The Finally Farm team traveled to Wellington, Florida, last week to prepare for the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival where they'll be based for the winter season.
In contrast to the fun and excitement of a new show season, the Finally Farm family spent time this week mourning the loss of friends and fellow equestrians Andres "Chepito" Rodriquez and Sophie Walker, who died on Monday January 4 in an automobile accident in Wellington. Their memorial services were held on Friday.
"It was a really tough week. Andres was one of my brother's best friends," said trainer Liza Boyd of her brother Hardin Towell. "They were all so close, along with Sophie and her husband Brian Walker. Hardin spoke at Andres' service and we all attended. Their loss was huge, and we will miss them terribly."
Liza and her dad Jack Towell spent the weekend teaching lessons and riding the horses and ponies that traveled from Camden, South Carolina to Florida. "Our horses are settled in now and doing well," she said. "Typically, we don't come down a week early, but it was so nice to let the horses settle in and have the clients came down in time to have lessons. Everyone’s getting back into shape. The lessons were super, and the horses look great."
Liza expects to have about 28 horses showing on the circuit under the Finally Farm banner, including a few new faces as well as some veterans, including her three-time USHJA International Hunter Derby Champion Brunello, who is making the trip to Florida this year for the first time in several years.
Liza and Assistant Trainer Tamara Berkowitz have spent time hacking "Ike" around the show grounds, drawing lots of double-takes from his many fans. "It's fun riding him around the horse show because you get a lot of attention," said Liza laughing.
Liza intends to show Ike in a few jumper classes on the WEF circuit and then travel to HITS Ocala for the Ocala Masters IV featuring the WCHR week and the $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby on Saturday March 27.
"I think he feels amazing," said Liza of the 18-year-old Hanoverian. "He's fresh and happy, and you can tell how glad he is to be here."
Liza is also thrilled to travel to Kentucky at the end of this week to accept her third Equestrian of Honor/Emerson Burr Trophy during the United States Equestrian Federation Annual Meeting. She and Brunello have also been nominated for the USEF Equestrian and Horse of the Year titles, which will be awarded based on votes cast.
"What an honor it is to receive the Emerson Burr Award once again. When I went to the awards ceremony last time I realized how special it was and how everyone winning these trophies in the various breeds and disciplines are equally as important," said Liza. "I plan to give a little acceptance speech and let everyone know how much I appreciate receiving this amazing honor."
This winter Liza is also looking forward a new partner in the barn named Shamrock and seeing where his talents take him. Finally Farm purchased the former event horse, now a 7-year-old, last fall as a derby prospect, and he will make his WEF debut in the Second Year Green Hunters.
"For me, he’s a perfect age," said Liza. "He's also a big chestnut like we like! I want to thank J.M. Durr who sold him to us," she added. "He brought him a long nicely in the eventing world and did the 6-year-old young jumpers with him. He has a good foundation and has been out there and seen a lot. From his cross-country background, Shamrock should step into the derbies with confidence. He's also competed in the International Ring at the Tryon Horse Show, so he has solid experience.. He's still green as a hunter, but he’s got the ability and now he just needs some mileage. I really like this horse, and that’s so important in a partnership. When you believe in a horse you can go a long way together."
Shamrock joins Ike and Pony Lane Farm's Coronado, all chestnuts, in the open sections under Liza's guidance.. "It's funny. They look very similar, but they’re all different to ride," she said. "I'm very excited to have these up-and-coming youngsters in addition to Ike. They're both super scopey, which I love."
Finally Farm horses and riders will step into the show ring this week for WEF 1. "The energy is high, and everyone seems so happy to be here," noted Liza. "I want to wish our clients the best of luck in the New Year, and I'm looking forward to a successful and fun circuit together!"