It was a whiteout in the amateur-owner, 18-35, hunter division at the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club horse show, as Lindsey Chestnut rode her two gray geldings–Snowday and Vitton–to the championship and reserve, July 7-9 in Tryon, N.C.
“They look exactly alike–and they’re both great horses,” Chestnut said.
And while Chestnut has had Vitton, the reserve champion, for three years, Snowday is a new ride for her. She bought him in January and moved him up from the adult amateurs to the amateur-owners at the Aiken (S.C.) shows in April.
Snowday, a 9-year-old Hungarian Warmblood, started life as an event horse, but he was sent to Wendy Ritter’s Sea Breeze Farm in Florida to be sold as a hunter. Chestnut first tried him in December, just after “Merlin” had arrived at Ritter’s barn.
“I really didn’t like him. He was in a pelham, and out in a field, and he was really antsy and rolled up in the bridle. He wasn’t a very comfortable ride,” she said.
But a month later, she saw Merlin showing in the first year green division at Jacksonville, Fla. “They had re-bitted him and worked with him, and he was phenomenal. He’s been doing very well–I’m very proud of him,” said Chestnut. “At our local A-rated shows, he started to really figure it out and start winning. He’s progressed very quickly.”
While some hunter riders might have worried that an ex-event horse would be too bold, it was Merlin’s bravery that really attracted Chestnut.
“My adult horse, who I did in the junior hunters for a few years, is the biggest spook ever,” she said. “He’d qualified for [the fall] indoor [shows] a few times, but I could never take him because he’s so spooky. I knew it wouldn’t go well. So, I wanted one I could qualify with and actually take to indoors. I wanted no spooking; that was No. 1 on the list.”
Chestnut, 20, showed Vitton, 9, in the junior hunters in 2004, her last junior year, but then leased him out to an adult amateur rider.
“This is only his second time back in 3’6″ ring in two years,” Chestnut said.
She’s hoping to sell Vitton as a small junior hunter.
“Doing so well is great because I haven’t had Snowday very long, and he’s still green, and it was a total whim that I did the 3’6″ on Vitton. But they both stepped right up to the occasion,” she said.
Chestnut, Buckhead, Ga., has ridden since she was 9, but she started out in the western pleasure division. She spent a few years showing in 4-H and western shows, but when she was 12, she “just wanted to jump, plain and simple.”
She showed locally for three years, then bought a horse to be her junior hunter and started showing on the A-rated circuit. She now rides with Stephanie Cummin. Chestnut has 12 horses at the farm at home, including retirees, lease horses, that first junior hunter, and some green prospects. In the fall, Chestnut will attend Georgia College.
Fitting In The Winning
A few years ago, Anna Wells-Sharp was a typical hard-working amateur rider with two horses. She did the adult amateurs and the amateur-owners with Kiss Me and Scotch & Soda, and showed just about every other weekend.
But now, with 18-month-old son Wells at her side, her life is much different. She’s had to cut her showing back to about once a month. So, her adult amateur hunter, 18-35, tricolor aboard Kiss Me was all the more rewarding.
“Any horse show I can get to–with babies, and work, and keeping horses at home–is great, and it’s nice to be rewarded for it,” she said. “It’s worth it, though. It’s nice to have my son come cheer me on.”
And horse shows are even more fun for her son Wells, since her trainer, Daniel Geitner, and his wife, Cathy, have a 17-month-old son, Wyatt. The two play together.
Wells-Sharp, Bluffton, S.C., has had Kiss Me, an 8-year-old, Selle Francais mare, for four years.
“She’s perfect to come back on because she really does take care of me,” Wells-Sharp said. “She’s easy to keep at home, just a great, nice easy horse. We’re definitely two girls, though–as long as we give each other our space, we get along and it all works out.”
Kiss Me and Wells-Sharp had been showing in the amateur-owners before her son came along, but she’s reverted to the adult amateur division now. “I may move her back up–I’ll just have to see how much I get to ride,” she said.
With four horses living at home, and a part-time job as a family practice nurse practitioner, Wells-Sharp stays busy.
“I did have to break down and get someone to help me clean stalls, but I keep them fed and groomed and ridden and dewormed and all that. I have full days, but it’s good,” she said.
Kimberly Quinn is a familiar name in the amateur-owner division, having won at the best shows with her Gershwin. But she’s been out of the limelight for the past year, since Gershwin has been sidelined with an injury.
Amateur-owner riders should beware, however, since Quinn has a new maestro of the division, Sinatra. She rode the lanky brown gelding to Tryon’s amateur-owner, 36 and over, championship.
Quinn bought Sinatra in April. The 8-year-old Hanoverian had been showing in the second year green division in California under the name Night Moves. He’d been sent to Geitner’s barn to be sold.
“I watched a lot of people try him and thought to myself, ‘I could ride that one.’ I tried him, and loved him, and bought him,” Quinn said.
In contrast to the round, compact Gershwin, Sinatra is a tall, leggy horse. “He looks very different, but they’re very similar rides–just a loop in the reins, canter around. I have a lot of confidence in him–he’s just a very cool horse. I’ve shown him five times, and he’s been champion or reserve four times,” said Quinn.
Quinn, Charlotte, N.C., works in investment banking at Wachovia. She also has a young horse, Springsteen, who’s showing with Havens Schatt. She keeps her horses with Andrea Guzinski and meets Geitner at shows.
And while she’s found a good stand-in, she’s looking forward to getting Gershwin back in the ring. “He had a bone scan a few weeks ago, and he’s hand-walking now,” she said.
“I hope that in 2007 he’ll be back showing. He’s the horse of my lifetime. All the vets say he’s got a clean bill of health. He did something in his ankle, and there was an old piece of scar tissue. We tried to shock wave it, but it didn’t work, so they operated and took it out in November. We’ve just taken our time bringing him back–he doesn’t owe me anything.”
Another Geitner trainee, Tara Gail Bostwick, picked up a tricolor of her own when she topped the junior hunter division on her Libertas. The 9-year-old Holsteiner was sent to Geitner’s barn last summer as a sales horse, and Geitner asked Bostwick to show him.
“We got along really well, and we thought he’d be the horse for me,” Bostwick said. “His stride is nice and long and lopey, and it fits the way I ride.”
While they got along right away, there were still adjustments to be made. “He’s taught me a lot. When I first started riding him, he was a little bit difficult. He was spooky. But we’ve gotten to know each other, and I think he trusts me now, so he’s gotten over the spookiness,” she said.
Bostwick, 16, lives in Aiken, S.C., and she’s ridden with the Geitners for seven years. Her father plays polo, and her mother showed in Canada, so she began riding at a young age. Although she hasn’t played in a polo game yet, she exercises the polo ponies and plays in practice sessions. She also helps gallop a few race horse prospects in Geitner’s barn.
While Bostwick had a year to get to know her horse, Renee Huesca had only a few days. She’d been riding and showing horses for her trainer, Gary Young, but they’d all come up with lameness problems. She was stuck at Tryon with nothing to show, but trainer Holly Adams came to the rescue, driving home to her farm and picking up Tatabra Lulu.
Huesca hopped on “Lulu,” showed her a few times on Friday and Saturday, and then finished off the week by winning the high children’s/adult jumper classic.
“She’s so much fun. All of the rounds I did on her, after we were done, she flew around the ring and I had to circle to get her to stop,” said Huesca.
“I’d heard good things about her. One boy from my barn had ridden her and said she’s really strong,” she added. “She’s a tough cookie, but she’s great if you just sit up. She turns really well, and when you want her to go, she goes. She just might not stop! And in my jump-off, she was jumping really high and turning hard in the air.”
Huesca, 15, rode with Judy Young for four years, then switched to Gary when he took over his mother’s business last fall.
After starting with Gary, Huesca developed her interest in riding jumpers. She’s looking forward to the arrival of a new investment prospect imported from Argentina, who she plans to show in the jumpers and equitation.
Huesca, Charleston, S.C., isn’t just fast in the jumper ring. She runs track for her high school and qualified for state finals last year, where she placed. She does sprint events and the hurdles.
“I do hurdles because when I was little I would always jump over jumps in the ring,” she said.
Geitner Gets It Done
Daniel Geitner is on a roll. Just one week after topping the $10,000 Jumper Classic at the NCHJA show in Raleigh, N.C. (see p. 79), he rode the same horse–Snook–to win the $15,000 Grand Prix at Tryon.
Geitner and Snook went last in the two-horse jump-off, and since the first to go–Terry Gonzalez on Don’t Touch This–had pulled a rail, it wasn’t much of a horse race.
“He knows when it’s a big occasion, and he’s really fast and careful. I didn’t go fast in the jump-off because all I had to do was be clean. But he’s quite catty and quick,” Geitner said of Snook.
Geitner also swept the regular working hunter division, earning the championship with Face The Nation in the horse’s first show as a hunter.
“He did the grand prix here in June and was third in that, and did the grand prix classes in Atlanta, and then we decided to try the hunters,” Geitner said.
“We wanted to give him a little break, something else to do. He’s absolutely beautiful, with four white socks. Everybody’s always told me we should do him in the hunters, so we decided to try. Obviously, he’s quite compatible.”
Geitner started winning while still in college, taking two individual American National Riding Commission titles in 1996 and ’97. After graduating from St. Andrews Presbyterian College (N.C.) in 1997, he struck out on his own. He settled in Aiken, S.C., in 1999, and began running DFG Stables and developing horses and students.
He’s been steadily working his way up the ranks and making a name for himself. Geitner rode several horses at the Devon Horse Show (Pa.) this spring, and won the second year green hunter stake class with Remedy.
“I’ve got a lot of nice horses now. I started off with some young ones a couple of years ago, and now they’re turning into nice horses,” he said.
While in college, Geitner met Cathy Kassel. After graduation, she began training at Chatham Hall School (Va.), but they moved to Aiken together and married in 2002. They now have a son, Wyatt, 17 months.
Geitner is philosophical about making a name for himself. “It’s hard, for sure. Finding the right horses is the biggest thing. There are so many riders who are one good horse away from being famous,” he said.