Wednesday, May. 29, 2024

Ava Barnes Finds Her Stride For Devon Titles



Devon, Pa.—May 25

Last year, Ava Barnes’ Devon Horse Show didn’t quite go to plan. Though she won the large junior hunter under saddle with Monkey Business LLC’s Unprecedented, the rest of her rides fell short. In the stake she thought she’d smoothed out the mistakes and was laying down a strong round—until she had a rub at the final oxer and it fell.

This year the 14-year-old from Cincinnati was unstoppable. She won five classes with her mounts Atlas and Showman and was second and third in the other two classes to take the large junior hunter, 15 and under, and small junior hunter, 15 and under, titles. In addition Atlas was named grand junior hunter and was awarded the Angelo Award as the horse that the judges felt best exemplifies the classic hunter horse in movement, jumping style and presence. The judges also named Barnes the Best Child Rider on a Horse.

“This weekend was really fun,” she said. “It was definitely a big step up from last year. It wasn’t great last year, but it was really fun to go out there [this time] and win everything.”

Ava Barnes and Atlas were grand junior hunter champions at Devon. Kimberly Loushin Photo

Both of her mounts have been in the United States for less than a year. Trainer David Belford found them on the same shopping trip, and the geldings arrived stateside in June. Chris Payne showed Atlas in the 3’6″ greens and Showman in the 3’3” greens last year, and Barnes started riding them both in November.

Belford was drawn to Atlas, a 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Carrera VDL—First Buresco), because the chestnut reminded him of Barnes’ large pony Prestige. It proved to be kismet, Belford said, as Barnes fit with Atlas from the start.

Ava Barnes and Atlas. Kimberly Loushin Photo

“They sort of melted together the two of them,” Belford said. “He actually loves her ride. She gets there and she just [is] soft, and even Chris will stand back and go, wow! She just gets there, and he just fires for her. He’s so scopey and slow; really, really a beautiful match.”

JJ Torano and Laskano were reserve in the large junior hunters, 15 and under. Kimberly Loushin Photo

Barnes said he’s a very sweet horse on the ground and that it was easy tor ide him from the start. “He’s really smooth and really comfortable, and you can really trust him a lot with getting long distances or short distances. He’s just really fun and easy to ride.”

Her second champion, “Jake,” an 8-year-old Holsteiner by Casall, is greener, and the team at New Hope wasn’t sure how he would handle the big atmosphere in the Dixon Oval.

“I was a little nervous going in on him, but he was just really good,” Barnes said.

“Atlas is a little more scopey and open … and Jake you just have to sit a little more and leg him a little more through the turns,” she said of how the two compare.

Ava Barnes and Showman. Kimberly Loushin Photo
Faith Schuttemeyer and Final Cut were reserve in the small junior hunter, 15 and under. Kimberly Loushin Photo

Paige Walkenbach Does The Double At Devon
Going into Devon, Paige Walkenbach knew she was going to have quite a bit of pressure on her shoulders.  year she’d earned the large junior hunter, 15 and under, championship with San Pedro 15, and not only was she trying to repeat the feat with “Parker,” but it was also her first major championship show with Babylon, who’s earned championship titles at all of the major qualifying horse shows with owner Ariana Marnell and trainer John French.

“Pretty much every time I’ve shown [Babylon] the nerves definitely come from the pressure,” she said. “I think that’s also a good thing. He’s a horse that right when you enter the ring you know what he wants, and he wants to win.”

Babylon and Paige Walkenbach. Kimberly Loushin Photo

The 16-year-old handled her nerves to pilot “Crumbles” to the small junior hunter, 16-17, championship over Emma Vandenhouten and Meaningful with three seconds over fences and a win in the under saddle. They also earned the grand small junior hunter title.

“We went to Old Salem [New York] last week, kind of preparing for Devon, and we came here, and he was amazing,” Walkenbach said. “I’m so lucky to keep up his legacy, and I’m so honored to ride him.”

Walkenbach, Paradise Valley, Arizona, tried the 9-year-old (Crumbie—Di Cera) gelding during indoors last year and started leasing him this season. Crumbles lives with French in Wellington, Florida, and Walkenbach came east for a couple of weeks at a time to compete him and her other horses at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida).


Emma Vandenhouten and Meaningful. Kimberly Loushin Photo

Her winning ways didn’t end there however, as she and San Pedro 15, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Stakkato—Cassandra) took the large junior hunter, 16-17, championship as well with a win in two over fences classes and the under saddle along with a fourth in another over fences class. Gigi Phillips and Thunderbird were reserve.

“He is pretty much like my best friend,” Walkenbach said. “I love this horse with my entire heart, and I’m so proud of him this week. He definitely stepped up, and right when I walked in the ring he knew he wanted to win, and he was jumping incredible and moving incredible, and I’m just really proud of him and happy for him.”

Paige Walkenbach and San Pedro 15. Kimberly Loushin Photo

While her relationship with “Parker” was new last year, this year they’ve come to Devon knowing each other well.

“We definitely have a little bit of a connection that he’s very trusting of me, and I’m very trusting of him,” she said. “He is so fun to ride and last year. He was a little tense at the crowds and the ambiance, of course, but this year he didn’t even blink an eye, and he just knew. I think he wanted to beat himself [from] last year.”

Gigi Phillips and Thunderbird. Kimberly Loushin Photo

Parker lives in California with her trainer Jim Hagman, so Walkenbach is used to meeting her horses at shows. This year, all of her California-based horses also showed at WEF, so she split her time between Wellington and Arizona, where she attends a brick-and-mortar school.

Being used to the travel served her well at Devon, as she arrived in Pennsylvania at 2 a.m. Wednesday and hit the ground running with the equitation on Thursday.

Paige Walkenbach, left, and San Pedro joined Babylon and his owner Arianna Marnell after the junior hunter championships. Mollie Bailey Photo

“I was a little tired coming from the West Coast, but I came and did eq week, and it went amazing; the horses were perfect,” she said. “Then I got to do hunter week, and it’s been a dream so far truly.”

Stenbeck-Werner Makes It A Double Win At Devon

Grace Stenbeck-Werner couldn’t have had a much better trip to Devon. The 11-year-old from North Salem, New York, started her Saturday off strong, winning the small pony hunter championship on Farmore State Of The Art, then turning around and winning the medium pony hunter and grand pony hunter championships on Cleverist.

Judges William Sparks and Bob Crandall recognized Stenbeck-Werner’s riding with Best Child Rider on a Pony honors.

Cleverist and Grace Stenbeck-Werner. Mollie Bailey Photo

Stenbeck-Werner won both handy hunter classes to secure the division championships. Trainer Belford gave her clear instructions before both classes.

“[I told her] to make sure that we stay on the correct track and use a little bit of impulsion to make sure that our leg supports the track in the right way,” he said.  

Her ponies went head-to-head for the Carolyn L. Havens Memorial Challenge Cup, awarded to the best handy round from the small and medium divisions, with Cleverist’s score of 88 earning the trophy.  

Cleverist and Grace Stenbeck-Werner. Mollie Bailey Photo

Cleverist, owned by Ellie Sadrian, and Stenbeck-Werner paired up a year and a half ago. When Stenbeck-Werner was on the hunt for a special medium pony, Belford immediately thought of the now-22-year-old Welsh cross (Bennos Dream—Nordis) as he’d taught two children who had ridden the pony.

Qualen’s Carismagic and Bridget Harris earned the reserve medium pony title. Mollie Bailey Photo

“The first time I rode him I knew he was the one,” said Stenbeck-Werner. “He’s the best boy ever. He’s never done anything naughty. He tries to do everything for you to do the best he can. He’s pretty easy. He’s a little lazy so you can use a little bit of leg. He’s very helpful with the distances and the track and everything.”

Farmore State Of The Art and Grace Stenbeck-Werner. Mollie Bailey Photo

Stenbeck-Werner’s first ride, Farmore State Of The Art, an 18-year-old Welsh pony (Eyarth Grenadier—Telynau Ballerina) owned by Eva McKenzie, won the small pony championship over Clovermeade Heartthrob and Reilly Robertson. They paired up at the start of the 2022 season.


“He was my first real small pony ever,” she said. “He took me to my first time in the smalls, my first Devon, my first everything. I couldn’t thank him enough.

Farmore State Of The Art and Grace Stenbeck-Werner. Mollie Bailey Photo

“He’s so nice, he’s so smooth,” she added. “He wants to listen to you. He’s never naughty, he always wants to make you happy and he always does.”

Both ponies live with Stenbeck-Werner in North Salem, and Belford comes in from Ohio for lessons when they’re not at horse shows. At home Stenbeck-Werner is trained by Maddie Flocks, whom Belford said is instrumental to their program.

“Grace is an amazing student,” said Belford. “She really focuses and tries hard to pay attention to all the details. That’s half of any sport, really paying attention to the details and the plan.”

Clovermeade Heartthrob and Reilly Robertson. Mollie Bailey Photo

Hey Scooby Rebounds From Injury To Win Big

At this time last year, Sam Schaefer was looking to find a nice beginner home for Hey Scooby. The Welsh-warmblood cross had gotten hurt in the spring of 2022, necessitating surgery to a hind leg. Despite Schaefer’s best efforts, multiple therapies and specialized shoeing, he wasn’t getting better.

So Schaefer put him in a field, resigned to calling his show career over.

Hey Scooby and Ella Tarumianz. Mollie Bailey Photo

“One day he was trotting across the paddock and I was like, ‘That sucker’s sound! He looks great,’ ” recalled Schaefer.  “I texted the group and said ‘Scooby’ looks sound.”

Schaefer started him back to work, and when he continued to look good, she decided to put him on the trailer to head from Shadow Ridge Farm in Westminster, Maryland, to the World Equestrian Center—Ocala (Florida) for the 2024 season. After one week in the children’s ponies Ella Tarumianz took over the reins and showed him in the large pony hunters.

“We showed him in about two shows a month and we said if he gets into Devon, great,” said Schaefer. “And we got in off the [waitlist], we were two out.”

So Scooby, 18, came to Devon with Tarumianz, Charlotte, North Carolina, and he had a great show, earning third over fences, second in the conformation hunter class, first in the handy and second in the stake to secure the large pony hunter championship over D’Artagnan and Lilly Herzog.

“Scooby is really fun,” said Tarumianz, 15. “He has a big personality in the barn. He’s really playful and he’s just really fun to ride. I only started riding him three or four months ago. We pretty much clicked right away. Our first show was pretty good and we ended up getting a tricolor every time we showed at [the World Equestrian Center].

“He has a really nice canter and it makes it really easy to find the jumps. He’s a really good jumper, has a nice lead change, he’s just really fun he has a big stride. He likes you to be super soft in my hand and using enough leg, he’s pretty simple.”

D’Artagnan and Lilly Herzog. Mollie Bailey Photo

Tarumianz was also honored with the pony hunter sportsmanship award.

“I think [it’s important to stay] positive when something doesn’t go your way and know that it will pay off eventually,” she said. “I think just staying calm when you don’t feel like you should, putting your emotions down just to have a better result in the future.”

The Chronicle has a pair of reporters at Devon bringing you photo galleries, stories from the competition and more at Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to make sure you don’t miss a thing. You can see a full report from the entire competition in the June 17 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.

Important Links: Devon Horse Show website / Detailed schedule / Results and orders of go / All the Chronicle’s coverage



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