Lexington, Ky.—Nov. 1
Around the time Meghan Rohrbaugh Bear was receiving her 3’3″ amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, championship at the National Horse Show in Kentucky, she initially was supposed to be on a plane back to Pennsylvania to prepare for one of her best friend’s weddings.
“She’s been very gracious about it, so I’m going to get there a little late. Just have to be there by Friday,” Bear said.
Bear had considered skipping the National, but ultimately decided to make the trip with Waverly after several people encouraged her to come. It was a decision that paid off, as they also won the grand 3’3″ amateur-owner title as well.
“Yesterday started off amazing,” she said. “We won both [classes], so it was a really great day. It was nice to start off that way and kind of take the pressure off for today. Today was a little tricky. In the handy we trotted, so that put the pressure on for the last class, and the last class was lovely.”
Bear has had “Poppy,” a 10-year-old Hanoverian (Cabardino—Viva’s Haya) for a two years, and she said they were a great fit right from the start.
“I knew she was the right horse for me from the second I got on her,” she said. “She’s just easy, and you just stay out of her way. Do things Poppy’s way. The trainers always tell me, ‘Just ride your horse. Ride your horse; let her show you the way.’ She’s a joy.”
A busy schedule with three kids, running a catering company with her husband and helping with her dad’s architectural firm meant Bear flip-flopped between the amateur-owners and the adult amateur divisions last year, but this year they focused on making it to indoors for the first time with Poppy.
“This past year is really the first year I’ve been showing a lot, just consistently trying to get to indoors and everything,” she said. “It’s been fun. I’ve never been champion at the National Horse Show. Never won a class at the National Horse Show before this. So it’s been a dream.”
Bright Side Shines
Stephanie Danhakl’s partnership with Bright Side started with a trip to the tack store.
She and her trainer Scott Stewart had been following the gelding out in California, and when Danhakl made the trip to Pacific Palisades, California, to visit family for Thanksgiving, she thought she might as well look at the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Ultimo—Tiara).
But in order to do that she needed to purchase a pair of half chaps so she could sit on him.
“The second I got on him and trotted around, I knew he was the horse for me,” she said. “He gives you the best feeling. He has the floatiest canter and trot. His canter’s like a rocking horse, and over the jumps you really feel like you’re flying.”
Because Stewart was in Europe at the time, he didn’t get to see “Rio” himself, but he agreed that the gelding looked like a good fit based on videos. It proved a good match when the pair started showing at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida) in 2019 and instantly started earning tricolors.
Their winning streak has been interrupted over the years thanks to a pesky bone bruise that has kept them from showing at indoors before this season. Though Danhakl had her second child just under two months ago, the idea of showing Rio at indoors for the first time motivated her to get back in the show ring. It paid off with the grand amateur-owner hunter title and the amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, championship. Stella Propp and Grand Remo were reserve in the division.
“I was thinking I really want to go for him because he’s such a special horse, and he hasn’t had the opportunity to show the horse world what he can do, so that gave me motivation to get back in the saddle quickly and try to get prepared for this event,” she said. “He was grand champion last week at Washington, and I knew it was possible for him to do it again, but obviously the pieces all have to come together. The stars all have to be aligned, and I knew after our first round yesterday that he was up to it, and I was hoping that I was too. So I’m really thrilled with the result.”
Diatendro Does Good
It took Kelley Corrigan no time at all to land on a barn name for Diatendro.
She’d been in Europe horse shopping when her husband called her to tell her that hunter trainer and former National Horse Show manager Mike Rheinheimer had died.
“My husband and I say that if it weren’t for Mike we wouldn’t be together,” she said. “Because my husband started working at horse shows because of Mike, and worked for him for years and years and years.”
To honor their friend, Corrigan named her new horse “Mikey.” Like his namesake, the 12-year-old Hanoverian (Diarado—Cobina) has proven to be a winner, first with professional Havens Schatt, and now with Corrigan. He just added another accolade to his tally when he won the amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, championship ahead of Katie Robinson and MTM Plus One.
“It’s hard when you know you have a horse that can win; staying out of his way and letting him do his job,” she said. “This is the first year we’ve consistently shown throughout the year, and it’s finally really clicking for us.”
Due to work obligations and keeping up with her kid’s sports, Corrigan tries to keep most of her showing local to her hometown of Lexington, so coming to the National was an important goal.
“To me it’s everything to win [here]” she said. “I love having the horse show here. I hope it stays here. It’s great because I can go home and feed my dogs and let them out and sleep in my own bed. I love having the National Horse Show here. If we can’t be in [Madison Square] Garden, I think this is where it belongs.”
Seaman Keeps A Lid On Her Nerves
Callie Seaman found herself with an unusual amount of time on her hands at this year’s National Horse Show. Typically the amateur rider’s day is packed as she shows a number of horses, but this year she came with just two: Diamante and Moonshine.
“It was definitely a much quieter week for me,” she said. “Normally I have five or six, so to only have two almost made me more nervous. I’m used to: I’m in the ring, I’m out of the ring, I’m onto the next one; I don’t have time to think. And today, this whole week, it’s been a lot of sitting and stewing, which was not something that I’m used to.
“But the two horses that I have here, both really special horses, Diamante is the high performance. He’s a horse I’ve had for years now too, like a solid partner. … If I was only going to be here with two, I was here with the two best, so it was great.”
It proved a successful trip to Kentucky when Moonshine, an 11-year-old Selle Francais (Untouchable—Okinawa De Mars Rouge Bois) was champion in the 3’3″ amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, division over Lexi Maounis and Five Star.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better horse yesterday,” Seaman said. “He went beautifully in the first round—I think I was just a hair conservative, but we still got a good ribbon—he won the hack; he’s a beautiful mover. Today the handy did not go our way, so I really knew that if I wanted it. and it was going to be within reach, the two of us were just going to have to come into that ring and both be hungry for it, and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. He was relaxed that round and really jumped beautifully, and it was kind of more along the lines of how we usually feel together.”
Though the gelding’s official barn name is “Moon,” the affable gelding has recently earned a new nickname: “Piggy.”
“That sort of started this summer because people are always commenting on what a ham he is,” she said. “He has this weird thing, where especially if you have rings on, he’ll open his mouth and he likes you to hit his teeth. So he’ll just stand there with him mouth open while you hit his teeth, and he’ll fall asleep while you do it. So many people were like ‘He’s such a ham; he’s such a ham’ that we were like, ‘He’s a pig!’ and it grew from there—very affectionately.”
The Chronicle will be on site, bringing you gorgeous photos, interviews and more, so check back during the week. Make sure to follow along at www.coth.com and on Facebook, and Instagram @Chronofhorse. For full analysis and coverage from the horse show be sure to check out the Nov. 27 issue of the magazine.