The Other Brother didn’t look unusual as he galloped calmly around the ring at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show today, Oct. 16, but he felt totally different to Jennifer Gurney than her usual type of ride.
Before she got him, Gurney had always ridden and shown homebred, off-the-track Thoroughbreds. But the switch to a big-strided, easy-going Hanoverian suited her just fine.
“I normally ride fixer-uppers, so he’s a huge change of pace,” said Gurney, who trains with Gary Duffy. “It’s a huge change—but he’s really my dream horse, and we clicked right away.”
Their partnership culminated in the blue ribbon in today’s NAL Adult Amateur Hunter Finals in Harrisburg, Pa., with Emily Alinen and Latin Lover taking second. Gurney added an 88 to her first round score of 82 to take the title.
With the final fence on course inexplicably started causing a spat of refusals, Gurney was careful not to get her mount there too long.
“He was just a little looky the first course, and I let him hunt down the last line, and we got there just a little close,” she said. “Then we went and galloped for a little while to get the edge off, and he came back and was perfect.”
Gurney qualified for NAL Finals despite maintaining a light show schedule in order to care for her two children and Thoroughbred breeding farm at her home in Cazenovia, N.Y.
And even after she received her letter inviting her to Harrisburg, Gurney faced the challenge of getting the gelding’s mediocre feet reliably ship-shape for Harrisburg. Gurney’s husband recruited a friend at Cornell University (N.Y.), veterinarian-come-farrier Michael Wilderstein, to help troubleshoot, and The Other Brother trotted into Harrisburg arena with new glue-on shoes that proved the perfect pedicure.
“This show has been a blast,” she said. “The [NAL Finals] is a reasonable goal for people like me, and he’s been awesome. If I prep him correctly he’s perfect.”
Getting His Just Reward
Sometimes patience pays off.
When Annie Frazier first started riding Just Jack, it didn’t look like the two were exactly a match made in heaven. Even after they finally started synching up it still took a while before she and trainers Havens Schatt and Fred Commissaire could find the right program. The amateur-owners seemed a bit of a stretch for the aging gelding, and he was bored in the adult amateur ring .
So when Frazier saw the low amateur-owner division appear on the prize list for the Pennsylvania National, she knew she’d found the right spot for “Jack.” And sure enough, the division provided a chance for him to shine, as he and Frazier won two over fences classes and took third in another to clinch the low amateur-owner tricolor over fellow Milestone Farm rider Tracey Scheriff and Absolut.
“He’s very difficult and particular about how you do things, and for the first eight months that I had him I had a lot of trouble,” said Frazier, Ocala, Fla. “Finally we’ve gotten to the point where we’re on. He came in here today, knew where he was, and he knew he had to be good, and he was the best I’ve ever ridden him.”
Before this week, Frazier, 25, had never earned a blue ribbon at Penn National, let alone a championship, on her many trips to Harrisburg.
“At this show last year we finally figured out a formula for riding him through the turns,” she said. “If I do everything just right, most likely it will work out.”
Frazier lives on her family farm with her parents and 10 retired horses. When she’s not riding or helping with the horses she assists her father, fiction writer Charles Frazier, with his work.
Amateur Action Continues
Pavarotti and Terri Kessler have taken the lead en route to the amateur-owner, 36 and over, title, winning an over fences class and the under saddle. But Bolero and Staci Arani topped an over fences class and took third in the other to stay in the race.
The points are a bit more spread out in the younger amateur-owner division, with Royal Oak and Dawn Fogel earning blue and white over fences, Bridget Hallman winning the other jumping class with Hear Say, and last year’s champions Lavari Tracey Scheriff in the hunt with a second and third over fences.
Amateur-owner jumpers ride in their final class this evening, the Show Jumping Hall of Fame Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, with Chloe Wormser and Udiana the forerunners for the division championship.
Professional jumper riders also have a chance to shine tonight, with the $25,000 NAL Open Jumper Speed Final, the final chance for the grand prix riders and horses to get in the ring before tomorrow night’s $75,000 Budweiser Grand Prix de Penn National CSI-W.