This young professional continues to shine in the restricted pro division
Kristi Cardalico set the bar high during last year’s Legacy Cup, winning the Restricted Pro 3′ Championship. But this year Cardalico outdid herself, capturing the top two spots in the Restricted Pro 3′ Finals and adding the Restricted Pro 3’6″ Championship to her growing resume.
“I was a little nervous because I did so well last year, but I knew I had great horses,” she said.
Cardalico kept her cool as she guided Barri Platt’s Manolo to victory in the Restricted Pro 3′ Final and Brittany Warden’s Tycoon to the second spot at the American Hunter-Jumper Foundation’s Legacy Cup, held in conjunction with the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, May 9-20 in Lexington.
Still glowing from her success, she returned to the ring the next day for the 3’6″ championship aboard Rachel Udelson’s Lucerne.
The Restricted Pro divisions offered at the Legacy Cup give newer pros, like 25-year-old Cardalico, a chance to get some miles while competing against one another. The different format suits Cardalico just fine. “For once I don’t have to show against my boss!” she said laughing.
The two wins are a huge boon for the Connecticut native’s blossoming career. For the past three years she’s been navigating her way through the professional hunter ranks under the tutelage of Ken and Emily Smith of Ashland Farms.
Cardalico’s petite frame allows her to excel with the smaller mounts. “I tend to show the horses that are a little small for Ken,” she said. “I was actually brought in to train on the ponies. Jennifer [Waxman] and I had a project pony we worked on all summer, and before that we had a green one.”
She developed her knack for fixing naughty ponies as a junior, when she rode and showed whatever was available at the time. “I always ended up with ponies that were either green or fixer-uppers,” said Cardalico.
“I guess I got pretty good at it.”
Growing up in Con-necticut, riding was a family affair for the Cardalicos. “My older sister Katie started first, and she got me into it,” remembered Kristi. “Even my brother took a turn. My mom was really helpful and would act-ually groom for us when we needed a hand.”
These days the sisters meet up occasionally at shows, as Katie now grooms for Scott Stewart.
A Future In Horses
The Cardalico sisters showed with Sharon Cole and Stewart as juniors. “We weren’t that competitive with each other,” recalled Kristi. “But I’m sure it helped that she was 2 1⁄2 years older, and we didn’t really show in the same divisions.”
The younger sister’s successful junior years culminated in riding Wise Possession to the U.S. Equestrian Federation grand junior hunter championship in 1998, but she was unwilling to settle for being just a hunter rider. The following year she concentrated on improving her skills in the jumper ring, finishing off her junior career by qualifying for the Marshall & Sterling Children’s Jumper Finals with Kathy Poppe’s Gabriella.
After graduating from the junior ranks, Cardalico knew that her future lay in the horse show world. She groomed and rode at a few barns before landing a job as a private trainer for a family. “It was all very good
experience, but after a while I was looking for the next step,” recalled Cardalico. “Emily found out and called me, and here I am three years later.
“Ken and Emily are great,” she added. “Most of the time they let me do my own thing, and they really give me a chance to try to solve problems by myself. But if I’m stuck on something or if Ken’s ridden the horse he’ll say, ‘Try this.’ And it will work.”
These days she gets on anything that comes through the busy stable. “What I’m showing sort of changes year to year,” she said. “Last year I had a bunch of pre-green hunters, and I had more jumpers before that. It just depends on what’s around. It’s great getting to ride so many different horses.”
A Thrilling Finish
Cardalico didn’t get much practice time in on either of her winning rides at the Legacy Cup. The top horse in the 3-foot division, Manolo, had spent the season in Kansas with his owner, Platt (see sidebar) and hadn’t competed since last year.
“This was his first show back with us,” said Cardalico. “But he stepped right up to it.”
She took over the reins of Lucerne in the professional divisions just in time to take him to Capital Challenge (Md.) last year. “They didn’t tell me until just before the show that I’d be riding him, so it came as quite a surprise,” said Cardalico. “He’s a very nice horse. I’ve done him just a bit in the workings this year, but this is our first big win.”
Lucerne continued his success with owner Rachel Udelson during the second week of the Legacy Cup. The pair finished third in the non-pro 3’6″ junior division, behind stablemate Jennifer Waxman’s two rides.
“I felt much more comfortable after watching him go with Kristi,” said Udelson. “She’s a great rider, and she does such a great job with him.”
Since joining Ashland Farms three years ago, Cardalico has come into her own as a teacher and mentor to younger riders whose mounts she tends to ride. Udelson, 15, credited Cardalico with giving her a leg up on the path to success.
“Kristi has helped me so much with Lucerne,” she said. “She learns the horses really well and is always willing to give you as many tips as you want. She’s always there to answer questions or make a hard day
For her part, Cardalico is enthusiastic about the relationship she’s developed with Ashland Farm’s young riders. “I really enjoy working with the students,” she said enthusiastically. “There are lots of things that I’ve learned during my experience that may apply to them, and they appreciate my input.”
While excited about her achievements, Cardalico is taking her future success one day at a time. “I have all the usual goals,” said Cardalico. “Someday I’d love to have my own place, take one to [the fall] indoor [shows], do some big jumpers. But for now I’m thrilled to be doing what I’m doing where I am.”
Barri Platt Gets it Right
At the 2006 Legacy Cup, Barri Platt and Wasabi were heartbreakingly close to winning the Non-Pro 3’ Junior Finals, but a fallen rail at the final jump of what had been an impeccable round knocked her out of the ribbons.
This year’s trip to Lexington, Ky., was a different story. Platt dominated the junior division, winning the finals aboard Wasabi and the go-round with Manolo. “I try to focus on improvement,” said Platt. “And this was a big improvement from last year for me and for Wasabi.”
Platt’s long-time mount Wasabi caught her eye years before riding him when the 4-year-old mare showed up at the Kansas barn where Platt rode.
“It was ages before they let me try her,” she recalled. “When I finally got on her we clicked. I loved her from the start, but I don’t think I ever imagined she would be able to go to the East Coast and do as well as she has.”
Platt, 17, rides with trainer Chris Sheyne at home in Overland Park, Kansas, and she meets Florida-based Ken and Emily Smith at shows. Platt’s flexible home schooling schedule allows her to trek down to Florida once a month to squeeze in some lessons.
Since pairing up with the Smiths, Platt’s career has taken off. Last summer Platt and Wasabi collected children’s hunter championships and won classics across the East Coast at major shows like Lake Placid (N.Y.), Saratoga (N.Y.), Kentucky Spring Classic and Merrill Lynch Hunter Jumper Classic (Ohio).
Learning to ride her new mount, Manolo, has been a challenge after spending 31⁄2 years with Wasabi. Platt took the winter off from showing, so the Legacy Cup was one of their first shows together.
“The two horses are very different,” explained Platt. “With Wasabi you have to keep your stride open and keep going. On Manolo, if you don’t sit back and collect, he doesn’t jump as well as you’d like.”
Platt’s win with Wasabi at the Legacy Cup is especially sweet because it will be one of the last times the pair competes together. “I’m moving up to the juniors with Manolo, so, unfortunately, Wasabi is for sale,” said Platt sadly. “She’s a great horse, so it’s so hard to do. I’d keep her forever if I could.”
Legacy Cup Highlights
• Tammy Provost won the leading professional rider award during week 1 after earning $7,754 for her rides on Cabochon, Peridot, Almost Majic, Risque, Solitaire and Rubicon Z. Provost won the Pro 3′ Finals aboard Cabochon.
• Nicole Simpson guided Brad Wolf’s Rio Renoir to victory in the Pro 3’6″ Finals. Wolf took over the reins during the second week, winning the Non-Pro Amateur 3’6″ Finals and earning the leading amateur rider award in the process.
• Jennifer Waxman topped the Non-Pro 3’6″ Finals aboard Whitney Roper’s Saloon for the second year in a row. Saloon also won the Belcort Trophy for earning the show’s highest score of 267. Waxman also rode away with the leading Non-Pro Junior Rider Award after riding Saloon and Zoom to the top two slots in the Non-Pro junior division.
• For the third consecutive year, Ashland Farm captured the Non-Pro Team Award after their students won the most money ($11,231). Trainers Ken and Emily Smith won the week 2 Leading Trainer Award