Heritage Farm trainers are used to cheering for their students during awards presentations at the biggest shows in the country. But this year they’ll be staying in Katonah, New York, during the string of championships at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington that start next week, skipping USEF Pony Finals, Platinum Performance USHJA Green Incentive Championships, Platinum Performance USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship and the USEF Junior Hunter Finals—East.
Trainer Patricia Griffith has won at the Green Incentive Championships, and she and fellow trainer Andre Dignelli have had students win at Pony Finals, Derby Championships and Junior Hunter Finals.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have been enforcing a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering those states after having visited any state where the seven-day rolling average of positive COVID-19 tests exceeds 10%, or if there are more than 10 cases per 100,000 people. There are now 34 states on that list, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, District of Columbia. Kentucky was added to the list on July 28.
“We were very on the fence given the situation,” said Griffith. “We were enjoying training at home and going places that were an hour to two hours from the farm. We had been sort of watching the seven-day rolling average. Last Tuesday was the last day to make your decision to get your stalls back. We made an educated guess that Kentucky was going to be on the list, and sure enough it was. For us to go there and have to quarantine coming home, and not be able to come to the barn and enjoy our horses, would have been difficult. We would like to follow the rules and the protocols, which we feel like we’ve been doing. If we go there we’ll be really low on staff that is allowed to do what they need to do to keep it all running.”
The Heritage Farm team was planning on taking eight ponies to Pony Finals (Aug. 3-9), and between 20 and 30 horses for Green Incentive Championships (Aug. 11-13), Derby Championships (Aug. 13-15) and Junior Hunter Championships (Aug. 23-24).
“As much as we love those events, it just didn’t make sense,” said Griffith. “I also personally did not want to do Pony Finals without it being a true Pony Finals. In my opinion, for most of those kids, Pony Finals is about the social part of it; it’s two minutes in the ring, and it’s all day enjoying the facility, enjoying their friends, learning, attending clinics and watching, and to show and go back to your hotel room did not seem worth it. Most of them are going for experience. Not all the kids who are going have a shot to win—they’re going to enjoy it and have a good experience. I just was completely against it not being the Pony Finals we know.”
Griffith, Dignelli and their students have been competing close to home at the Saratoga Horse Shows (New York) and HITS Saugerties (New York).
“The customers really enjoyed Saugerties because they didn’t have to stay in hotels,” said Griffith. “They could drive up and show and leave, and that made it more fun—took a lot of the worry out of it. It felt very open, and it wasn’t packed.”
Heritage Farm has implemented strict COVID-19 protocols at home. Riders may not enter the barn to access horses or their trunks. They must keep their helmet, spurs and other gear in their car. When they arrive, a manager radios to the barn, and a masked and gloved groom brings the horse to the mounting block. Heritage has a bathroom trailer they had shipped up from Florida for riders to use. Inside the barn staff all wear masks and disinfect regularly.
“We’re cleaning nonstop—bottles of disinfectant are everywhere,” said Griffith. “We feel safe. It’s been a while since we’ve been doing it. We’re kind of enjoying it, really teaching lessons and not showing every minute.”
Griffith said they haven’t made firm plans for the fall indoor circuit.
“[Capital Challenge (Maryland)] is up in the air for us,” she said. “If we go to Maryland, which is currently on the list, then we can’t go back to New York and then go back to Tampa [Florida, where the Pennsylvania National and Washington International are being held this year]. We’re just watching it, and we’re going to have to make decisions whether one trainer goes [to Capital Challenge] and quarantines, if that’s something that’s really important to us. We do feel for the kids in their last junior year, and they’ve worked really hard on qualifying for the national finals, so we would like to, in some way, see it through. We’re still unclear on the National Horse Show [Kentucky].”