The hunters were center stage during the past two weeks on the Winter Equestrian Festival and HITS Ocala circuits in Florida, and Finally Farm riders and horses made the most of acquiring World Championship Hunter Rider points.
During WEF Week 6, held Feb. 17-21, one highlight was O'Ryan's 3'6" Performance Working Hunter Championship with Liza Boyd aboard. The pair clinched the tricolor and a place in the starting lineup in the 20th edition of the $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular, and they eventually placed 10th overall.
Liza, a three-time winner of the class (including the inaugural event aboard her Junior Hunter Monday Morning), was thrilled to achieve a spot in the class and qualify among the top-12 for the second round. The class was held Saturday night, under the lights with packed stands cheering on the show hunters.
"It's always fun to compete in the class, and at this point to be in there and stay up in the game is great," said Liza, crediting Stella Styslinger for allowing her to qualify O'Ryan. "The courses were great, and the class received rave reviews. It was really nice to see the crowd entertained the whole time, and it was one of the best in many years."
Finally Farm clients and horses enjoyed many ribbons during WCHR week, with everyone savoring in the opportunity to have the hunters featured in the International Ring and competing in the spotlight usually reserved for the jumpers.
During Week 7 of WEF, Liza split her time between Wellington and Ocala. She brought 18-year-old Brunello out in the High Performance Hunters one day during WCHR Week 6 as a warm-up before tackling the HITS Ocala $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby on February 27. The pair, three-time winners of the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship, placed fifth overall in their first derby since claiming their third championship title in Kentucky last August.
"I was super happy with fifth place and really happy to get a check," said Liza with a smile. "It was fun, and I'm glad we went up to Ocala for the class. Anytime I can show him is now icing on the cake. We both went for the win in the handy, but we were a step late on a lead change (after the trot fence). But, you have to go for it! If that inside turn would have worked out, I think we might have moved up to challenge one of Kelley Farmer's top three finishers. Unfortunately, I made that little mistake, but it was a blast to show him again."
"Ike" will now travel home to Camden, South Carolina, where he'll rest and relax until his next show ring outing, which Liza thinks might be in one of the spring USHJA International Hunter derby classes in Aiken or Tryon.
WEF Week 7 also featured some impressive performances, with Laura Critz's Quatrain sweeping the Small Junior, 15 and under, over fences classes to earn the championship with McKayla Langmeier aboard.
Liza also piloted Finally Farm's young Shamrock to the reserve championship in the Second Year Green Hunter section.
In the jumper ring, Hardin Towell was on fire on a variety of mounts, earning top 10 finishes in some impressive international-level company. Hardin and New York placed seventh of 76 entries in the $86,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship, and he guided Lucifer V to fourth of 71 in the $130,000 Ruby Et Violette WEF Challenge Round VII before the pair placed 10th in the $380,000 Suncast CSI 5* Grand Prix to conclude the weekend.
Finally Farm also wishes to congratulate new rider-and-horse partnerships that were made recently.
Pony Lane Farm and Maddy Thatcher welcomed Like I Said, purchased from Glefke and Farrington, LLC. With Kelley Farmer in the irons, Like I Said was a superstar during WEF 6 and placed second in the $100,000 WCHR Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular. Kelley will continue to show the mare for the remainder of the WEF circuit, while Maddy will take the reins in the Amateur-Owner Hunters during Week 9 for their debut.
"I"m thrilled for Maddy; she's an incredible mare," said Liza. "I'm leaving Wellington a few weeks earlier than Maddy, so I'll get to know the mare at home when they return,."
Grayanna Grigg leased A Propos from trainer and grand prix rider Michael Tokaruk, who competed him in the smaller grand prix classes. Grayanna and A Propos made their debut during Week 7 in the Low Children's Jumpers, and she plans to learn the ropes and move up the levels with this veteran jumper.
Maggie Hill and Co Co Chanel will be joining forces in the hunter ring, with a lease from trainer David Oliynyck. "My dad (Jack Towell) imported the mare as a 4-year-old, and she was later sold to a client of David's. It's nice to have her back in the barn. She will be fun for Maggie."
Liza also showed five horses for trainer Peter Pletcher of PJP Farm because he's out of the saddle due to an injury. She collected numerous tricolors and top ribbons for a successful week. "It's always fun to help out other riders, but also a little bit stressful," she said with a laugh. "Peter has had such success with these horses, and as you’re riding around you think, 'What would Peter do?' But we had a really good time, and it was great teamwork."
For a gallery of photos from WEF Week 6-7, please click see the carousel below. Special thanks to TK The Mane Image Photography and The Book LLC for additional photographs.