invited to participate in the HQC Finals. Three IHSA members made the shortlist of finalists.

The EAP was created in 2009 to provide opportunities for young riders to advance their horsemanship and riding skills. EAP winners and participants have gone on to win numerous championships in the hunter, jumper, and equitation arenas including the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals, ASPCA Maclay Finals, USEF Prix des States, and at IHSA Nationals.

Finalists are evaluated on their riding skills, stable management, combined with their score on a written test. Throughout the four-day event, riders train with Olympic Gold Medalist and IHSA Cacchione Cup winner Peter Wylde. Each finalist trained and cared for a horse generously provided by the University of Findlay, Lake Erie College, and Henry Pfeiffer.

Julianna Empie, a 19-year-old Penn State Equestrian Team member, bested the field of 15 nationally-qualified riders after a rigorous four days of evaluation and a Nations-Cup Style competition. Empie has ridden at regional training sessions since 2016 with clinicians Kip Rosenthal, Anne Kursinski, Joe Fargis, and Karen Healey.

“I was excited to just be at EAP National Finals,” Empie said. “It was amazing because I’ve looked up to other riders and past winners, and now to be a winner of this program is just crazy.”

Empie spent the first few days of the EAP Finals figuring out her mount Woody, provided by Henry Pfeiffer. She said that he was a different ride than she is used to but her consistency in the saddle helped her secure the win.

“Riding multiple horses through the IHSA has given me the skill to feel my horse out in those first few moments and put it all together for a smooth ride,” Empie said.

Wylde complimented Empie as a natural rider with a big future. He commented on her effortless and consistent her rounds aboard Woody in the Nations Cup-style competition. Four riders were called back for a ride-off on different mounts after two rounds of competition on Sunday. Empie’s ride-off round was aboard Clark, owned by the University of Findlay, and won the EAP Outstanding Horse Award. The judges gave Empie the nod and the national finals honor.

As this year’s winner, Empie received a spot in the 2020 USHJA Gold Star Clinic in the 1.10/1.15m section. “I’m so excited for the Gold Star Clinic,” Empie said. “The opportunity to ride in Florida and learn from other professionals in stable management is huge.”

The IHSA members that took part in the EAP National Training Session are:

  • Julianna Empie, 19, Chester Springs, Pennsylvania – Penn State University
  • Joelle Hylton, 19, Manteca, California – Cal Poly
  • Rose Kauffman-Skloff, 19, Los Angeles, California – Savannah College of Art and Design
  • Evelyn Smith, 18, Morristown, New Jersey – Delaware Valley University
  • Alicia Weismann, 19, Southampton, New Jersey – Rider University
  • Mara Picciochi, 20, Morristown, New Jersey – Centenary University

Also held at the University of Findlay was the Horsemanship Quiz Challenge (HQC) Finals. The HQC consists of two levels of online horsemanship quizzes comprised of multiple choice and true/false questions that cover horsemanship, anatomy, nutrition, riding theory, and welfare. To be eligible for finals, participants must score an 80 or higher on Level One and a 90 or higher on Level Two. The HQC Finals includes the written test and a hands-on practicum that puts the finalists to the ultimate test.

Keedysville, Maryland native Chloe Bellerive topped the field of HQC finalists to stand atop the podium as winner of the overall competition.

“The IHSA has helped a lot participating over the years,” said Bellerive, a 20-year-old University of Kentucky senior. “The horsemanship you learn from being able to figure out your horse while riding and what it needs from bits and tack to barn management.”

Bellerive is no stranger to HQC competition. She has participated since its inaugural year in 2012. “It was truly very rewarding to take my years of experience after competing for so many years to rise above and win,” she said.

Part of her winner’s package includes a two-month paid internship at Spy Coast Farm in Lexington, Kentucky during the summer of 2020. Bellerive said that she is excited to experience all aspects of the top-notch Warmblood breeding and training facility.

On her way to the overall win, Bellerive scored third on the written exam, first on the horsemanship/identification exam and second on the practicum.

When asked what advice she’d give to those looking to ride in the IHSA, Bellerive said, “Ride as many horses as you can and take every opportunity to keep learning because you can truly never learn enough.”

Two other IHSA members competed in the HQC Finals. University of Michigan student Rebecca Hopkins (Northville, Michigan) scored second on the written exam and fourth on the horsemanship/identification exam. Lauren Obermeyer from Hamilton, Ohio, who rides at the University of Findlay, scored third on the horsemanship/identification exam and fourth on the practicum exam.

For more information, go to IHSAinc.com or contact media@IHSAinc.com.

Veterans and Mustangs Are Perfect Match at WDAA World Championship Show

Jimmy Welch and Patti Gruber performing a Color Guard with mustangs Little Red Hot and OWH Pearl Harbor. Photo Courtesy of the Western Dressage Association of America and Don Stine Photography.

Marine Corps veteran Jimmy Welch (Woodstock, Ill.) and dressage trainer Patti Gruber (Woodstock, Ill.) competed with two mustangs at this year’s Western Dressage Association of America’s (WDAA) World Championship Show. These World Show first-timers also paid tribute to the flag and all veterans with a Color Guard every evening before the freestyle tests.

Welch and Gruber brought Gruber’s five-year-old mustang gelding OWH Pearl Harbor and her eight-year-old mustang mare Little Red Hot from Welch’s organization, Operation Wild Horse (OWH), to demonstrate the powerful impact a combination of Western dressage and mustangs can have in the healing process of both mind and body for veterans. OWH focuses on engaging veterans and their families with domesticated mustangs in a therapeutic setting. There the veterans are taught about horse care, horsemanship, and riding skills through Western dressage.

In his first ever national championship, Welch went on to compete Little Red Hot successfully in several tests over the course the competition, earning a top-10 placing in the Introductory Test 3 Amateur division.

Welch and Gruber shared why the seemingly unlikely combination of a mustang, a veteran, and Western dressage are a perfect match in supporting American veterans.

Why are mustangs and veterans a good fit?

Welch: “Considering that these animals lived in the wild, there are a lot of parallels between American military veterans and mustangs. The biggest one being fight or flight. These mustangs are very hyper-vigilant, very aware, and so are America’s veterans. It’s what we’re trained to do when we serve. And that’s for safety. Truly, working with the mustangs is like working with a mirror and being able to see yourself for the first time. What we feel we’re doing and what the horse shows us we’re doing is undeniably one of the most therapeutic things that I’ve ever experienced. I love everything there is to love about a mustang. They lived in the wild. Anything that can live in the wild and then learn to be domesticated and take care of someone like myself … there’s nothing not to like about it.

“We believe there is a special bond between veterans and something that has lived in the wild and had to survive. We have a new mustang coming to us that has claw marks from a cougar or a mountain lion, and there’s an Army Sergeant Major that did 22 years in the military that has already been working with her with a colleague of Patti’s. We don’t even have her yet and he’s working with her.”

Gruber: “We don’t know what his draw is to her yet—he’s relatively new to the program—so we don’t know what he sees in her, but he met her at a fundraiser and that was it for him. He’s texting me about her blankets for winter, asking if we need to pick out a color for her. You know, he’s a tough Army veteran who has two sons and this is like his daughter. It’s amazing.”

Where do you get the mustangs?

Gruber: “Our mustangs come from different sources. Some have come through the Mustang Heritage Foundation, we have a couple that have come through private homes, including veterans or the families of veterans, and we also get them through a rescue network that gets them out of auctions and kill pens.

“So our motto has become “horses helping veterans helping horses,” because as much as the horses do for [the veterans], we also do some rescue work to get these mustangs into better situations. We get the mustangs into forever homes where we never have to worry about where they’ll end up. They get all the food that they want, and they come in at night to their stalls where they can just relax and chill. They have their own space and they aren’t fending for their lives or wondering if they’re going to end up in a bad situation. The ones that come to us never have to worry, because they have a forever home with us.

“Mustangs are not seen as the most valuable horses; a lot of them get overlooked for what they can do. A mustang can naturally jump six feet from a standstill … and do, regularly! They make great mounts, whether it’s for dressage or cowboy mounted shooting or barrel racing, and they’re amazing endurance horses because, naturally, they travel 20 to 30 miles a day to find enough food and water when they’re out in the wild.”

Welch: “Our veterans are very, very big into the mustang rescue aspect. There’s more draw for our rescue mustangs than anything, because a lot of us felt like we needed to be rescued. One of our key things [at OWH] is to ensure that we have enough funds to have horse treats in the veteran aisle so that whenever veterans come, they can interact with their horse. That’s so important, because that is the relationship-building aspect of it.

“I had maybe been on a horse once or twice [before OWH.] Patti approached me with this idea for OWH, and in my first humbling experience in all of this I said, “Honestly, I don’t think that horses and veterans have anything of value to offer each other, but I’m willing to listen.” She just had a completely different approach to it. Then I met her mustang, Padre, and in a barn full of 30 domestic horses, there was just something so special about him. I just connected with him.”

How does Western dressage aid the veterans’ healing process?

Gruber: “Dressage itself is the oldest form of military riding, dating all the way back to the Knights of the Round Table and the battle maneuvers those horses used to do, so it has a direct link to the military already. The structure of Western dressage gives the veterans we work with something to work towards, goals to work towards. ‘Can I move up the levels?’ is the same idea as ‘Can I get more rank when I’m in the military?’ So there are direct correlations on multiple levels.

“And who doesn’t want to be a cowboy? Who doesn’t want to throw on cowboy boots and jeans and go get on a horse? It’s just cool. We’ve had veterans tell us being on a horse is the closest thing they’ve had to being in the military, because you’re in control but at any moment you could be out of control.”

Welch: “Western dressage is a perfect fit for us because the most important thing to us is safety. Safety of the rider, safety of the horse, and safety of the spectator. That safety is built through a foundation of the basic principles of riding, dressage. If you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right, so Western dressage being the foundation of what we do is creating that undeniable safety in working with mustangs.

“Doing the tests in Western dressage reminds me a lot of marching. It reminds me of being aware of your position, your form, all of these things very disciplined and being top-notch.”

How does having the WDAA’s support advance your mission of helping veterans and mustangs?

Welch: “Our relationship with the WDAA is fairly new, but it has been the most welcoming relationship, one of the top welcoming relationships we’ve had in the horse world. It was very fitting. I can’t say enough about the decisions the WDAA Board of Directors have made to immediately put into play a veteran membership and a veteran lifetime membership, which comes with a buckle. They have opened their doors to us. I now serve as Veteran Liaison to their board, which means that the board is hearing proposals for how to include veterans, what we wanted to do, and so on, directly from the Operation Wild Horse veterans that I relay back to the board.

“In a short amount of time, they have done so much for us and for veterans already. That’s why we’re here. We want to be part of organizations that want to take care of veterans. WDAA is leading the way in what will be a very successful veteran program, and I hope other breeds and disciplines will model off of that.”

Gruber: “WDAA is doing great work and leading the way in integrating veterans into the Western dressage community and competitions. The other areas of the sport and their organizations could absolutely open their doors and open their membership to encourage more veterans to get involved with it. I don’t think they need to have specific classes for them, but [they can] award and acknowledge their achievement when they are out there in the ring at a show.”

The WDAA recently announced that the USEF Youth Sportsman’s Grant has been awarded to OWH for their youth outreach program. Through the program, children of veterans and active duty military learn horsemanship and riding skills utilizing Western dressage. Additionally, OWH works with active duty military under the age of 22 and Poolees, individuals under the age of 22 who are going into the military. This program concentrates on the therapeutic attributes of horse riding, ground work, and the comradery that accompanies the equestrian community atmosphere.

This no fee annual program has been in place since February 2017, but participants were limited due to the shortage of equipment. The $1,500 grant will allow OWH to implement the curriculum on a larger scale as proper equipment can be purchased to provide the safest atmosphere possible for participants ages 2-21.

by Ashley Swift
© 2019 United States Equestrian Federation

Harper JR Named ‘Sport Horse of the Week’ at IFHSA World & Grand National Championships

Photo Courtesy of IFSHA and Avalon Photography.

Springfield, Ohio (November 4, 2019) –Nearly 300 classes were presented over five days in October when the International Friesian Show Horse Association (IFSHA) 2019 World and Grand National Championships came to the Champions Center in Springfield, Ohio, but it didn’t take long for N2 Saddlery to find its Sport Horse the Week: Part-Bred Friesian English Pleasure World Champion, Harper JR, owned by Lauren Riehle of Kernersville, NC, and competed by amateur rider Anaiah Powers, who trains under one of the top handlers ever to enter a Dressage at Devon ring, Bruce Griffin, of Griffin Sport Horses in Virginia.

Griffin, whose professional training career with Friesians like Harper JR began under the tutelage of great horsemen like Jeff Wonnell and Barbara Cross, says, “It’s a dream come true to be blessed with such talented and versatile horses.” The 2019 World Champion and N2 Saddlery Sporthorse Award winner had previously earned overall Part Bred High Point and overall High Point in Hand Horse titles at the 2016 IFSHA World Championships.

But the real story of this gentle giant, says Riehle, just keeps growing. “I lucked into my dream horse. I met him the day he was born,” she says of her nine-year-old, 17.3-hand (“he just keeps growing!”) Friesian/Percheron/Thoroughbred cross.  “You may not see the Thoroughbred but he’s got a whole lot of go. He’s also a kind, fun guy and he’s great with Anaiah.”

When Riehle brought the young Friesian to Griffin Sport Horses, she told its trainer, “I just want a nice trail horse. Let’s take our time.” Then three months later Bruce called her back and told her, ‘I don’t know what you think you got, but you’ve got yourself a show horse here.’”

The N2 Saddlery Award recognition couldn’t have come at a better time. “Saddles have always been a challenge for him. So thank you, N2, for your sponsorship and this lovely award.” Because, as Riehle lovingly notes, finding anything to fit her great big World Champion can be a challenge, “Do you know how hard it is just to find a 90” blanket? Ninety inches – I’m not kidding!”

Contact: Sue Newell
www.n2saddlery.com
sue@n2saddlery.com