The Aiken Fall Festival II, held in Aiken, South Carolina, concluded with some special moments for Finally Farm. Erin McGuire and Kasarr finished second in the $25,000 R. Bruce Duchossois Cup, their first national-level grand prix.
"It was a really exciting atmosphere," said trainer Liza Boyd. "Bruce’s family came, and it was a great tribute to Bruce. It looked like it would be terrible weather, but then the clouds lifted and it was a beautiful evening."
Liza was proud of Erin for maintaining her riding while also attending college. "She’s very dedicated to the gym and maintaining her physical strength and keeping the horse managed," said Liza. "She doesn’t go to all of the shows we go to, so she manages the horse herself. She also keeps up good grades in school and is doing an internship this year as well. She has a lot going on, but she shows that kids can balance riding, school and work and still keep up the grades."
Erin and Kasarr were one of four pairs to jump clear in the first round to qualify for the jump-off. "She actually would have won but had that heartbreaker last jump down," said Liza. "With a little bit of luck it could have been blue, but we were thrilled with second. Tommy John Russell won, so a big congratulations for him."
Liza also credited Erin's mother Jayne McGuire for enabling Erin to continue to pursue her riding goals. "Jayne has supported Erin's riding career through her junior years and beyond, and everybody owes her a big thank-you for standing behind Erin's passion all of these years," added Liza.
Maddy Thatcher also balanced riding and college to show at Aiken with tricolor results. She guided Summer Place to the Amateur-Owner 3'6" Reserve Championship and won the NAL Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic on Dolce Vita.
"Maddy is doing a great job keeping the balance," said Liza. "She's keeping her grades up and is organized and getting to the shows. I think it's almost easier for them because they're used to juggling a lot. Some people say it's easier than high school because you aren't in classes all of the time. You have time in between to study. But they all have good work ethics."
Grace Howard is also combining her studies at the University of Georgia with riding, and she welcomed back her junior hunter Bethel’s Peri who had time off. She started him back in the 3’3” Juniors and claimed the championship. "She’s really excited to have him back in the barn," said Liza. "It was good to see him return so strong."
Eloise also picked up another championship, this time in the 3’6” Juniors with Stella Styslinger. In the pony hunter ring, It’s All Good and Elly Fica earned the Medium Pony Hunter championship.
"The pony riders were great, and I want to send a special congratulations to Zola Thompson on qualifying Mr. McGregor for the East Coast fall indoor shows," said Liza.
Pony Lane Farm's Coronado, a 5-year-old stallion by Coriano, earned the 3'3" Pre-Green Hunter tricolor in his first show with Liza in the irons.
"We took our time getting him fit, but he's straightforward," said Liza. "To be 5 and a stallion and to have his first outing go so easy was wonderful. He's brave and quite scopey. I think he’s going to be a derby horse, but he's also a nice mover, and he’s very handsome. From a distance, he looks like Brunello, and he has those good qualities that Brunello has. He'll make his next outing at WEF in 2016."
Nevada and Maggie Hill moved up to the Children's Hunter, 14 and under section, and earned the reserve championship. "It was a big jump, but Maggie was great," said Liza. "She handled the height well and understood she had to work off more of a pace, and she really impressed me."