Lexington, Ky.—Nov. 9
When Ruth Shirkey purchased an in utero breeding from Cheryl Johnson in 2010, she wasn’t expecting a filly, but when Wyleigh Princess was born on May 4, Shirkey had a decision to make.
“When she told me on her birth date, ‘Well there’s good news and bad news,’ we chatted about it, and I asked for a couple of days to figure out if I wanted a filly or not,” said Shirkey. “My husband Eric, who’s been a huge supporter of me, looked at the videos with me and said, ‘You know, if it’s the bloodlines you’re interested in, I don’t see any reason to change our plan.’ I had no experience with mares. OK, I was 8 and we had a pinto mare that bucked me off and broke my wrist—that was my mare experience.”
Shirkey, Livermore, California, took a chance on “Wyleigh” (Weltmeyer—Heiress B), and she hasn’t regretted a single day. It’s been 10 years to the day since she made the decision to keep Wyleigh.
With help from trainer Christine Traurig, Shirkey and Wyleigh are now competing at Intermediaire I, and they topped the adult amateur Intermediaire I freestyle today, scoring a 73.90 percent.
“This is a whole different world,” said Shirkey, who holds down a full-time job as an accountant. “I’ve just been so excited all along, and Cheryl has been sharing a ton of experience with me. I’m so thrilled that she could be here to see the results of the work—a U.S.-bred mare doing so well just coming up the levels so strongly.”
Wyleigh danced to music by Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes in a freestyle designed by Karen Robinson.
“I really wanted her to go, so it was all guns blazing,” said Shirkey. “I felt I had a sufficient amount of confidence in Wyleigh that she would stay with me, and she did. She was right there with me at each moment when I was saying, ‘Let’s go now, let’s go now.’ She took off. It was awesome.”
Martin Kuhn picked up two championships this morning to add to his open training level championship with Jameson SW yesterday.
It was Ronin’s time to shine, and he picked up the open second level freestyle championship (76.00 percent) and the open first level championship (77.13 percent).
“He continues to be a real delight to train and work with. He’s probably the most talented young horse we’ve ever had,” said Kuhn of the 6-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Romanov Blue Hor—Something Royal), whom he owns with his wife Kathryn Fleming-Kuhn.
“My wife got him as a weanling,” said Kuhn, who’s based in New Berlin, Illinois. “He was bred on the East Coast by Marcia Boeing. The first time [my wife] saw a photograph of him as a weanling she was interested in him. It happened to work out that a student of ours bought him as a 2-year-old, and we brought him along starting in his 3-year-old year, and we’ve had him ever since. Earlier this year we did a trade for a horse that we had and we’d bred for him, so now we own him.
“He’s a very special horse,” he continued. “He’s easily the most athletic and elastic horse I’ve ever worked with, certainly at this stage of his development. He’s far beyond his age in terms of ability. I’m very much looking forward to the winter and good training time. He’s a very personable horse and loves people. If he’s not careful he’ll happily knock you over trying to get scratches and attention. He’s respectful, but he really likes people and loves the interaction and thankfully also likes to work.”
Alexandra Krossen topped the adult amateur second level freestyle (71.25 percent) on her trainer Heather Mason’s Nicene, a 7-year-old homebred Oldenburg mare (Nimbus—Pamela).
“This year she had really great trot work,” said Krossen, who won with the mare at last year’s Finals. “It was so much better than last year. Her canter work was strong.”
Krossen, 33, who holds down a full-time job, has another young horse coming up behind Nicene and also competed her own Damani in the adult amateur Grand Prix freestyle this weekend where they finished fifth. She enjoys the special relationship she’s created while bringing Nicene along and hopes to continue riding her in the future, despite her “redheaded mare” personality.
“I was there when she was born, and she has scarred me for life with some of her behavioral issues being a little redhead!” she said with a laugh. “It took three attempts to wean her. She has a little firecracker in her personality, but when you get in the ring, she’s nothing but generous, and she’s been amazing to ride. I feel very lucky for the opportunity.”
We‘re on site at the Kentucky Horse Park for the U.S. Dressage Finals! Check back at coth.com all weekend for more news and stories. If you’re at the show with a cool story, let us know by emailing Lindsay at firstname.lastname@example.org. Look out for the Dec. 2 print edition of the Chronicle for more from the show.