Monday, May. 27, 2024

Barone Teaches Wurzer How To Win At Minnesota Harvest

Kim Barone not only claims a big blue ribbon on her own, but she also helps a local celebrity triumph.

Kim Barone might have a new student after the Minnesota Harvest Horse Show, held Oct. 6-11 in St. Paul, Minn.

Barone did some winning of her own, riding Katie Sweeny’s Showtime to the top of the Purina Hunter Spectacular. But she also won without even getting on another horse.

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Kim Barone not only claims a big blue ribbon on her own, but she also helps a local celebrity triumph.

Kim Barone might have a new student after the Minnesota Harvest Horse Show, held Oct. 6-11 in St. Paul, Minn.

Barone did some winning of her own, riding Katie Sweeny’s Showtime to the top of the Purina Hunter Spectacular. But she also won without even getting on another horse.

Barone coached and partnered with Minnesota Public Radio host Cathy Wurzer to top the Ariat Jumping With The Stars class. “I can’t tell you what a thrill it was, and what a fun thing to do!” Wurzer said.

Wurzer wasn’t a complete novice to riding, however. She’s shown dressage to fourth level, but it had been a few years since she’d gotten on a horse. “It’d been about 20 years since I jumped last. And in the few jumping lessons I had way back when, I was really bad!” Wurzer said.

For the class—a benefit for the local therapeutic riding program We Can Ride—the show paired local celebrities with local trainers. The celebrities received some intensive riding training in the weeks before the class, then they competed in front of a large crowd at the Minnesota Harvest before the grand prix.

Wurzer and sports writer Rachel Blount of the Star Tribune were the only two of the five with any riding experience. They had to jump a simple course of two-foot verticals. The three men, who had no riding experience at all before they began training for the class, jumped small crossrails. They included former Minnesota Vikings football player Matt Blair, ABC affiliate news anchor Rusty Gatenby, and local Fox News traffic reporter Bill Keller.

Ariat, the title sponsor of the class, provided all of the riders with clothes and boots for lessons and showing, and Troxel provided them with helmets.

Brave Souls

“We all had so much fun,” Wurzer said. “The guys who hadn’t ridden ever before did such a marvelous job. The football player is a big guy, but he had really soft hands and great balance. And Bill Keller hadn’t even jumped a course before he went in the ring, and he was up for it.”

Three judges—local horse show notables and other local celebrities—presided over the class, but audience members could text in their votes for the winner too. In the end, the participants had a great time, the audience loved the spectacle, and Wurzer won.

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“That was a riot,” Barone said. “The traffic guy talked the whole way around. As he was cantering around, he was chatting to the crowd and he was funny. It was a good time. They all worked really hard to get ready.”

“I’m amazed that these people who had never ridden before were able to do so well,” Wurzer said. “I think it was a really positive thing for the audience—many of whom weren’t riders—to see. It made the idea of riding a lot more accessible.”

Wurzer hosts the “Morning Edition” show on Minnesota Public Radio, co-hosts a weekly public affairs television program on Twin Cities Public Television, and is on a book tour promoting her Tales Of The Road: Highway 61.

She began riding in her late 20s. “I would get done with my morning radio show, and I’d go home and have nothing to do and the whole day ahead of me,” she said. “I decided to try riding lessons and loved it.”

Dressage was Wurzer’s sport for a number of years, and she competed up to third and fourth level on a schoolmaster. When that horse died a few years ago, however, she hung up her boots. “I just didn’t have the heart to keep riding,” she said.

Wurzer had all of the basic skills down, but she needed to work on jumping.

“I really had no idea about two-point and had to learn that,” she said. Within 10 lessons at Barone’s Raven Ridge Farm in Watertown, Minn., Wurzer was confidently cantering jumps.

“Cathy was delightful. She was incredibly enthusiastic and a wonderful student. We had a lot of fun teaching her,” Barone said. “She’d come and watch the kids ride and ooh and ahh at their abilities.”

For the Ariat Jumping With The Stars class, Wurzer rode Casanova, a big gray solid citizen owned by Barone’s student Anne Healy. “He was great—he knew everything and he just kind of put up with me,” Wurzer said.

The blue ribbon and sore muscles weren’t the only things Wurzer took home from the show—she also has a rekindled interest. She’s been flirting with the idea of starting to ride consistently again.

“There’s just something about horses,” she said. “And Kim was so wonderful at teaching me, and I had so much fun with everyone from her farm. I think I might get back in it!”

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Just For Fun

The night before the Jumping With The Stars class, Barone had picked up a blue ribbon of her own in the Purina Hunter Spectacular. She rode Showtime to the top of the two-round class.

Barone doesn’t show Showtime often, since his day job is being an equitation horse for her student, Katie Sweeny. But Sweeny had a school party the weekend of the Minnesota Harvest, so Barone played with him in the Hunter Spectacular.

“He jumps really well, and he’s broke to death, so he’s fun to ride,” Barone said. “He never wants to touch the jumps, and he gives you a great feel in the air. He doesn’t move like a hunter, but in the air he’s really lofty and super careful. He’s scopey and feels great.”

Sweeny bought Showtime, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood, two years ago from Todd Minikus. “He’s been good for her. It took her a while to learn his ride because he’s more sensitive than her hunter and a little more sophisticated. She’s coming along with him,” Barone said.

Barone and the flashy bay gelding were second in the first round. “I felt like I had to step it up a bit in the handy round,” she said. “Luckily for me, he’s so broke and he’s used to the tests in the equitation classes, so it made the handy round easier.”

The class included an unusual course for the handy round.

“The whole course was options,” Barone said. “The course designer designated just three jumps that you had to do a certain way. The first jump was required, and then fence 9 and hand-galloping fence 10 weren’t optional. The rest of the course was options. Fences 2, 3 and 4, he said we could jump in either direction and in any order. We had to do the trot jump, but you could do it in either direction.

“Then there were two two-stride combinations, and you could jump either the one off the right lead or the one off the left lead,” she added. “He also had a little path you had to walk through, and you could do that either way. So, all of the riders were talking about what to do. There were so many options it was almost overwhelming.”

Barone spent most of her time between rounds helping one of her students—who had to go first in the handy round—develop her plan of action. “I didn’t feel like I got a great chance to think about what I could do best,” Barone said. “So, I just ended up copying her plan. I didn’t do anything crazy—there were some really hard things that I could have done, but I opted not to. He was fabulous—he did everything I asked just perfectly.”

Barone and her husband, Andy, run a training, sales and breeding business at their Raven Ridge Farm, which they built six years ago. Andy handles most of the sales horses, while Kim does most of the teaching and training. Kim also stands a stallion, Acolade, and has a few homebreds from her fledgling breeding program of which the oldest is 3.

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