Washington D.C.—Oct. 25
The Capital One Arena can be an intimidating place with its tiny warmup ring, long and narrow competition ring and stabling on the streets.
As a first timer at the Washington International Horse Show, Stella Propp had a nervous pit in her stomach throughout the last few days, but her small junior, 15 and under, mount Inquisitive was there to help.
“He walked in the first round ever and didn’t look at anything, just marched around like he owned the place, and I couldn’t have asked for more honestly, especially with my nerves. He handled it beautifully,” she said.
Propp, New York, came out champion today with the 11-year-old warmblood of unrecorded breeding, and she was able to breathe a sigh of relief.
“It’s awesome and kind of scary,” she said. “Their stalls are literally outside in public, so they’re always looking, they’re curious, because it’s not so normal. But it’s also a huge deal because when I would tell people that don’t know so much about riding that I was competing in the Capital One Arena, they’re like, ‘Wait a second, isn’t that for hockey and basketball?’ It’s really cool to have that opportunity to compete somewhere where other well-known sports are.”
Propp has been riding “Inky,” owned by Aquitaine Equine, for nearly a year. He’s her first 3’6” horse and has been showing her the ropes. “He is spoiled because of me,” she said. “He’s honestly the best—always will cuddle you, his ears are always forward, and he’s just the best. [When I moved up] he took such great care of me, and he put up with a lot of my stupid mistakes, so I’m really grateful for that.”
The oldest of three sisters who all ride, Propp says it’s fun to compete with family. Her sisters Juliette Propp and Clara Propp don’t compete against her currently, but she said there’s no competitiveness between them in any way.
“It’s awesome since we’re a family of three, because if we didn’t all ride we’d probably never see each other,” she said. “Having the support of one another, I couldn’t tell you how amazing that is. Each win from each of us is a family win. We’re all together all the time, and it’s awesome having a support system for you there 24/7.”
It was a bittersweet finish to the weekend for Augusta Iwasaki, who claimed the junior hunter grand championship with Small Affair and earned the large junior, 15 and under, championship with the gelding and reserve with Seaside.
“They were both perfect all week,” she said. “I’ve been showing Small Affair for four years, and he’s been a part of the family for 12. It’s just so nice to get to show him because he’s getting older. I think this is going to be his last indoor, so it’s the best way to end. I couldn’t ask for a better week.”
Owned by Lyn Pedersen, the 16-year-old Selle Français gelding (Elf D’Or—Eva De Fontenay), has been a prolific winner in nearly every division.
“It’s like nothing else I’ve ever experienced,” said Iwasaki. “I don’t even remember a time when I didn’t know him, because when we got him I was like 4. I watched him be so successful with so many people, and it’s like no other feeling to get to have such a special horse.”
Maggie Hill has been riding a hot streak with Stella Styslinger’s Cassanto this season, winning championships at Devon (Pennsylvania), Capital Challenge (Maryland), Junior Hunter Finals-East (Pennsylvania) and the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, and she added another at Washington with the large junior, 16-17, championship. She also took the small junior, 16-17, championship title with O’Ryan and was named Best Child Rider on a horse.
“Cassanto was perfect, as was O’Ryan. It was a good weekend,” she said. “[Cassanto is] an amazing horse, and I’m really glad I get to ride him. I’m really glad that he’s been so good. He’s really consistent.”
Hill’s partnership with the 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Canto—Stefania) has grown over the two years they’ve been partnered.
“In the beginning it was touch-and-go, but I was new to the junior hunters,” she said. “He’s a cool horse because he definitely appreciates having one rider. It’s fun to build the relationship on and off the horse, because he definitely knows who I am. He’s the most special horse I’ve ever gotten to ride. His personality, to flatting him—I appreciate every moment with him.”
Hill began eventing in her home state of Wyoming and started riding dressage with Margie Boyd, who is Liza Boyd’s sister-in-law. When Hill’s event horse was injured, she eventually made the move to hunters and jumpers after meeting Liza through Margie.
“That background in eventing and dressage are the fundamentals and foundation that makes her the rider she is today,” said Liza. “Having the basic flatwork—those tools and resources have made her, I think, such a quick learner.”
Competing in Pony Club and 4-H also gave Hill a strong horsemanship background. “It’s helped me build the relationship with Cassanto because I love doing everything around the barn,” she said.
In the beginning of her transition to hunters and jumpers there were definitely some funny moments, but now she’s found her calling.
“She definitely had a long eye in the beginning!” said Liza with a laugh. “Liked her long spots. When in doubt, you definitely left it out in the beginning!”
The Chronicle will be on site at Washington International all week. Keep up with all the Chronicle’s online coverage, and follow the Chronicle on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Chronofhorse. We will have full analysis of the competition in the Nov. 18 issue of the magazine. Subscribe today!