Monday, Jun. 3, 2024

McConnell Makes Her Own Mother’s Day Gifts At High Prairie

The precocious teen rides her parents’ horses to multiple honors in Colorado.

Amanda McConnell gave her mother, Kris, an unusual Mother’s Day gift—a pair of blue ribbons.

Amanda, 13, started the last day of the High Prairie Spring Preview, May 8-11 in Parker, Colo., by winning the 1.0-meter jumper stakes on her mother’s horse, Logic. She came back later in the afternoon to win the High Prairie mini prix with father Jim’s A Twist Of China.
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The precocious teen rides her parents’ horses to multiple honors in Colorado.

Amanda McConnell gave her mother, Kris, an unusual Mother’s Day gift—a pair of blue ribbons.

Amanda, 13, started the last day of the High Prairie Spring Preview, May 8-11 in Parker, Colo., by winning the 1.0-meter jumper stakes on her mother’s horse, Logic. She came back later in the afternoon to win the High Prairie mini prix with father Jim’s A Twist Of China.

“I love to watch my kids ride, to get better, and continue their education,” said Amanda’s mom Kris.

Kris usually would have been riding Logic herself but was recovering from a shoulder injury. The ride came to Amanda, who had shown the horse only once or twice before. “He’s very strong,” Amanda said. “He likes to go fast and turn. I love him.”

A Twist Of China is one of the many horses the McConnells bred themselves. “Homebreds on homebreds,” quipped Jim. The gray gelding is out of the Dutch Warmblood-Thoroughbred mare China Doll by the Holsteiner stallion Caracas.

“That was a great Mother’s Day present,” said Kris of her daughter’s double victory. “I’m a very lucky person.”

Kelli Cruciotti, 10, gave her mother a few gifts of her own. Cruciotti earned the championship in the children’s hunter, 13 and under, division and the win in the Marshall & Sterling children’s/adult hunter classic on Serenity Farm’s Q.

Kelli’s mother, trainer Cindy Cruciotti, found the gelding eight years ago in Belgium, and he’s been winning ever since. “It’s just exciting and really fun,” said Kelli. “Everybody knows him, and knows how good he is.” Her mother was a bundle of nerves during the classic. A second-round score of 86 assured the win for Q, and she could breathe again.

“What a thrill to have your daughter win on Mother’s Day,” she said. “A special treat.”

Back In Action

Mary Dunahay and her jumper O So Easy have taken turns at being injured during the last two years. Dunahay’s layup was the longest—she spent several months in a cast for a broken leg. Dunahay had been having pain in that leg for some considerable time before she finally decided a visit to the doctor was advisable.

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“I didn’t know it was broken for about six months,” she said with a laugh. “I won a class on this horse the day before I went in and found out my leg was broken.”

Dunahay celebrated her return to health by taking the 17.2-hand gray gelding to the win in the 1.10-meter jumper stakes. “He’s the most forgiving amateur horse ever,” she said. “He’s quite scopey, so when I make mistakes it’s easy for him to cover them up.” Dunahay rides at her own Savoy Stables in Roxboro, Colo., where she trains with Brianna Davis and Tomas Torres.

A Sea Side Honeymoon

Newlywed Gia Dennehy celebrated her one-month anniversary by taking the amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, championship with Sea Side. The Englewood, Colo., amateur purchased the mare from Kate Gibson last year, and the new pairing ended up USEF Zone 8 champions.

“We were looking for an amateur-owner horse that was still fairly young, that was competitive, could win both here locally and nationally,” said Dennehy, who trains with her husband Michael. “I tried her, and it was a great match. She’s a wonderful horse. She’s so much fun to ride. I’m lucky to have her.”

Dennehy wanted a horse just the way Goldilocks liked her porridge—not too cold and not too hot. Sea Side proved to be just right.

“I don’t like a horse that requires a lot of leg. Sea Side doesn’t require too much leg, she doesn’t require too much hand,” Dennehy said. “You just have to sit there and find the jumps. She’s a very good amateur horse in that respect.”

Dennehy, originally from Minnesota, came to Colorado 12 years ago. “I moved out here to go to Denver University and stayed. I love the weather here. It’s so much more temperate than Minnesota,” she said. Dennehy rode as a junior, and then, like many young women, hung up her saddle while she went to college.

“I started again a couple of years ago. I did it just as a hobby, and now it’s become my life,” she said.

Sometimes there are problems when a rider’s spouse is also the rider’s trainer. That’s not the case with Dennehy and her husband Michael. “I’m not the type of wife that’s going to argue with him before going in the ring,” she said, laughing. “I listen to him and try to do what he tells me.”

Laura Piccard rode her appendix Quarter Horse Cruiser to the top of the Marshall & Sterling children’s/adult jumper classic. Piccard, who trains with Cynthia Moore, recently purchased the gelding out of New York.

Cruiser combines the best attributes of both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. “He is really fast, and he likes to turn,” said Piccard.

Things didn’t go well for the pair in the beginning. “At our first horse show, he stopped out in every single class. And this is our second show,” said Piccard. Piccard has no idea why the capable little jumper changed his attitude. “It was just a change of heart, I guess,” she said. “He’s tested me and decided that I’m okay.”

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Piccard is a realtor in the upscale market of Boulder, Colo.

Susan Griffis rode the Palmer Divide Ranch entry Pio to the blue in the junior/amateur-owner jumper classic. Pio, a 17-year-old gelding from Denmark, had previously been showing in the lower
divisions with another family member up. “I stole him,” Griffis said, grinning. “I started riding him and realized how competitive he was.”

Pio doesn’t act like a typical warmblood. “He’s got a lot of blood,” Griffis said. “He’s very delicate to the leg, so he wants to go to the jump.”

Everyone in her family rides, making the sport Griffis loves even more enjoyable. “It’s so fun to share it with the family,” she said. It’s also fun to have Pio. “I’m really so honored to have a horse that I can go in with and feel like I can go clear and have a good chance,” said Griffis.

Young Stars

Anna Cooley is riding in her last junior year and is a little nostalgic about it. “It’s kind of sad, but I’m excited to be going to college,” said Cooley, 18. She celebrated her farewell tour with the tricolor in the large junior hunters, riding her First Impression.

Cooley’s equitation horse got pressed into service in the jumper ring, so First Impression, a 10-year-old gelding she’s had for 21⁄2 years, got nominated to take over equitation duties as well. Aboard him, Cooley placed second in both the ASPCA Maclay and the Pessoa/USEF Medal and third in the USEF Talent Search Medal classes.

Cooley plans to start college at Wake Forest (N.C.) this fall and hopes to join the school’s equestrian team.

“It’s a lovely campus, and I love how they have small classes,” she said. “They’re in Division 1 sports, and there’s just a lot of community activity. I love it.”

Audrey Carlson, 16, rode her Limoges to the championship in the small junior hunters. “I’ve had her for about four years,” said Carlson of the 13-year-old Hanoverian mare. “We thought I might be a good fit with her, and it worked out really well.”

Carlson, who trains with Michael Dennehy, appreciates the mare’s willingness to help in the ring. “She’s just really mellow and easy to get along with,” said Carlson. “She always tries her hardest for me and helps me if I mess up.”

Carlson enjoys the challenge of always trying to be a little bit better, like Tiger Woods does in golf. “It’s one of those sports that no matter how good you get, you still have a lot to learn,” said the Boulder, Colo., teenager.

Matt Hinton

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