This year Sandy Ferrell had a lighter-than-average show schedule at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Fla., but fewer weeks in the ring didn’t prevent her from taking three circuit titles, a target she wasn’t expecting to hit during the 12 weeks of showing at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
Ferrell’s circuit champions included Stacy Arani’s Bolero in the first year greens, Debi Maloney’s Wilson in the second years and the pre-green championship with Megan Fellows’ Prestwick.
“I positively wasn’t going to Florida with that goal in mind, but the horses were so consistent it just seemed to happen,” said Ferrell, Bernville, Pa.
Bolero, a 15.3-hand Holsteiner, surprised Ferrell with his performance in the first year division. Purchased during the winter for Arani to show in the amateur-owner classes, Bolero is described by Ferrell as “one of those situations where you’ve bought a really nice horse, but he’s completely exceeded our expectations.”
Though she only competed for half the circuit, if Ferrell was competing it was a safe bet she was going to win. Bolero was champion or reserve five of the six weeks with Ferrell and also won tricolors twice with Arani in the amateur-owner, 36 and over, division.
“You never have to worry about his style. He’s got such a spectacular jump and gives you a good feel,” Ferrell said. “He’s just so easy…no quirks. He either gets flatted or longed lightly and then just goes in the ring.”
|Goodman’s Good Results
“It really was down to the wire,” Marley Goodman said of winning the high amateur-owner circuit title with U-2, her partner of two years. Though the pair consistently won in their division and were leading in points mid-circuit, Goodman was unsure the victory would be hers.
“The last two weeks it was between me and Ali Wolf. My horse really pulled through for me,” she said.
Wolf settled for the reserve honors with Residenz.
Goodman, Wellington, Fla., purchased U-2 from Jimmy Torano as an 8-year-old. Though successful now, Goodman said the pair didn’t click at first. “He was so green when I got him, even though he was 8, it was an 8-year-old green,” she explained. “He was unrideable, and he wasn’t strong in his body. It really took some time to build muscle.”
With a green horse and a break from the ring, Goodman searched for ways to build confidence as she kick-started back into her show career. Training with McLain Ward helped the amateur rider, and as U-2 became stronger they became contenders in the division.
“McLain raised my confidence; he’s straightforward and has really helped me get back into the bigger classes,” Goodman said. “There’s always a game plan with him, and he makes you feel comfortable.”
Though winning the circuit title was a pleasant surprise for Goodman, it was the fact that U-2 never had a rail down in any first round during the entire season that stood out the most. Goodman doesn’t take winning a circuit championship for
“Just being competitive in this division, having the pressure at the end of the season and pulling through really was my best memory,” she said. “I think it’s a really hard division because you’ve got really good riders and new amateurs coming in, so it was really rewarding to win with my horse. He was spectacular.”
Originally imported by trainer Geoff Teall, Bolero attracted Arani’s attention by his striking good looks. Ferrell’s harmonious partnership with Bolero drew attention from spectators too. “When he trots in the ring people don’t think much, and then they see him jump the first jump,” said Ferrell smiling. “I would like to think he became a favorite of everybody.”
Ferrell was also pleased with Wilson, a 6-year-old Hessen she competed in the second year division. Approached by Maloney during last year’s winter circuit, Ferrell accepted the ride for the 2008 season and immediately began winning with Wilson.
“He’s much larger and carries himself more upward than Bolero, but he’s very good in his hind end and has a very correct style,” she said.
Ferrell described Wilson as a natural and said “the jumps are just so easy for him.” So it was no surprise that Ferrell regularly won a majority of the classes each time she showed him. Maloney also competed him in the 3’3″ adult amateur hunters.
Hip To Be Champion
Bruce Duchossois accepted his adult amateur, 51 and over, circuit title with Regall at the culmination of WEF, but not without some aches and pains. Missing WEF in 2007 due to a right hip replacement, Duchossois made his comeback to the show ring with three horses, including Regall, Dutton and Que Sera. All three consistently earned top placings over the 12-week circuit.
The long circuit combined with multiple rides took a toll on his still-recovering hip, although Duchossois shrugged off the pain. “I managed,” he said smiling. “Ironically, it hurt least when I was riding; it was when I got off or was stationary.”
While Duchossois slowly recuperated last year, riders at his farm in Aiken, S.C., kept his horses fit. By December he was back in the tack and showing Regall at the National Horse Show (Fla.), as a preparation for WEF.
He joined trainer Havens Schatt in Wellington, and during the WEF Suncoast Corporation Opener, Regall was the division champion. The following week was a repeat success for the amateur rider, only it was with Dutton this time. Over the course of the circuit, Duchossois amassed tricolors nearly every week, all while giving his horses a break every other show.
He’s been partnered with the 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood Regall for three years after purchasing the flashy chestnut through trainer Bill Moroney. Duchossois knows the gelding’s quirks now, although they can still be unexpected.
“He’s laid back, but with the buck you don’t know if it’s coming at the beginning or end of the day,” he said laughing. “If that’s his only fault I think I can live with that. Plus, it makes me keep a real tight seat.”
Dutton, whom Duchossois refers to as the “baby of the group,” originally began his career as a jumper for grand prix rider Laura Kraut. Realizing the French-bred warmblood needed a career change, Kraut sold him to Duchossois four years ago. Originally, the now 13-year-old gelding was intended as a practice horse, but Dutton has stepped up to be something more.
“He’s my favorite; he’s a real challenge to ride. No two days are ever the same,” said Duchossois. “Laura thought our personalities would suit each other. He’s like riding a little pony mare. He’s quite the individual. You really have to ride every stride, and it’s his way or no way.”
Duchossois’ multiple accolades also garnered the Golden Horse Jewelry Adult Amateur Challenge, awarded to the adult rider with the most points in all three age sections. “I think this was our best time together, by far,” he said of Dutton and Regall.
Duchossois will cherish this year in Wellington and has some extra time to reflect on his accomplishments. After the circuit concluded he learned his left hip will now need to be replaced as well.
“Luckily, I was able to make it through circuit, and I’ll only be out of the tack for six weeks this time,” he said with a smile.
Clementine Goutal, New York, N.Y., also kept herself busy with multiple rides during the circuit and ended in the top two positions in the high junior jumper division with Rastella and Kelline Fonroy, respectively. She also earned top ribbons aboard her junior hunter, Due North.
Owned by Emily Woods of Halifax Farm, Rastella has been Goutal’s partner for the past three years. A veteran in the jumper ring, the 18-year-old, black mare was formerly shown by Woods and
“She’s given so much to everybody, and her owners are really great people,” Goutal said. “I begged them to let me show her down here since she was supposed to retire after the National [Fla.].”
|Porter Surges To Children’s Jumper Championship
Winning a tricolor ribbon on the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit in Wellington, Fla., is an accomplishment for any young rider, but Wilton Porter didn’t settle for just one—he won six. And he didn’t let an unexpected surgery get in the way of collecting them, either.
Porter, Bentonville, Texas, and Benvolio nearly swept the children’s jumper, 13 and under, division each of the seven weeks they competed, but when Porter was rushed to the hospital mid-circuit for an emergency appendectomy he was temporarily sidelined. He bounced back to win the reserve championship in the following days, though, and continued dominating his division the remaining weeks.
During the fifth week of circuit, the 13-year-old went to bed prepared for the classic the following day. “I felt fine Friday, and then Saturday night I went to sleep and woke up with a horrible stomach ache,” he explained. “We spent the entire Sunday in the hospital, and by 9 that night they decided to take out my appendix.”
Although relieved his appendix hadn’t ruptured, Porter was disappointed to miss the classic earlier that day, a class he had been winning consistently. “I had been doing well in those. I really wanted to do all of them, but it was OK,” he said.
When doctors gave him the green light to return to the saddle, Porter picked up right where he left off with the 20-year-old Thoroughbred and his trainer, grand prix rider Todd Minikus.
“It was my first time to have him as a trainer, and he was really good,” he said of Minikus. “He gave me lots of new pointers, especially with jump-off strategies and for riding the course overall.”
Porter and Benvolio are known for their speed, a strength he credited to his horse’s former career. “He was a race horse and an event horse, and he’s just really experienced,” he said. “I like going fast—I like to go as fast as possible!”
With a successful season behind him, Porter, looks forward to moving up to the low junior jumpers with his new horse, Coupe de Paris, although he’ll fondly miss Benvolio.
“He’s really helped me along, and I like him because he’s taught me everything,” he said.
Porter hopes to continue training with Minikus if their schedules allow. “I want to move up quickly. My hope is to go to the North American Junior And Young Rider Championships one day and then do grand prix classes. It’s more fun for me to go as fast as possible.”
Initially, Goutal, 17, was nervous she’d made the wrong decision to continue showing Rastella, but after the first week of WEF she saw the mare showed no signs of aging. “It was such a relief when she went around. Every day I’d ride her she’d be feisty and crazy; she was so happy,” she said.
The pair won the high junior jumper classics in the first two weeks of the circuit, and Goutal said Rastella kept getting better as the circuit progressed. The duo gathered championship and reserve tricolors regularly, but Goutal didn’t show her every week.
“She’s jumped her heart out every single weekend, and this is the best circuit by far I’ve ever had on her,” she said. “We kept her going as long as she felt good. She’s looked great and stayed healthy, but really each week we played it by ear.”
Unlike Rastella, Kelline Fonroy is just beginning her career.
“Rastella can go really fast, but Kelline wants to fight you. She kind of runs and plays, and she needs to be told what to do,” Goutal explained.
Their success didn’t come quite as easily, though. The 9-year-old, Selle Français mare is a careful jumper but knew little of her job in the ring when Goutal began showing her. “It really was about learning how to ride her, what she needed, where she needed it,” she said.
Working with trainer Norman Dello Joio, Goutal focused on building her horse’s confidence and consistency. Starting in the low junior jumper divisions together, they moved up to the high juniors, despite the mare’s green tendencies.
“She finally decided last circuit to really start trying, and now she’s coming along, more into adulthood,” she said.
Goutal faced some challenges with the mare this year as well, and she worked hard to improve Kelline’s rideability. “I had to learn how to make her want to do her job, because when we first got down here I wasn’t using enough leg and we were going in and chipping every jump, just very inconsistent,” she said.
The different skills she fine-tuned between both horses provided an opportunity for Goutal to expand her education on the WEF circuit, preparing her for future goals such as Spruce Meadows (Alta.) where she hopes to compete later this year.
In addition to her championship and reserve titles in the high junior jumper division, Goutal also won the Pin Oak Farm Perpetual Trophy for her top prize money total. “This entire circuit has been unbelievable and so perfect,” she concluded.
In between riding 11 ponies on the WEF circuit, Victoria Colvin, 10, Loxahatchee, Fla., didn’t have much time to keep her two feet on the ground. But she did manage to escort two of those mounts into the International Arena for circuit championship accolades, taking the medium and large pony division titles as well as the reserve championship in the small division.
Riding Ballou, whom Colvin refers to as, “kind of my favorite,” she earned the small pony reserve championship after taking the championship the previous year.
Colvin owns the attractive, 9-year-old Welsh pony (Breukersheide’s Wald Konig—Amica) and has ridden him to many victories, including the small green pony title at the 2007 Wild Horsefeathers/USEF Hunter Pony Finals (Ky.).
Although Ballou is one of Colvin’s favorites, she refers to her medium pony hunter champion Cortina as “one of the easiest ponies.” Owned by trainer Scott Stewart, Cortina has also earned many accolades, including the grand green and medium green pony titles at the 2007 Pony Finals. On the WEF circuit, Colvin and Cortina, a 10-year-old warmblood, earned top ribbons and tricolors each week they competed.
“Instead of all the other ponies, you don’t really have to work too hard for the lead changes,” she said of Cortina. “She also kind of finds the distances for me.”
Colvin’s partner for the large pony circuit championship was Stewart’s For The Laughter, a Welsh cross green pony (Brilliant—Mon Cheri) she began riding in December. “He’s easy, you loop the reins, go to the jump, and he doesn’t spook. Although sometimes I’m not strong enough and I miss lead changes,” she admitted.
Riding multiple ponies may seem like a daunting task, but Colvin’s mother, Brigid Colvin, steps in when needed. “My mom helps me untack them, and she would help me get them from Littlewood to WEF,” Victoria said.
Brigid trains her daughter primarily at their home base in Loxahatchee, but Stewart steps in as needed. “Scott’s great. He teaches me differences between the ponies, how to ride them, and what to do if a pony is fresh,” Colvin said.
With a long break before Devon (Pa.) in May, Colvin will enjoy some time off from the show ring and her other favorite sports, such as soccer and swimming. But she said, “I’ll still show different ponies for other people when needed.”
By Beth Johnson