The nature of the hunter sport calls for next-level nitpicking—so very rarely does one walk out of the ring not thinking of at least one (or 100) things to improve upon. But Isha Swani found herself as one of the exceptional ones at Capital Challenge in Wilmington, Ohio. And to achieve such a feat, Bond (I’d assume we could make his first name James) suavely served as her partner in crime in the $5,000 WCHR Junior Challenge.
“I really loved the pace I had going to the first jump, and the pace I had around the whole ring,” said the 17-year-old from Ponte Verde Beach, Florida. “And honestly I loved every part about my course, and I don’t think I would want to change anything about it. He jumped 100 percent. I’m so happy about how we went in here.”
Swani partnered with the 16-hand, 8-year-old gelding by Clarimo—did I mention he’s a dapple gray?—in 2019.
“He has a really big personality, which is honestly my favorite part about him,” said Swani. “I love just everything about him, like how he interacts with his groom and all of us and how hard he tries in the ring when we’re in there together.”
Earlier this week Bond earned the reserve championship title in the WCHR Pro Final with Swani’s trainer Geoffrey Hesslink in the irons. But with Swani, he preferred the blue, red and yellow tricolor, taking the top honors in the Challenge with an 89.50, above Grace Debney and Gone Country.
“I’m so excited about this; it’s my first big win and on my horse Bond,” said Swani. “It meant a lot to win. It’s been one of my big goals to win the WCHR 3’6” Challenge and especially on Bond because he’s a very special horse to me. I’m really happy with how it went today.”
The Impulse Buy
Most of the time, horses fall in the category of long-game shopping. You go, try it on, look at yourself from all angles, branch out and try on other items but inevitably return to that perfect match. But that’s not the strategy Sterling Malnik uses; she knows what she wants when she sees it. And that was just the case when she saw Coronation this winter in Wellington, Florida.
“The moment that we saw him, we knew there was something special about him,” said Malnik. “The day we tried him, actually, we got him, and we started our journey from there. He just got better and better. I think [we just liked] his personality and his brain. He’s such a smart horse, and he has a big, big heart out in the ring.”
With trainers Bill Schaub and Steve Gregorio of Over The Hill Farm, Malnik worked on her confidence leading up to her first indoor season at the 3’3” junior height. And when her other mount couldn’t make the trip to Ohio, Coronation stepped up, winning the $2,500 WCHR 3’3” Junior Challenge.
“We didn’t do my other junior that I was supposed to do because we were just going to give her some time off, and so he really pulled through for me,” said the 13-year-old. “It feels like almost a dream come true. I was very excited to win because we got champion in our division earlier today. I felt very confident going in the ring with him. He just really was amazing.”
That “Nailed-It” Smile
Trotting out of the ring following her trip in the $2,500 WCHR Pony Challenge, Eva Mackenzie glanced back—what would the judges give her and her pony Farmore State Of The Art? Then the scores appeared: 87, 89 and 90 for an average score of 88.66. A gasp-y grin erupted as the elation hit, patting her small gray Welsh Pony (Eyarth Grenadier—Telynau Ballerina B-40419) as the gelding pranced out of the ring, proud of himself too.
“ ‘State’ was amazing,” said the 10-year-old from Darien, Connecticut. “We just loved the course and loved the whole entire thing. State loves everything. When he comes out of the ring, he knows he’s good. He knows he’s awesome. He’s just looking for his treats.”
And he definitely earned his carrots and mints—apples are a hard “no”—as the score held up against 28 competitors. Back at home with trainer Chance Arakelian, Mackenzie and State had practiced just for the indoor occasion, and boy did it pay off.
“We were just practicing big courses—in bigger rings, in bigger indoor rings—like the open spaces and shadows and stuff,” said Mackenzie. “State is amazing to ride. He’s perfect, and I love him. My favorite part of my course was the bending line. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I rode up to it, and it just felt smooth.”
Continuing The Consistency
Nothing makes up for lost time like a winning streak, and that’s just how Rose Campbell and Tallyman have been handing the COVID-19 shutdown. Since the return to showing, the pair has only missed a championship tricolor once, settling for a lone reserve championship. And at Capital Challenge, they continued their streak, winning the $1,500 WCHR Children’s Challenge.
“He’s very friendly, playful, he likes treats a lot, but when he comes to the shows he’s all business,” said the 14-year-old from New Egypt, New Jersey. “I haven’t owned him for a long time, but he and I have been really clicking, and it’s been amazing. I love him, he’s the best horse.”