Small Love’s kind, gentle, brown eyes are the first thing you notice in her presence. It’s easy to tell that she is loved and appreciated by her team; if someone walks into her stall, they’re greeted with a sniff and a nudge of her nose. She is inquisitive, and if her rider and owner Augusta Iwasaki is near, the mare is listening for her voice and searching to catch a glimpse of her.
The 16.1 hand 10-year-old dark bay Hanoverian mare (Chacco Blue—Wisilvia, Silvio I) is certainly no stranger to the hunter spotlight. With Iwasaki, she’s spent time in the winner’s circle at top horse shows all over the country. Several of the pair’s most notable victories to date include a win in the 2022 $50,000 National Horse Show Hunter Classic in Kentucky; claiming the amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, championship and second in the $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular during Week 6 of the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida); reserve champion in the amateur-owner, 18-35, division at Devon (Pennsylvania) and winning the $125,000 Hunter Grand Prix at Split Rock Hunter Jumper Classic II (Kentucky), this past June.
The Iwasaki and Reilly team purchased “Honey” through trainers Ivan Rakowsky and Jacob Pope almost two years ago, and Iwasaki has shown Honey ever since. Now the pair regularly compete in the amateur-owner hunters and USHJA international hunter derbies.
“She always tries her heart out for me every time we are in the ring together,” Iwasaki said. “That’s my favorite part about her.”
Several times this year, professional riders Kate Conover and Jacob Pope have also shown Honey in the 3’9″ green division. Junior rider Caroline Signorino is competing Honey for the 2023 indoors season in the large junior hunter, 16-17, division, and Iwasaki, who is a sophomore at Southern Methodist University (Texas) will take up the reins again for the upcoming Florida circuit.
“I have ridden a lot of horses in my life, but Honey truly stands out as one of my favorites,” Iwasaki said. “To have a horse like her, who has the best personality and tries her heart out 100% of the time is rare. I’m very grateful to have her in my life.”
• Both Honey’s barn name and show names are spot on. Honey’s barn name came from her original show name, Honeypot. Before starting her hunter career with Iwasaki, Honey was competing in the 1.20-meter and 1.30-meter jumper ranks with Paul O’Shea, Dylan Daly and Jacqueline Steffens Daly, and she was owned by Eye Candy Jumpers based out of Wellington, Florida, and Delano, Minnesota.
When they purchased the mare, Iwasaki’s mom, Liz Reilly, came up with Honey’s show name, Small Love.
“Her barn names and show names fit her perfectly because Honey has the sweetest personality, and she loves to cuddle,” Iwasaki said. “She really is the most loving horse!”
• Honey took a bit of time to transition from the jumper divisions to the hunters.
“Honey always had an exuberant jump, but she’s built a little downhill, and I’m pretty short, so that caused it to be a little harder when we first got her,” Iwasaki said. “But now that she’s had some time to figure it out, she’s a pro at her job and very straightforward.”
• One of Iwasaki’s favorite things to do with Honey is to get a good gallop going in the show ring.
“I love to show her in bigger rings, like the International Ring [at WEF]… because those rings give me a lot of space to open up her stride,” Iwasaki said. “Honey definitely stands out in a big ring.”
• Even though Honey spends a lot of time in the spotlight, she also enjoys her downtime.
“She’s game for anything you throw at her,” Iwasaki said. “She’ll jump an international derby one day and come out for a trail ride the next. She also loves her turnout time—after a week of horse showing, it’s so cute to see her out there enjoying herself.”
• Grooms Aureliano Cruz and Gabriel Jaramillo, as well as Iwasaki’s dad Chris Iwasaki and assistant trainer Erica Quinn all help care for Honey on a daily basis.
“They all love to work with her so much,” Augusta said. “I appreciate them for all they do for her!”
• Honey’s favorite treats are bananas and Mrs. Pastures horse cookies, but Augusta says Honey is not picky about food; she will eat mostly anything offered to her.
“In fact, she ate some of my Chick-fil-A the other day!” Augusta said with a laugh.