Saturday, May. 25, 2024

La Cara Shows Classic Style At Middleburg

The top position had switched hands a number of times throughout the second round of the Middleburg Hunter Classic, held on Sept. 25, in The Plains, Va., until Leah Schwendeman and her mount, La Cara, trotted into the ring.

Schwendeman found herself driving all night from her home in Belleville, Ill., the Sunday prior to the Middleburg Classic Horse Show. But her decision to show her amateur-owner hunter in the $10,000 Hunter Classic was a last minute one. Her resolve led to yet another blue ribbon to add to the pair's extensive resume of victories.

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The top position had switched hands a number of times throughout the second round of the Middleburg Hunter Classic, held on Sept. 25, in The Plains, Va., until Leah Schwendeman and her mount, La Cara, trotted into the ring.

Schwendeman found herself driving all night from her home in Belleville, Ill., the Sunday prior to the Middleburg Classic Horse Show. But her decision to show her amateur-owner hunter in the $10,000 Hunter Classic was a last minute one. Her resolve led to yet another blue ribbon to add to the pair’s extensive resume of victories.

This year’s Classic was La Cara’s first time under the lights at Great Meadow, but she and Schwendeman set the standard in the first round with a score of 89.

“The first round felt great! She was really quiet and relaxed,” said Schwendeman.

With her classic style, La Cara floated over fences while congratulatory eruptions from spectators egged her on. “She [La Cara] loves all the attention and loves to ride for a crowd so I don’t think the lights bothered her at all,” said Schwendeman. Finishing atop the class once more in Round 2, La Cara was awarded an 86 to bring their final score to 175.

Schwendeman was looking forward to taking La Cara to the Washington (D.C.) International a month later. “I’m going to be very emotional that night,” she said, explaining her plans to retire the Chronicle’s 2004 Show Hunter Horse of the Year. “She’s been so great, and I want to let her go out on top.”

Schwendeman plans to breed La Cara to Popeye K, ridden by Schwendeman’s trainer, Tommy Serio, and owned by Elizabeth Spencer.

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Her next up and comer, Armani, also made his rounds at the Classic, placing eighth with a final score of 148. She has been riding this former eventing and driving stallion from Germany since January. Schwendeman calls Armani, 7, her “investment.”

“He gets better every time I show him,” she said. “And I hope to go pro with him in December.”

Signature Rides Again
Turning in a final score of 168, Signature and rider Kacy Jenkins of Potomac Falls, Va., finished second in what Jenkins described as a very meaningful accomplishment.

After a year off, the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood returned to the ring in March with the same quiet confidence Jenkins knew him to have. “I came out of the ring almost in tears,” she said. “I’m so glad I have him back. It’s an amazing feeling, and I know I can always count on him.”

It was love at first sight when Jenkins saw Signature in December of 2001, but the partnership almost slipped through her fingers. “I would go to Ashmont Farm sometimes to ride him, but he was way out of my price range,” Jenkins said. “So I ended up getting another horse, but that just fell apart.”

Jenkins felt that her remarkable connection with Signature was key in alleviating the loss of her prior horse, Jahari. Their bond became obvious to both Jenkins’ mother and Signature’s owners at the time, Rob and Allyson Coluccio. “Allyson Coluccio actually helped out so I could get Signature,” she said. “I think it’s because they knew how much I loved him.”

After Signature’s year off, Jenkins finally got her favorite horse back in the ring. “Once or twice before I’ve ridden in the same Classic with different horses but never gotten to the second round. This year was just amazing. I went in the ring with the right mind-set and believed that I could ride well. And he [Signature] was definitely on it.” Their forward and smooth rides earned the pair scores of 84 in both rounds, only 5 and 2 points behind La Cara.

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With college on the horizon, Jenkins’ aspirations with Signature remain uncertain. Regardless of whether the pair goes professional, Jenkins rests assured that Signature will “always be a part of the family.” Jenkins plans to continue showing at least through her senior year of high school.

Movin’ On Up
Currently leading the nation for large junior hunters, 16-17, the 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood, Moriah, and rider Erin Hastings finished off the Classic ranked third with 163.

Despite a rub in the first round, the pair came back in the second to add a score of 84 to the first round’s 79. “In the second round she was really forward, and she really took a chance,” Hastings said. “There was a slight rub on the first jump, but everything else was just perfect.”

When Hastings, 18, got Moriah from her trainer, Terry Smith, the mare was a bit temperamental. “She’ll occasionally get a little wild when it’s cold out, but usually we get along perfectly,” she said.

Even with a slight chill in the air and arena lights, the pair’s clean style inspired applause from spectators after both rounds.

Hastings, of Silver Spring, Md., and Moriah will show at the Washington International and Pennsylvania National. When Hastings goes professional next year, Moriah will go for lease and be bred in the spring. Hastings is aiming for grand prix competition after college.

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