Maraschino made her mark during Week 4 of the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit in Wellington, Florida, when she earned the 3'3" Performance Working Hunter championship with Liza Boyd and the 3'3" Junior Hunter reserve championship with owner Lily Bennett.
"I think we finally figured the mare out, and she figured us out," said Liza. "It was a great week."
Lily, 14, purchased Maraschino after the Pennsylvania National Horse Show last fall following the mare's championship performance in the Small Junior Hunter, 15 and under, section. They started their show career together during the Atlanta Fall Classic series in the Children's Hunters to get to know one another. Then, at home over the winter, Lily and Maraschino spent time taking lessons in preparation for WEF.
"This was our second week showing Maraschino here, and it just took us a week to get to know her," said Liza. "Although lessons at home are great, there's no way you can emulate the time in the ring for the horse and rider."
While the chestnut mare is talented, Liza described her as a quiet horse with just a few little quirks. "It was nice for me to have her down here and figure her out," said Liza. "After I showed her, I was able to explain to Lily how to ride her. Lily was great, and she listened to everything I said. The first day, she had a little mistake in each over fences class but then won the hack. And then she came back the next day and was so rock solid. It's been fun to see their partnership come together.
"I was especially proud of Lily in her last class," Liza continued. "The mare came through the turn to the diagonal line and fell behind her leg. I think she thought she was done. I wondered what Lily was going to do. There was a long distance, that would probably result in a chip, or a deeper option. She settled back and fit the deep one in, and it became a beautiful distance. When you see a rider do that you think, 'Did she know or get lucky?'
When Lily came out of the ring, Liza asked her what happened, and it was an excellent teaching moment.
"Lily said she saw both distances and knew the long one would be too long," said Liza. "The other one might not have been an A+ distance but a B+, and this is where a partnership between horse and rider becomes critical. The mare helped her out and jumped it like an A+. A few months ago, Lily would have tried for the long one and chipped and lost the class. But this time she fixed it, and that mare really helped her out. It takes a good rider to make a decision like that, and she ended up winning the class."
Liza noted that not every turn to a jump results in that perfect distance, and it's what you do when that happens that determines the outcome. "My dad always says, 'It's not what you see but what you do with what you see.' And I think that's so true. An educated rider can fix a distance and still win the class."
Laura Critz concluded her WEF season with Quatrain during Week 4 and also picked up top ribbons in the 3'3" Junior Hunters. "Laura was very consistent, solid and got nice ribbons throughout the circuit," said Liza. "She had an excellent third-placed ribbon on the final day, and it was a good note to end on. We'll catch up with Laura and Quatrain when we go home on March 2, after Week 8."
Liza's daughter Elle Boyd made her WEF debut a winning one. Elle, under the watchful eye of trainer Charles Moorcroft, competed in the Walk-Trot section. She earned a blue in the Walk class, second in the Walk-Trot Pleasure and fourth in the Walk-Trot Equitation aboard the pony Orchard Hills Hidden Treasure.
"She learned a lot from Charlie over the past few weeks in his lessons," said Liza. "I just tried to be a mom and stay behind the scenes. I think I was more nervous than she was! I was trying to compare it to something, and I don't think I've been that nervous since the 2013 USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals. Elle was great, though, really stayed focused, and she had a lot of fun!"