Tuesday, Sep. 26, 2023

Genn And Happy Z Reprise Their 2008 Win At Pin Oak Charity

The dynamic duo from Ohio bested 40 challengers in this year’s grand prix.

Sometimes, it’s the small, unpredictable moments that can catch a rider off guard and turn a celebratory event into an awkward one.

Wilhelm Genn positioned his mare, Happy Z, for a photo following their victory in the $30,000 Pin Oak Grand Prix II at the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show in Katy, Texas, on March 24-29, getting ready to bask in the glory. Happy Z had other ideas.



The dynamic duo from Ohio bested 40 challengers in this year’s grand prix.

Sometimes, it’s the small, unpredictable moments that can catch a rider off guard and turn a celebratory event into an awkward one.

Wilhelm Genn positioned his mare, Happy Z, for a photo following their victory in the $30,000 Pin Oak Grand Prix II at the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show in Katy, Texas, on March 24-29, getting ready to bask in the glory. Happy Z had other ideas.

“The winner’s cooler was draped over my horse,” Genn said. “And I was sitting on top of it—which made the saddle very slippery. Happy got really excited and started spinning and bucking, and I almost came off.

“She’ll succeed one of these days! But she’s usually nice enough that she’ll stop bucking before I fall off.”

No one could really blame the feisty, 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood for doing a victory dance in the spotlight. After all, she’d successfully defended her title in the class.

First of the 10 to jump off was John Perez aboard Teleine La Cantera. Genn asked his son Ryan to watch Perez’s round while Genn warmed up in the schooling ring.

“Ryan gave me the rundown on how John turned and where he went,” said Genn. He learned that Perez had gone clean again, in a time of 37.13 seconds. “John’s horse has a bigger stride than Happy,” Genn said. “So I knew I had to be a little bit tighter through the turns and have a bit more pace in order to catch him.”

Catch him Genn and Happy did, stopping the clock at 36.87 seconds. “When I came out of the jump-off with Happy, John was at the gate and told me: ‘No one’s going to beat that.’  He just knew,” Genn said. Tracy Fenney did end up going .7 seconds faster, but she had a rail.

“I knew it could be anyone’s day,” Genn said. “They were all great, fast horses and great riders. I knew that with 10 in the jump-off, I’d really have to push it and go fast. And I knew all of the others were going to take the inside turns, because to win, it would be necessary. So it came down to who could make it the fastest around the turns and leave all the rails up. 

“You know the saying, ‘Speed kills?’ ” Genn said with a chuckle. “Well, it did that to a lot of people here, even though they were all very experienced riders who are skilled at going very fast.  Finding out where that speed limit was, without having rails, was the thing. It seems like I got to a point where I knew the speed I had was fast enough.”

More Deja Vu

Genn wasn’t the only one to successfully defend a title from the previous year.  Texas trainer Peter Pletcher and Argentum nabbed their second consecutive win in the $15,000 ASG Software Solutions USHJA International Hunter Derby at Pin Oak.

The 8-year-old, a 16.2-hand Oldenburg owned by Alta Basaldua of Kingwood, Texas, edged out 21 contenders for the top spot. Pletcher also piloted “Gem” to the championship in the second year green division.


Pletcher discovered the horse while he and his clients were competing at the HITS Desert Circuit (Calif.) last winter.  Both he and Basaldua were instantly drawn to the horse, and the gelding hasn’t disappointed—especially now that he’s put another year of experience under his girth.

“He’s logged a lot of miles since last year,” Pletcher said, “and he really is a work horse. He likes these kinds of classes—he was really good in the AHJF Hunter Classic in Florida [Gem placed fifth in that event at the Winter Equestrian Festival on Feb. 14 with Sandy Ferrell in the irons]. Every time out, Gem walks into the ring and gives it his all. And he just came into that mindset at the end of last year, whereas before, he was still pretty green and a little bit spooky. Now he uses the spook to his advantage, to help his jump.”

And Patrick Rodes’ derby course emphasized the jump. “It was a plain course,” he said, “not trappy at all. There weren’t a lot of flowers, and there wasn’t a lot of brush. It was almost all natural obstacles. To win, it definitely came down to style. It really came down to which horse jumped the best, and our horse can jump! Gem’s style of jumping is amazing. He can turn right around and jump from any distance.”

Pletcher also placed second, fifth and 12th in the hunter derby at Pin Oak. Of his second-placed horse, Camira (owned by Melanie Barnes), Pletcher said: “She’s really brave. She’s more of the kind of horse you could take out in a field and she’d jump anything, including a barbed-wire fence.”

The respective owners of both Camira and Gem also occasionally compete on them in the adult amateur division.  Pletcher credits each horse with having the instinct and ability to downshift their flashy hunter derby way of going and adopt one that’s more appropriate for the adult amateur division.

“Gem absolutely knows when Alta’s riding,” Pletcher explained. “He just slithers around those three-foot courses. He can jump really big with her every once in a while, but we pray to God that he doesn’t!”

Winning Is A Family Affair

Four of Pletcher’s winning students at Pin Oak are from the same family, including Kate Gibson (fourth in the hunter derby on Charity) and Gibson’s sister Laura Beckworth (champion in the adult amateur, 46 and over, division on Bliss). Gibson’s two daughters, Carson and Caroline, stood out as well.

Carson, 14, was named Best Child Rider on a Horse and Best Junior Hunter Rider. She won the tricolor in the large junior hunter, 15 and under, division on Caden, a 10-year-old, 16.1-hand warmblood that the family bought in California several years ago. The pair also finished an impressive seventh in the USHJA Hunter Derby.

Carson said one of the things she loves about her gelding is his silliness.

“He’s a total goofball!” she said with a laugh. “You’ll walk by his stall and he’ll just stand there and look at you, begging for treats. But he’s also a really good jumper, which makes him fun to ride. At just about every fence, he snaps his knees up and puts his big ears forward. He jumps really high and slow. That makes it comfortable for me, and it makes a pretty picture. Caden has a huge stride, so even though he’s slow, you just need a little leg to get to the jumps with no problem.”

Before Pin Oak, Carson and Caden had only competed in one USHJA Hunter Derby. “I was a little nervous standing at the in-gate,” Carson confessed.

“But when I got in there, I just took it one jump at a time, and it ended up working well. I didn’t jump any of the bigger jumps, because they were off some pretty tight turns, and it was Caden’s first time showing in the indoor ring. So I took a more conservative approach. There were a lot of long, bending lines, which was nice for me, because I could leave strides out, with Caden’s big step.”

Also riding a couple of big-strided horses, Carson’s sister Caroline swept the large junior hunter, 16-17, championships with her 13-year-old Oldenburg, Primetime and her mother’s 12-year-old Royal Dutch Warmblood, Fortune.


Caroline also scored a triple play in the equitation realm, winning the Maclay and Medal classes on Primetime and the WIHS Equitation hunter phase on Fortune. Last fall, she competed in the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals at Harrisburg, Pa. Caroline said she’s been concentrating more on equitation during the past year, in particular.

“Two years ago, I had no idea what the equitation finals were all about,” she said. “In Texas, there isn’t much in the way of equitation classes offered. But last summer, I was lucky to be able to train for two weeks in Atlanta with Don Stewart. He’s a very equitation-minded trainer, and he does these lessons where you wake up at 6:00 in the morning, you drop your stirrups, you jump hard and you just go and go. You’re in a ring with 12 other girls and it’s so fun! It helped me a lot, and I’ve learned so much in the past year about how to pull a horse together.”

Perfect Partners

Gayle Cox knows the feeling of riding a pulled-together horse. The certified public accountant from the San Antonio, Texas, area believes she’s found that horse in her 11-year-old Westphalian mare, Dubari, on whom Cox was champion in the amateur-owner, 46 and over, division.

“Dubi” also was reserve champion in the second year green division, ridden by Will Roberts, who works with Cox’s trainer, Joanie Waterman.

Earlier this winter, Cox and Dubi were consistently in the ribbons during two weeks of showing at HITS Ocala (Fla.). Before that, they competed for two weeks at the Gulf Coast Winter Classics (Miss.) with success.

Cox almost didn’t buy the mare when she was offered in 2006 by her then-trainer, Shane George. “At first I said no,” Cox recalled. “Then, while I was at the hospital in labor with my son, we decided we’d buy her after all! Shane had her at his place the first nine months or so, and then I started to ride her in the amateurs. She just really fit my need for an amateur horse—I think the world of her.”

The two are in their second show season together. Cox keeps Dubi at her family’s 10-acre farm, where she also has two pre-green horses.  She meets Waterman at the shows, only hauling to Waterman’s stable for lessons when there’s a long lull between shows.

Otherwise, Cox said she keeps Dubi fit with ring work at her own farm. “She’s really pretty low maintenance,” Cox said of the mare. “But she has a real thing about cows. Our neighbor has a herd of Angus, and when they come over to the fence in a group to see her, she throws a fit. It’s hilarious.”

In the show ring, however, Dubi is all business. “She will try so hard,” said Cox. “She’s got a never-ending work ethic. She’s also there for me when I get into trouble, and she’s as sweet as they come. Best of all, she’s a real show horse—you don’t have to drill on her at home. You keep her fit and you keep her going, and when she gets to the shows, she’s ready to do her job. I love how much effort she puts into her job and how nice she truly is.”

Grace Mitchell feels the same way about her own horse, Bachelorette. The 13-year-old from Austin, Texas, rode “Elle” to the championship in the children’s hunter, 14 and under, division. Mitchell has owned the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood for four years. She said Elle has “a very bright personality, and she loves attention. She only eats the most expensive treats—she’s known as the treat snob.

“Elle’s bigger and more spirited than my old horse, so she makes me work a lot harder than I used to,” Mitchell said. “But she also takes care of me!”

Mitchell (who is small enough that she’s able to catch-ride ponies) said she’d like to step up to the junior hunters with Elle one day, perhaps next season.

Mitchell said her trainer, Jen Shaw, helps to keep her grounded. “Jen always tells us it’s more about the ride than the prize,” Mitchell said. “And that a high-five is much more valuable than a blue ribbon. She gives us her full attention, and she always makes sure we end on a good note.”




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