Washington, D.C.—Oct. 23
When Stephanie Danhakl bought Enough Said in 2013 she never would have guessed that six years later they’d have armfuls of ribbons from some of the most prestigious horse shows in the country.
“He was the first horse I purchased with my trainer Scott Stewart, and ever since the first horse show we went to he’s been a winner,” said Danhakl, Boston. “He’s just a really steady, consistent, sweet horse.”
Danhakl and the 13-year-old warmblood of unrecorded breeding added another tricolor to their resume by winning the 3’3″ amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, championship. Danhakl, 32, has been competing at the Washington International Horse Show since she was a teenager, so she focuses on not letting herself get too comfortable at the familiar venue.
“I love these indoors for the opportunity to compete against the best horses in the country,” she said. “You have to be on your A-game. I didn’t use to be able to practice much because I live in Boston and my trainers are in New Jersey, but now I keep two horses in Boston. I’ve been riding and foxhunting some, just having fun with it. We don’t show very often, so it makes the horse shows special when we come to them.”
Washington also offers Danhakl the opportunity to research for her dissertation. She’s making visits to the archives of the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum around her show schedule.
“It’s fun to be in D.C. because I’m an art history Ph.D. candidate,” she said. “My topic is portraits of actresses between 1890 and 1920 done by New York City artists. I’m thinking about them in the context of early feminism with the figure of the actress as this proto-feminist figure that really expanded opportunities for women in the public sphere.”
Beware The Chupacabra
A chupacabra is a legendary creature generally known in Central and South American folklore for preying on livestock. It’s also one of the nicknames Kelly Tropin fondly calls Chablis, her 11-year-old Wurttemberger (Camparino—Zuchtbuch) gelding. Chablis showed why he earned the nickname by trying to bite Tropin during the awards ceremony for the amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, championship.
“He only bites me in public when he knows people are watching,” Tropin said jokingly. “I wasn’t looking for a horse when I found him. I was actually standing with [my trainer] Peter Lutz the first time he saw Chablis as a 4-year-old at [the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida)], and Peter was like, ‘Oh my God!’ His eyes glazed over; he was like, ‘I need to have that horse.’ For me, it was kind of opportunistic; Peter wanted to keep him in the barn, and I like doing the hunters, so it sort of worked out.”
Tropin is fresh off a dominating win at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg, where she clinched the highest score of the entire show with a score of 94. She admitted that success has invited a new kind of pressure to her rounds.
“I know I need to just focus on my horse and tune everything else out,” she said. “When your horse is as special as Chablis is, you really want to take yourself out of the picture and figure out your nerves. Stephanie Danhakl, actually, is an amazing rider and one of my best friends. One year at Harrisburg I totally crashed, and I said to Stephanie, ‘What’s going through your head when you ride?’ And she said ‘I’m literally just thinking about the next jump.’ She really helped coach me mentally; her focus is incredible, and I’ve learned a lot just being friends with her.”
A Reminder Of Good Times
Few people are as lucky as Dorli Burke. Not only did she win the 3’3” amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, championship aboard Classic, whom she also rode to a tricolor at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show last week, but she’s been competing at the Washington International Horse Show since she was riding ponies.
“This show brings me back to another time,” she said. “I think it’s the only one left that gives you that feeling.”
Classic, an 11-year-old gelding (Fiorenzo—Mirabell), made his Washington debut in 2018, but it didn’t go as well as Burke had hoped.
“I was really nervous to bring him this year because he came in the second day last year and was really just afraid, so I excused myself from the round and scratched,” she said. “But he’s just grown up a lot. A lot of times with indoors the first time is a shock; they just don’t understand it. He was great this year. He means a lot to me, and my horses are really my pets, so it’s just all awesome. It is just a huge honor; my horse was so fantastic. I’m beside myself.”
Becky Gochman continued her trend of bringing home plenty of Washington swag when she topped the amateur-owner, 36 and over, division with Catch Me, a 12-year-old Holsteiner (Casiro I—Wonne I).
“This was one of the first indoors without a pro doing him at all,” she said. “So our handy was a little rocky, but we smoothed it out in the stake, and that was kind of a different thing for us to try. It’s something to look forward to, to be able to grow. He’s a special boy. He truly enjoys his job, and that’s what makes a difference with him.”
The Chronicle will be on site at Washington International all week. Keep up with all the Chronicle’s online coverage, and follow the Chronicle on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Chronofhorse. We will have full analysis of the competition in the Nov. 18 issue of the magazine. Subscribe today!