Lexington, Ky.—Nov. 1
Maggie Hill has a very specific errand to run the morning of a big horse show. She can’t arrive without a few treats from Dunkin’ Donuts for her horse Cassanto. But it can’t just be any donuts.
“He likes the ones with the pink frosting from Dunkin’ Donuts,” Hill said. “He doesn’t like any other ones; he spits them out. He loves bananas; he loves peanut butter. There’s a lot of that back there. He’s going to gain a few pounds.”
The 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Canto—Stefania) more than earned his sweets this year. After earning champion at Devon (Pennsylvania), the USEF Junior Hunter National Championship—East Coast (Pennsylvania), Capital Challenge (Maryland), the Pennsylvania National and the Washington International (District of Columbia), he closed out his year with a slew of ribbons from the National Horse Show. Not only did he win the large junior hunter, 16-17, division with three firsts over fences and a third in the under saddle, he also won grand large junior and grand junior hunter titles.
“He’s been amazing,” the 17-year-old from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, said. “I have no words. He’s given me more this junior year than I could ever, ever ask for.
“It means the world to me [to win the grand junior title] because I’ve seen, over the years, people like Devon Seek won it a few years ago and Brian [Moggre] won it. And I really looked up to those people for my entire life,” she continued. “It’s an honor to have that on my resume as well because I love this sport, and I’d really like to pursue it as a career. To just accomplish another milestone is an important thing.”
Moving On Up
When Violet Lindemann Barnett first met Luscious she was just 13, and the warmblood was 7. And though he had plenty of experience at 3’6″ with professionals and older juniors, Barnett wasn’t quite ready for that step. So they started small in the 2’6″ children’s hunters, growing together before moving up to the juniors last year.
“We were both really young starting out, so it’s been really amazing to grow up together and learn together,” she said. “I think part of the reason it goes so well is because we know each other so well.”
Now that Barnett, of San Francisco, is 17 and Luscious is 10, the pair is nearly unstoppable. They’ve had a great indoor season, taking champion at the Pennsylvania National and reserve at the Washington International. To finish out the season they earned repeat small junior, 16-17, and grand small junior championships at the National.
“I wouldn’t want to do it on any other horse but him,” she said of the warmblood (Diarado—Fiona). “He’s really the best and truly a member of my family.
“I thought he just kept getting better and better,” Barnett continued. “After winning the hack this morning, I really just wanted to be consistent. And I think that was one of our best rounds. I was really happy that we ended the season on a nice round.”
As Stella Propp waited for the jog for the small junior hunter, 15 and under, stake class, she was starting to feel the pressure. After winning the first round, she made a mistake in the handy that kept her out of the ribbons. So for the stake she just wanted to have a better experience to end her indoor season on a high note.
But unlike the other indoors, the National doesn’t use open numerical scoring, so after Propp’s trip with Inquisitive, she had to wait for the rest of the division to see how she fared. But her nerves were assuaged when she was called back on top.
“It’s unreal,” she said. “The show is awesome. It’s so prestigious, and it’s a little nerve-wracking that they don’t score you because you’re standing around after your round and saying what happened? Last year I did the 3’3″s with my other horse Maraschino, and we were champion, so it’s been great here. I did feel the pressure a little bit going into this just because of last year, but I did know it was a new division, and just to be at this beautiful horse show is more than I could have asked for.”
Propp, 16, rides with Brianne Goutal-Marteau out of Old Salem Farm in North Salem, New York, and she makes the 1-hour-45-minute drive from her home in New York City several times a week in order to ride “Inky,” an 11-year-old warmblood of unrecorded breeding.
She made it a goal to return to indoors this year with both horses, but she wasn’t sure she was going to qualify.
“Obviously we wanted to get as many points as we could during the year, but if that meant overworking them that’s not something we’re going to do,” Propp said. “We just had to let the cards fall where they may, and it ended up working out great. If they’re too tired, if they’re uncomfortable, then we’re not doing our job. I just always want to make sure his comfort is on the top of my list.”
Overcoming The Pressure
Scott Stewart, Samantha Schaefer, Peter Pletcher, Alexandra Crown, Tori Colvin, Cloe Hymowitz, Lilli Hymowitz, Sophie Gochman. Those are just a few of the big names who have showed Garfield. So when you start riding the 17-year-old Holsteiner (Coriano—Love Touch), people are going to take notice, and Ella Bikoff admitted that initially she felt nervous about having such a well-known horse.
“When I first got him, everybody knew who he was,” she said. “People I feel like would watch me because they knew Garfield, and I felt pressure to do as well as the previous riders did. So I think it was nerve-wracking at first, but I’ve come to terms with it a little more. But he’s such an amazing horse; there’s nothing to be scared of.”
Bikoff, 14, New York City, came to the National hoping to up her game after some lackluster performances, and she managed to do that when she took home the championship in the large junior hunter, 15 and under, division.
“I feel really great because lately I haven’t been riding the best this fall,” she said. “I really motivated myself to ride better at this last show before [the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida)] for us, so I feel really happy that it turned out well, and I could end on a high note.”
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