Lexington, Ky.—Nov. 5
Most sisters experience some sibling rivalry when they’re both competing in the same sport, but not the Propp sisters. The first person to congratulate Clara Propp after she swept the tricolors in the 3’3” junior hunter, 15 and under, division was her sister Stella Propp, who herself had just ridden Heaven’s Dream to the small junior hunter, 16-17, and grand junior hunter titles on Friday at the National Horse Show.
“We’re both super supportive of each other,” said Clara, 14. “I have another sister who’s not here but we’re all super supportive of each other. We don’t fight. We don’t show in the same division either, so it doesn’t really get competitive, but even when we were showing in the same division in the ponies, we were never competitive with each other and always just super supportive and happy for one another.”
While Stella has won two championships at the National in previous years, this is Clara’s first year attending. The two riders from New York City occasionally swap horses, and one of Stella’s previous champions at the National Horse Show, Inquisitive, is now ridden by Clara. Clara captured the reserve title on the gelding and the championship on her mare Arabesque.
“She’s so brave,” said Clara of 8-year-old Arabesque. “For being so young and this being her first indoor season I’m so proud of her. She just loves to work, she loves her job and you can really tell.
“She likes a forward ride,” Clara continued. “She’s definitely a little lazy so you kind of have to kick her up in front and then you can take a feel of her and she really just goes right around.”
Stella has been leasing her grand champion partner, Heaven’s Dream, from Isabella Griffin, and the National is their last show together.
“I love him to death—we all love him so much,” said Stella, 18. “He’s grown on us so much, but I’m excited for Isabella to have her turn on him because he’s so wonderful. It’s bittersweet. This was a great way to end, but I’m going to miss him so much.”
Both riders, and their sister, jumper rider Juliette Propp, have been riding with Brianne Goutal Marteau for over four years.
“Working with Brianne is really special,” Clara said. “When she was a junior, she did all this stuff and won a lot as well. I think she really understands the pressure and, from her experience, she’s really able to give us helpful tips and she’s just really understanding. Obviously there’s pressure, but she makes it as chill as possible.”
Fearless Finishes On Top
Bridget Hickton made modest goals for herself when she set out to make her first trip to the National Horse Show: She just wanted to win a ribbon. She did that and much more Friday when she rode her own Fearless to the top of the 3’3” junior hunter, 16-17, division and the grand 3’3” junior hunter championship.
She claimed the grand award after winning all three over fences classes and finishing second in the under saddle. Clara earned the same number of points with Arabesque in the younger division, but Hickton took grand honors because she earned more points over fences.
Hickton, 17, paired up with “Russell” exactly one year ago, shortly after she started working with trainers Ron Danta and Danny Robertshaw. Hickton regularly commutes from her home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Robertshaw and Danta’s Beaver River Farm in Camden, South Carolina, to ride and compete Russell.
“He’s definitely the horse that’s taught me the most just because when I started riding him, I was new to Ron and Danny and to the southern circuit,” she said. “So he just kind of helped me out everywhere and brought me here.
“He’s got a forward step, so he’s really helpful because he carries me to all the distances,” she added. “He’s really easy to see things on. He’s really sweet, he always just tries really hard. He has a great jump.”
Hickton credited her trainers and her horse with transforming her into a winning rider.
“Bridget is really an amazing kid,” said Danta. “She came to us the end of October last year. The first show we went to was Duke Charity Horse Show [North Carolina] with her two other horses. I think maybe the top score she got was a 70. She needed to learn a lot of basics, she had a lot of work to do, but I’m telling you, there is not a better student in the country. That girl every day came for flat lesson after flat lesson and all she wants to do is learn and learn. She’s really good about knowing her horses. She really loves her horses.”
A Talisman Helps Fuqua Double Her Luck
Kat Fuqua has been on a roll this season, winning big throughout the indoors circuit. Hard work, discipline and great horses helped get her there, but there’s a little something else that didn’t hurt: a lucky American flag stock pin.
“I wore it at [the Pennsylvania National] because it was the only pin I could find, and it was good luck,” she said. “And I wore it at [the Washington International (North Carolina)] and now I’m going to wear it all the time. It’s a lucky pin now.”
Fuqua captured championships in two divisions, riding Grand Remo to the top of the large junior, 15 and under, division over Stella Wasserman and Princeton, and riding Consent to the small junior, 15 and under, championship over Coronation and Sterling Malnik.
“I’ve always really loved the National,” she said. “I came here for my first time in 2018 and I was third on my horse Elmo, and that was my first top placing at a championship in the juniors so it’s probably one of my favorite shows. I was really excited to come back this year.”
Consent’s championship was his second consecutive title at the National for Fuqua, 14.
“I was thinking about that,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘I want to live up to what I did last year with “Kent.” ’ ”
She paired up with her other winner, Grand Remo, nearly three years ago.
“He really caught our eye because of his movement,” she said. “He’s always really been that way, and his personality is really funny, actually. He’s very arrogant, I guess. He knows when he’s in the hack; he puts his ears forward, he knows he wants to win. He’s always kind of been that way.”
Alston Cashes In At The National
When Alexander Alston started riding *Cash* about two years ago, things didn’t start off too well.
“We started out doing the 3’6” and it wasn’t so good,” admitted Alston, 17. “Over the years, it’s gotten better. My experience level [changed]. He’s always been very competitive but it was just me; I needed to catch up with him.”
But their relationship solidified over time, and now they’re a strong pair, winning the large junior hunter, 16-17, championship at the National over Montauk and Libbie Gordon. Still, this fall season hasn’t been the strongest part of Alston’s year.
“Indoors wasn’t so good until this week,” said Alston, New Albany, Ohio. “There were just a few bobbles here and there along the way, but he was champion at [USEF Junior Hunter Championships] and champion at most of the other shows.
“He’s our favorite, for sure,” Alston continued. “He was great this week. He jumped really well. I feel like I can rely on him and trust him, which is always a nice feeling. I’m overall very, very pleased with him.”
Alston secured the tricolor with a win in today’s stake class.
“He’s so fun to ride,” he said. “You just kind of just pick up a gallop and keep moving. His stride is huge, so you can gallop, slow down a little and keep going. He’s awesome.”
Want more National Horse Show? The Chronicle is in Kentucky bringing you news and photos all week. Don’t forget to follow the Chronicle on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Chronofhorse. And check out the Nov. 22 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine for more analysis from the show.