Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2024

North Country Reigns Over The Derby At Horse Shows By The Bay

Patricia Griffith hops on the junior hunter to win.

Patricia Griffith is usually standing by the in-gate as North Country canters around a course, but during the first week of the Horse Shows By The Bay series, in Traverse City, Mich., she got to take center stage with him.

Student Lillie Keenan normally rides North Country in the junior hunter divisions, but last year Griffith scored a victory in the ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby on the elegant bay, and she thought it’d be fun to try again on July 11.

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Patricia Griffith hops on the junior hunter to win.

Patricia Griffith is usually standing by the in-gate as North Country canters around a course, but during the first week of the Horse Shows By The Bay series, in Traverse City, Mich., she got to take center stage with him.

Student Lillie Keenan normally rides North Country in the junior hunter divisions, but last year Griffith scored a victory in the ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby on the elegant bay, and she thought it’d be fun to try again on July 11.

Oddly enough, Griffith and North Country actually tied with Keenan—aboard Genuine—with total scores of 373 after the two rounds of the $15,000 The Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby at Horse Shows By The Bay. But it was Griffith’s daring in the handy round that won the day, since the tie was broken by her two bonus scores of 10 each.

“I didn’t realize we were tied. I was so proud of Lillie. I have to watch out for my students! But it’s fun when they do well,” Griffith said.

This was Keenan’s first appearance in a hunter derby.

“It was close heading back in the second round. I knew no one had done the turns that I thought were possible. So I did them, and it worked out,” she said. “He’s a great horse. He’s really rideable, so you can jump and turn, and he’s good off both leads.

“Someone who went before me had tried one of the inside turns and aimed at the lower option, and they had trouble,” Griffith continued. “I planned to do that inside turn to the high option, so when I went in the ring, I thought, ‘Oh boy, I could blow myself out of the water with this one.’ But I figured that’s the kind of thing you have to do if you want to win.”

The first-round course was long and galloping and included some natural-type fences. “Probably the hardest part was the bank, which the horses handled better than most of the riders expected. You had to jump a jump at the base, where the dirt footing turned to grass, then gallop up a slope and down a slope and jump another jump,” Griffith said.

Keenan, who rides with Griffith and Andre Dignelli at Heritage Farm, showed she can match Griffith victory for victory during the second week of the Horse Shows By The Bay Series, July 15-19, riding Genuine to the grand junior hunter championship.

“She’s been riding North Country, and I think when she gets that little bit bigger, he’ll go even better for her. She always says to me, ‘He goes so much better for you.’ But he just takes a bit more leg than her other horses, and she’s such a tiny thing,” Griffith said.

All In The Family

Winning is a family affair for the Ingrams. During week 1 of Horse Shows By The Bay, John Ingram rode Hush to the top of the amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, division. His daughter, Martha, was reserve in the large ponies on Simply Henry.

During the second week, Martha repeated her reserve championship and then topped the pony hunter classic on Simply Henry. She also captured the small pony hunter championship on Clovercroft’s Bodacious Babe. And wife and mother Stephanie claimed the adult amateur hunter, 36-49, tricolor on Ocean Front.

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“Martha’s the star—the rest of us just play supporting roles,” John joked.

Martha, 12, has only been riding Simply Henry for six months. “I was definitely nervous, but I had a lot of fun going in there,” she said of her winning classic rounds on “Henry.”

Martha’s older sisters used to ride, “but it wasn’t my biggest thing until a few years ago,” said Martha, who also enjoys tennis and golf.

“I probably wouldn’t be doing it if the rest of the family weren’t. I love that it’s something we can do together and enjoy,” John said.

The Ingram family keeps their horses at River Circle Farm in Nashville, Tenn., which is Stephanie’s family—the Curreys—farm. Dominique Vonsiatski helps them at home.

“She’s done a remarkably good job for us. She’s so dedicated to Martha and helping her with all her ponies,” John said.

And they’ve begun training with Tom Wright as well.

“He’s really stepped up and become a larger part of our operation over the last couple of months, and it’s probably not a coincidence that we’ve been doing so well,” John continued.

John, the chairman of Ingram Industries Inc., grew up riding hunters and jumpers with Otis Brown, but for the past 15 years he concentrated on polo.

“As Stephanie and Martha got more serious about showing, polo was one more thing taking me away from them. There’s not enough time for everything. I enjoyed polo, and I’d survived it for a number of years. It was time to move on,” he said.

John sold all of his polo ponies and equipment and got back into show horses last year. He bought Hush from Clara Lindner in January. Unfortunately, the horse injured an eye and was off for a month right away.

“Florida was a little bit of playing catch-up trying to get him back and for me to adjust to him. We spent the spring and summer getting synched up. I feel like I understand how to ride him, and I think he likes me—or at least tolerates me,” John said.

“I really feel like any time I walk in the ring, I have a chance to win. It’s a nice feeling. I’m in the game with him, but it’s up to me and him to do our thing. The amateur-owner division has so many great riders and wonderful horses. There’s no point bringing a knife to a gun fight, and Hush is certainly a big gun.”

Moving On Up

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Emily Wygod has enjoyed watching New Zealand come into his own for the past year, and for the two first weeks of Horse Shows By The Bay, she was able to enjoy winning with him as well.

Wygod rode “Kiwi” to the adult amateur hunter, 18-35, division tricolor the first week, then moved up to the low amateur-owner hunter division for the second week and claimed another championship.

“I was so surprised! Kiwi and I are always the bridesmaids,” she said. “We were champion the first week we showed at the Winter Equestrian Festival [Fla.] and haven’t been champion since. He’s just green, and it’s hard for me riding a green horse—I make a little mistake, and it shows. But we’re starting to understand each other a lot better.”

Wygod bought Kiwi a year ago. Her trainer, Rob Bielefeld, found him for her, but he wasn’t terribly impressive at first glance. He hadn’t shown in a while, and he was unkempt from living outside.

“Rob just fell in love with him, and I trust his opinion about horses. It’s been a fun project to start with such a green horse and see him progress,” Wygod said. “Rob and Crystal Knight spent a lot of time with him getting him to look better and getting his fitness up.”

Wygod took flat lessons on Kiwi for a while, then began jumping him when he got more broke. She debuted in the adult amateur division this winter. “I just love him. The past couple of weeks we’ve really clicked together, and he’s given me the best feeling. He just rocks back on his haunches and jumps so round,” she said.

“I had to talk Rob into letting me show him in the 3’3″ division because it was also his first week showing in the

3’3″ pre-greens. But he loves the bigger jumps. He’s so much easier in that division than in the adults,” she added.

Wygod’s not sure of Kiwi’s breeding, but she thinks the 8-year-old is a Thoroughbred cross. “He definitely looks like a Thoroughbred, but he rides a bit more like a warmblood. He’s not very sensitive!” she said.

Bielefeld plans to show Kiwi in the pre-green divisions at the Capital Challenge (Md.) this fall. “We’re going to take it extremely slow. We were thinking of putting him in the first years this year, but we decided to wait a year, and it was such a good decision. He’s really confident at the three-foot now, and I think he’ll go into the first years as a made horse,” Wygod said.

Wygod, 23, grew up in California and rode there with Newmarket for 13 years, but Duke University (N.C.) brought her east. She rode jumpers while in college, but after graduating in May 2008, she decided to concentrate on hunters and started riding with Bielefeld.

She has two amateur-owner hunters and another greener horse who just moved up from the adults to the low amateurs. Her horses live in Kentucky with Bielefeld, and she meets them at shows.

Last year, Wygod tutored junior rider Caitlin Ziegler while at the shows, but now she lives in New York City and spends her spare time volunteering at animal shelters.

“I’d love to run my own animal shelter and do animal welfare education in local schools,” she said.

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