Finally Farm horses and riders traveled to the Aiken Fall Festival I, in Aiken, South Carolina, on September 2-6, where the new Bruce's Field facility made its debut.
Situated within the infield of the steeplechase racetrack, Bruce's Field, named for the late Bruce Duchossois, provides exhibitors with the old-fashioned feel of a traditional horse show while featuring state-of-the-art footing and stabling.
"Knowing Bruce and knowing this was his dream, I think he'd be very happy with this first show at the facility," said trainer Liza Boyd. "The Aiken Horse Park Foundation and all of Bruce's friends have been so dedicated to step up and make this happen. Bruce's friends really wanted to see his dream come true, and it was so great that it did."
The horse show featured three show rings with warm-up areas as well as eight new barns for stabling. The Aiken Fall Festival II continues through September 13.
"It really had a wonderful old-time feel," said Liza. "In the spring they'll also have a big grand prix field on the grass. This is a facility that's similar to the Kentucky Horse Park, where you can ride on wonderful footing in a ring or go out in the field and gallop around.
"The new footing felt like they were landing on a cloud and had nice give," she added. "The horses really seemed to like it. Daniel Geitner, who is on the board, made sure the footing was right. This might look a little deeper than other facilities, but it was super forgiving."
The Finally Farm-trained horses seemed to enjoy the new footing and jumped to many accolades.
"Too Cool and Addison Byrd had a really good show," said Liza. "She just started at College of Charleston and so it was fun to see her return. Actually, a lot of the kids come back from college for this show, and it was great for them to have a weekend with their horses."
In addition to Addison, Maddy Thatcher, Grace Howard, Erin McGuire and Sarah Isgett all traveled to Aiken from college, some enjoying the competition and others taking a break from studying.
"Maddy, who was home for the weekend from Clemson, got nice ribbons on Sterling and her Amateur jumpers. Grace Howard got excellent ribbons in the Junior/Amateur-Owner jumpers on Houdini and is doing well at the University of Georgia where she's riding on the team," said Liza.
Erin McGuire didn't miss a beat from her studies at the University of South Carolina and posted excellent results with Kasarr, including fifth in the Welcome Stake and Fenwick Jumper Classic. "She had the fastest time in the Welcome but had a rail, and then in the mini prix she set the bar, but it was a great jump-off and everyone went faster and faster. It was an exciting jump-off, and she rode well."
Other riders were using Aiken as a prep for the upcoming fall indoor shows, including Trinity and Mary Carton Mitchener who picked up the tricolor in the Junior 3'3" section. "Trinity got into [the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in] Harrisburg, which is so exciting for her," said Liza. "Highlands Heaven Sent and Ruby Sloan were champions in the Pony Hunters, and it will set them up well for the Capital Challenge in a few weeks."
In the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, Liza guided Fieona to second place for owner Kelly Maloney. "It's great to see these horse show managers having substantial money in their National derbies," said Liza. "Fieona is coming off an injury, and she sat out while I was pregnant last year. Sarah Isgett showed her at Blowing Rock last month and did well in 3’3”. I decided to bring her here for the derby. She jumps that 3'3" height cute despite being an ex-grand prix jumper! It's really nice to have a second horse again, and I'll keep showing her until she's leased or sold."
Back on the home front, Brunello is continuing his life of leisure and pampering following his third consecutive victory in the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship.
"Laura McNair, who rode with us and who now lives and works in Columbia, comes out to ride him now," said Liza. "She wants to be a yoga instructor and is so laid back. He just loves her. She doesn’t train on him but keeps him fit and has fun riding him out. It's so nice that she can still come and ride him."
Finally Farm will remain in Aiken for week 2 of the Fall festival before attending the Capital Challenge Horse Show at the end of September.
"As a trainer, I have to say how fortunate we are to have so many nice facilities so close to us in South Carolina," she said. "In Aiken we have High Fields and Bruce’s Field, we have the Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina and here in Camden we have the Horse Park. As well just three hours away we have the Georgia International Horse Park in Atlanta. They’re all different in their own ways and great facilities."