Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 15
In a class that’s dominated by top professionals, you might be surprised to see Sara Taylor’s name as this year’s winner of the Platinum Performance USHJA 3’6″/3’9″ Green Hunter Incentive Championship. But if you’ve been paying attention to the young professional over the last couple of years, you’d know that she was on the verge of her breakout performance.
Last year she was third with Noah in the 3’/3’3″ section of the championship, and she’s consistently pulled top ribbons out in competitive derby competition. But today was her time to shine, and she pulled massive scores of 91, 90 and 88 for a total of 269—and a 9-point margin of victory.
“I couldn’t speak for a long time, I was so excited,” she said.
“I kind of just flowed all the way around,” she continued. “He was there with me every step of the way, and it was almost like he was having just as much fun as I. I really liked the course, but I was really lucky to be on Noah.”
Taylor, 28, works for John and Kitty Barker’s Eight Oaks Inc. in Middleburg, Virginia. She lived on a farm in Massachusetts and grew up riding, but then she took a break while she attended college, and she briefly worked in human resources. But she felt the call to return to horses and took a summer job working as a wrangler at Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming).
“And being around horses all day, western horses, I called up Emil [Spadone], and I was like, I’ve got to come back,” she said.
She met the Barkers one year in Wellington, Florida, and she’s been working for them ever since.
Taylor has been competing Ingrid Avera’s 9-year-old warmblood of unrecorded breeding for the last two years. Avera purchased the gelding from Spadone as a 3′ green horse with the goal of making him her adult amateur hunter.
“He was a little hot jumping bean, but just going to shows he started to calm down,” she said. “And we did 3′, and then we took our time and did 3’3″, and we just kept taking our time, and Ingrid really was on board with that. I think if it had gone a different way we wouldn’t have gotten the outcome that we did.”
Last year Patricia Griffith took top prize in the 3’/3’3″ championship, and this year, she rode Callie Seamen’s Diamante to second with a score of 260.
“It’s a great place to showcase a horse,” said Griffith. “Sometimes you walk in and it goes your way, and sometimes they can get green, especially with the hour and the shadows, but my horse, it almost felt like he knew where he was going, so he was kind of dialed in, and it worked out.”
Lafitte De Muze and Amanda Steege rounded out the top three with a score of 259.
“I was so proud of Lafitte,” said Steege. “Everybody’s sick of hearing me say how proud I always am of Lafitte, but he was great out there.”
For the second iteration of the 3’6″/3’9″ championship, the clean-slate final round was held over a handy course that gave riders plenty of options. It was met with mixed reviews, but for the horses who will compete in the Platinum Performance USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships tomorrow, it was a welcome practice.
“Lafitte’s going to do derby finals tomorrow, so for Patricia and I both, both of us are doing derby finals tomorrow, and it’s their first derby finals, so I think it was a really good preparation for us,” Steege said. “This was Lafitte’s first class this week, and so I was happy to get to practice coming out a little later in the day and going straight into the handy and all of that.”
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For more in-depth coverage, check out the Sept. 2 issue of the Chronicle.