he Aiken Spring Charity Horse Show debuted at Bruce’s Field in Aiken, South Carolina from May 4-8, and there were many special moments that paid tribute to the late Bruce Ducchosois, who left a legacy of horsemanship for his friends to continue on.
“It was the first year of the show, and I think it was everything that Bruce would have wanted it to be,” said trainer Liza Boyd. “Everyone was so hospitable. Because it’s a charity show with a Board of Directors, it’s all about the experience and having a great time. There was a party every afternoon around 4, with food and cocktails. You could sit under the tent and watch the classes. It feels like an old-fashioned horse show, just the way it used to be.”
Lisa Towell agreed, adding that every small detail was covered, from the welcoming office staff housed in a charming building with a wrap-around front porch, to the well-appointed furniture and paintings that came from Bruce’s own collection. “It was a lovely show in every way, and every day we drove in we thought of Bruce,” she said.
The Finally Farm team rose to the occasion, taking bountiful tricolor ribbons from the Children’s Hunters to the Open Jumpers.
In the $25,000 Aiken Premier Hunter Classic, Liza and O’Ryan placed a close second to Havens Schatt aboard Aristocrat.
“It was a great money class for the hunters, with great quality hunters,” said Liza, who shared the top five spots with Havens and Jennifer Alfano. “I think that class in particular summed up the feeling of the horse show; there was great competition, but it was a friendly and fun competition. Everyone cheered everyone else on.
“Havens winning the class was great. She beat me by half of a point, and I think that was Bruce helping her out,” said Liza. “She rode for Bruce and trained him.”
As part of the awards ceremony, Havens was presented with one of Bruce’s famous velvet helmets in a ceremonial box. “It was very emotional and super sentimental,” said Liza.
Stella Styslinger and her mounts Cellino, O’Ryan and Invincible were in top form at Aiken. Invincible earned the Junior Hunter championship and O’Ryan the reserve, while Cellino topped an over fences class and earned other great ribbons.
“Stella had a fabulous horse show,” said Liza. “She’s getting really consistent, confident and really going in there and laying down round after round. Stella’s mother Jennifer was there cheering her on, so it was a Happy Mother’s Day for sure!”
Likewise, it was hard to top Maddy Thatcher in any of the sections in which she competed. Maddy won Amateur-Owner Hunter classes aboard Jewel and Like I Said, taking the reserve championship in the 3’3” Amateur-Owner, 18-35, section aboard the latter. She also rode to multiple jumper honors, including victory in the Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic with Skilliane De Varnel.
“Like I Said was great the entire week. She was champion in the First Year Greens with me in a very competitive division,” said Liza. “Then, Maddy won both over fences classes with her on the second day. It was only their second time showing together! They are a cute combination, and that mare and Maddy are ones to watch for the future. They’ll move up to the 3’6” very soon.”
Many other classic blue ribbons returned to Finally Farm this week, including: Junior Hunter Classic (O’Ryan and Stella); NAL/WIHS Children’s Hunter Classic (Look Again and Ruby Sloan); NAL/WIHS Adult Jumper Stake (Chacor and Bie Tiffany).
Out on the West Coast, Hardin Towell and Jennifer Gates continued to jump to impressive performances. During the Del Mar National Horse Show, May 3-8 in Del Mar, California, Hardin returned to top form aboard Flip, with second place in the $100,000 Grand Prix of Del Mar.
Jen also contested this prestigious class, earning just 4 faults aboard her mounts Pumped Up Kicks and Lufitkus S, respectively. She also took third place with Pumped Up Kicks in the California Junior/Amateur-Owner Grand Prix as well as third aboard Cadence in the Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Challenge.