Saturday, Jun. 15, 2024

Chagrin Fits Jersey Boy To A T

The talented chestnut logs his third consecutive derby win at Chagrin.

Before he even set foot in the ring, Jersey Boy might have been the best-known horse at the Chagrin Valley Hunter Jumper Classic. After winning last year’s ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby, the chestnut’s photo was plastered on posters, show programs and the ubiquitous T-shirts worn by volunteers and staff during the horse show, held July 7-12.



The talented chestnut logs his third consecutive derby win at Chagrin.

Before he even set foot in the ring, Jersey Boy might have been the best-known horse at the Chagrin Valley Hunter Jumper Classic. After winning last year’s ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby, the chestnut’s photo was plastered on posters, show programs and the ubiquitous T-shirts worn by volunteers and staff during the horse show, held July 7-12.

And another stellar performance by the SBS Farms entry in this year’s $10,000 The Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby should have volunteers saving their shirts for next year, as he’ll be the cover boy then as well.

Jersey Boy and Jen Alfano edged U Pearl Harbor, piloted by Maria Dritsas Rasmussen (see sidebar), with Alfano riding Helen Lenahan’s Sting to third.

Jersey Boy started out his trip to Moreland Hills, Ohio, by winning all four regular working hunter over fences classes for the championship and the grand hunter title. This derby blue marked his fourth career win, having scored his first here last year.

“He does really like it here,” said Alfano, Buffalo, N.Y. “The ring looked really beautiful with the nice landscaping and trees, and there were plenty of people watching. He can be a little spooky at things around the ring or on the ground, but he was perfect today.”

Course designer Michael Rheinheimer set an inviting classic course in the grand prix ring, with lushly decorated fences and a few 4-foot options that most riders tackled easily.

First on course, Jersey Boy set the bar unbeatably high with scores of 84 and 89, plus 4 and 8 bonus points, which according to the new class specifications reward jumping style, quality and movement.

“He’s so scopey and athletic; he’s very easy to gallop and turn,” said Alfano. “This was a beautiful galloping course without a lot of related distances. I love that sort of course, and he goes great over that.”

The handy round avoided any tricky or trappy elements, with a few options to show off over tighter turns and galloping up broken lines. A trot fence halfway through the course presented the most problems of any element.

Riders started off by hand-galloping directly up the long side of the ring to the first fence, which few riders really nailed, then rolled back over a snake jump. Jersey Boy and Alfano attacked the first jump from a ground-covering gallop and kept up the brisk pace, even in the tighter turns. The pair earned bonus scores of 8 and 10, respectively, for their bravado.

“There weren’t a lot of options in the handy round, but we did all of the inside turns that we could,” said Alfano. “He’s great through the turns, so it’s not a problem. And he was really on this weekend, especially today.”

Other combinations that went for broke fell down the standings, however.


Bob Kraut’s Nemo dug in his heels rather than jump a 4-foot vertical off a tight turn, and Tiffany Morrissey and the lovely Maui dropped from third to 11th after an efficient ride to the trot fence surprised her mount.
Jersey Boy started in the jumper ring with Alfano, making his hunter debut at Chagrin two years ago on a whim. He’s finished the 2009 derby season on top of the leaderboard and will join Alfano’s other top mounts, Rock Star and Sting, at the Kentucky Horse Park in August for the ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Derby Finals.
“I don’t do anything special to get them ready for the derbies. I just ride them and show them as I normally do,” said Alfano, who has won six of the derbies since they debuted last year. “I’m very, very lucky to have three really spectacular horses and owners who are willing to do the classes. And the horses really like to do something different.”

A Hard-Earned Win

Andaba isn’t a mount for just any old pony rider. Bella Cramer knew when she tried the large pony that she would be an extraordinarily talented but quirky partner, one that could carry her to blue ribbons with an accurate ride or deposit her on the dirt if she forgot to focus on the task at hand.

“This year during [the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.)] we were having problems,” recalled Cramer, 14. “Basically, we lost confidence in each other. It was pretty rough, and it was hard to work through. We had to learn to trust each other again.”

But Cramer and Andaba got back on track through the season and put all of the pieces together at Chagrin, winning the large pony hunter and the grand pony hunter titles.

“You have to hold her hand a little bit,” said Cramer. “She’s spooky—she’ll look at stuff outside of the ring and a little bit at the jumps. If she knows you have confidence in her, she’ll build confidence with you. But if you get on and loop the reins, she’ll stop at the first jump.”

But Cramer isn’t used to having a point-and-shoot partner. She rode her Undeniable to top honors in the large green pony division at Chagrin after spending the year learning how to ride a pony that barely knew how to steer.

“It’s definitely a process getting him to go straight and figure out the changes,” said Cramer. “But it’s been fun to figure all that out.”

Cramer’s mounts live with trainers Rheinheimer and Amanda Lyerly outside Cleveland, Ohio. She heads down from Chelsea, Mich., to train with them before horse shows and on weekends when she can cram in a few extra days in the tack. Cramer’s mother, a competitive dressage rider, inspired her to get started on horseback, but Cramer doesn’t plan to challenge her mother in that sport.

“I think dressage is a little boring,” she admitted with a smile. “We keep trying to get her to jump, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Above And Beyond

Another Rheinheimer and Lyerly student found plenty of success at Chagrin—but she certainly didn’t expect to.

After all, Kristen Dengler had barely sat on her mount before loading him onto the trailer, and she and her trainers planned to use the show as a test to see if she and Vavaldi would make a good match.
But the pair earned the children’s hunter, 15-17, title at Chagrin, as well as capturing the grand children’s hunter championship. An undisclosed panel of judges also rewarded Dengler’s positive attitude with the Sarah Allison Steffee Sportsmanship Trophy.

 “This is a pretty great weekend,” said Dengler, Concord, Ohio. “Vavaldi was a lot of fun. He’s only 7, but he went perfectly.”
As a petite 17-year-old, Dengler has spent most of her junior career campaigning ponies, stepping into the children’s hunter ring for the first time at Chagrin. An impending birthday meant that Dengler had to start looking for a larger mount before she aged out of the division.


“There’s a big difference in pace,” she said. “I really had to slow down on a 17-hand horse—I’m used to really galloping on the ponies.”

Dengler will have one more chance to campaign aboard ponies. She’ll head to Kentucky the first week in August to make her fourth and final appearance in the USEF Pony Finals.

 A junior at Riverside High School, Dengler also takes college-level courses at a local college, then spends every spare moment at the barn.

“I’m pretty much there 24/7,” she said. “Whatever I can do to help out Amanda, I’ll do.”

Although she was proud of Dengler, Lyerly wasn’t at all surprised to hear the judges honor her student with the sportsmanship award.

“She’s great to be around, and she cares for her horse by herself—wraps, unbraids, tacks, whatever,” said Lyerly. “At the shows she’s taking her horse out a couple times a day to graze, and [she’s] down in the area setting jumps. She always goes above and beyond; she’s always pushing herself to be better.”

U Pearl Harbor Improves His Résumé

Before Maria Dritsas Rasmussen started riding U Pearl Harbor, the red ribbon winner in the $10,000 The Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby had amassed a long and diverse résumé. But nothing on it said “hunter.”

The stallion got his start in the dressage arena, competing through second level before moving into the jumper ring, where he competed in young jumper classes. But he’d never quite found his niche.

So when Rasmussen called trainer Emil Spadone and told him she was in the market for a derby horse, Spadone thought immediately of the flashy chestnut who had enough style for the hunters, with scope and rideability to spare.

“He comes out of his stall every day with that ‘I’m a winner’ attitude,” said Rasmussen, 30. “He’s pretty easy to work around, and I feel pretty lucky to ride him.”

The young professional had struck out on her own with Happenstance Farm in Zion, Ill., a few months before pairing up with U Pearl Harbor (Indoctro—Aalsmeer’s Okerroos).

Since taking over the ride on the Aalsmeer Farm entry, Rasmussen has collected ribbons in the second year green division and in the derbies, but their second-placed finish at Chagrin marked the stallion’s best performance to date.
Rasmussen also picked up eighth aboard Vanessa Berger’s off-the-track Thoroughbred West End. “He’s a really good egg,” said Rasmussen. “I’m aiming to do the [ASG Software Solutions/ USHJA International Hunter Derby] Finals with both of them if they qualify.”




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