Finally Farm riders and horses had one of their best outings in recent memory during the Atlanta Spring Classic I and II, held March 18-29 in Conyers, Georgia.
After an exceptional winter on the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit in Wellington, Florida, the Finally Farm team returned home to rest and regroup before traveling to the Georgia International Horse Park. There, they picked up more than a dozen championships and reserves, along with USHJA Derby victories, classic wins and countless blue ribbons.
"It was an amazing show," said trainer Liza Boyd. "Everyone who went to Florida came back with valuable mileage and raised their performances to another level. Those that stayed home worked hard on their homework and were ready to get out and show off their improved skills as well. It was a win-win for everyone!"
One highlight came in the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby during Week 2, where Pony Lane Farm's Sterling made his debut a winning one. Boyd and owner Maddy Thatcher decided at the last minute to enter the First Year Green Hunter in the derby for some mileage and exposure.
"It was his first International Derby, and he was a little overwhelmed during the first round," said Liza who noted the derby was held on the International field and on a windy and cold evening. "It's one of the hardest venues to start a derby. It's not a ring he’d been in before, and he'd never even been down there. He was a nickel’s worth fresh, so I overrode him a little bit not knowing how he would be. I think he was thinking, 'Help me mom! Hold my hand."
Sterling kept his composure, winning the Classic Round and returning for the Handy Round as the class leader.
"In the second round, he took a deep breath and marched around," said Liza. "It was darker and later, but he galloped straight to the first jump and just jumped higher as he went. I was conservative and did all the low height options. I didn’t think it was necessary to take the risk with him; I wanted most of all for him to have a good experience."
Liza's strategy paid off, and Sterling won the Handy Round and Overall victory. "He had high enough base scores that he didn’t need the high option points," noted Liza. "I was so proud of him for stepping up and thankful to Pony Lane Farm for allowing me to show him in the derby. Sterling is going to be one to watch with Maddy in the Amateurs."
Maddy added Hunter accolades of her own to the Pony Lane Farm collection with Summer Place, earning the Amateur-Owner 3'6" Championship. Their Scripted, with Liza aboard, also topped the Conformation Hunter and Second Year Green/High Performance sections.
In addition, Liza won the USHJA National Hunter Derby aboard Tracey London's Smile.
"He was sent to me to show and sell. Tracey's busy with her family and consumed with being a mom, so she's taking time off from riding," said Liza. "He’s ready to go on to be a nice Junior or Amateur Hunter."
Knowing Smile's talents and experience, Liza chose to take some chances in the second round of the derby. "I went early in the order, and then I left to go to the jumper ring," she said. "I took all of the high options and tried to be as handy as possible. He landed on all the correct leads and was super smooth, so I had a good feeling after going. It was great to hear that he'd won!"
Liza was also thrilled with the consistent performances by the 3'3" Junior Hunter riders, with Too Cool and Addison Byrd earning the championship and Quatrain/Laura Critz, Trinity/Mary Carton Mitchener and Maraschino/Lily Bennett all earning top ribbons.
In the Jumper Rings, Finally Farm collected additional wins. Grace Howard and Hiho Houdini returned from Florida with confidence and collected the High Children's/Adult Amateur Jumper tricolor.
"She's a perfect example of a rider who earned valuable mileage in Florida," said Liza of Grace. "Her division was super competitive in Florida, where they fly around the jump-offs and the numbers are huge. She won low ribbons there, and then she came home and really rocked it. The courses here in Conyers are less technical than in Florida, so she was over prepared and really shined.
Grace just started the jumpers in Florida and is leasing Houdini to gain experience. "He's a great teacher and the epitome of solid Irish horse," said Liza. "He comes out ready to do his job every day and is forgiving but competitive. Grace is really learning to kick and go and ride off the seat of her pants! I'm really proud of her."
Erin McGuire traveled to Conyers for more blue-ribbon results with Kasarr. "She stayed this winter and went to the Aiken shows and did the mini prix classes. She had Daniel Geitner help her at shows, but she managed her horse by herself. She did all the flatwork, training and conditioning on her own, managed his schedule and arranged for shipping to shows," said Liza. "She did a great job!"
Erin won the Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic the final day and was champion with Kasarr. In addition, Maddy picked up second place in the Classic and the reserve championship with her newest mount, Skilliane De Varnel, a horse she just purchased. "For her first show on the horse, it was awesome," said Liza. "I want to thank McLain Ward for this exceptionally nice mare. She’s a winning machine. She's fast and careful and brave. I think she’ll make Maddy a top high Amateur horse.
"The first Friday of the show, Finally Farm riders were first, second, third and fourth in the Junior/Amateur-Owner jumper classes. It was so cool!" Liza added. "I was so proud of us! I said, 'I’m a little jumper trainer! Watch out Hardin!'"
Finally Farm continues their spring show season at the Camden Spring Classic Horse Shows in Camden, South Carolina.