Sunday, Mar. 3, 2024

Balou Struts His Stuff In The Low Amateur-Owners

“It was a little bit of love at first sight." Lisa Arena Davis gets her first Pennsylvania National Horse Show tricolor aboard a very special horse.


Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 16

As Balou walked out of the ring, adorned in his championship cooler, he snaked his head around to grab a massive carrot from the basket near the in-gate. When Lisa Arena Davis laughed and tried to take the treat back, the charismatic gelding held on tighter.

If he could talk, he’d be saying, “I think I deserve lots of treats.”

His certainty in his performance was spot on, his efforts in the low amateur-owner, 18-35, gave them the division title and the grand low amateur-owner championship.

Now 12, the Westphalian gelding has always been a bit of a character. While some horses are running for the barns, Balou has his mind on the show ring. Davis joked that they have to force him to warm up properly because he’s sometimes too eager to leave the schooling ring, so that he can go perform.

“It was a little bit of love at first sight. Of course we weren’t shopping for a horse but it always happens that way,” Davis said, giving him a big pat as she spoke. “Emil [Spadone] and Kate [Conover] let us take him for a week, and we never gave him back.”

As we’re chatting, Davis is busy taking care of Balou, giving him a quick rubdown and re-wrapping his tail. When she’s done, we walk back up the ring. Though her day is done, she wants to be there to cheer on her friends and barnmates.


Standing at 15.2, Balou isn’t the biggest competitor at Harrisburg, but he has tons of heart.

“You would never know how small he is,” she said. “He has such a big stride. Amanda [Steege, my trainer] did him in second years and those jumps look as tall as him. She said she never felt like they were too tall for him. If anything I always have to remember—I have to try not to watch other horses because if the lines look a little long, I just have to remember that he has a ginormous stride.”

Steege helped bring him up the levels. He started in the pre-greens in 2010 and has steadily progressed to the high performance and low amateur-owner, 18-35, levels.

If you look at Balou’s show record for the past couple of years, you’ll see that Davis’ name is notably absent. She was out of the tack for a while since she was expecting her daughter, who is now 10 months old.

She returned to the show ring this February and has had a lighter show schedule as she got back in the groove. Typically she keeps him at her farm in Penfield, N.Y., but recently the gelding has been living at Steege’s Ashmeadow Farm while she adjusts to being a mother.

Price’s Last Minute Decision Pays Off In A Big Way

For Shaw Johnson Price to take home the tricolor for the low amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, a lot of things had to fall in place. She and Custom Made had been trading top placings with Daryl Portela and Winner, last year’s champions.


After Portela jumped her final round, the two riders were tied with 26 points and Portela would have taken home the ribbon since she had more points over fences. But there were a few rounds left in the class and Portela was knocked down enough placings to give Price the championship.

Price almost didn’t even come to Harrisburg this year, but when she got into the division at the last minute, she figured she’d make the trip. And the decision paid off—“Red,” a former event horse, became the first horse of this show to be double champion. He won the first year greens with trainer Havens Schatt earlier this week. (Follow the link to read more about his transition to the show ring.)

“He’s just a beautiful mover, and he’s a really good jumper, and we looked at him and were like, ‘this is the one.’ We’d been looking for a long time, and it’s hard,” she said. “He was special. You can look at his eyes, the way he is.”

Though Price has been in the horse world for several years, her showing was on the back burner for the past few years so that she could spent more time with her daughters, ages 15 and 17.

“It was really important to me to go be with them rather than to be here [showing,] said Price. “They go to boarding school, so especially during the summer, I want to have that time [with them.]”

Custom Made is done for the season now, and he’ll pick back up again when the Florida circuit begins. Price recently moved him up to the amateur-owners, 36 and over, and she’s looking forward to continuing him at the next level.



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