The young rider dominates in four divisions during the Mississippi winter circuit.
If you collected all of the rosettes that Aleece Jarman won at the Gulf Coast Winter Classics this year, held Feb. 4-March 15 in Gulfport, Miss., the colorful mass could probably bury her, and it would likely weigh more than she does. That’s because Jarman, arguably the busiest rider on the six-week circuit, isn’t a professional adult—she’s a 12-year-old pony rider.
“She takes this very seriously,” said Jarman’s mother, Karen Newman. “She’ll sometimes show 12 at the horse shows and then once she’s finished riding, she’s at the barn unbraiding and cleaning tack and medicating. She does everything. She loves every aspect of it, not just the riding. She’s a perfectionist for sure.”
Representing her family’s Aubrey Hill Farm in Pace, Fla., Jarman scored an impressive four circuit championships at the Gulf Coast Finale, March 11-15.
Jarman and her favorite mount, longtime partner Rico Suavé, topped the small pony division on the circuit for the second consecutive year. The diminutive rider said she owes much of her education to the 9-year-old Welsh gelding.
“When he was green, he’d jump the jump and then buck me off,” she said. “I kept getting back on, and he’d just buck me off again. I had to learn to use my leg all the way through the jump and keep my balance.”
While she still fits Rico and her other small ponies, Everyday Enzo, Harmony and Short Story, Jarman also earned a circuit tricolor in the small/medium green pony division with Caption and another with her first large green, Trademark.
“The last week on Trademark, I was maybe 18 points behind for circuit champion, and I knew I’d have had to win almost every class,” she said. “He ended up pulling it off! That was a surprise.”
Jarman earned best child rider on a pony honors for three of the six weeks at Gulf Coast. Hoping to become a professional one day, she rides as many mounts as possible and said she’s committed to learning to train and not just ride. Her continued improvement throughout the circuit on Trademark confirmed her quick progression.
“He’s really taught me a lot about how to do a lead change,” she said. “I have to ask a little differently on him—you have to kind of lean out.”
Jarman is also particularly focused on lead changes with her pre-children’s hunter champion, Maverick, who is her mother’s horse. Jarman said he’s challenging her to make her small frame more adjustable.
“He’s so much bigger that I don’t really have enough weight to ask him stuff,” she said. “It’s a lot different going from a small pony up to a horse. My eye is sometimes off, because he’s got such a different step. I have to work a lot out in the schooling area until I get my eye adjusted to his big stride.”
Jarman and her 9-year-old sister, Britney, who also competes in the pony ring, are home-schooled and take their work with them to the shows. They’re coached by their stepfather, Michael Newman.
Aleece said she’s considered trying the pony jumpers in the future, and she hopes to eventually compete in the junior hunter division and at the USEF Medal Finals. In the short term, however, she’s excited for her first trip to Europe. After the hubbub of six weeks at Gulf Coast, the family planned a vacation to London, combined with a much-anticipated horse-shopping excursion to the Netherlands.
Brown Is Back On Top
Close on Aleece’s heels with three circuit tricolors was professional Terry Brown, of Canton, Ga. Brown topped the green conformation with her own horse, Tasty, and won the second year green and the pre-green divisions with horses owned by her longtime clients Lori Christman and Penny Worsham, respectively. She also managed to do so by showing just three weeks out of six.
“That was quite a nice surprise for us,” said Brown. “For the first time ever, we didn’t do the entire circuit at Gulfport. Since we only attended three shows, [winning circuit championships] was a nice measure of consistency.”
|Gulf Coast Tidbits
• With championships in weeks 2 and 5 and a reserve in week 3, professional Holly Shepherd rode Kenneth and Selma Garber’s 5-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Heirloom, to the circuit tricolor in the first year green division. Selma, Mobile, Ala., scored her own series championship aboard her 6-year-old Brandenburg gelding Password. They topped the pre-adult amateur hunter division.
• Allison Black, Birmingham, Ala., was awarded the circuit Sportsmanship Trophy by Classic Company Management.
• New Orleans, La., rider Ellie Bernstein earned the circuit championship in the large junior hunter division with a catch ride on Helen Gilbert’s Primera. Bernstein, 17, scored tricolors in three different weeks with the 9-year-old Holsteiner “Wonder Horse,” whom she’s been riding for the past two years. The gelding has been based with her trainer Shannon Hicks in St. Louis, Mo., for the past year, however, so Bernstein now meets him at shows.
Early this spring, Brown sat down with her riders and owners and had a serious discussion about scheduling competitions responsibly with the economy in mind.
“I said, ‘Let’s make sure we show all year. I don’t want everyone to show like crazy the first three or four months of the year, and then we’re sitting at home during the summer wishing that we could go somewhere,’ ” Brown explained. “I think that in today’s times we have to be [forward-thinking]. So I decided to do three weeks of Gulfport, even though we love the series, and that way we’ll still be showing in July and August.”
Brown has shown at winter circuits in Florida, Arizona and California but prefers to patronize Gulf Coast now.
“The footing is the very best at Gulfport,” she said. “Our horses have gone year after year for the whole circuit, and we show double divisions the whole time, and we never see the veterinarian. I don’t know many people that can say that.”
In January of 2007, Brown lost her beloved two-time USEF grand regular hunter horse of the year, Sequel, to colic. With a huge hole in her life, Brown sorely missed owning her own horse. But when Tasty crossed her path at a show in Kentucky eight months later, she knew almost immediately that she’d found the highly-improbable sequel to Sequel.
“I think everyone has a mental picture of the perfect horse, and when I saw Tasty, that was my perfect horse come to life,” she said. “He’s one of the most beautiful horses I’ve ever seen. He really is. And in owning him, I’ve come to realize he’s also the smartest horse I’ve ever had the privilege to be around. He’s a fast learner, he always tries, he’s really intelligent. It’s amazing. He’s turned into a fabulous pet.”
Brown bought the 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Lux—Lalussi) from Shane George, who had imported him from Europe and shown him in the pre-green division. The trial didn’t actually go perfectly, but Brown knew she could train the horse. Within six months she had ironed out the kinks.
“For my style of riding he had a lot to learn, because I prefer to ride forward and have the horse study the jump and back up,” she said. “That wasn’t really his natural inclination, but he’s learned it and does it beautifully now. He had too much stride so he had to learn to reel it in and stay smooth. He wanted to look back at the rider, being very smart, and he listened too much and was a little too sensitive. But through time we’ve worked out a nice partnership.”
Brown’s Showcase Ltd. has had many of the same clients for decades, so she knows plenty about partnerships. Christman and Worsham have been riding with her for almost 20 years.
“They’re longtime clients, very good friends and loyal supporters of my program and my riding,” Brown explained. “They’re both very good riders and show themselves, and they both work. And they both wanted to find something that could be a regular working horse for me, which is very unusual.”
Brown rode Christman’s Nice, an 8-year-old bay gelding, to the second year green circuit championship. The horse showed briefly in the division early last year, but wasn’t quite ready to be competitive at 3’9″.
“Like an excellent customer, Lori did the adults all last year, and I rode him in the smaller divisions to keep his second year status intact,” Brown said. “We’re pleased and very glad that we waited. His style has gotten really consistently nice.”
“Nice” is an adjective that Brown uses quite often. It instantly came to mind when she saw the gelding, then owned by Janet Read, two years ago at the same show where she spotted Tasty. After encouraging Christman to buy the horse, the task of naming him fell to Brown.
“I like one-word names, and I’m always saying, ‘That’s so nice!’ ” she said. “I was driving home from the show and called Lori and said, ‘I think it’s simple, but it works.’ ”
During week 5, both owners campaigned their own horses. Christman rode Nice to the reserve championship in the amateur-owner, 36 and over, division, while Worsham entered the show ring after a two-year break for her debut with Lifestyle, earning top placings in pre-adult classes.
Brown piloted Worsham’s 7-year-old, black Oldenburg gelding (Likoto—Weinadel) to the circuit championship in the pre-green division. After searching for more than a year for a horse for her client, Brown found Lifestyle with Louise Serio last August.
“I felt that he would suit Penny perfectly as he matured,” she said. “I called her up and said, ‘I’ve found your horse. You need to vet him before someone else does.’ And she bought him sight unseen. He’s a beautiful horse, very Thoroughbred-looking, and as Penny now says, he has ‘bedroom eyes.’ We’re so pleased.”
First Time’s The Charm
Katie Rosinski was a first-timer at Gulf Coast this winter, but she echoed Brown’s praises of the competition. The 28-year-old amateur from Pittsburgh, Pa., only planned to show the first four weeks, but she loved the circuit so much that she returned for week 6. That decision proved fortuitous when she topped the amateur-owner, 18-35, division with Centerpiece.
“Normally we show in Cleveland, [Ohio], in the indoor shows all winter, and this is just way nicer!” she said. “I’m so impressed with this show, and it’s truly just been like a vacation for all of us.”
Rosinski boards “Eddie,” an 11-year-old chestnut Hanoverian, at a facility about 45 minutes from her home. For the past two years, she’s been trailering to Cleveland for lessons with her trainer, Pat Bostwick. While the distance isn’t always convenient for the third-year law school student, Rosinski said Bostwick’s expertise and the social dynamic makes it worth the travel.
“We have an absolutely fantastic group from our barn, and my mom and husband came down to Gulfport several times,” she said. “Pat rented these two houses right on the water, and we all stayed together and did stuff together. Pat’s also a gourmet chef, and he’d cook these amazing dinners every night.
“We weren’t eating nearly as well at home,” she added, explaining her decision to return for the final week. “The only disadvantage is that I’m gaining all this weight from all this wonderful food. I have to go back home and eat lettuce and drink water for awhile.”
After she graduates from the University of Pittsburgh Law School (Pa.), Rosinski, whose mother and husband are also lawyers, will begin work at a law firm next January. She hopes to show as much as possible up until that point but won’t push Eddie too hard. Unsure that he’d be able to handle six weeks of showing, she gave him time off during week 5. She stayed sharp by riding her jumper at home in Pittsburgh while Eddie relaxed in Mississippi.
“I’m glad we took the fifth week off,” she said. “He came back really fresh this week and was jumping really high and felt great, but he’s also a pretty easygoing horse. We literally just hand walked him in the ring, and he didn’t see a longe line, which was great.
“He’s our pet—just wonderful and sweet, kind of like our big dog,” Rosinski added. “This has been our hobby for a long time and my mom has been super-involved and unbelievably supportive of my showing. She rides Eddie and our other retired horses, and we do all of our own stuff. We sent him down to Gulfport on a semi, but this is the first time I think I’ve ever not transported him to a horse show myself.”
Sadly, Rosinski’s mother and husband both missed the last week of Gulf Coast and her big win.
“It was the best week we had the whole time we were here. Go figure!” she said, laughing. “So they got early morning phone calls.”