The Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show in North Carolina is a highlight of the summer for the riders and horses of Finally Farm. The two weeks of Blowing Rock offer an old-fashioned horse show atmosphere with Southern hospitality, cool mountain weather and lots of great competition.
This year the team brought home championships and blue ribbons from the small ponies to the USHJA International Hunter Derby to the Blowing Rock Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, and everything in between! It was an amazing two weeks of camaraderie and learning, from July 22-August 3, all wrapped up in the fun of being on summer vacation with horses.
"It was an amazing two weeks," said trainer Liza Towell Boyd. "Everyone did so well and enjoyed the show."
Liza certainly enjoyed her return to the hunter derby ring. She and Brunello picked up right where they left off last fall when Liza took a break to have baby Adeline. She and "Ike" took the featured $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby class during Week II, and as an exclamation point to her return, Liza picked up second place aboard her new mount, Trinity.
"Ike is right where I want him to be," she said with a smile. "It was really foggy that evening, and I was glad I was on him. You could hardly see. He felt great. I had done him in a jumper class during the week, and he bucked because he was so excited to be back in the ring. It was like he was 7 years old again! So, I think he’s fit and ready for the Derby Championship next week in Kentucky."
Liza described the derby courses as challenging enough for her first time back, with some technical elements. "There was some pressure, too, because there was a big crowd watching," she said. "It was good to get my feet back in the water. We had an 89 or 90 in the first round, and then in the second round, he was great. I was a little too deep to one jump, but it worked out."
Liza had the opportunity to go first on Trinity in the Classic Round and when the top-12 returned for the Handy Round, so she could get a feel for the ring. Despite this being Liza's first derby with the 7-year-old, they performed consistently well in both rounds to claim second.
"I was really proud of him to go in there so late in the evening and in the conditions, the footing was a little soupy," she said. "He was quite good and to be second was great."
The Finally Farm team also celebrated after the USHJA/WCHR Southeast Regional Rider Awards were presented at Blowing Rock. Laura Critz earned the 3'3" Junior Hunter Award, Grace Howard the 3'6" Junior Hunter Award, Erin McGuire the 3'6" Amateur-Owner Award and Tracey London the Adult Amateur Awards. Great job ladies!
In one of the featured jumper classes, Erin McGuire and Kasarr topped the field in the $3,500 Blowing Rock Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic during Week II, and they also won the Lucky One Trophy for the Grand Champion Junior-Amateur-Owner Jumper. During Week I, they also placed second in the $10,000 Russell Hall Memorial Jumper Classic.
Erin also took home additional memorial trophies, this time with her lovely gray Casallo. Casallo won The Jack Daniels Cup as the Grand Champion Amateur-Owner Hunter, 18-35, and the Mrs. R.J. Reynolds III Memorial Trophy as the Grand Champion Amateur-Owner Hunter.
Joann Loheac and Chestnut Avenue also garnered a variety of awards, including the Mystery Man Trophy for the Grand Champion 3'3" Amateur-Owner Hunter. They earned the tricolor in the 3'3" Amateur-Owner, 36 and over, section.
"That was one of the most competitive divisions at the show. It was like the 3'3" Olympics!" said Liza laughing. "There were scores of 90 and one nice horse after another, so for Joann to do so well is incredibly rewarding. The two of us have brought this horse along from his Pre-Green years."
Liza credited Joann for her excellent eye and consistency in the show ring as well as the excellent care she provides Chestnut Avenue, who lives at home with Joann, her husband Steve and daughter Olivia in Tryon, North Carolina.
"Joann is really fun to go to the ring with, and this was so cool for her," said Liza. "He’s got a great expression and is beautiful going around. He’s turned into a really nice horse, but she had to bring him along herself to see this end result."
Finally Farm welcomed Madeline "Maddy" Thatcher, of Pony Lane Farm of South Jordan, Utah, to the team during Blowing Rock. Maddy, who is an incoming freshman at Clemson University in South Carolina, brought her hunters and jumpers and added lots of ribbons to the tack room banner.
"We're happy to have Maddy join us. She fits right in with all of our juniors and young amateurs, and she gave us all a bit more competition!" said Liza, noting Maddy and her Stuck On You earned the Small Junior, 16-17, championship during Week II, and she also rode Summer Place and Stuck On You to fourth and sixth places, respectively, in the Week I Kathryn G. Clark Memorial Challenge of Champions.
Lisa Towell tended to the ponies during Blowing Rock, and in addition to cheering granddaughter Elle Boyd and student Lowe Thompson on in the Leadline class, she oversaw the many ribbons and trophies won by Catherine Sharp with Church Mouse, Zola Thompson with Mr. McGregor, Ruby Sloan with Burberry and Lily Bennett riding Tantallon Co-Captain.
"The pony riders really rose to the occasion," said Liza. "I would have to give a special shout-out to Zola, who has come a long way in the two weeks she's been working with us. She's practiced a lot, and her hard work really paid off.
"It was also great to see my mom getting into the ponies again," added Liza. "She loves watching them and said it’s her favorite division. I think she’s getting prepared for Elle! She was really getting into it and even helping us all with the training."
With so many great performances by so many Finally Farm students and horses, Liza said she wasn't able to mention them all. But with the help of the talented Finally Farm photographers who caught some awesome shots, please enjoy this slide show that captures some of the many special moments.