Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2024

Winter Romance On Fire At International Hunter Futurity Finals

Susan Sisco rides the exceptional youngster to top honors.

Riding with a broken jaw isn’t an ideal situation. Doing so on a young horse is even riskier. But Susan Sisco didn’t let a broken jaw and missing teeth stop her from piloting Winter Romance to the grand champion title in the International Hunter Futurity 4-Year-Old Sweepstakes, held Sept. 24-25 during the Kentucky National Horse Show in Lexington.

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Susan Sisco rides the exceptional youngster to top honors.

Riding with a broken jaw isn’t an ideal situation. Doing so on a young horse is even riskier. But Susan Sisco didn’t let a broken jaw and missing teeth stop her from piloting Winter Romance to the grand champion title in the International Hunter Futurity 4-Year-Old Sweepstakes, held Sept. 24-25 during the Kentucky National Horse Show in Lexington.

Winter Romance, a Thoroughbred-Connemara cross (Greystone Ian McVai—Winter Gossip, Princely Ruler) took home reserve grand champion honors last year in the IHF 3-year-old championship and came back this year to prove what a stellar young horse he truly is.

“There aren’t really a lot of young ones you’d want to ride when you’re not 100 percent,” Sisco said. “He’s really the only one that I’ve shown since I got hurt, and I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to do this. A few weeks after I had the surgery to repair the jaw I figured I’d better take him to a horse show to see if I’d be able to do it or not, and it worked out fine.”

Her broken jaw was the result of an incident with a different young horse in July and required surgery and having her jaw wired shut for a few weeks. This equated to less food and less energy for someone who normally rides many horses a day for a living.

Winter Romance, nicknamed “Johnny” after a friend of owner and breeder Joan Thiele’s who died the day before the colt was born, had only shown six times this year but is known for being steady.

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Johnny won both over-fences classes despite a rub in the second round and came in second under saddle, making him the clear winner. Danny Robertshaw and John Roper judged the finals. “For these 4-year-olds and for one with very little experience in a coliseum situation and after a long day it isn’t too disappointing to have one rub,” Sisco said. “He was still solid and did really well. Today was his day.”

Sisco got Johnny as a yearling and broke and started him herself. He showed on the line with some success. “He’s a really pleasant horse. Even now after all he’s done, he still has his ears up and he’s still interested,” Sisco noted. “I can’t thank Mrs. Thiele enough. Several years ago I broke my hip, and when everyone else was taking their horses away Mrs. Thiele sent me a horse.”

While Sisco and Johnny were the obvious leaders in the 4-year-old championship, the 3-year-old grand championship results were up in the air until the very end.

It came down to the wire for Road Trip and rider Patty Stovel, who took home the grand champion honors. Cynthia and Steve Sansone’s bay Oldenburg gelding was fourth in the first over-fences class, second in the next over-fences class and second in the under-saddle portion.

“He’s pretty straightforward—very simple, sweet and easy. He just wants to climb into your pocket,” Stovel said with a smile. “He just kind of goes along and does his thing.”

Stovel has been riding Road Trip (Alla’ Czar—Glass Slipper, Bonjour) since May, and although he’s never competed at the IHF Finals, she has many times. Stovel won this very division for the Sansones in 1996 with Icee Waters.

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The Sansones purchased Road Trip (formerly named Czalaro) as a weanling from breeder Camille Greer in Arizona, and he is currently their only show horse. Steve brokers Thoroughbreds but leaves the showing—horses and dogs—to his wife.

Overall, the 3-year-olds behaved better on a crisp fall Kentucky morning than the 4-year-olds who went the evening before. However, the chill in the air did nothing to stop Road Trip from taking home more than $10,000 in winnings.

“The thing about 3-year-olds is you can usually get one class out of them and then you never know what you’ll get in the second class,” Stovel said. “The one thing about this horse is he’s very consistent. There are lot of things he might do better, but he’s consistent and just hangs in there all the time.”

Road Trip still has some growing to do according to his rider and will likely come back even stronger next year. “He’s going to be a really nice horse,” said Stovel. “He’s just so big and gangly. He’s like a teenage boy that’s 6’6″ and doesn’t really know where his legs and parts are yet, and that’s been the biggest hurdle for him this summer. He’s grown so much, and he eats all the time. He’s always hungry because he’s growing. In the middle of the summer I wasn’t sure if we really should be doing this. I didn’t know if he was ever really going to put it together, and then he kind of turned the corner and blossomed.”

There will be no more road trips this year for Road Trip—instead it’s back to growing and being a normal horse in a field. “He’s going to go home and get turned out,” Stovel stated. “We’ll pull his shoes off and let him be a horse. He still has a lot of growing to do.”

Jeannie Blancq Putney

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