Only seven years ago, Joshua Vanderveen swung his leg over a horse for the first time. In an unbelievably short climb to success, Vanderveen, aboard Bull Run’s Apollo Anton, achieved his first major grand prix victory on July 31 in the $30,000 Lamplight Grand Prix at Equifest I, July 27-31, in Wayne, Ill.
“It was such a great feeling to gallop around first in the victory gallop with no one in front of me,” said Vanderveen, 17.
The Vanderveens imported Joshua’s mount, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood, from Europe three years ago. Steve Schaefer, Vanderveen’s trainer, started showing the horse in the small grand prix events before moving him up to the bigger grand prix classes about a year ago. Following the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) circuit, Vanderveen sat on Bull Run’s Apollo Anton for the first time. Since then, the pair has been stiff competition in the high junior jumpers and grand prix classes.
On July 9, Vanderveen finished second in the $25,000 St. Louis Festival I Grand Prix (Mo.) and followed that up with another second-placed finish in the $50,000 Circle City Grand Prix (Ind.) on July 24. But a week later, Vanderveen was aiming for the win.
“The course [on July 31] rode well–the lines got a little steady and my horse was a little dead, so I had to work hard to keep his motor running,” said Vanderveen, who, along with seven others, advanced to the jump-off. “I got to jump second-to-last in the jump-off, which was a real advantage. I knew that I wanted to win this one, and so my trainer and I formulated a plan. I did a five-stride line in four strides and turned as tight as I could everywhere. He has a huge stride and turns great–I think that’s what won the class for us.”
A Late Start
Vanderveen started riding when he was 10, through the encouragement of his sister, Kristen, and father, Keith.
“At first, I really didn’t like the idea of riding that much. I couldn’t stand the smell and the whole idea of the time commitment,” said Joshua, who now spends countless hours at the barn and has to compete with his sister for mounts. “My Dad and trainer decide who will get to ride each horse. Kristen and I are both really competitive, but we support each other.”
Keith and Beth Vanderveen purchased Bull Run Farm six years ago so that their children, Kristen, Jonathan, and Joshua could ride. “We had a lot of horses, and board got too expensive,” explained Joshua. “My parents decided it would be a better move to buy a barn and keep the horses ourselves.”
Schaefer manages Bull Run Farm in Wheaton, Ill., and the 40 horses that board there. At any given time, the Vanderveens own between 10 and 15 horses in training.
“I ride about four horses a day,” said Joshua, who also balances a busy school schedule. “Going to school and riding aren’t really a problem. I do pretty well. It just gets tough when I am flying back and forth to Florida to compete in the winter.”
After Joshua graduates from high school this spring, he plans to go to college in Illinois and pursue his riding career. “I would like to ride professionally some day after I have some more mileage,” he said.
After taking a year off from riding, Margaret O’Meara is back in the saddle and at the top of her game. She took home both the championship, with Final Entry, and reserve championship, with Harrison, in the amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, division.
“When I took time off from riding, I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back,” admitted O’Meara. “I sold my horses and went back to school. But, I realized that I couldn’t stay away–I really missed the horses.”
O’Meara always loved horses but didn’t start riding until she was in her 30s. “I never had the opportunity to ride as a kid, but when I got older and the opportunity came along, I took it,” said O’Meara, who now owns three horses.
Upon her return to riding in January 2005, O’Meara purchased Harrison, an 8-year-old German Warmblood, from her trainer, Heidi Fish. Fish was reserve champion in the first year green hunter division with Harrison.
“Harrison had never done the hunters before I bought him, but he jumps great and has a ton of scope. He is rhythmical and I feel like I can just lock into a slow rhythm, and as long as I stick with it, he finds the jumps,” said O’Meara.
Even though Harrison and Final Entry are different rides, O’Meara doesn’t find it difficult to switch between the two.
“The two horses are similar in some ways–both are dependable and always jump well, but riding Final Entry is like riding a bouncing ball. He is extremely athletic and jumps very hard, so staying on is a bit of a trick,” said O’Meara laughing.
O’Meara’s other blue-ribbon winner, Final Entry, a 9-year-old, Westphalian gelding, was showing in the second year green hunters with Tracy Fenney when O’Meara purchased him in May.
Since then, the pair has been champion or reserve in every show they have competed at except for one.
“This year was supposed to be a rebuilding year for me,” said O’Meara. “I have new horses and a new trainer. Right now, I am just excited to go in the ring and have the feeling that my horses are jumping well and helping me out.”
Love At First Sight
Jennifer Hauser and Emily Wickert have more in common than sharing the same trainer, Tammy Provost, and both being champion in their respective junior hunter divisions at Equifest I. The two girls both admit that they fell in love with their horses at first sight.
“I knew right away he was the one,” said Hauser of her 8-year-old Belgian Warmblood, Ideal, who was champion in the small junior, 16-17 division. “I’ve owned him for a year and a half, and it took us awhile to be consistent, but we’re having a great summer.”
Hauser, 18, of Carmel, Ind., started riding when she was 9. Her babysitter took her out to the barn and put her on a horse, and soon after, Hauser started taking lessons.
“In high school, it was a challenge trying to balance school and riding–especially in the fall during the indoor finals. My teachers just didn’t understand why I needed to miss school,” said Hauser, who graduated from high school in the spring. “This year, indoors should be easier because I am taking a year off from school to concentrate on riding.”
Like Hauser, Wickert fell in love with Rivendell, a 6-year-old Westphalian. He was the first horse Wickert tried when scouting for a junior hunter prospect.
“I knew he’d be perfect because he did whatever I asked of him,” proclaimed Wickert, 17, of Lafayette, Ind. “I feel like Rivendell and I have a special bond. He loves attention and has a ton of personality–and best of all, he knows and loves his job.”
At Equifest I, Provost showed Rivendell to the championship honors in the first year green hunters before handing the reins over to Wickert.
At the Winter Equestrian Festival, Wickert showed Rivendell in the children’s hunters. They made their debut in the junior hunters, 16-17, at the Horse Shows by the Bay (Mich.) in July, where they took home the championship honors.
“It felt great to be champion at both shows. Now my goal is to just continue being consistent and successful,” said Wickert.