Monday, May. 27, 2024

Cabana Boy Makes It Three At USEF Developing Horse Championship

He and Chris Hickey earn their third national title for Hilltop Farm.



He and Chris Hickey earn their third national title for Hilltop Farm.

There aren’t many titles that Cabana Boy hasn’t won in his young career, and he continued that winning streak with the USEF National Developing Horse Dressage Championship at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Ill., Aug. 21-23.

“I really feel like Cabana Boy is the poster child for American breeding,” said his rider-trainer Chris Hickey, of Colora, Md. “It says a lot for American breeders that we can breed high-quality horses. To win the 5-year-old, 6-year-old, and now the developing horse as a 7-year-old is once in a lifetime. I’m very proud of that and proud of this horse.”

Douglas and Shannon Langer of Wisconsin bred Cabana Boy (Contucci—Britania, Bordeaux), and Jane MacElree of Hilltop Farm, Colora, Md., purchased him about four years ago. He began his career showing on the line with Michael Bragdell and won the Cosequin/USDF Colt Championship at Dressage at Devon (Pa.) as a 3-year-old.

From that auspicious start, “Cabana” has continued to improve, and he began contesting the small tour earlier this year.

“We’re very happy with Cabana. He’s really progressing well and is in a good place right now,” said Hickey, 41. “He has a fabulous canter, but sometimes the trot can be a little problematic. As a younger horse he had a hard time keeping the extensions slow and carrying, but the trot work is starting to come together.”

Cabana won the qualifying test with 72.89 percent and dominated the championship test (73.81%) to win the title with an overall score of 73.44 percent. Final scores were a combination of 40 percent of the qualifying test and 60 percent of the championship test.

“Cabana has tremendous character,” said Hickey. “He’s strong and confident, and that’s what makes him a brilliant show horse. When that horse walks in the ring he says, ‘You, look at me.’ He knows the spectators are there to watch him. Horses can be fabulous, but you rarely have a horse with that personality. It shows a lot in him.”

While Cabana has been schooling the Grand Prix movements at home, Hickey doesn’t believe the Hanoverian is ready to contest the level just yet. He thinks that with six to eight more months of strength and development Cabana could go to Europe and be successful in the small tour.

“Everything he’s done so far in his life has been easy for him,” said Hickey. “He hasn’t had to dig deep and learn what a normal good horse has to do because he has so much natural talent. The next big thing for Cabana is to understand the piaffe and passage a little better. He’s skated along on his laurels, but now he actually has to think and try.”

Hickey has confidence, though, that with a little time, patience and luck, Cabana will become a successful Grand Prix competitor.

“We’re thrilled with him,” Hickey said with a smile. “We’re so proud, it’s beyond words.”

George Williams and Chris Hickey’s horses have something in common: attitude.

“Don Bailey would like to correct Cabana Boy and say that all the people are there to see him,” Williams said with a laugh. “We’re both very fortunate that we have horses that love to show off!”

Elizabeth Juliano, Gates Mills, Ohio, purchased Don Bailey (Donnerhall—Pirola, Pik Bube) from Performance Sales International in 2007. While Williams has been riding the German-bred Oldenburg gelding off and on since then, he only started consistently riding him in May of this year.

“It’s all come together quite quickly,” said Williams, 49. “I’ve known all along that he’s a talented horse. He just needs to get stronger; he’s still green in the test. He was a little backed off the first day, but he gave me a wonderful feeling on Sunday.”

After finishing third in the qualifying test (67.71%), Williams, Delaware, Ohio, really went for it in the championship. Don Bailey’s powerful extensions and expressive changes lifted the pair to the reserve championship after they posted a score of 68.66 percent for a combined total of 68.29 percent.


“I love the horse. He has a wonderful personality,” said Williams. “He has a strong sense of himself, and he’s very athletic. There’s a certain trust he has in me, and even when he gets hot or full of himself, I have confidence that he will keep himself contained. I like the spirit he has.”

Back-To-Back Championships

Elizabeth Ball was excited last year when her horse, Selten HW, won the Markel/USEF National Young Horse 4-Year-Old Championship with Michael Bragdell. This year, however, she was overjoyed to be in the saddle for the talented gelding’s 5-year-old victory.

“Every time I ride him he’s learning more and more,” said Ball, San Diego, Calif. “It’s been a short but exhilarating journey. He’s a magnificent horse, and I feel so fortunate.”

Irene Hoeflich-Wiederhold of HW Farm in Cape Coral, Fla., bred Selten HW (Sandro Hit—High Princess, Hohenstein), and Ball purchased him two years ago. Initially, she left him at Hilltop Farm with Bragdell.

“I left it to Michael completely,” said Ball, 45. “Selten needed to grow, and we didn’t have a facility at the time that was appropriate for him. I had to exercise great patience. It was the first time I’ve been an owner, and on one hand I didn’t want to take him from Michael. It was a wonderful experience being on the other side and watching a talented rider on a great horse, but I always hoped to ride him myself.”

Ball moved Selten to California in early June and has been working with Gunter Seidel in preparation for the championships.

“Michael’s great foundation made me able to bring him a bit more uphill,” said Ball. “I was pleased with his test [in the championship round]. He rose to the occasion and really came into his own. The canter had more expression and engagement, and he really enjoyed the crowd.”

Judges Hilda Gurney, Linda Zang and Maryal Barnett chose Selten’s canter as their favorite gait (9.0), but they also appreciated his trot (8.8) and submission (8.9) and gave him a score of 8.8 for general impression. Their total for the weekend was 85.20 percent.

“We really enjoyed watching [such a] lovely horse,” said Gurney of the black gelding. “He shows the expression, impulsion, uphill balance, elasticity, and correct basic training that we want to see in a horse at this age.”

While Selten has adapted to his new home in California quite well, Ball ran into one minor snafu during the transition.

“When he arrived he was a beautiful black, but now he has a sun tan,” she said with a laugh. “We have fly sheets and sunscreen, but it’s so much more important for him to stretch his big body, so he’s out every day. We enjoy him very much.”

Selton HW wasn’t the only horse from California to take home a cooler. San Shivago, owned and ridden by Louise Koch, earned the reserve championship honors in the 5-year-old division.

“He gave me everything I asked for,” said Koch, West Lake Village, Calif., of the German-bred Westphalian stallion. “He has so much talent, and, as he’s developing, his trot is getting better and better.”

San Shivago won the preliminary test with 83.80 percent, but a minor accident before their championship test rattled his confidence.

“Our warm-up was excellent, and right before we entered a woman ran in front of him and accidentally hit him in the face,” said Koch, 62. “He cut his nose, and he was totally backed off as we entered the ring.”

Despite the minor shake-up, “Shivago” still put in a stellar performance.


Koch found the horse in Germany about three years ago with the help of Jennifer and Jürgen Hoffmann. She left Shivago in Germany until he passed the Westphalian and Oldenburg stallion approvals.

“The minute I saw Shivago I knew he was the one,” said Koch, who has been working with Christine Traurig. She also plans on collecting the stallion for the first time in November.

“This program is marvelous,” said Koch of the National Young Horse Championships. “It’s gotten me excited again. Shivago has the best disposition in the world, and he’s given me a second chance. [Elizabeth and I] have horses that everyone dreams of. We’re very lucky girls.”

Aesthete Wows Judges In 4-Year-Old Championship

Happiness is the foundation of Karen Monks-Reilly’s training program, and it paid off with a championship in the 4-year-old division with Aesthete at the Markel/USEF National Young Horse Championship.

“My strategy is to hack them five days a week,” said Monks-Reilly, Kennett Square, Pa. “Our schooling schedule is 20 minutes, three days a week. We hack, ride bareback, jump and do all I can to not have it seem like work. I really believe it’s about them being joyful and young and moving happily without resistance. If it ever gets to not be about happiness then I’m not doing it anymore.”

Aesthete was the picture of happiness during his test, and the judges rewarded him with an overall percentage of 86.80. Caroline Roffman and Bon Chance finished in the reserve champion spot (86.40%).

“He just impressed the heck out of the three of us,” said Gurney of the Dutch Warmblood gelding. “We hope he can continue to show the talent that he’s shown here in the future.”

The judges awarded Aeshete (Trento B—Unusual, Gribaldi) with 9.3 for his trot due to his freedom of the shoulder and good bend of his hind legs. They wanted more elasticity through his body in the walk (8.0) but were thrilled with his canter for 9.0. The chestnut also received 8.5 for submission and 8.6 for general impression.

“My ride [in the championship test] was all that I hoped it would be,” said Monks-Reilly, 39. “He was energetic and supple and very dynamic. I loved it.”

Betsy Spence, Unionville, Pa., purchased Aesthete when he was a young stallion in the Netherlands. Monks-Reilly had sold her former FEI horse and was looking for another prospect when Spence offered to help.

“He was under saddle for two weeks when I tried him,” said Monks-Reilly. “It was love at first sight for Betsy and I. He had his ears up and big eyes and a big white face, and we were like, ‘sold.’ He didn’t even take a step. It was amazing; we just knew.”

Aesthete was gelded before making the trek across the Atlantic and easily settled into his new home, which he shares with Spence’s foxhunters.

Monks-Reilly works with Scott Hassler about once a month. “I couldn’t do it without all these wonderful people supporting me and paving the way,” said Monks-Reilly. “My husband, Patrick, groomed for me and he’s been awesome. I don’t know what I would have done without the guy.”

Monks-Reilly is planning on taking Aesthete to Devon (Pa.) before she turns the horse out for a few months and hopes to qualify him for the World Championships for Young Dressage Horses in Verden (Germany) next fall.

“He’s lovely,” said Monks-Reilly. “He’s a loose-eared horse with a great expression, and he’s very relaxed and happy with himself. He’s a joy, and on this horse I am in heaven every day.”




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