The Finally Farm team traveled to Maryland for The Capital Challenge Horse Show in early October, for some the start of the East Coast Fall Indoor show season and for others the culminating event of their year.
"Everyone did so well," said trainer Liza Boyd. "It was a good show for everybody, and I was thrilled with how the horses went, and our riders really rose to the occasion. It's a tough competition, with many of the best horses and riders in the country, so any ribbon here is truly a well-earned one."
Liza's week started out strongly when she rode Bridget Hallman's Gala to eighth place in the Future Hunter North American Championship on Wednesday afternoon. That evening, Liza guided Stella Styslinger's O'Ryan to impressive performances in the $25,000 WCHR Professional Challenge, presented by The Gochman Family. The duo placed third behind Scott Stewart and Catch Me and John French aboard the show's Grand Championship Hunter, Boss.
"The Challenge was so much fun. O’Ryan was a blast, and he keeps stepping up and making himself famous," said Boyd, who also placed third with O'Ryan in the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship in August. "He gets better and better all of the time.
"It's such a fun class to compete in and great to watch," Liza continued. "I thought Scott’s horse Catch Me, who won, could have gotten 100. To be in that class with that caliber of horses and to be third was exciting."
Liza described the courses as challenging, with a vertical-to-vertical in-and-out and bending lines adding some technicality.
"It's a Hunter Classic with more of a derby-type feel," she described. "There was definitely a test for the riders. There was a forward five-stride line, and so out of the corner you had to be precise to find the right distance. I watched how Scott rode the end of the ring and how he held his horse out, and I thought I'd try that, too. Riding it that way, the five wasn't so forward, so it set you up for the careful in-and-out. It was nice that it wasn't your typical hunter course; it was challenging out there and good for the spectators."
Later in the week, Stella also earned excellent ribbons aboard O’Ryan as well as Invincible in the Junior Hunters, prepping her well for the remainder of the indoor shows.
Elly Fica rode Quatrain to ribbons in the 3'3" Junior Hunters after just a short partnership. "She didn’t ride all year until August because she didn’t have a horse, and for her to hop on after showing twice and do the 3’3" at Capital Challenge and be really close was great," said Liza. "It was fun for me, too, because I have a history with that horse, and to see him now bring another kid in the barn up the ranks is so gratifying. I think it's a good partnership, and I'm looking forwad to seeing them together. He looks good and she’s happy!"
Brie Tiffany took her two horses to contest the Children's/Adult Jumper section, which always features tough courses and competition. "She gained good experience," said Liza. "These are still relatively new horses for her, and it was great exposure for her for the indoors. She left feeling confident and ready to tackle Tryon next week."
Zola Thompson continued her fall ribbon collection during Capital Challenge with placings in the Medium Pony Hunter section aboard Elegance. Zola also took ninth in the WCHR Pony Challenge out of 33 ponies.
"Zola has come such a long way these past few months," said Liza. "To walk in the indoor arena for the first time and place seventh in the first class was impressive. And I was thrilled with her ride in the Challenge, where she earned an 82.16, and got a neck sash and to participate in the victory gallop. I couldn't be happier for Zola and all of her hard work."
Liza was equally proud of the Children's Hunter riders Maggie Hill and Ruby Sloan whose Sunday afternoon performances rounded out the show.
"They were awesome, and to be third and fourth in the WCHR Children's Hunter Challenge was great," she said. "They were really competitive, and I couldn’t believe they tied—both had an 84. It was good for them and such a great way to cap off indoors. They're not going to do Harrisburg or Washington, so it's a good way to sum up their hard work and dedication."
Just a year earlier, both were jumping 2’6”, one on a Medium Pony and the other in the Pre-Children's section, noted Liza. "Their sophistication and educated rides and the progress they've made in one year makes us feel like we’ve done our jobs," added Liza. "This was a super competitive class, and they both peaked. Everything they learned through the year came together for their biggest class of the year."