Trainer Liza Boyd described Finally Famr’s final week on the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit as having a fairytale ending for 2016.
“You always want to leave a good note, and this year was especially memorable,” she said. “Everyone had an amazing ending this week, from the short stirrup and ponies to the green and junior hunters.”
One person who agreed in full was Stella Styslinger, who finished her time in Wellington, Florida, with championship performances aboard two horses. She captured the Large Junior, 16-17, title with Invincible and the Small Junior, 16-17, title with O’Ryan.
“She was spectacular,” said Liza of Stella. “She won two classes on each horse each day and got great ribbons throughout both divisions. I was so proud of how far she’s come this winter on her new horses."
Stella is leasing Invincible from owner Ellen Toon, who rode the bay gelding to much success in the Amateur-Owners, with tricolors at the country’s best horse shows.
“He’s such a great horse and class act and so serious,” said Liza of Invincible. “In the schooling area, we only jump low verticals because he goes in the ring and knows his job so well. It’s actually pretty amazing for an older horse to be so careful and still try so hard. But he really wants to win!
“Ellen was at the ring watching the first day and grinning from ear-to-ear,” added Liza. “She’s so proud. I think she was reluctant and nervous about letting him go, so it was so nice for her to watch him and see the two of them do so well together. They are a great match.”
Liza also credited her own Shamrock for finishing his time on the circuit with a reserve championship in the Second Year Green section. The former event horse is a fresh face on the hunter circuit and is figuring out his new job, even jumping right into the Second Years against more seasoned competitors.
“He’s getting so consistent and maturing, and the courses down here really helped him learn his job,” said Liza. “There’s a different course designer each week, and the depth of knowledge in the professional divisions really helps them the rest of the year.
“The past two weeks Shamrock won the Second Year Green Handy class, and those results really showed his growing aptitude,” Liza added. “Those courses are as tough as any derby handy, so it was great for him to see many different jumps and have different tests. The first round courses were no walks in the park, either! There were tough bending lines, so it’s been really good preparation for him as he continues on in the Hunter Derbies this year.”
Maggie Hill also used WEF as a springboard up the levels as she spent her first full season on the circuit competing. She moved up from the Low Children’s Hunters at the start to finish with tricolor honors in the Children’s Hunter, 14 and under, section aboard Co Co Chanel.
Liza credited Maggie for her hard work and also the family for their commitment, relocating from Wyoming for eight weeks of the circuit.
“Maggie said these two months have been amazing and she learned so much,” said Liza. “You couldn’t have planned it any better. She was dedicated, rode every day and probably learned more in these two months than she would in an entire year of showing in a regular program.”
Zola Thompson couldn’t make it down to Florida for the final week, but her pony Elegance still came out on top. “I want to thank Caroline Passarelli for showing her for us and winning the Medium Pony Hunter Classic,” said Liza.
Liza’s daughter Elle had her moment in the show ring this week as well, riding Otis Spunkmeyer to impressive ribbons in the Walk-Trot section. A highlight of her ride was the ice cream stop on the way back to the barn!
Over in the jumpers, the Finally Farm cheering squad had a lot to celebrate as Hardin Towell jumped to fifth place aboard Emilie De Diamant AS in the $216,000 Lugano Diamonds CSIO 4* Grand Prix out of a field of 50 top international riders.
“It was so exciting! Hardin was the only American in the jump-off,” said Liza. “We were thrilled to see him do so well.”
This week, Finally Farm packs up their ribbons, tack, equipment and horses to return home to Camden, South Carolina. They’ll spend three weeks there before traveling to the Atlanta Spring Classic Horse Shows in Conyers, Georgia.
A special thanks to this week's photographers: The Book LLC, Noelle Floyd, Tamara Berkowitz, Lisa Towell and Liza Boyd.