Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 18
Before Kelly Tropin went in for her last round, she was talking about the future with her trainer Peter Lutz.
“Peter and I were joking before I went in for the last round, saying someday we’ll say, ‘Remember the time Chablis got three 92s at Harrisburg?’ And then he topped it.”
After scoring those three marks of 92 over fences, she and Chablis went in for their last round and marked a 94, the high score of the horse show in all divisions. She earned the amateur-owner, 18-35, championship and the grand amateur-owner championship. The reserve title went to Snippet and Lindsey Roberts.
“I try not to think about the scores and just focus on the quality of my round,” said Tropin, New York City. “I remember when I walked in I saw the high score was a 90, which can be kind of intimidating. I just thought, focus on your horse, focus on yourself, and do the best you can. There was a little more pressure going into the final round because I thought to myself, you had three 92s; it would be pretty bad if you got like a 65 now. I really wanted to end on a high note. I was so proud of him that he jumped so well in the final round”
Tropin works as an economist in Connecticut, so she gets to the barn to ride in nearby Bedford, New York, as often as she can. She credits trainers Lutz and Mary Manfredi with getting her and Chablis, an 11-year-old Wurttemberger (Camparino—Zuchtbuch), to the winner’s circle.
“Peter and Mary got him when he was 4, and I bought him when he was 6,” Tropin said. “One of the things I think is so wonderful about Chablis is I think he really shows off the horsemanship of my trainers. I think they’re the best. I’ve ridden with them since I was 13 years old, and I’m 28 now. I think they do such a spectacular job. It’s nice to have Chablis show off everything they do.
“Last weekend I was doing my lessons at home getting ready for Harrisburg, and Peter told me it was the best Chablis had ever felt in his life,” she continued. “We’re sort of prone to hyperbole at our farm, but he was right. Chablis was really, really on.”
A Good Omen Brings Great Things For Burke
Before the horse show started, Dorli Burke was with Ellen Toon, and the two of them saw a rainbow. She postulated that this was a good omen, and sure enough Burke earned the 3’3” amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, and grand 3’3” amateur-owner hunter grand championships on Classic. And Toon had plenty of luck too, winning the reserve 3’3” amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, reserve title with Gabriel.
Heading into today’s final round the points were tight between Classic and Gabriel. Burke’s trainer Patty Foster told her that she was already guaranteed at least the reserve championship regardless of the outcome of the class.
“I get nervous, and I just have to go, ‘OK, just get your rhythm, keep him in front of you and whatever happens, happens,’ ” said Burke. “I think if I concentrate too much on [points] I always make a mistake. I was thinking about it but trying not to.”
Burke’s focus paid off, as she and Classic marked an 87 to win the class.
“I think it is my first time being champion,” she said. “I’ve been reserve to Ellen twice to another two horses. I thought I might be reserve to Ellen again! But this time I actually eked it out, so I’m kind of excited.”
Burke lives in Salisbury, Maryland, and boards her horses near her home.
“Well [trainers] Mary [Lisa Leffler] and Patty are over two hours away,” she said. “Because I need to ride—I can’t just show up—I keep them near me and ride them myself, then I bring them up to them when I have a show coming. I take them during their down time and let them be horses, and they’re turned out a lot, and they see me, and it’s a very low key, nice environment. They really do feel connected to me. I’m definitely their person.
“When you have wonderful days like yesterday and today you take them, because they’re not all like that,” she continued. “You take the good with the bad. This sport makes you very, very humble. As soon as you think you’ve gotten it figured out, something happens. You take your good days when all the stars are aligned.“
The Horse Show That Almost Didn’t Happen
Stephanie Danhakl almost didn’t make it to the Pennsylvania National. She had a draft of her dissertation due the day before she showed, so she scheduled her flight from Boston to Harrisburg for that evening. But the first flight was cancelled, as was her rebooked one. Eventually she got on a plane that took her to Baltimore, and she drove an hour and a half to Harrisburg to arrive around midnight when she had to be at the show at 6:30 the next morning.
But all that scrambling paid off when she guided Quest to the low amateur-owner, 18-35, division championship over Jennifer Morris and Staros.
Heading into the last class, Danhakl knew she had to win in order to secure the title, and she admitted her nerves picked up.
“I think I needed to win the stake in order to be champion,” she said. “Usually I ride a little bit better under pressure because I’m so competitive, but I was a little bit nervous going into the final round because I really wanted to do right by my horse. I show two horses in this division: Enough Said and Quest. Often times Enough Said ends up first, and Quest is second. I felt like at this show Quest was really on it, and it was his time to shine, and I didn’t want to mess it up.”
Danhakl has been showing Quest for about six years, and she said he’s definitely her hardest ride.
“He can get very strong,” she said. “My other horse is the angel, and he’s the devil. He’s a sweet devil. You never really know what you’re going to get some days. But when he’s on, he’s definitely on. He has a big personality. He’s a beautiful horse, and I really like to ride him. When it fits together there’s no better feeling.”
Another First For On The Slye And Robinson
Katie Robinson and On The Slye paired up in January, so this has been a year of firsts for them: their first trip to Florida for the Winter Equestrian Festival; their first Devon (Pennsylvania); their first trip to indoors. And Robinson added another first to their list when they earned their first championship at indoors together, winning the amateur-owner, 36 and over, title over Verdict and Jean Sheptoff.
On The Slye, an 8-year-old warmblood of unrecorded breeding, topped three jumping classes and took a yellow ribbon in the other to take the championship, with scores that surged up to 92.
“He came from Bob Crandall,” said Robinson, Buffalo, New York. “He was doing the derbies and the 4’, so I think he’s like, ‘This is easy. This is nothing for me!’ We just are getting to know each other, and every show we get a little bit better. This was our second [show] indoors, and I was a little nervous at Capital Challenge [Maryland], but here I really trusted him and just galloped, and he was super.
“He’s very smooth,” she continued. “He’s kind of all business. He knows our routine: ‘OK, we’ve got to trot around, then we trot, then we canter, then we jump a little, then we walk.’ He gets it. He’s very aware of everything but not spooky, which is really good. We went in there, and he picks up, and I just need to learn that that’s OK, he’s not going to do anything bad. He’s a good boy.”
It’s been a while since Robinson, who trains with Laura Bowery, came to the Pennsylvania National, but after this year she’s sure she’ll return again.
“I had a great time,” she said. “I’d forgotten how nice that ring is to canter around in. It’s a lot of fun. There’s lots of space. And the [television] screens in the schooling area are great; it gets them adjusted to it rather than it being all new [when they go in the ring].”