Bob Bell and The Classic Company's Atlanta Summer Classic Horse Shows, June 15-26, are always a featured stop on the Finally Farm summer show calendar, and this year the shows were even more memorable as Classic Company celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Atlanta Summer Olympic Games held at the venue in Conyers, Georgia.
"Bob did an especially nice job on the shows this year," said trainer Liza Boyd. "It's the anniversary, so he decorated the stadium, including the Olympic Rings on the hillside of the stadium they used for the Games and made it look pretty. Some of their grand prix courses were the same as those used at the Games, too, so that was well thought out and neat and different than your normal show."
Many Finally Farm riders rose to that winning Olympic spirit, including Erin McGuire, who guided her Kasarr to the Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Championship and the Classic victory during Week 1. They also picked up impressive placings during Week 2.
"Erin was really stellar the first week," said Liza. "She and that horse have such a great relationship. They went really fast in the jump-off of the classic for a great win. The fences were true and solid, and the high division had some impressive horse-and-rider combinations. It was a great week for her."
Lily Bennett and Maraschino continued their winning streak in Atlanta, making a clean sweep in the 3'3" Junior Hunters. The pair won all four over fences classes and topped the card in the Junior Hunter Classic during Week 1.
In addition to the strong rapport Lily has developed with the chestnut mare, Liza also credited Lily's recent mileage in the jumper ring for helping her become a more consistent hunter rider.
"Lily had many double-clear rounds with her jumpers, and so when she comes back to the hunters it seems so much easier for her," said Liza. " During Week 2, she was double clear in the classic on both of her horses, Athina and Zimba. Now she has to learn to be a little faster, but she’s making it into the jump-offs, which is fantastic."
In the 3'6" Junior Hunters, Finally Farm horses were hard to beat. With Devin Seek in the irons for the vacationing Stella Styslinger, the hunters Invincible, O'Ryan and Cellino gathered up tricolor honors during both weeks as well as Classic victories.
"Devin Seek, who trains with Don Stewart, catch rode for Stella and did a great job," said Liza. "She's a lovely rider and a great kid. She was fun, talented and is eager to learn and appreciative. We were so happy that she could help us out."
After some time out of the show ring, Maggie Hill returned during Atlanta and made up for lost time. She guided Co Co Chanel to the Children's, 14 and under, championship during Week 2 after winning three of the five section classes.
"She started out a little rusty so she didn't show Week 1, and we practiced the whole week," said Liza. "Maggie had lots of lessons and really made a breakthrough in her riding. This time last year she'd just started with us doing the 2’6”, and her background was in eventing and dressage. She's really come so far, and this week it all came together.
"She had learned to manage the pace and track in the hunters, but she hadn't figured out how to make the deep distance work," continued Liza. "This week we really focused on that skill and used various exercises to perfect the deep distance. As a teacher, it was fun for me to do this and see her progress. She just jumped an X, and I had her practice getting as close as possible to the base. She had no idea a horse could collect his stride and get that close to the jump. Often, kids recognize the distance will be deep, but they don't take the pressure off of the horse and keep pushing. Often, you can take a deep distance that may be a 'C' or 'D' jump and make it a 'B' or 'B+' effort by the horse by using your body and balancing the horse. It was so much fun to see the light bulb go off and her subsequent results in the show ring."
Maddy Thatcher traveled to Atlanta for Week 1 and collected a variety of excellent ribbons before traveling to England to study abroad this summer. A highlight was her reserve championship in the Amateur-Owner, 18-35, section aboard Jewel.
"It was also great to see her get nice ribbons on Like I Said. She was third and third the first day and then second and second over fences on the second day. That partnership is really coming together," noted Liza.
Finally Farm horses and riders will take a short break before resuming their show season at the Charleston Summer Classic Horse Shows in South Carolina. After spending a few days at Lake Oconee for Father's Day in between the two weeks of Atlanta, Liza, her husband Blake and daughters Elle and Adeline will travel to the beach while the staff rotates vacation days as well.
"Now we’re glad to be home and have a little relaxation," said Liza. "This short break is great for everyone as well as the horses, and we'll all return refreshed and ready for the second half of the summer show season."