Monday, Mar. 4, 2024

Final Design Masters A New Career At Duke

The Quarter Horse proves he’s multi-talented as he wins in the ACL Finals.

Nine months ago, when Sarah Randell mentioned to Linda Fohl that she’d love to ride Fohl’s Quarter Horse gelding, Final Design, she never imagined it would lead to winning the Atlantic Coast League Children’s Jumper Finals at the Duke Children’s Hospital Benefit Horse Show, held Nov. 4-9 in Raleigh, N.C.



The Quarter Horse proves he’s multi-talented as he wins in the ACL Finals.

Nine months ago, when Sarah Randell mentioned to Linda Fohl that she’d love to ride Fohl’s Quarter Horse gelding, Final Design, she never imagined it would lead to winning the Atlantic Coast League Children’s Jumper Finals at the Duke Children’s Hospital Benefit Horse Show, held Nov. 4-9 in Raleigh, N.C.

“I just went up to her one day and said, ‘I really love your horse! Could I ride him?’ and she said yes,” recalled Randell, 18. “I never knew she would let me take him!”

Since then, the pair has been picking up ribbons in the children’s jumpers all over the East Coast and finished fifth at the Marshall & Sterling Children’s Jumper Finals at HITS-On-The-Hudson (N.Y.) in September.

But this show was a little different for Randell. Her regular trainers, Amy Center and Janet Cawley, were scheduled to attend a different show that weekend and told Randell they wouldn’t be able to make it to Raleigh.

That’s when Randell decided to go it alone. She and Fohl packed up the 15.2-hand “Scout” and drove from Tallahassee, Fla., so she could compete in the finals. “Elena [Portu] from Danny Robertshaw’s barn set jumps and helped me a little at the ring,” said Randell. “But other than that it was just Linda and me.”

Randell said even though she knew Scout would help her out, she still felt nervous heading into the finals. “I’ve never competed in an indoor ring, or at night,” she said. “And I’ve never shown without my trainers.”

Baker Keeps It Positive

Riders Katlynn Butler, Adele Norton and Jessica Van Brocklin have more than a little in common. Not only did all three take home major accolades from the Duke Children’s Hospital Benefit Horse Show, but they all ride with trainer Pam Baker, whom they credit for their wins.

Butler, the youngest of the three riders at 11, rode her small pony, Millpond Country Club Dues, to the small pony and grand pony hunter championships.

Butler, Hanover, Va., only rides the 10-year-old “Sammy” once a week and at shows because she lives so far from Baker’s farm in Bealeton, Va.

“He’s a fantastic ride, and he’s my favorite pony. But he’s always a different ride, so that’s taught me to stay focused,” said Butler.

“Pam taught me that we always learn from the bad,” added Butler. “She makes me always want to give it all, because even if we mess up, we just learn from it and keep going. You can learn more from the bad than from the good.”

Norton said that she learned a similar lesson from Baker. “You can’t let yourself get nervous,” she said. “You have to stay positive and focus on doing the best you can.”

Norton, Falls Church, Va., took home the win in the Atlantic Coast League Junior Hunter Finals with her large junior hunter, Peregrine. She also finished third and seventh with her horses Socially Speaking and Fortino.

Norton said that her history with Peregrine helped her clinch the win: “I’ve had him for almost five years, and we’ve come a long way together. I think that the best rider could be paired with the best horse, but if they don’t have a good partnership, if they don’t click really well, then they can’t accomplish what a horse and rider who are great partners can.”


Van Brocklin, Alexandria, Va., was just glad she made it to the show in time for her class. “I had an intercollegiate horse show this morning,” said the sophomore from Mary Washington University (Va.). “I rushed out of there as soon as I was done and barely made it here on time!”

But it was more than worth it for the 19-year-old, who won the ACL Amateur-Owner Hunter Finals with her Second Hand News. She is studying pediatric speech therapy and hopes to attend the University of Virginia for graduate school in a few years.

Heading into the jump-off, however, Randell was much calmer. “Since no one had been clear yet and I got to go last. I knew I just had to keep the jumps up,” said Randell. “I think I took all the outside turns. I wasn’t really worried about going fast. That made it a lot easier for me.”

Before beginning his career in the children’s jumpers, Scout made a splash in the eventing world with rider Sonny Little, who competed him as a stallion at the preliminary level and won seven out of 11 events in 2005.

Fohl, who has owned Scout since he was a foal, enjoys telling the story of Sonny’s career with the horse.

“Sonny was a cowboy,” explained Fohl. “He rode Western and competed in rodeos and had never jumped a day in his life before meeting Scout. I knew him from Florida and liked the way he worked with horses, so I had him ride the horse.”

After eventing for almost four years, including winning the Area III Preliminary Championships, Scout returned to Fohl’s farm and was gelded. Now he splits his time between grazing in his field and partnering up with Randell for the children’s jumpers.

“He’s a firecracker,” said Randell of the 11-year-old gelding. “He’s always ready to go!”

Perfect Partners

Rebecca Forbes also had an exciting weekend without her trainer. Forbes, Stuarts Draft, Va., and her Kick The Clouds repeated their performance from last year by once again winning the ACL Adult Amateur Jumper Finals.

“Tommy Serio usually trains me at shows, but I felt bad asking him to come all the way to Raleigh from Keswick [Va.] just for this class,” said Forbes. “So I came by myself, and Ian Silitch helped me school.”

Forbes, 34, purchased “Silver” when she didn’t want to give him back after her year-long lease. “I had leased him from Mary Lisa Leffler, who used to do the grand prixs on him, and I really loved him. Now I’ve had him for three years,” said Forbes.

Forbes describes Silver as a clown in the barn and a blast to ride. She’s not sure yet if she and the 16-year-old Silver will make the trip down to Wellington, Fla., to show this winter.

Kelsey Jefferies and her Protocol were another pair who had a winning weekend at Duke. Jefferies, 17, and “Colin” picked up the blue in the children’s hunter classic after producing the highest score of the second round, 85. 

This came on the heels of their second-placed finish in the Washington (D.C.) International Horse Show children’s hunter finals, two weeks earlier.

Jefferies, who keeps the 10-year-old Westphalian gelding at her barn in Catlett, Va., spent eight months searching for a horse before finding Protocol. “It took too long to find him, but it was worth it because we’re a great team,” said Jefferies.

“I think keeping him at home helps,” she explained. “We have a great relationship, and I think it gives you such a better understanding of what is going on with your horse. He’s my best friend.”


The high school senior trains with Sandra Ruiz and drives 45 minutes to her barn once a week for lessons.

No Time To Waste

Jillian Fellows and Well Spoken proved the importance of consistency when they won the adult amateur hunter classic. Although Fellows didn’t earn the highest score in either round, her 81 and 82 ensured that she came away with the blue ribbon.

Fellows was happy she rode well in the second round because she didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. “I walked up late for the class. I didn’t think it was moving that fast,” said Fellows, Great Falls, Va. “I only had time to jump one schooling jump before going in the ring. It was a little rushed.”

Fellows, 19, described “Connor,” who belongs to her mother, Lauren, as the family horse. “Even though he’s really my mom’s, we all ride him. My little sister [Megan] takes lessons on him, and I’ve been showing him since my horse had colic surgery,” she said.

Her goal for the weekend was to do well enough to stay in the lead in the adult amateur hunter, 18-35, standings of the Virginia Horse Shows Association, whose year-end points are finalized in a few weeks.

Fellows is a sophomore at Virginia Tech, where she’s studying animal science. “I’d really like to work with horses,” said Fellows. “But I like being on the ground, working with them in the barn and stuff, more than doing the training while riding. That’s my sister’s thing.”

Farrington Earns Fourth Duke Win

Kent Farrington always makes Duke a part of his show schedule, and this year, he took home his fourth win in the $30,000 Duke Children’s Hospital Benefit Grand Prix aboard Comfortside Farm’s Thunder-Ball.

Josephine Nash, a junior at Brown University (R.I.), usually competes Thunder-Ball in the amateur-owner jumpers, but she is abroad in Paris for the semester and gave him to Farrington to show.

“It’s like riding a really talented equitation horse with speed,” said Farrington of the 8-year-old warmblood. “We bought him at the end of his 6-year-old year, and he’s just been great. He’s done maybe eight grand prix [classes] now and placed in every one.”

The pair has been working on combinations at home, something that Thunder-Ball has had trouble with in the past. Their hard work paid off when Farrington saw two tricky combinations on course.

“The vertical-to-vertical one-stride could have gotten us into trouble, but he worked it out really well,” said Farrington.

Farrington also placed third on R.C.G. Farm’s Uceko, a 7-year-old who started competing in grand prix classes this year. Farrington rode Uceko before Thunder-Ball in the jump-off, and until second-placed finisher Marilyn Little and Raylyn Farm’s Comtesse Du Lys flew home in a faster time, Uceko was leading the class.

“Uceko jumps really high and has a lot of air time,” explained Farrington. “Thunder is a lot faster, naturally, so I knew that if I took the exact same track as I had with Uceko I would automatically have a faster time.”

The plan worked, and Thunder-Ball galloped away with the win by just .05 seconds.

Megan Martin




Follow us on


Copyright © 2024 The Chronicle of the Horse