Scott Lenkart’s goal was just to go clear in the $40,000 Country Heir I Grand Prix. Lenkart chose not to show Impulsive during the week, so the Dutch Warmblood gelding was seeing the competition ring for the first time since earlier this spring. With this factor in mind, Lenkart spent a little extra time Sunday morning flatting the 14-year-old.
“The biggest thing for me was just getting my horse quiet enough so he’s rideable,” said Lenkart.
Lenkart’s plan paid dividends as the pair topped five others in the jump-off to win one of the featured events of the Country Heir I Horse Show, June 3-7 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
Lenkart knew when he walked the first-round course that the most difficult section was the ride from the triple bar to the triple combination, a vertical-vertical-oxer. The problem was setting up for that first tall vertical.
“It was a little bit of a flat six [strides] after the triple bar,” Lenkart said.
He decided to add a step. Even though that decision would get him to the first vertical a bit weak, he knew that Impulsive had the power to jump at the slower pace.
“Just clear the verticals, was my plan,” added Lenkart. “The oxer I wasn’t worried about. It was A and B that were difficult.”
Impulsive (Impuls—Jazzy Ster) rose to the occasion, and he left all of the jumps standing. Not so for many others in the starting field.
“Other people tried the seven strides but couldn’t get it done,” he said. “I think that’s what the course designer wanted, with two verticals coming in. If you came in there at all fast, the vertical just came down.”
Lenkart, third of 31 to start, was one of six to jump clear over Pierre Jolicoeur’s course. He returned first for the jump-off, posted a quick clear round in 48.82 seconds and then waited. And waited.
“I just wanted a double-clear, first time in that ring, first time showing that week. I knew I’d get a good piece of it; I didn’t think I’d win it,” he said. “But after a few went, and they all had 4 faults, I’m thinking, ‘I might do this.’ ”
And when the dust settled, only Claus and Angela Moore came close, jumping clear but incurring 1 time fault in 50.33 seconds. All other jump-off contenders beat Lenkart’s time, but they suffered rails in the effort.
This was Impulsive’s sixth win at the Kentucky Horse Park in recent years, although this time he was exploring new territory. Management used the expansive new stadium for the class, which was completely rebuilt for next year’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Lenkart and his wife Renee operate their Wild Oak Farm in Delano, Minn. “My parents had a farm in Wisconsin. All through school, there was nothing else–just this,” Lenkart said of his desire to be a trainer. “We have two kids, and that makes it even more fun.”
A pair of 11-year-olds took charge in the pony ring and also had fun in the process. Meredith Darst, Lebanon, Ohio, and Meehan Shirey, West Palm Beach, Fla., didn’t leave many ribbons for the rest of the riders.
Darst is the go-to girl for trainers needing a pony catch-rider. She was the busiest rider on the grounds on Sunday, with multiple rides in all of the divisions. It was an extraordinarily successful day for Darst, who trains with her mother Mindy Darst at Lochmoor Stables.
“Maddie” was small pony hunter champion with Brownland’s Mr. Mack, the pony she also rode to victory in the pony hunter classic. She earned the medium pony championship with West End Stables’ Tuscany, and the large pony tricolor with SCNC Investments Inc.’s Notorious R. She also took top honors in the green pony division with All Seasons Farm’s Rock The Boat, and somehow found time to earn the children’s pony championship as well aboard Emily Ecclestone’s Saturday Matinee. Darst finished up her day by taking first, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh in the classic.
Darst often sits on a pony for the first time at a show, so she has little time to get to know each pony’s idiosyncrasies.
“I try to figure out what they need in the schooling area, and I try to understand them,” she said. “I want to know if they’re strong or if they swap leads, or if they have a big stride or small stride.”
Shirey, who trains with Kelly and Tim Goguen, was reserve champion in the medium pony division with Simply Magical, and reserve in the small pony division with Monroe. Her two ponies also finished second and third in the pony hunter classic.
Caroline Spogli doesn’t have as much time to show as she’d like these days, but she makes the most of the time she has. “I go to boarding school in Virginia and don’t get to ride that much during the year,” she said. “It’s very exciting for me to get to compete.”
Spogli, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., earned the large junior, 15 and under, championship with her newly acquired Cachet.
“I’d been looking for a nice hunter because my really nice hunter, True, passed away. He was a great horse,” Spogli said. “I rode Cachet, fell in love with her, and we had to buy her.”
When in the East, Spogli trains in with Ken and Emily Smith, and in California she rides with Erin Duffy, Cece Bloom and Lori DeRosa.
Spogli’s showing career was also put on hold when she spent several years in Europe. Her father, Ronald P. Spogli, was the United States ambassador to Italy and San Marino during George W. Bush’s second term. The family lived in the Villa Taverna in Rome, a six-acre embassy, whose grounds have been continuously occupied for more than a 1,000 years, including four centuries as a monastery.
Initially, Caroline wasn’t pleased about leaving southern California. “I wasn’t too happy about it at first, but I’m so happy I got the chance to go abroad,” she said. “I learned so much about the world, and a lot of the cultures I got to visit. I really appreciate what it’s like to be an American now that I’ve lived overseas.”
Cassandra Shipp doesn’t reside overseas, but she did travel from another country to earn the championship in the amateur-owner, 18-35, division aboard Celano. Shipp, 19, a student at the University of Guelph near Toronto, Ontario, has been sitting on horses since she was a wee child.
“When I’m riding, it just makes me really happy, and I forget about everything else in life,” she said. “It’s a family thing. My mom did the jumpers, and my grandma and great-grandma just rode for pleasure.”
Shipp, who trains with Martien van der Hoeven, is majoring in biomedical sciences with a goal of becoming a doctor. “I would like to help people in some sort of way,” she said. She believes her rapport with horses throughout her life has taught her empathy and helps her understand people, too. “When you have that bond with an animal, it carries over, and you have better skills with people,” she said.
Susan Moriconi was a little bit stunned by her victory in the $10,000 Children’s/Adult Hunter Classic, where she earned $2,500 for four minutes’ work. “Usually all I do is write checks!” she said laughing.
Moriconi guided her 7-year-old Dutch gelding Hatfield to the victory in between her busy role as the mother of three young sons. Moriconi, St. Louis, Mo., doesn’t ride at home because her trainers, Chris Payne and David Belford, keep her horses in training at their Cincinnati, Ohio, show barn 400 miles away.
Moriconi’s story is a familiar one in the world of amateur hunters. She rode as a child and then gave up the sport for several years while getting on with the rest of life.
“I really took it up again probably five years ago,” said Moriconi, who missed the horses and was glad finally able to return to her “only addiction.”
She added, “It’s a passion that you never lose once you have it. People who love horses will always love horses.”