Friday, May. 31, 2024

Koford Collects Blues At BLM Championships

Don Principe and the North Carolina trainer earn multiple titles in Virginia.

James Koford made a clean sweep of the Col. Bengt Ljungquist Memorial Championships, Oct. 23-26 in Lexington, Va.



Don Principe and the North Carolina trainer earn multiple titles in Virginia.

James Koford made a clean sweep of the Col. Bengt Ljungquist Memorial Championships, Oct. 23-26 in Lexington, Va.

Koford rode the Hanoverian stallion Don Principe to a dressage trifecta, winning BLM championships at Intermediaire I and Intermediaire II, as well as the Intermediaire I freestyle.“The Intermediaire II was a great relief for me,” Koford said. “He’s only done a few shows at that level. I was thrilled—he really stepped up to the plate.”

Koford has had help recently from Steffen Peters and Conrad Schumacher and joked, “If I screwed up after all their coaching, I just need to take up tennis.”

Don Principe, 9, splits his time between showing and being an active breeding stallion. Maryanna Haymon owns the laidback bay, who likes to munch hay while lying down. He has had a successful year, including winning the Great American/USDF Region 1 Intermediaire I championship in October.

“He’s won 13 straight Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I [classes] this year,” Koford said. “I’m totally over the top [about winning the Intermediaire II]—that really validated where we are in his training.” He hopes to move the horse up to Grand Prix in Florida this winter.

A self-described “redneck”, Koford is based at Pepperwood Farm near Raleigh, N.C.


Among his numerous other rides, Koford also won a section of the second level, senior rider BLM championship aboard Joan Fontes’ Westbound Kid. The 6-year-old Hanoverian goes by “Little Prince” in the barn, while Don Principe is called “Big Prince.” Koford also won the open Prix St. Georges in the open show aboard Rhett.

Kelley Corrigan did quite a bit of winning herself, taking the BLM Grand Prix championship on Wenzel Lad (60.48%). She and Wenzel Lad also placed second in the BLM Intermediaire II championship. She picked up two more second places in BLM championships—in a section of the Prix St. Georges, senior rider on Robinson and in a section of the first level, senior rider with Revelation.

Although she and Wenzel Lad, 13, also won last year’s BLM Grand Prix, he’s “still pretty green” at that level, Corrigan said. She’s done all his training “with the help of a lot of people,” she said. “He’s been with me since he was 3. He can be tough, but when he’s good, he’s good.”

Based on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Corrigan competes as a professional but only rides her three horses. “I give a few lessons on the weekends, but I don’t do it as a profession,” she said. “My real job is as an insurance agent.”

Revelation is a 6-year-old Oldenburg Corrigan has had since he was 3 months old. “I found him down the road from me,” she said. “He’s not a huge mover but he’s very trainable.”

Robinson, her Prix St. Georges horse, is 8 now; Corrigan has had him for three years. Now he’s working on learning the upper FEI levels. “They’re all different horses, and it’s interesting to work with them,” she said. “But three is definitely enough. I should get down to two, but I don’t know which one to get rid of!”

Sarah Cunningham won a section of the Prix St. Georges, senior rider BLM championship on her 21st birthday. She rode Ivan, her mother’s 18-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding. The win was “a great 21st birthday present,” she said.


The pair have been competing at Prix St. Georges for three years. They also competed this summer at the CN North American Junior and Young Riders Championships (Colo.).

Cunningham has ridden Ivan for four years; previous rider Tami Batts showed him through the Intermediaire I level. “He knows when it counts,” Cunningham said. “He’s been a great teacher. He doesn’t let you go in and coast—you have to ride the whole thing.”

Cunningham hopes to move up to Intermediaire II and Grand Prix on Ivan next year.  “I’d love to get my gold medal on him; I couldn’t ask for a better horse,” she said.

The gray gelding, though, has made himself a treasured member of the Cunningham family with his personality. “He’s a big-time beggar. He’s sure we’re his little servants and we do everything for him,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham is a junior at North Carolina State University, majoring in agriculture business and hoping to stay involved with horses after she graduates. She trains with Koford. “I’ve known Jim since I was in third grade,” she said.

“I started training him with last year again when he moved to Raleigh.”

She and her mother, Mary Cunningham, show the FEI levels together now and help each other out. Showing is “our thing together,” Mary Cunningham said. “If Jim can’t come yell at me, she will. I know she’ll tell me the truth.”

Lois Mermelstein




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