After more than a dozen Upperville appearances, Todd Minikus finally captures the elusive grand prix victory.
Todd Minikus can finally add a win from the $100,000 Budweiser/Upperville Jumper Classic to his long list of accomplishments. On a particularly warm afternoon, Minikus and Pavarotti braved the 98-degree heat and secured their victory in the featured class at the 155th Upperville Colt and Horse Show, June 2-8 in Upperville, Va.
“I’ve been fifth, I’ve been last. The closest I ever came was when I was second with Playboy. I’ve run the whole gamut here,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s a lovely one to win.”
Besting a field including last year’s winner, Kent Farrington and Up Chiqui, Minikus secured two spots in the jump-off with Pavarotti and the Diamond Group’s Romy after successfully navigating Ken Krome’s course. “I wasn’t too upset when Up Chiqui pulled a rail, let’s be honest,” he said with a laugh. “That horse is so fast.”
The course left Minikus with a few surprises after his first round. “It definitely rode differently than it walked,” he said. “You know it’s very beautiful for the spectators, but the hills and the heat played into it. Things were riding not how I expected.”
Krome’s first round wasn’t too difficult to tackle in the first half, which began with the classic Budweiser oxer. But the combination to the final plank vertical caused the most faults. Riders had to successfully balance their horses to ride up the hill to the line, and the middle fence was knocked repeatedly.
Seven riders returned for the jump-off, which included a course with a forward six strides in the first line and a difficult rollback to the final oxer. Though riders were leaving the fences up, wide turns on the hilly course resulted in slower times.
“The up and down aspect makes it so much easier for the horses to rub a jump,” Minikus said. “I was out in the schooling ring so I really didn’t get to watch many go. I knew it would have to be fast, though.”
Pablo Barrios and Sinatra had a speedy round in 44.35 seconds, which was Minikus’ time to beat. Riding the forward six strides, followed by sharper turns, slivered seconds off Minikus’ time (42.62), launching him ahead of Barrios and Margie Engle with Hidden Creek’s Coraya Z, a past winner herself.
Fresh from a successful venture at Devon (Pa.), Minikus couldn’t have been more pleased with his partner. The 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood has come up the ranks in the past two years.
“He jumped a double clear at Devon the other week, and I think his worst ribbon lately has been a fourth,”
Pavarotti (Lancelot—Kiaralda) has captured consistent ribbons this spring, including third in the $30,000 Winter Equestrian Festival Challenge Cup (Fla.), fifth in the $75,000 Palm Beach/Adequan Grand Prix (Fla.), and second in the $50,000 Charlotte Welcome Stake (N.C.).
Minikus, 45, and Pavarotti will head to Lake Placid (N.Y.) for their next class, but in the meantime he’ll show some of his younger horses at HITS Saugerties (N.Y.). As for his top check, he smiled and said, “It’s not too bad to win a $100,000 class.”
A Standing Ovation
If you wanted to win a championship in a rated professional hunter division at Upperville, your name had better have been Scott Stewart. He piloted four horses to tricolors, snagging the first year green, second year green, green conformation and regular working hunter championships. Only Kelley Farmer managed to unseat Stewart, picking up the regular conformation title with Rosalie Morton’s Mio.
Stewart rode Molly Ohrstrom’s Ovation to the second year green and grand green hunter championships. It’s the second consecutive year that Ovation earned top honors at Upperville, but according to Stewart, the horse has come a long way in a year.
“He was great last year, but he was as green as a pre-green horse,” he explained. “He’s really matured and has become really easy to get to the ring.”
Stewart campaigned Ovation lightly this season, only showing him four weeks at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) before heading to Devon. The German-bred gelding earned top honors his last week in Wellington and won a class in the Dixon Oval, but Stewart regarded Ovation’s performance on the grass at Upperville as a highlight of his career.
“Upperville was the best he’s ever gone consistently,” said Stewart. “He’s been jumping so well, and he’s gotten better and better. His last round—he scored a 93—was probably the best he’s ever jumped. He’s such a beautiful horse going around. He felt amazing.”
Stewart’s green conformation mount, Alexa and Krista Weisman’s West Point, took grand hunter honors after winning every over fences class and the model and taking second in the under saddle.
The chestnut arrived at Upperville fresh off winning the grand hunter championship at Devon. “This was only his third time over the 3’9″, but he’s been fantastic,” said Stewart. “This ring can look a little spooky, but he jumped great and he handled himself very well.”
Ashley Kennedy Whitner almost didn’t have the chance to win at Upperville. Due to poor weather conditions, Whitner scratched the day before her classes, but she re-entered and emerged to not only win the amateur-owner, 36 and over, division, but also the grand amateur-owner title as well with Larkspur.
“I really wanted to do it, but I kept going back and forth,” Whitner, Middleburg, Va., said. “I came out this morning and decided that the footing wasn’t too bad and he could get around.”
The main ring suffered during the severe thunderstorms the day before, but a simplified course allowed riders to continue competing. Instead of the standard outside and diagonal lines with oxers, riders rode a pared down version of twice around the outside fences, all verticals as well.
“It looked easy, but then when you rode it it’s pretty hard to find eight verticals all the same,” she said laughing.
“He’s a super sweet horse. I just sit there and hold and kick,” she said. “I love him to death. Not much phases him.”
The win was also a tribute to Whitner’s trainer, Bill Schaub, of Sanford, Fla. Though Whitner now resides in Virginia with her husband, steeplechase jockey James Whitner, she still meets Schaub at the shows for help.
“I’ve been with Bill for over 30 years, off and on. So it’s nice to see him here and do this,” she added.
Having Too Much Fun
For the past two years Lysa Burke Horkan finished second behind her good friend Katie Meagher in the Woodslane Farm Adult Amateur Hunter Classic. But this year Horkan warned her friend that it was her turn to lead the victory gallop.
“I told Katie before the class that I was tired of looking at her horse’s butt!” she said with a laugh. “But, honestly,
I’m always happy to finish second to Katie. She’s a great rider and a great friend.”
Horkan, Upperville, Va., put in a spectacular second round aboard Too Much Fun to edge out Meagher and Keep The Faith and finally take home the top check. And earlier in the week Horkan also captured the adult amateur hunter, 46 and over, section B championship.
“It’s taken awhile to get the hang of him,” said Horkan, who trains with John Madden and Larry Jenkins. “He was very ring-sour at first, but we started riding him cross-country, and now he’s just as fresh and happy as can be—he really lives up to his name! He can get a little quick, but that keeps everything interesting. I wouldn’t be doing this after 40 years if it were boring.”
The daughter of horsemen Bobby Burke and Elizabeth Busch Burke, Lysa originally bought Too Much Fun as a mount for her daughter, Brittany. But after the musically-inclined teenager hung up her hard hat to focus on writing and performing rock music two years ago, Lysa took over the reins.
But Brittany isn’t the only one in the family with musical talent. Every year on the last day of competition, Lysa takes center stage on the grand prix field to sing the national anthem before the $100,000 Budweiser/Upperville Jumper Classic.
This is the second consecutive year that Samantha Schaefer dominated the junior divisions at Upperville. With Scott Stewart’s Perfectionist, Schaefer swept the large junior, 15 and under, division for the tricolor and grand junior hunter championship.
Schaefer, Westminster, Md., also found the course of verticals unusually difficult. “It’s so simple that it was kind of weird,” she said. “Without the oxers, there was nothing to hold them off. It was really different to ride.”
Though riders did have two classes riding twice around the outside fences, the handy round included a few twists. Riders jumped a multitude of single fences, following a track of rollbacks including a sharp turn downhill to an oxer, which left many with deep distances. Following a trot fence, riders dismounted and led their horses over a walk jump.
Schaefer, however, nailed every spot and upon dismounting quickly pulled out a peppermint to catch Perfectionist’s attention. Running alongside the gelding, Schaefer trotted over the crossrail and was rewarded with a score of 87. The high score helped the pair clinch the blue ribbon for every over fences class, giving Schaefer 30 points to easily capture the grand title.
“The handy round was tough, especially earlier on the small,” she said of Corvet Z, whom she rode to the small junior, 15 and under, championship. “But they just clocked around.”
Schaefer couldn’t have been more thankful to her trainers, Scott Stewart and Kim Stewart, for the horses she’s offered to show. “They have so many for me to ride, and it’s nice because they all go on different schedules for showing. I couldn’t do any of this without them.”
A busy show schedule this summer awaits Schaefer, including a stop at the Vermont Summer Festival, but she conceded, “This show is my favorite. It’s always so nice to do well here.”
A New Triumph
Victoria Colvin, 10, Loxahatchee, Fla., seems to have taken over Schaefer’s role as the “pony pro.” In her first time at Upperville, Colvin captured three tricolor ribbons in the pony divisions and the grand pony hunter championship with Scott Stewart’s For The Laughter.
Riding a multitude of ponies, Colvin, Loxahatchee, Fla., found time to claim the small pony reserve championship with her own Ballou and the championship ribbon in the medium division with Stewart’s Cortina.
“They’re all really good, and some are easier than others,” she said. “But I would have to say Ballou is my favorite, probably because he’s mine.”
Colvin also had to re-adjust her plan when the classes in Ring 2 were switched due to footing issues. The slippery turf resulted in the pony divisions being moved into the schooling ring with all-weather footing.
“Since it was my first time here I was really looking forward to showing in the grass ring. It looked fun. I didn’t mind going in the other one, but it was smaller so that was hard,” she said.
Though ribbons were scattered throughout the two days of showing, Colvin managed to win two blues to edge Shawn Casady and Liseter Clever Star, who took reserve. Casady again won the best pony rider title, which he also claimed in 2007.
Honoring A Legendary Partnership
When Virginia Fout’s mother Eve Prime Fout died last December, Virginia knew that she wanted to do something special to honor her memory, as well as the memory of her father Paul Fout who died in 2005.
After all, the two dedicated their lives to the equestrian community, both through excellence in horse sports
and by championing the open space movement.
Paul and Eve met while horse showing and went on to form a legendary partnership in the foxhunting, steeplechasing and horse show worlds. Together, they saddled many top steeplechasers out of Coosaw Stables. An enthusiastic supporter for the future generations of equestrians, Eve founded the Middleburg-Orange County Beagles, a foxhunting pack for children, and the Middleburg-Orange County Pony Club. Later in life, Eve worked tirelessly through the Piedmont Environmental Council to put land into conservation in order to preserve the countryside for future generations.
The Upperville Horse Show is always a sacred week on the Fout family calendar. Even when Virginia took a break from riding, she still flew in from California to ride one of her mother’s foxhunters in a few classes.
“The show has been such a big part of my family’s lives,” said Virginia. “My parents loved the tradition and the old grandstand and grass rings.”
So Upperville seemed the ideal place to honor the Fouts, who contributed so much to the region. Inspired by a class at the Menlo Charity Horse Show (Calif.), Virginia partnered with her brother Doug and sister Nina to sponsor a “take-your-own-line” class in memory of her parents, dubbing it the Paul & Eve Go As You Please Handy Hunter.
Competitors picked their own track over the eight fences in the ring, which could all be jumped either way, and included a trot fence, bounce and fence to lead your horse over.
And the handiest horse in the field proved to be Mimi Abel Smith’s Almelo, with Katherine Newman aboard. “Mimi was one of my mom’s oldest friends,” said Virginia. “Mom would have been thrilled that her horse won.”
Charlotte Feteridge and her Mister Maryland laid down a bold ride to finish second behind Newman, and Schaefer took third with Stacey Schaefer’s Jackson.
“I’ve never done a hunter class where you designed your own course before, but I have done gambler’s choice classes in the jumpers, which is a similar idea,” said Newman. “It was a great challenge.”
Course designer Blake Adler faced a special set of challenges setting the handy course, as Wednesday’s severe thunderstorms left the grass rings treacherous in a few places (see sidebar).
“You had to choose your course very carefully, to show off where you could and avoid the deep footing,” said Newman. “I actually ended up in the bad footing around one turn, but Almelo was perfect. He always tries to do the right thing.”
One rider went a step further to demonstrate her horse’s suitability for fox hunting. Kimberly Kronenwetter elected to jump the lead-over jump early in the course with Royal Oak. She dismounted, removed her jacket and laid it over the crossrail—as one would in the hunt field when faced with wire or another dangerous obstacle—before leading over her mount, remounting at the fence and galloping on. Her style and homage to tradition earned the crowd’s approval, but an imperfect distance relegated the pair to fourth.