Upper Marlboro, Md.—Oct. 1
When Tara Metzner’s mare Come Monday shook her head in excitement when they picked up the canter to start their final round in the World Champion Hunter Rider Professional Challenge at the Capital Challenge Horse Show, Metzner took it as a good sign.
“That was her [saying], ‘I’m ready guys!’ Sometimes she gets a little excited but it’s just her getting into gear,” said Metzner, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., who was in second place when the top 12 were called back to compete for ribbons in the class.
And when “Gracie” reached her neck around in customary fashion to nip Metzner as she dismounted, the professional only laughed, “She’s a little bit of a beast—a mare.” They’d gotten even more than what they came for: a big win after a dry spell, and, to Metzner’s surprise, qualification for the WCHR Professional Finals on Friday night.
They scored a 179.99 ahead of Sandy Ferrell on Meredith Lipke’s Fifty Shades (178.07) and Scott Stewart (177.66) on Rose Hill Farm’s Garfield who took second and third respectively.
Capital Challenge marked the upswing of Gracie’s trip East; it began in August at the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships (Ky.), but they had to scratch just hours before the competition due to a minor injury. “Everyone likes to win things, but it’s very special, mostly because we did have a little bit of a rough go at derby finals,” said Metzner.
Metzner took the ride when Gracie’s owners, John and Tammie Williams, offered her a job training and showing their eight horses out of Davlyn Farms in Rancho Santa Fe.
Before that, the native of Canada had worked for Dick Carvin and Susie Schroer at their Meadow Grove Farm in Sylmar, Calif., but when the Williams called to tell her of their prospect, “the opportunity was something I couldn’t pass up,” she said. “Everybody was very encouraging that I should go do it, test it out and see if it was something I liked.”
“Liked” soon became an understatement as Metzner, 37, got to know the 11-year-old Hanoverian.
“She’s an exceptional horse and I know that if I just get her to the right spot, she always jumps as best as she can,” she said. “Anytime I go in the ring and don’t win on this horse, I feel bad. I feel like I’ve let her down. She’s such a special horse and I just want to make sure people know that! So I was really happy for her that she won it.”
The two usually show in the 3’6″ performance hunters, and picked up plenty of ribbons at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) in the spring. The new environment of Prince George’s Equestrian Center, where Capital Challenge is held, plus the timing of the class, put an extra spring in Gracie’s step.
“She knew coming back out this afternoon when it was dark that there was something important going on,” said Metzner. “She sort of excels in classes like this because it’s something new and different.”
The pair will head to the Pennsylvania National Horse Show next week before making the long trek back west.
Fiegus Earns Unexpected Win In WCHR Developing Professional Challenge
After he laid down the top score in the WHCR Developing Professional Challenge, Brian Feigus retreated to the stands to watch the seven remaining riders try to best his final score of 174.4 1 with Cailin McNamara’s Quinn.
One by one, he watched as the scores came close, but he held a 1.25 lead over reserve champion Kristy Herrera on Alexis Meadows’ Antwerp (173.16). When the results were finalized, Feigus could hardly believe he’d won the class after he’d come into the final round sitting in eighth place.
“I thought it was definitely going to be a close call,” he said. “I wasn’t sure I was going to hold onto [the lead.] The scores were all so close from the first round that I thought I could [win,] but I wasn’t guaranteed anything.”
In fact, Fiegus, 24, almost didn’t compete in the class. Before Capital Challenge, the Colts Neck, N.J.-based rider was sitting in 57th of the overall rankings for the WCHR Developing Professional Challenge.
The class is comprised of the top 10 nationally ranked WCHR Developing Professionals and the top six regionally ranked WCHR Developing Professionals form each of the eight regions. With a desired class size of 30, riders fill the remaining spots with the highest scoring rounds in any WCHR recognized open hunter section at the Capital Challenge.
With spots open due to higher ranked riders choosing not to compete, Fiegus slipped in with his score of 84 from the future hunter, 3’3”, division earlier this week with Quinn. At noon the day of competition, Fiegus learned he was in, so he saddled up the 7-year-old warmblood for his first indoor class.
“His demeanor is so mellow,” Feigus said. “He’s very reliable; he always walks in the ring wanting to do his job. [I] couldn’t ask for a better horse.”
After a couple of small rubs in the first round put them in eighth place, Fiegus took his chances in the second round.
“I decided that I had nothing to lose,” he said. “Honestly at that point what’s the lowest you can be? Twelftth? So I just went in there and rode like I normally do and it started to work itself out. As the course went on it just got smoother and smoother.”
“I don’t like being on top going into the second round,” he continued. “I’m not a nervous person as far as that goes, so I’d be fine, but I like not to play it safe. “I feel like when you’re on top you have to play it safe, so I went out there and rode instead.”
When asked how he felt about the win, Fiegus replied: “It’s crazy. Normally I’m used to being second. We always joke around that I’m always a bridesmaid and finally.”
Fiegus and Quinn picked up numerous ribbons in the pre-green division at HITS Ocala (Fla.) this winter before participating in the USHJA Pre-Green Incentive Championship (Ky.) in August.
Though he grew up with a trainer for a mother (Barbara Feigus), Brian preferred to participate in other sports before turning to horses as a teenager. He trained under Nancy Urban as a junior before working under Emil Spadone when he became a professional in 2010. Since then he’s returned to work alongside his mother at their own Nevergreen Farm.
To read more about the winners at the Capital Challenge Horse Show, check out the October 20 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse print magazine.