Sunday, Sep. 24, 2023

A Thousand-Plus Years Of Genealogy, A Comeback Kid And Special Partnerships: Winners At Washington International



Mills Spring, N.C.—Oct. 27 

Betsee Parker has two distinct reasons why her brown Selle Francais stallion earned the moniker “Charlemagne”—and yes, you have to remember your AP European History.

First, he’s a French horse. And if that distinct test question still haunts you, you know that the “Father of Europe,” who would unite western and central Europe for the first time since the Western Roman Empire, was originally the King of the Franks, the Germanic tribe that lived in today’s France, Belgium and western Germany.

But the second reason comes with a more personal touch for Parker.


Scott Stewart and Charlemagne. Laura Lemon Photo

“My 49-times great-grandfather is Charlemagne,” she said. “It comes through William the Conqueror who came into England in 1066 and all that. I can trace myself back to the Earls of Beaumont all the way back to him. He has a very neat lineage straight back to Charlemagne, or he couldn’t be king of England.”

Charlemagne the horse is a slightly more recent addition to her family. Scott Stewart imported the stallion when he was 4 years old, sight unseen, through some passing luck.

“That summer Ken [Berkley] and I were in France. He was showing with the jumpers. We were in Fontainebleau, and I couldn’t find any hunters,” Stewart said. “I got on the plane. I flew home. And by the time I landed, someone sent me a video of him, and he was in Fontainebleau. So, I sent someone to try him, and we bought him off a video.”

With Stewart in the irons, this Charlemagne has ruled a different sort of empire—the Washington International professional divisions. Competing in the green conformation hunters, he and Stewart swept up four blue rosettes on their way to the championship, above Alajolie and Augusta Iwasaki. They earned the grand green hunter title and the grand hunter distinction.


Scott Stewart and For Always. Laura Lemon Photo

Stewart also captured another championship for Parker, with For Always in the high performance conformation division above Necofino and Caroline Willard Briles. And to top off his Wednesday, Stewart walked away with Leading Hunter Rider honors—with Parker earning the Leading Hunter Owner Award.

“After taking last year off, it was obviously very odd after all those years of doing it so much,” Stewart said. “So it’s great to be back doing it. I’m lucky to have these horses that can help me win all this.”

Torano Captures Another Championship For Portela 

When Jimmy Torano heard the crushing news that his longtime client and friend, Daryl Portela, would never be able to ride again—after a fluke fall from a horse left her in the hospital for weeks—he thought that would be the end of horses altogether for her.

“She was in the hospital for a long time,” he said. “We were kind of just letting things sit, and when the dust settled, I kind of reached out and I said, ‘What are we going to do now?’ I thought we’d sell all the horses and be done. But she said, ‘Nope, by no means are we selling anything.’ ”

And that included her horse Laskano.

“She said, ‘Keep showing him. Take him to the next show. Enjoy it. When I get out of here, I want to come watch him,’ ” remembered Torano.


Jimmy Torano and Laskano. Laura Lemon Photo.=

And so Torano took him to the shows—and the Westphalian gelding has won one thing after another.

“We’ve had a lot of offers on the horse, but she won’t sell him,” Torano said. “It’s a horse that’s had a tremendous year; been champion everywhere he’s been: Upperville [Virginia]; Palm Beach circuit champion [Florida]; World Champion Hunter Week. He’s just won and won and won. And he’s just very reliable. He’s just an easy-going horse. He’s not spooky. He’s a horse that tries to go out and win every class.”

This summer the pair won the $200,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final at HITS-On-The-Hudson VIII [New York]. And last week at Pennsylvania National, they took reserve champion in the 3’6” green hunter division. At Washington International, he topped three of the four 3’6” green classes to win the championship above Stewart and For Always—with Portela in the stands watching.

“It’s been nice that she kept the horse,” he said. “It’s almost like the horse goes in and wins for her every time.”

Tosh And Cannon Creek Can’t Be Stopped


After the year that Hunt Tosh and Cannon Creek have had already, it’s hard to think what more to ask of their partnership. The pair topped the Platinum Performance USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship (Kentucky) this summer and last week at Pennsylvania National they took grand hunter honors. Now down south in North Carolina, Tosh and owner Douglas Wheeler have another load of ribbons to haul home, as the Holsteiner gelding topped the high performance hunter division above Patricia Griffith and S&L Exxon Hedonist.

“He’s got such a great brain,” Wheeler said. “And Hunt said it really well last week, he just loves to be a show horse. He goes in, and he doesn’t beat himself. And Hunt does such a great job on him preparing him every week. He’s just been a dream come true.”

“He’s so easy on himself so literally today, you almost have to remind yourself on how simple he is,” Tosh said. “I’m probably guilty of doing too much sometimes, not wanting to make a mistake. But he’s simple, and you have to trust that he’s simple.”


Hunt Tosh and Cannon Creek. Laura Lemon Photo

As for the question of how a derby horse does the regular hunter divisions and vice versa? Wheeler said it’s a no-brainer for this horse.

“He’s just such a classic derby horse because he can jump the biggest fence you could put up,” said Wheeler. “He’s able to win the hack here; he moves good and across the ground. He’s always focusing on the jump, and the ears are up. We just can’t say enough good things about him: just can incredible jump; just so scopey and spends so much time in the air.”

And while both Wheeler and Tosh  have had scores of horses on their lists of “special ones,” the gelding is starting his journey there.

“We’ve been lucky, but he’s definitely up there,” said Tosh. “He’s new still, but he’s definitely making his name as one of the special ones.”

When Trusting A Brother Actually Pays Off

A little over a year ago, Liza Boyd got a call from her younger brother Hardin Towell about a horse, Ferrari. The gelding was showing in the 3’6” hunters with Lourdes De Guardiola, after a show jumping career, when Towell spotted him thinking he’d be a perfect for his older sister’s program.

“Hardin tried him and said, ‘I love him,’ ” Boyd said. “And my clients, the Nolans, were amazing. They stepped up and bought him off a video. Caroline never tried him; I never tried him. So definitely the first ride when he got to the farm, I was kind of like, ‘I hope we like him. I hope we all like him because, well, we’re stuck with him.’ And right away, he was just easy and fun.”


Liza Boyd and Ferrari. Laura Lemon Photo.

Boyd continued the gelding’s hunter education to get him ready ready for his 3’3” junior hunter duties with Caroline Nolan. Nolan and Boyd have been roughly alternating horse shows, but the Washington International was Boyd’s turn in the ring with Ferrari in the 3’9” greens. The pair topped the division with three blues and a red to win the championship above Tosh and Autograph.

“It’s funny, I watched videos last night of him jumping some three-stars and some big classes,” Boyd said. “So, I guess that’s why he’s so good in the handies. It’s nice, he had a great foundation with top jumper riders. And then Lourdes is such a soft rider, really taught him the hunters quickly.

Set To Music Sets The Standard

While any championship at a major horse show is special, for Laura Sexton, her grand amateur-owner hunter and amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, championship ribbons with Set To Music at Washington International will be particularly memorable.

Sexton has been a regular at the indoor horse shows with the 15-year-old warmblood for a number of years, but in April the horse got cast in his stall and underwent a long recovery that left her wondering whether she’d have to retire him. After spending the summer helping him regain his fitness, the pair came to their first Washington International together in winning form.


Laura Sexton and Set To Music. Kimberly Loushin Photo

“He’s just perfect,” she said. “He’s never let me down in any way. We usually don’t do Washington because [Pennsylvania National] and then the National [Horse Show (Kentucky)] it’s too much, but this year we decided to come here. [We’ve] never been to Tryon, so it was a lovely experience. And he just always rises to the occasion. He knows his job. I know him, so it’s a good match right now, and it always has been truthfully.”

Lights Out Steps Up For Zimmerman

As Stephanie Zimmerman waited her turn to canter around the Tryon Stadium, she felt a flutter of nerves.

“I wasn’t sure how it was going to go,” she admitted.

But she needn’t have worried, because her partner Lights Out is old-hat at pressure-filled situations, having earned a championship ribbon at the Devon Horse Show (Pennsylvania) with Tosh in the green conformation in 2018.


“I think, because he had done a lot of the bigger stuff with Hunt, he sort of came in and was like, ‘Game on. This is the big time.’ He really stepped up to the plate, and he jumped amazing and did everything I told him to do, which luckily was correct,” she said.

The pair won all three over fences on their way the grand 3’3” amateur-owner hunter, and 3’3″ amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, titles.


Stephanie Zimmerman and Lights Out. Kimberly Loushin Photo

Zimmerman started riding with Tosh eight years ago. When she and her husband moved to Cincinnati three years ago, she decided to leave “Shady” in Georgia with Tosh. She has another horse she keeps with Aubrey Sears near her home to keep her riding eye and meets Shady and Tosh at horse shows.

“It has been phenomenal to work with [Sears] and Hunt,” Zimmerman said. “It’s hard when you’re not there, and you’re not riding them all the time. But since I’ve had him for a couple years, it’s seamless when I get to the horse shows.”

Longtime Partnership Leads To Washington Championship

Jennifer Morris didn’t have any plans when she found Staros while working on her doctoral degree in art history in Germany.

“I’d been horseless for about 10 years and wanted to get back into riding again, and I saw him and fell in love with him,” she said. “I just wanted him to be my horse, whatever form that took and here we are. It’s been a trip for sure.”

“Here” is the Washington International, where the pair earned the 3’3″ amateur-owner hunter, 18-35 division championship.

“It’s incredible,” she said. “It’s something I never dreamt would happen. I am so proud of my horse.”


Jennifer Morris and Staros. Kimberly Loushin Photo

Now 13, Staros has been a big part of Morris’ life, seeing her first through her PhD and then through law school. They mostly did trail riding and flatwork while in Germany, and Morris didn’t start jumping him until returning to the states. It wasn’t until the 2018 show season that she really started competing him.

“It’s funny because he likes horse showing, so when he’s at horse shows he’s in his groove,” she said. “At home, especially when it’s 45 degrees for 7 a.m. lessons, he’s like, ‘Yeah!’ He just likes to play on the backside. It’s not anything naughty. He doesn’t stop or anything like that. He just celebrates because he thinks he’s very fantastic, which he is.”

The Accidental Hunter

Last year when Julia Weiss entered Catena 5 into a hunter division at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida), she had no plans to stay in that ring. She’d bought the mare as a jumper, and though they’d dabbled a couple times in the international hunter derbies, the only reason she’d gone ahead and entered the amateur-owner hunter division was because work conflicted with her jumper classes.

To Weiss’ surprise, Catena picked up a few ribbons in good company that week, so she and her trainer Val Renihan decided maybe the Holsteiner (Calido I—Celine) mare had found her calling.

“She was so easy,” Weiss. said. “She doesn’t take a lot of prep. She jumps so cute, and I think nice to see someone in the hunters that sometimes has a little spunk. She’s just really good at it, and I feel like she likes it. She wasn’t the quickest jumper, so if she’s really good at this why not keep her here?”


Julia Weiss and Cantena 5. Kimberly Loushin Photo

Coming into her first time showing at the Washington International, Weiss didn’t have any expectations, so when the pair won three out of their four classes to take the amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, championship, she described it as “kind of unreal.”

“I didn’t really show her that much this year for no other reason than she just deserved to be on vacation,” she said. “I came here with no expectations, so it feels amazing.”

See full results.

The Chronicle will be on-site all week bringing you stories and photos on all the big winners. See our coverage here. Want more? Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the Nov. 22 issue of the magazine. What are you missing if you don’t subscribe?





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