Each year the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, typically tops the list as one of Finally Farm’s favorite shows. This year’s edition proved once again why showing and enjoying the hospitality, beauty and camaraderie of this two-week show brings so many special moments and creates so many lasting memories.
Many Finally Farm riders focus their summer show schedules on Blowing Rock as an end-of-summer goal, and this year the results of hard work and dedication paid dividends.
Zola Thompson was one rider who produced some her best performances of the year in the North Carolina mountains.
Aboard her Medium Pony Elegance, Zola took top ribbons in the section and then won the Combined Pony Hunter Classic during Week 1.
“It was a huge class, and then the top 12 returned for a second round,” said trainer Liza Boyd. “She had an amazing day, and she rode great. She’s come a long way this year and worked hard. She’s now well prepared for the U.S. Pony Finals (this week). We’re sending her to Kentucky with friend Robin Greenwood, and we wish her good luck and hope she has fun!”
Elly Ficca recently moved from a Medium Pony to ride horses, and her success has continued on. Aboard Black Ankle LLC’s Equanimity, whom she leased for Blowing Rock, Elly finished the show as the Children’s Hunter, 15-17, champion.
“She hadn’t ridden much or shown since last fall, so we were so excited to have her back,” said Liza. “She did the Pre-Children’s the first week and the Children’s the second week and got better and better. For not being in the saddle since November, I was so impressed she was able to hop on and do so well.”
Younger Children’s Hunter rider Maggie Hill also took top ribbons, including the Circuit Children’s Hunter, 14 and under, title with Parkland and great prizes with Co Co Chanel and Tasty.
“I want to send out a big thank you to Jennifer Gates for letting Maggie lease Parkland,” said Liza. “He’s such a wonderful, experienced horse, and Maggie feels lucky to have the opportunity to have a horse like him who has taught so many riders, such as Jen and Lillie Keenan. We’re really enjoying him. I also want to thank my brother Hardin for his help. Parkland knows his job, and if you ride him well he’s right there for you. He’ll teach Maggie a lot. He really likes her, and it’s a good match.”
The strong partnership of Laura Critz and Quatrain continued to shine brightly. The pair earned the Circuit Championship in the 3’3” Amateur-Owner Hunters after earning tricolors both weeks. With Liza in the irons, Quatrain also earned the Circuit Championship in the 3’6” Performance Working Hunters.
“It’s so fun to see a horse that was mine that really matured and turned into such a wonderful amateur horse,” said Liza. “And for him to be able to walk in the ring and also beat a lot of top open horses in the Performance section is icing on the cake.
Critz, who attends Wake Forest University in North Carolina, is another rider who chose Blowing Rock as her signature summer show before returning to college.
“I was so proud of Laura for starting in June and realizing her goal of doing well at Blowing Rock,” said Liza. “She showed in Charleston (South Carolina) the week before so she’s be well prepared, and her plan was so well thought out. Blowing Rock means a lot to her, and she made it all happen.”
“It was the best way to end summer,” added Laura.
Stella Styslinger added the Circuit Championship in the 3’6” Small Junior Hunters to the Finally Farm banner after riding O’Ryan to tricolor honors.
“Once again, he’s proven to be such a lovely horse for her,” said Liza. “They have a great partnership. She was also reserve champion on Cellino the second week, which was also a great achievement. Moving forward, I’ll do O’Ryan in the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship in Kentucky, which I’m looking forward to doing. She’ll also continue to show him in the Juniors, with the fall indoor shows our next big goal on the horizon.”
Maddy Thatcher traveled directly from London to Blowing Rock after a study-abroad program and made the effort worthwhile with the Amateur-Owner, 18-35, championship with Summer Place.
“Maddy was great! She wasn’t too rusty,” said Liza laughing. “She was also second in the Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic. I rode Summer Place earlier in the week and also won both High Performances classes we did. He loves that horse show and the atmosphere there. I think there’s a lot of energy and people watching, and as a true show horse he thrives off of that. An older horse feels the excitement and jumps great, and Maddy rode him really well.”
Mary Carton Mitchener recently returned to the saddle after a back injury and guided Trinity to championship honors the first week and won the 3’3” Junior Hunter Classic. “It’s great to have her back after he injury,” said Liza. “They’re also a really good partnership and team, and I was so happy that they were successful together at Blowing Rock.”
On the Jumper side, Erin McGuire and Kasarr continued their amazing partnership and even enjoyed a special highlight that comes few and far between.
“I think they won every class they went in, and they retired the Spin The Night Challenge Trophy for the Amateur-Owner Jumper Championship after winning it three times,” said Liza. “That horse and Erin have a bond and such a strong relationship that they’re hard to beat. They’re fast and consistent and tough.”
Liza described Kasarr as a horse that’s become much more than anyone expected, and she credited Erin for encouraging him to go above and beyond his potential through her caretaking and carefully planning his competition schedule so he’ll peak at just the right times.
“She always looks at the big picture,” noted Liza. “I think she now has six weeks until they show again. Erin always has a goal, and she also really follows her plans and goals and figures it out way in advance. She’s at the University of South Carolina, and he lives with us. She’s also really into fitness training and teaches at the gym, and those lessons carry over to her horse.
“For instance, she’ll come out to the barn during the hottest time of day. We’ll all be done riding, and we’ll say, ‘What are you doing here?’ And she’ll say, ‘I have to ride Benny now so he stays accustomed to being ridden in the heat.’ That horse is as good as he is because he believes in her, and she believes in him. She treats him and cares for him as an athlete. He shouldn’t jump that big, but he does it for her.”
Liza wasn’t without her own accolades at Blowing Rock. She rode Pony Lane Farm’s Like I Said to the victory in the USHJA International Hunter Derby, a featured event during Week 2.
The pair hadn’t contested a derby since June, and Liza had planned for Blowing Rock to be the mare’s return and preparation for the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship to be held two weeks later. She also guided Pony Lane’s Coronado to fourth and Finally Farm’s Shamrock to sixth.
“They were all a little rusty the first day in the First Year Greens,” she said. “They were a little fresh, but by day No. 2 Like I Said won the first First Year Green over fences class and Coronado won the Handy. They were starting to come around again.”
During the derby on Saturday night, Liza felt Like I Said was back on her game. The pair won the Classic Round and never relinquished the lead, winning the Handy round as well for the overall victory.
“During the Handy I did choose to do some low options,” Liza noted. “Jennifer Bliss, who was standing second, had done some low options as well, so there was no reason take the risk. She went great, and Coronado was fourth. He jumped really well, and for a 6-year-old I couldn’t be happier with how he’s going. They’ll both be set up well for the Derby Finals because of the atmosphere there. It was getting dark when we went in the Handy, and with the stands and the party going on, it was such good exposure and practice for the horses and riders to stay focused.”
Please enjoy some of our favorite snapshots from the two weeks at Blowing Rock!