The Aiken Spring Finale, held April 23-27, was a celebration of spring, ribbons and birthdays. Trainer Liza Boyd celebrated her birthday during the show and received a combination birthday party/baby shower.
"This was my last horse show before I go into nesting," said Liza, whose due date is six weeks from today. "When I left the show, everyone said, 'We'll see you in July!' I'm taking my six weeks off before the baby is born, which is the opposite. Only in the horse world! After I have the baby, I want to be back in the barn as soon as possible."
Liza won't actually be slowing down too much during her maternity leave. She'll still be giving lessons at home in Camden, South Carolina, but won't be on the road. Her father Jack Towell will hold down the fort and travel with the horses and students to the upcoming shows.
"It will be great, and I'll have the time to do more lessons with the people locally who want to come but don't have the opportunity when we're traveling to the shows," added Liza.
During the Aiken Spring Finale, the Finally Farm clients and friends enjoyed a baby shower/birthday party with Liza's 4-year-old daughter Elle as the hostess.
"Elle really wanted this party," said Liza smiling. "My mom helped, of course, and she said, 'I haven't worked this hard on your birthday since you were a child!' They brought cakes and cookies and baby shower gifts. And Elle received presents, too, so she thought it was all pretty neat."
In the show ring, Finally Farm riders and horses collected a bounty of tricolors and top prizes, including three championships and five reserves.
Highlights included the Hunter Style Award and the Sportsmanship Circuit Championship.
Grace Howard, 16, of Concord, North Carolina, earned the Hunter Style Award, presented to the professional, junior or amateur rider who displays the best hunter style.
Liza credited Grace's hard work and her foray into the equitation division for her added polish. "The equitation has been extremely helpful for Grace," said Liza. "She always had a good eye and nice feel, but the equitation has sharpened up her style. The equitation horse we got for her can do the derbies and jumps well, so she did the derbies and equitation classes on her over the past two weeks.
"Wahalla has done a really great job for Grace, and the experience has made her better on her hunter, Bethel's Peri, because of it. She's not stiff but more polished and neater," noted Liza. "She’s always been a very poised rider with a nice position, but everything has come together the past couple of months. This award was a nice little bonus."
Grace and Wahalla won the WIHS Hunter, Jumper and Overall phases, the E.J. Haun Medal and placed eighth in the USHJA National Hunter Derby among other ribbons. Grace was also Large Junior, 16-17, reserve champion with Bethel's Peri.
Erin McGuire had an especially rewarding week, winning the Sportsmanship Circuit Championship as well as making her grand prix debut with Kasarr and earning the Amateur-Owner Hunter Circuit Championship with Casallo.
Erin and Kasarr had one rail in the first round of the $25,000 Carolina Real Estate Co. Grand Prix and were just out of the ribbons.
"We were so proud of Erin and Kasarr," said Liza. "This little horse has really exceeded everyone's expectations. He wasn't bought to be a grand prix horse, and he did the 1.40m easily. It was exciting, and the whole barn came out to watch the underdog go in there and get better and better. It's been fun to see them grow and rise up the levels together."
Another pair that has grown and developed is High Rise and Emily Gaskin, of Okatie, South Carolina. Their consistent performances at Aiken resulted in the Children's Hunter, 15-17, championship. High Rise is an 11-year-old pinto Oldenburg (Wradar--Phantom) bred by Cheryl Fincher. Emily and High Rise spent some time on the HITS Ocala Circuit in Florida, and Liza said that mileage over the winter helped them immensely.
"I have to give Emily the major improvement award," said Liza. "We only see her at the shows, and whatever she's been doing at home and over the winter has helped her dramatically. It's been fun to watch her progress, and to put the finishing touches on them here. We had a lot of fun.
"She's a real team player, too," added Liza. "Even though she doesn't keep her horse with us in Camden, she's a real part of the barn at the shows. She's a huge help, and she'll lead horses to the ring and help set jumps. She soaks up everything. This was a really big win for them, and we're so happy for her!"
Elle Boyd split her time between party hostess and show ring rider, taking Catherine Sharp's I Candy for a spin in the Leadline class.
All in all, it was a great Aiken Spring Finale Horse Show. Special thanks, as usual, to our great Finally Farm photographers for the fun images!