Lexington, Ky.—Nov. 3
Scott Stewart has developed a knack for rising to the occasion at big horse shows, and this year’s National Horse Show is no exception. Today he picked up two tricolors and the grand hunter championship, as well as leading hunter rider honors.
He piloted Charlemagne to the green conformation hunter championship and grand hunter honors for Betsee Parker.
“Charlemagne we bought as a 4-year-old, and he did pre-greens a few times as a 5-year-old,” said Stewart, who splits his time between Flemington, New Jersey, and Wellington, Florida. “Last year he just showed twice, I think, before we stopped showing during COVID. This year he’s been awesome: He was champion at [the Pennsylvania National], the National and [the Washington International (North Carolina)]. He’ll do the [$50,000 National Horse Show Hunter Classic] on Friday then have off from showing until the end of January.”
Charlemagne (Vigo Cece—Bluewenn De Kergane) is a Selle Francais stallion, but until now he’s been focusing on the performance ring, not the breeding shed.
“I think, ideally, maybe we’ll collect him when we get him to Florida,” Stewart said. “I think he’s a cool cross. His mother was a really Thoroughbred-y type and a really extravagant mover, and his dad was a big, handsome stallion. He’s a nice in-between of all of it.”
Stewart’s second champion, For Always, also has been on a roll this season, earning championships at all four of the fall indoor shows. This time, his tricolor came out of the high performance conformation division, where he won the model and two over fences classes to secure the championship. He also won the reserve title in the 3’6” green division.
For Always, also owned by Parker, pulled a rail in his final class, a mistake Stewart attributed to his own riding.
“That rail was my fault,” he said. “He tried so hard up this line, which they all are. He was getting up the line almost easy, I thought, and I balanced up, and it was just too long. Usually when I’m long, he jumps higher. He’s awesome though. He’s such a trier.
“He’s only a 7-year-old, and he didn’t do [many pre-green classes] and, same thing as Charlemagne, we only showed him two or three times last year,” he added.
Making A Long Trip Worth It
The last time Caroline Ingalls came to the National Horse Show with Concerto, the pair won the amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, championship. This year they bettered their already impressive record, winning the division title and grand amateur-owner hunter honors.
“We were champion at the National in 2019, so it’s even more special to come back and have your name on those same trophies and be grand champion this year,” said Ingalls, who made the trip from Rancho Santa Fe, California, to Lexington. “He’s just the best horse. He’s so chill; he’s my best friend. I plan to have him forever; he’ll live in my backyard someday.”
A banner second day secured the grand amateur-owner title for Ingalls and Concerto when they won both their handy class and their stake class.
“The handy was definitely very tricky,” she said. “There were a lot of opportunities to be slick and tight. Being up there and doing all that, you feel like you’re getting dizzy turning everywhere. That was hard to stay in the moment. That was a tough round for sure. Then the stake was really fun. I loved how the lines were riding so long. My horse has a huge stride, so we can just get up those lines and steady nicely. I think they were great, super fun. They built the jumps big, which is always nice.”
Ingalls and 10-year-old “Bolo” paired up five years ago.
“I think he has a great brain,” she said. “He’s always so willing to do whatever we ask, and I think we’ve really connected nicely over the years. I feel like our brains are in sync. He’s stepped up to the plate. He’s been doing some of the bigger international derbies. So that’s some of our next goals to be tackling. He’ll jump anything. He’s so game in the biggest arenas with the scariest jumps. So he’s so much fun to ride.”
Ingalls fits in riding around her full-time job as an interior designer at an architecture firm.
“It’s been a challenge to be managing that with riding, but I’m really thankful [for my bosses’] support to let me come here and do so well,” she said. “It’s been a lot to balance for sure. It’s kept me well-rounded, I think.”
A Double Champion
Private I couldn’t have had a much better trip to the National Horse Show, winning all three over fences classes to claim the 3’3” amateur-owner, 36 and over, and 3’3” amateur-owner grand championship with owner Kelly Sims. And if that wasn’t enough, Michael Britt-Leon took over the reins for the high performance hunter division, and he won the division title there too.
“This is my dream—you have no idea how happy I am,” Sims said. “It’s incredible. I would have never dreamed that it would have been the three classes, I would have just been happy to win one—or just a ribbon, because to ribbon here is amazing. I’m telling you, it’s just like a dream. My husband is thrilled because he says he’s going to have an amazing life for the next month because I’m so happy.”
Britt-Leon said that the high performance division is his favorite one at the horse show, and he’s thrilled to have a special horse to compete in it.
“He is just one that shines every time he walks in the ring, especially at a special horse show,” he said. “Coming into any of indoors, he’s a little bit brighter. He’s not a spooky horse, so I think the jumps looking a little bit scary maybe helps him a little bit understand that it’s special and he tries a little bit more. He’s been an incredible horse to work with. He’s my baby, and he does the same job for Kelly, which is kind of incredible.”
Sims agreed that “Elliot’s” versatility makes him irreplaceable.
“He was jumping 4’ today then he comes and he adjusts himself for me,” said Sims, Alpharetta, Georgia. “That’s amazing because a lot of times, your professional will ride something in 4’ who’s really geared to jump that and won’t crank themselves down for the amateurs. He absolutely knows when I’m on his back.”
Sims describes Elliot as the most amazing horse she’s ever ridden. They paired up two and a half years ago.
“We did a lot of lessons first before I started showing him,” she said. “I think I did adults first, then went quickly to the amateurs because his jump is so soft, and he’s just so comfortable. He’s a total confidence builder. It was perfect for me as long as I stayed steady and kept my hands out of his mouth.
“He knows his job, and he wants you just to let him do his job,” she added. “He just wants you to stay with him and flow with him; that’s what he likes.”
A Tricolor Trip For Traveller
Even though Laena Romond has been riding Catherine Cowie’s Traveller for three years, developing him through his pre-green days, he hasn’t changed much.
“He’s been basically the way he is from Day 1,” Romond said. “We bought him from Emil Spadone and Cassie Kahle. Andre [Dignelli] had seen the horse as a stallion in Europe, and Emil imported him, and we ended up buying him for Catherine. But really from Day 1, he is the way he is now; he’s always tried to be good.”
And he showed off what makes him so special in Kentucky, winning the 3’6” green hunter championship and taking reserve in the green conformation division. The reserve title was especially impressive as he only did one day of those classes as a warm up for the 3’6” greens.
“He’s not a spooky horse, but he’s always better the more he goes around the ring. He gets more and more relaxed,” said Romond, Brookfield, Connecticut. “I did that round first, and by the time he went in for the 3’6” green he was really dialed in and pretty right on the job. I had kind of targeted this week a little bit, just knowing it was his last opportunity to show in this division, so I was really happy with the outcome.”
Traveller’s main job is showing with Cowie in the 3’3” amateur-owner hunter division.
“He does both jobs amazingly,” Romond said. “In this division, he’s a very careful horse—kind of a flashy jumper, but he’s also very brave. It suits him to do both divisions. He gives both of us, myself and Catherine, a lot of confidence in the ring.
“He’s very light,” she continued. “He’s light in the mouth. He’s light to your leg. He really doesn’t take a lot to ride him. You’re never kicking or pulling, he kind of shows you the way. He’s easy to ride; he’s a pleasure to ride.”
A Prescient Prediction
Before Jeffery Ayers ever set foot in the ring with Cartel, one of his friends made a declaration.
“Pam Baker said to me on Monday, ‘I think you should be champion here,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah right,’ ” recalled Ayers, Sellersville, Pennsylvania. “And now it came true! I’ve got to find her and give her a big hug.”
Ayers piloted his own Cartel to the top of the 3’9” green hunter division, while Stewart and Love Note claimed reserve.
Ayer bought the 10-year-old gelding five years ago.
“He’s just way more consistent now,” he said. “He wasn’t always used to his surroundings, and he’d be spooky—although he was circuit champion [at HITS Ocala (Florida)] four years in a row over the winter. He’s done well. We got some good ribbons at [the Pennsylvania National] but nothing like this.”
Ayers was especially excited to win the first championship rosette of his career in Kentucky.
“I come here every year, but I haven’t competed here in about four years,” he said. “I always come with my amateurs; my amateurs like to come here. This is a stop every fall.
“To be champion at the National Horse Show is everybody’s dream,” he said. “I was reserve here once when it was in Syracuse [New York], but I’ve never been champion here before, so it’s really special.”
Coming Into His Own
Ellen Toon’s champion in the amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, division, Gabriel, has always has tremendous talent, but it took some smoothing out over the years.
“[Tori Colvin] did him in the [3’6” green division], and he was a work in progress during the pre-greens and [3’6” green division],” said Toon, South Salem, New York. “He had so much potential, but there were lots of bumps in the road. You just have to stay with it. We knew he had a lot of quality, and he could keep going.”
Toon started showing Gabriel in earnest this season, and the two have clicked. After earning good ribbons at the Pennsylvania National, she topped the division this time around over Diatendro and Kelley Corrigan. In addition, Gabriel picked up reserve honors in the high performance conformation hunters with Colvin aboard.
“He’s been really consistent really all year,” Toon said. “This year he’s really come into his own. He’s done a lot of derbies. He does the big derbies with Tori and the 3’ derbies with me. I need to get better at the handies. That’s my weak area. He just tries at every jump; it doesn’t matter where I put him, he puts in a great effort.”
The National Horse Show has a special place in Toon’s heart because it is where she first won a championship aboard Wise Disguise in 1994.
“This facility is amazing,” she said. “They do such a beautiful job, the ring is gorgeous, you feel like you’re riding outside. The jumps are gorgeous. Of all of the indoors, this is really special.”
Continuing A Winning Streak
What do you do when you’ve already won a championship at the National Horse Show? Come back and do it again.
That’s what Vanessa Mazzoli did with Oh Brother when they nabbed the 3’3” amateur-owner hunter title for the second year running, this time over Lexi Maounis and Chevito.
“I was very nervous,” Mazzoli, Rockford, Michigan, admitted. “He was so good last year, and I wanted to do well this year for him to give him good rides and good rounds.”
Mazzoli secured her tricolor with two blues and a red over fences. She gave all the credit to her partner.
“I’ve had him for almost four years, and he’s just the most perfect horse ever,” she said. “I always say he’s my once-in-a-lifetime horse. He is such a good boy. He always tries super hard for me, and I know him super well, so we have a good partnership.
“He’s super nice to ride,” she continued. “You just kind of loop the reins a little bit and keep your leg on. Once you get on a pace, you just keep it all the way around. He’s super nice, and the jumps always come up super easy on him.”
Mazzoli, 21, spends plenty of time at the barn even when she’s not riding “Cody” because she buys young ponies to train and resell. One of her biggest success stories is small pony Partly Cloudy, who won the overall grand champion title at the Kym K. Smith/USHJA Young Pony Hunter Championships (Virginia) twice.
“I have a bunch of young ponies and a couple young horses, but mainly ponies,” she said. “I have a couple yearlings, a couple 2-yea- olds, a couple 3-yea- olds and so on. I get them on my own to bring up. I’ve been doing that since I was a young junior. We’ve always gotten young ponies to bring up and take them through their green year. Now I buy them on my own and bring them up and get them ready.”
Want more National Horse Show? The Chronicle is in Kentucky bringing you news and photos all week. Don’t forget to follow the Chronicle on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Chronofhorse. And check out the Nov. 22 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine for more analysis from the show.