Eloise and rider Stella Styslinger enjoyed a special moment in the spotlight during Week 3 of the Winter Equestrian Festival, January 21-25 in Wellington, Florida. Stella and Eloise picked up the reserve championship in the Small Junior, 15 and under, section and the owner/rider championship.
"This is Stella’s first year at Palm Beach, and walking into the Grand Hunter Ring can be intimidating, but she rose to the occasion in just her second show here," said trainer Liza Boyd, who also guided Eloise to ribbons in the Performance Working Hunter 3'6" section.
Liza attributed Stella's success with Eloise, in part, to an equitation horse named Centerfold K that Stella began leasing last fall from Beacon Hill Show Stables.
"He's cute enough to do the hunters, too, so last week, her first week here, she did him in the Junior Hunters so she could practice the really hard inside turns in the handy class," said Liza. "He’s given her so much confidence and taught her so much already.
"Even though she rode Eloise great, I think a huge part of her improvement and confidence comes from Centerfold K," she added. "Stella rode Centerfold K in the Maclay before she did Eloise on Sunday. The Maclay was really hard. They had a bounce, and really everything on the course was a number [of strides], so it was very technical. Being able to ride Centerfold K first made her trips in the Grand Hunter Ring seem easy!"
Stella, 15, inherited Eloise from her sister Claudia, who now attends the University of Virginia. The pair has forged a strong partnership, which is now getting even better.
"I think the equitation is going to help her so much," said Liza. "The hunter courses are getting more technical, and it's not just outside, inside anymore. She has really started to understand the technical aspects of a ride, such as how to take an inside track in seven strides or shape a line and bend it for eight strides,"
This week Stella and Centerfold K tackled the equitation classes, with strong performances in the ASPCA Maclay, Pessoa/USEF Medal and WIHS Equitation phases.
"She had one little mistake in each class, but she did great for the first time," said Liza. "She got better and better in each class. Stella has a great position on a horse and a great feel. She just needs to keep learning at this level, and the equitation is a great building block to becoming a better rider and maybe even moving into the jumper ring someday."
Finally Farm riders also enjoyed impressive results in the jumpers, with Show Show showing the way this week. With Maddy Thatcher aboard, Show Show jumped to victory in a Medium Amateur-Owner Jumper class over a field of 62 competitors, while Liza rode the veteran show jumper to second place of 121 entries in a 1.30m open class.
"It was the most fun part of my week," said Liza laughing. "It’s funny, because I’m not known as a jumper rider right now. But in the past I've done the jumpers and have even have done grand prix classes. But the past few years my focus has been on the hunters and the derbies.
"When I got to the ring, everyone said, 'Did you make a wrong turn? What are you doing over here?'" added Liza smiling. "It's such a different world. You get into a routine and see the same professionals at the hunter rings. There are friends I grew up with over in the jumpers, but I don't see them anymore, so it was great to spend time with them. Candice King said, 'She finally made the right turn and came back over here!'"
Liza described her ride on Show Show, a 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood by Darco, as amazing. "He has so much experience and a resume bigger than mine! My goal was to practice neat turns to set him up for Maddy. I wasn't going for the win, but he made such nice turns and has such a big stride that he was pretty quick. It was so smooth that it felt like a handy hunter round on Brunello--but just faster!"
Maddy then took over the reins for the Amateur-Owners. "She was amazing," said Liza. "I think they went faster than anyone! There's so much quality in that section and a lot of grand prix horses, and those amateurs are so slick. Maddy really impressed me in the jump-off. She followed her exact plan and was textbook. It was just what she and Jack [Towell] went over. She even added a stride in first line with more bend so she could be quicker to the next jump. She was great."
Sisters Larson and Mary Carton Mitchener earned ribbons on their respective mounts during WEF 3 for great results as well.
Larson, a freshman at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, hasn't had much time to practice, but that limitation didn't prevent her from jumping Graffiti to excellent ribbons in a section of the Adult Amateur, 18-35 hunters. "I was really proud of her," said Liza. "She rode over the holidays and is balancing school and doing it all quite well. I'm also proud of Tamara [Berkowitz, assistant trainer]. She has a soft spot for 'Smudge,' and he's become her project. She's figured that horse out and what he likes, and she prepared him to peak at the right time for Larson. She made a well-planned schedule for him, and it paid off."
Younger sister Mary Carton guided Trinity to ribbons in the 3'3" Junior Hunters, a competitive section at WEF since it's not split by age,
"Some weeks I think it's even harder than the 3'6" Juniors," said Liza. " Mary Carton and Grayanna Griggs (riding Beaujolais) were both impressive this weekend, with consistent rounds. It was Grayanna's last week of showing, so placing third over fences in the Grand Hunter Ring was a nice way to end on a good note. We will meet back up with her when we get home in March."