Saturday, Apr. 13, 2024

Briskin Bests The Competition At Morven Park CCI*


Her horse lives up to his name with a win in the young rider division.


Julia Briskin’s fellow competitors had fair warning that she was a force to be reckoned with in the CCIY* division at Morven Park. With a name like In It To Win It, her horse certainly didn’t disappoint anyone’s expectations.

Briskin, 18, edged her way up the leaderboard throughout the weekend of Oct. 4-7 to take the Hoffman Trophy for the top young rider in Leesburg, Va.
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Her horse lives up to his name with a win in the young rider division.

Julia Briskin’s fellow competitors had fair warning that she was a force to be reckoned with in the CCIY* division at Morven Park. With a name like In It To Win It, her horse certainly didn’t disappoint anyone’s expectations.

Briskin, 18, edged her way up the leaderboard throughout the weekend of Oct. 4-7 to take the Hoffman Trophy for the top young rider in Leesburg, Va.

“He’s the most talented horse I’ve ever owned,” said the Radnor, Pa., rider of the 7-year-old New Zealand Sport Horse. “He’s just a pleasure to be around, and it’s an honor to ride him.”

Briskin and “Winston” have been on a winning bent this season, placing first at the preliminary level at Fair Hill (Md.) in May and Loch Moy (Md.) in July. They were third after the dressage at Morven with a score of 46.1, but Briskin said their cross-country round almost didn’t come to fruition.

“He pulled both front shoes, one on steeplechase and one on Phase C,” she said. “So we had to get those tacked back on in the box. I was very careful because I wanted to make sure he really wanted to do the cross-country, but he totally just got it.”

Currently a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Briskin boards at a hunter/jumper barn and doesn’t have an eventing coach.

“I was at Morven completely by myself,” she said. “But I trained with Susie Beale for 10 years, and she was there and helped me walk the cross-country course.”

Briskin’s game plan went off without a hitch. Though she thought her  horse was still green, Winston handled the tough combinations brilliantly.

“He was just so clever about it,” she noted. “Anything that he was a little questioning about, he just gave himself a little bit more time and figured it out. That’s just the best feeling ever, when they’re smart enough to be careful, but they really enjoy themselves. He was really proud of himself!”

Briskin purchased the bay gelding two years ago from Phyllis Dawson, and the pair quickly solidified their bond.

Muggle’s Magic Enchants Future Event Horse Judges

In retrospect, Melissa Stubenberg wished that she had dressed up a little bit more for the inaugural Future Event Horse Championships at Morven Park on Oct. 3. She didn’t expect to be posing for Best In Show photos with her 3-year-old gelding Muggle.

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Handled by Bruce Griffin, the 17-hand, chestnut Dutch Warmblood-Thoroughbred gelding (Obediah—Isn’t She Nice, Mr. Redoy) topped the 3-year-old colts and geldings division on Wednesday morning, and returned later in the afternoon to take the overall championship title.

“I’ve known him since he was born because my best friend Karen Karkow is the manager and trainer at Laurel Hill Farm in Unionville, [Pa.], where he was bred,” Stubenberg said.

“I already owned his older half sister, who was my prelim horse, and I always wanted a baby by that sire. So when I made partner at my law firm he was my gift to myself!”

Stubenberg, who lives in West Grove, Pa., but commutes to her firm, Richards, Layton and Finger, in Wilmington, Del., purchased the horse from Laurel Hill owner Judy Jeffers. “He was probably the ugliest yearling you’ve ever seen, but you could tell he was going to grow up into a nice horse, and he did,” she said.

“The joke is that he’s my Rolex [CCI****] horse,” Stubenberg added.
Muggle’s education appears to be on the right track thus far; Stubenberg was the first to back the horse and now shares the training with Karkow.

Stubenberg was recently schooling a water complex at Laurel Hill near a popular gallop lane for local upper-level eventers.

“Down comes Buck Davidson with about nine people he’s going to gallop up the gallop with,” she said. “I had
gotten off of [Muggle] and was trying
to get him in the water, and Buck offered to help, even though we’d never met.

“I laughed and said, ‘This is my Rolex horse, can’t you tell?’ “ she continued. “I think it was Kristen Bond who commented that an awful lot of Rolex horses have started out just like that in that very same water jump. It took about 10 people to get him in the water, but once he was in, he thought it was pretty fun.”

“If he thinks I’m wrong, he kind of politely disregards what I’m saying,” Briskin said, laughing. “But he definitely learns from every single mistake that he makes, and he never makes big mistakes. I’ve never been on a horse that enjoys his job so much, and crossing that finish line on cross-country—I’ve not been that happy in a long time.”

Continuing Education

Briskin’s hunter/jumper training paid off on Sunday afternoon, as she and Winston posted the only double-clear round in the CCIY* to move from second into first.

“My show jumping trainer at home is, of course, really helpful. He’s not a careful horse by nature, but the jumper exercises are super helpful for him,” Briskin said. “[At Morven] I saw Leslie Law walking the course, so I ran up to him real quick. I just kind of grabbed random people and asked for help. It’s amazing how friendly and helpful eventing people can be.”

Briskin said Winston will definitely be the horse for her future. Her former advanced mount, Stina, sustained a high suspensory injury last month while playing in the paddock, and Briskin said it’s likely she won’t return to the upper levels. She plans to breed the mare, which will in effect give her a year to recover from the injury. In the meantime, she plans to take Winston in a few more preliminary events this winter before making the jump up to intermediate.

“I’m definitely looking for an event coach in the area, but I think I’m going to have to try it out once a month and find people to help  me at events for awhile. Right now school is really my No. 1 priority, but Winston’s such a good boy, and I also want to keep going with him. I think he might be able to take me all the way. We’re both so young that I think it’s beneficial to move along slowly.”

Briskin is a freshman at UNC, majoring in English and creative writing. She’s also considering doubling in psychology or aiming for a career in journalism, but she said that no matter her choice of field, she is intent on pursuing graduate school.

A Bit Of An Improvement

Another Pennsylvanian claimed top honors in the CCI*, division 2. Pittsburgh native Lisa Barry was happy to redeem her lackluster finish at last month’s American Eventing Championships (Ill.) with a win at Morven aboard her own Just A Li’l Bit.

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The pair emerged on top of the competition after adding nothing to their dressage score of 51.1 all weekend.

“For a 7-year-old in his first one-star and first long format, I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Barry. “But I couldn’t be more pleased with him. He definitely stepped up to the plate.”

Barry, 22, rode the liver chestnut, Thoroughbred gelding in the amateur preliminary championship division in Wayne, Ill., but suffered a stop and fall late on the cross-country course at a bogey combination consisting of two angled rolltops.

“I guess I just got too much of an angle, because we took out a flag, and I popped right out of the tack,” Barry said.

The pair completed the course but ended up last in the division.

Morven’s course caused no such trouble for Barry and her mount, though the rider admitted to a hairy moment at the water complex.

“I ended up cross-cantering behind and I kind of missed my moment to go forward, but he came through,” she said. “He was just a little sticky places here and there, but he’s definitely a brave horse—a little horse, but with a really big heart.”

Barry found the 15.2-hand gelding two years ago while shopping for a new mount for her mother, who has also evented for years.

“I went over to Jan Byyny’s and sat on him. I liked him, and I ended up buying him specifically for a resale project,” she said. “But then I was told I wasn’t allowed to sell him.”

Barry trains with Karen and David O’Connor in The Plains, Va.

“If Karen and David say he’s a keeper, then he’s a keeper,” she said, laughing. “So I thought I should keep him a little while, and I started him at novice, and he worked his way up to preliminary. He’s turned into a really cool horse.”

Despite their bobble at the AEC, the pair had already led from start to finish in an open preliminary division at Richland Park (Mich.) in late August, so Barry decided the horse was capable of contesting a CCI.

“We just decided on the closing date [for Morven] that he was ready to go in a one-star, so getting him three-day fit in that amount of time was a challenge. And I hadn’t ridden steeplechase in probably four years, so I just had to go out there and trust him,” she said.

Kat Netzler

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