"Maddy Thatcher has done an amazing job balancing school and riding," said trainer Liza Boyd.
And her dedication didn't go unnoticed during Week 5 of the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit in Wellington, Florida, February 4-8.
Maddy, a freshman at Clemson University (South Carolina), guided Summer Place to the Amateur-Owner Hunter, 18-35, championship and also tied for championship honors in the Medium Amateur-Owner Jumper section aboard Show Show.
"Maddy was champion in the Amateur-Owner hunters, and her sister was reserve champion, so the sisters dominated the division. It was so cute!" said Liza. "I was super happy for Maddy because she and that horse are a great match."
Liza competed "Summer" in the High Performance Hunters one day as a part of their weekly preparation. "He’s so athletic and scopey that the 3’6" height that the Amateurs jump gets too easy for him," noted Liza. "If we jump him 4’ occasionally, it keeps him sharp and thinking. Then, when he returns to the Amateurs, while it's easier for him, he's sharper and on his game."
Liza was especially pleased with their third place in the handy class. "He’s so good in the handy classes. Even though he's slow and a big-moving horse, it's amazing how tight he can be on course," she said. "Maddy is strong in the handy classes as well. She’ll do the inside turns on him that we don’t even see!"
While everyone at Finally Farm knows Summer is a star in the show ring, they also know that like many celebrities he has certain wants and needs. In fact, Summer will only allow Alberto Ramirez to escort him to the show ring. If anyone else tries to lead him there, Summer will let them know the error of their ways.
"He'll politely grab the bit and just get loose from anyone but Alberto," said Liza laughing. "He doesn't run away. He just stands there and looks at you. He walks like a puppy dog, but he just has that funny personality and knows what he wants. So, Summer has become Alberto's special horse for the winter circuit."
Maddy's strength in turning and jumping paid dividends in the Amateur-Owner Jumpers, when she topped a class of 59 entries in the Medium section with Show Show. Maddy also placed fifth in the same class with Licapo and placed third in a Low Amateur-Owner Jumper class riding Dolce Vita.
"She was super consistent on her jumpers," said Liza. "She rode great all week."
In the big Sunday grand prix, Hardin Towell jumped to 11th place in the $127,000 Ariat Grand Prix CSI3* aboard Jennifer Gates' Silence. The pair had an unfortunate rail in the first round, but with a fast time they picked up a ribbon and a check.
Larson Mitchener moved up to 3’3” Amateur-Owner, 18-35, Hunter section for the first time and rose to the challenge aboard Graffiti. "Down here, the jumps are big," said Liza. "She also had to show in the expansive Grand Hunter Ring both days. She had never done a handy before, and by the second day she was third in a class over fences, which was a great ribbon. I was really proud of her."
Ruby Sloan also made a breakthrough during WEF 5, and Liza was thrilled with the progress she's made on the circuit. The sixth-grader picked up ribbons with Highlands Heaven Sent in the Medium Pony Hunters and the WIHS Pony Equitation.
"She’s a really fast thinker, and I always tell her to slow her mind down," said Liza. "And then this week all of the sudden she was so much better, slower on course and not as nervous. So I said, 'Ruby, what happened?' She said she was sitting in school taking a math test and told herself she wasn't going to hurry, make a mistake and not get a good score."
Ruby brought this thought process to the show ring, too. "She said, 'If I'm slower in my mind and I think things out, I’ll get a better score.' Sometimes it's funny how things click," said Liza. "Ruby was sitting in math class, and she realized how she could ride better, too. It's all connected."