Since taking over Glenview Stables in 1968, Ralph Caristo has made a big name for himself as a top trainer and sought-after judge. While heâs trained six American Horse Shows Association and U.S. Equestrian Federation Horse Of The Year honorees and presided at every major show in the country, his biggest contribution to the sport came through his work with young riders.
Accompanying one of his daughters, Heather, on her first trip to the North American Young Riders Championships inspired Ralph to champion the program. During his 12 years as chef dâequipe, seven Zone 2 junior and young rider teams and six individuals have earned NAJYRC gold. In 2005 a group of admirers honored him by creating the Caristo Cup, awarded annually to an NAJYRC chef dâequipe who exhibits the same sportsmanship, horsemanship and enthusiasm as the awardâs namesake.
Caristo is quick to share the credit for his accomplishments, pointing out that âhaving good people around makes me look good.â Those good people include his familyâbest friend and wife Holly Caristo and daughters Robin Dinger, Karen Caristo, Lynn Forgione and Heather, who ride and train at Glenviewâas well as professional riders Jenny Fischer and Kevin McCarthy, manager Christina Kalinski and long-time head groom Carlos Zambrano.
Name: Ralph Caristo
Home Base: Saugerties, N.Y. & Wellington, Fla.
Whatâs the hardest part about being a judge?
Having the people understand that the view they see at the in-gate isnât the view that we see in the judgesâ box. While theyâre whooping and yelling, they canât always see that the horse just hung a leg. The only person whoâs going to leave happy is the blue ribbon winner, but youâd better get it right, because all your peers are watching.
If you could take a turn riding any horse, who would you choose?
Indian Summer. Heather picked him out in Switzerland. As a first year green horse [in 2004] he won every class at Devon [Pa.], then my wife won everything on him. He gave us the most amazing thrill.
What is the most significant change youâve seen in the show world over the past 20 years?
Overall, the riders are better, the horses are better, and the trainers are better. Each year everyone gets smarter, the horses get better and the riders are fantastic.
What three things do you always keep in your fridge?
String cheese to eat when Hollyâs not looking, Perrier water and ice cream.
Whatâs your biggest judging pet peeve?
People donât understand that the numerical score isnât always an accurate reflection of the round, and thatâs why Iâm not the biggest advocate of that system. If a horse goes around the ring and skips a change, some [judges] will be hard on that and some wonât. Or if a horse has a light rub, one judge might give it a 73, another would say, âOh it was just a tiny rub, he jumped it great, itâs an 81.â
When was the last time you rode a horse?
Eleven years ago I rode a horse named Udo.
Where would you like to see young riders go?
Iâd really like us to send a team to Europe. Our kids here are as good as anyone in the world. Look at Lucy Davis [who won the $28,844 Young Masters League Final at the Frankfurt CSI-W (Germany) aboard True Love (see Jan. 8, p 26)], who did it on her own. Iâd also love to see the trainers get more involved in every zone so that at [the NAJYRC] we can have teams from every zone.
Whatâs your favorite way to spend a day off?
Whatâs the last thing you tell riders before they go in the ring?
I always say: âMake sure you have a good canter to the first jump and have funâ to the clients. I tell the professionals to make sure they have a good canterâbut I donât tell them to have fun.
If you couldnât work with horses, what would you do?
I would probably be a professional caddy.
Jack Russells, yes or no?
Oh yes! We have three dogs: Lilly, a tricolor Jack Russell; Minnie, a black-and-tan Jack Russell, and Miss Delia, a Schipperke.
If you could give one piece of advice to riders who are going to show in front of you, what would you say?
Make sure youâre turned out well, make sure youâre focused, and do the best you can.
Whatâs the most important lesson you learned the hard way?
I wish I would have listened to my parents more as I was growing up. The older I got, the smarter they became.
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