Erin McGuire and Kasarr couldn't be stopped during the Aiken Winter Classic II, held January 8-12 in Aiken, South Carolina. For the second consecutive week, the pair topped the Aiken Winter Classic Mini Prix, this time worth $15,000. To read about their victory in the Aiken Standard, please click here.
"Erin and that horse are quite the team," said Liza Boyd, who trained the Finally Farm horses and riders with help from Tamara Berkowitz. "He's really a bit of a freak. He's really slow in the schooling area, but then when he gets in the ring he's like a little firecracker. Sometimes it looks like he'll bolt or go sideways, but then he always pops off the ground in great style."
McGuire and Kasarr jumped clear in the first round and then tackled the jump-off, posting a time that couldn't be caught, even by speedster Daniel Geitner. McGuire's margin of victory was .14 seconds.
Because Boyd is pregnant and out of the tack, Geitner has been helping out with the Finally Farm riding duties, and one of his charges this week was Kasarr.
"It was kind of funny. Erin beat Daniel in the jump-off, and he'd actually prepared the horse for her earlier in the week by riding him a class," said Boyd laughing. "He said after the jump-off that he really had to go for it and then only managed second place. He said, 'What's wrong with this picture?'"
McGuire's winning streak wasn't relegated just to the jumper ring. She and longtime partner Casallo took four out of the five blue ribbons in the Amateur-Owner Hunter section for the championship, and they also topped the Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic.
Boyd credited Berkowitz for holding down the fort while she slipped off to attend the USEF Pegasus Awards Dinner on Friday night in Lexington, Kentucky, where Brunello received the USEF National Horse of the Year Award. "I really have to thank Tamara," said Boyd. "My flights didn't go as planned, so didn't get back to the horse show until Saturday night. She took care of preparing the horses and managing the barn, and she did a phenomenal job."
In addition to her duties on the ground, Berkowitz had some time in the show ring competing a variety of mounts in the Performance and Open Hunter sections. She topped an over fences class in the 3'3" section aboard Graffiti and helped prepare him for owner Larson Michener, who went on to earn the Adult Amateur Hunter Championship and placed second in the WIHS/NAL Adult Amateur Classic.
"This is Larson's first year doing the adults, and she's done a great job," said Boyd. "Tamara has really put a lot of work into Graffiti's flatwork, and it's made him a different horse. All of her hard work and training has helped Larson, and it's really evident in their great results."
In the 3'3" Amateur-Owner Hunters, Finally Farm dominated, with Blue Moon and Susan Ross taking the championship and Divine and Tiffany Brie the reserve championship.
"Susan is a great rider with lots of natural talent, and she has a great eye for picking out young horses," said Boyd. Blue Moon is one of her finds, and she has several other nice young horses waiting in the wings.
Like Ross, Brie is dedicated to her horses and even relocated from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Camden so she can be further immersed in all that horsemanship entails.
"Brie has a passion for horses, and she wants to learn about it all," said Boyd. "She's an amateur who wants to soak up everything. She sets jumps for us, walks around with the veterinarian, and helps out wherever she can. From the business side to barn management and training, Brie is interested in it all."
Catherine Sharp is also passionate about equines, and this week her hard work paid dividends when she earned the Small Pony Hunter Championship aboard I Candy and top ribbons with Church Mouse.
"It was a competitive division with lots of nice ponies," said Boyd. "This was a big win for her; she's just been leasing I Candy since last fall."
Boyd said Sharp started riding with Finally Farm last summer at age 9 and is extremely dedicated. "I'm really excited about the future," she noted. "Catherine is intelligent and is really quick to learn everything you teach her. This is her first championship on I Candy, and we're really excited about this partnership."
Special thanks to photographers Erin McGuire and Laura Critz for more great shots!