Celebrating at Blowing Rock

Finally Farm spent two memorable weeks at the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show in Blowing Rock, North Carolina in July. The show, a favorite stop on the calendar, marks a bittersweet but fun celebration as the unofficial end of summer show.

“Every year at Blowing Rock my mom has a party at our house,” said trainer Liza Boyd. “It’s a going away party for all those in their last junior year and at their last Blowing Rock before they head off to college. It’s a fun way to get everybody together at the barn.

“The pony kids and my daughter Elle do a little dance and song routine,” she added. “Last year the theme was Frozen, and this year they did a rap song. It was great fun.”

Boyd was thrilled that all of the girls going off to college had a memorable and successful two weeks at Blowing Rock, including Addison Byrd, Sarah Isgett, Laura Critz and Grace Howard.

Grace Howard and Hiho Houdini

Grace Howard and Hiho Houdini

“Grace is going to the University of Georgia, and Sarah is going to University of South Carolina to ride on the team. It’s exciting they’re both going to do that,” said Liza. “They’re both coming off a strong Blowing Rock and will be up for a new challenge, with academics and the riding team. Addison is going to my alma mater, College of Charleston, and Laura will be heading to Wake Forest University. We are so proud of all of these girls for their dedication to riding and pursing their educations. We will miss them!”

Addison finished up as the grand champion Junior Hunter 3’3” with Too Cool, Sarah and Laura were champion and reserve in the Small Junior 3’3” section with Fiona and Quatrain, respectively, and Grace rode Hiho Houdini to the Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper reserve champion and moved up to 1.35m for the first time, placing sixth in the LP Tate Jumper Classic.

“It all worked out perfectly,” said Liza. “Fieona had an injury and some time off, and  Sarah wanted to lease a horse to compete at Blowing Rock, so it was perfect timing that Fieona was ready. Laura and Quatrain have done so well together this summer, and they won the Junior Hunter 3’3” Classic the first week. All of them had great success and dominated the 3’3” Juniors. Some of them might show at indoors, but this is their last Blowing Rock as a junior. It was nice to celebrate there and finish off the summer. This fall they’ll be juggling school and indoors, so this was really the beginning of the end of their junior careers.”

In the 3’3” Large Juniors, Trinity and Mary Carton Mitchener earned the championship and won the classic.

“Mary Carton and Trinity did so well, and it’s fun to watch the three horses that I had purchased as derby horses and trained— Fieona, Quatrain and Trinity—do so well,” added Liza. “Those three, they’re so overqualified for the 3’3” Juniors, and I can’t wait to see where they go from here. To see them with their kids is so rewarding.”

Liza noted that Mary Carton made significant strides during Blowing Rock, winning three of the four over fences classes.

“She’s become super consistent with Trinity, and going to Florida over the winter really helped her. She also focused and practiced more this summer, and her dedication is showing,” she said. “They are a great match and really clicking. She hasn’t even owned him a year yet, and he’s turning into a super solid competitive junior hunter.”

Mary Carton’s sister Larson ended up champion in the Adult Amateur, 18-35, section and won the NAL/WIHS Adult Hunter Classic aboard Graffiti. “The Mitchener girls had a great year,” said Liza. “This will be Larson’s second year at college, and it’s nice to see she’s been able to balance college and riding so well.”

At the other end of the spectrum are the young pony and children’s hunter riders who also enjoyed success at Blowing Rock.

Maggie Hill, age 12, guided Nevada to the Pre-Children’s Hunter circuit championship, and her grandmother Mimi traveled from Montana to cheer her on.

“We enjoyed having them for the two weeks in Blowing Rock,” said Liza. “After Maggie’s very first time in hunters in April, it was amazing to see the change in her here. Every day she takes it all in. At Blowing Rock she was able to stay the two weeks and have some great flat and basic position lessons. I noticed a huge difference from weeks 1 to 2.”

Nevada has his own cheering section at Blowing Rock, having carried a variety of riders to top ribbons at the show, including Caroline Clark Morrison and the late Bruce Ducchosois. “Everybody from that horse show knows him, and [trainer] Havens Schatt thought he looked fantastic. He’s a great horse and very special, so it’s nice to see him continue on to teach Maggie.”

In the Medium Pony Hunters, It’s All Good and Elly Ficca claimed the grand championship and won the classic both weeks, while Highlands Heaven Sent and Ruby Sloan earned the reserve championship. Zola Thompson and Mr. McGregor got great ribbons the first week in the Small Pony Hunters and even won the handy. Elle Boyd also picked up blue ribbons in the Walk Trot both weeks aboard Otis Spunkmeyer.

In the 3’6” Juniors, Eloise earned the Small Junior championship with Stella Styslinger the second week. “I was especially proud of Stella, who had gone out of the country for school,” said Liza. “She hadn’t ridden in a while, and it was great she came back and was so consistent.”

Liza credited Stella’s dedication as well as help from her equitation mount Centerfold K and trainer Jack Towell for the entire winning effort. Stella missed the first week but traveled to Blowing Rock as soon as she could to prepare for Week 2.

“Centerfold has proven to be a great one to get Stella into the ring before she shows Eloise,” said Liza. “Stella also came early on the Monday. We all went to Grandfather Mountain., but my dad stayed at the show to teach Stella. She made the effort to get there, and he made the time to give her a lesson. That’s dedication from both of them, and it paid off and made her champion, and they won the 3’6” Junior Hunter Classic.”  

Lily Bennett enjoyed a variety of firsts during Blowing Rock: She moved up to the 3’6” Juniors and got nice ribbons on Maraschino in the Smalls and made her debut aboard new mount Carasco.

“Carasco recently won the U.S. Junior Hunter Finals with Daisy Farish, and we just got him from trainer Bill Schaub,” said Liza. “It’s so exciting for Lily. I think she learned a lot and got more comfortable at the 3’6”. We’re thrilled that she has these two in the Small Juniors.”

Grayanna Griggs also got great ribbons on Beaujolais in the 3’6” Large Juniors, and JoAnn Loheac did the same on Chestnut Avenue in the Amateur-Owners, including a win in the classic during Week 1.

Erin McGuire and Kasarr made their presence known in the Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers, winning the Spin The Night Challenge Trophy and the Lucky One Trophy as the grand champions. The pair also placed second in the LP Tate Jumper Classic.

Brunello made his 2015 USHJA International Hunter Derby debut the second week of Blowing Rock in preparation to defend his USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship in August.

“It was his first derby since the championship last year,” said Liza. “It was bittersweet. In the fist round he felt amazing and was as good as ever, scoring 90 and 92 for the top score. He jumped amazing, and I felt I had my horse back. In the Handy Round he was tired, and I didn’t strategize very well. I was rusty at strategizing.

“He wasn’t as fit as he was last year at this time, and I honestly should have done a few low options and he could have won. I had an unlucky rail behind., but that’s sort of the risk you take,” she admitted. “On the flip side, it was great preparation for the championships next month, where he’ll need to do the high options. Hopefully, it was the good rub before the derby finals.”



At Blowing Rock, “Ike” tackled two jumper classes prior to the derby and worked hard in between his classes on fitness. Now, he’ll have an easy week before shipping to Kentucky on August 9 for the championship, August 14-15.

“We really trained on him there, and now I feel like this week will be easy for him,” said Liza who will be going for her third consecutive championship title. “He’ll go in the paddock and get fresh. Being an older horse, we’re not going to teach him anything. We just want to keep his mind and body fresh. I did all my training at Blowing Rock, and this week we’ll go on trail rides.”

As icing on the cake, Liza clinched the World Championship Hunter Rider Southeast Regional Professional and the Handy titles during Week 1. “I must credit Sterling for helping me attain these victories,” said Liza with a smile. “He was First Year Green Hunter reserve champion during Week 1 and scored a 90 in the Handy.  

Addison Byrd also earned the WCHR Southeast Regional 3’3” Junior Hunter title, with Laura Critz placing third. Grayanna Grigg claimed second in the WCHR 3’6” Juniors, with Zola Thompson, Elly Ficca and Ruby Sloan placing third, fourth and fifth in the Pony section.

While Finally farm enjoyed the mountains of North Carolina, Hardin Towell spent July in France and Spain where he earned top ribbons in competition aboard his jumpers.  

Special thanks the Finally Farm photographers and friends for the many great images!

Posted on August 4, 2015 .