At the end of the seventh week of the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, Maraschino was the most decorated horse in the Finally Farm barn. The chestnut mare earned the Performance Working Hunter 3’3” Championship with Liza Boyd and the Junior Hunter 3'3" Championship with owner Lily Bennett.
With Liza, Maraschino, nicknamed Cherry, won four of the five classes, topping the 50-horse field each time.
"She was amazing and so consistent," said Liza. "The first day she won all three classes. She's such a lovely mare going around and a good jumper, so it's hard not to like her when she goes well. She really tries to please. There's something about a good mare--when you have a good one, they’re really special."
Lily then hopped aboard Cherry over the weekend for tricolor results of her own.
"That mare gets better and better every week," said Liza. "She’s really into it down here. She’s gotten so easy. Lily’s really figured her out, too. They competed in the Grand Hunter Ring both days, which is a big step up from the smaller rings. They had to jump the same courses as the 3'6" juniors before them, and they were technical, with a lot of bending lines."
Liza said the experience in the larger ring was great for Lily, who is new to the junior hunters, and their partnership is growing stronger each day. The pair even won the Handy class, proving their confidence together. "Even though Cherry was champion at Harrisburg [The Pennsylvania National] last year, she was just a First Year Green horse. She's still a little bit green, but she’s really coming around," she said,
Lily purchased Cherry last fall after rider McKayla Langmeier had success with her, and this week McKayla joined the Finally Farm tricolor contingent with Castelli in the Small Junior Hunter, 15 and under, section for owner Alley Millam and Khaki Run LLC. McKayla is partnered with Castelli while Alley spends six months in Washington, D.C. as a page on Capitol Hill.
"What’s funny, is this all ties everything together," said Liza. "With McKayla riding Castelli for us, I can see why Cherry is the way she is. McKayla's parents are great horsemen, and she’s such a soft rider, similar to myself and Lily. I think that’s why the transition with Cherry worked so nicely. Plus, besides Brunello, Cherry is one of the best-trained horses on the flat in our barn. She'll counter canter on a dime, and that says a lot about the emphasis they have on training and flatwork."
Liza also credited the Millam family for allowing Castelli to remain in Florida while Alley is out of the saddle. While Alley gains experience in the workings of government, Castelli will remain in competitive fitness and ready upon her return.
Alley, a page for Senator Burr from North Carolina, started in January and has already seen history in the making.
"We do anything from setting up for speeches (which includes getting water and lecterns--each senator has specific preferences for both) from the senators of the majority, since I'm a Republican Page, to running amendments all over the Capitol and roll call votes," said Alley. "So far, we've seen some noteworthy history here. Some of the highlights--in what has been called one of the busiest weeks for pages in history--were attending the State of the Union, the senate staying in session until 12:30 a.m., seeing Senator McConnell, McCain and many more speak, along with being literally sat on by Senator Booker."
Liza added: "I think it was smart of Alley to take this opportunity. She has one more junior year, so she can do the internship now and next year focus on showing. This is an incredible experience for her future. I know it wasn't an easy decision because she loves to ride, but for a kid to make such a big decision, I give her a lot of credit."
Amateur rider Joann Loheac completed the Finally Farm tricolor collection when she guided her Chestnut Avenue to the Amateur-Owner 3’3”, 36 and over Championship.
"She was so consistent," said Liza of Joann. "She'd taken two weeks off and hadn’t shown in a bit, but she knows that horse really well and it’s all coming together. When we get home, she plans to move up to the 3'6" Amateurs, and this was a great way to give her even more confidence for the transition."
Liza's daughter Elle Boyd made her second appearance in the Walk-Trot section and won the Walk Trot Pleasure class aboard Orchard Hills Hidden Treasure.
"She wanted to show one more time down here," said Liza. "She had a lot of fun."
Liza said baby Adeline, now almost nine months old, had her own milestone recently. "She came down here and was such a good baby. She wasn't mobile and didn’t crawl, but now she’s zooming around the house and into everything.
"She’s very aggressive and bossy!" added Liza laughing. "She’s so different from Elle; I can’t even describe it. I told Elle that Adeline's going to be our jumper rider. She’s wild!"