Some of Finally Farm's youngest riders and horses made their presence known during Week 2 of the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit, held January 18-22 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Florida.
The 6-year-old Sawyer dominated in the Young Hunter section, jumping to championship honors with Liza Boyd after winning two over fences classes, the under saddle and placing second in another over fences class.
"Sawyer was great, and I'm so happy for owner Liz Fogleman," said Liza. "Sawyer won both jumping classes the first day in the South Ring. Then, on Day No. 2 in the Rost Arena, he had a great experience. In the first round he maybe got a little bit lost in that huge arena, but then came back and was second and won the hack."
The Young Hunter 3’ and 3’3” section is new for 2017 on the United States Equestrian Federation roster, and Liza was thrilled that her young hunters have a place to compete against their peers. "I personally like this new section, and Liz made a valid observation. She said, 'My horse really benefits. I feel like there's not as much pressure on him because he’s able to make baby mistakes and still be competitive competing against his peers at age 5 and 6 who are still making similar mistakes.' In the regular 3' and 3'3" Green Hunters there are a lot of horses that are more seasoned," noted Liza.
In addition, Liz bought Sawyer as a green 4-year-old, and he didn't have any mileage from the jumper ring, a benefit some horses do have when making the transition to the Greens.
"Sawyer is a true green hunter, and he never went through the jumper pipeline," said Liza. "So it's very fair that he's able to show against other 5- and 6-year-olds that are going through a similar beginning to their show careers."
Liza's daughter Elle earned her first Winter Equestrian Festival championship when she dominated the Cross Rails section, winning both over fences classes riding Otis Spunkmeyer.
"This is tough competition here, and she was so proud of herself," said Liza. "It was a true group effort –her Grandfather Jack did a lot of the work and gave her lessons every day after school. She really practiced and did a lot of work. Back in November, she trotted the courses and wasn't really able to steer. Since then, she's learned to canter the courses, is steering and working on her position. It's so fun to see her progress and be proud of herself."
Finally Farm also welcomed Megan Schall, of Minnesota, back to the barn after she took a break from riding and showing to attend college. She didn't miss a beat, however, and rode Fenway to top ribbons in a section of the Adult Amateur, 18-35, section.
After visiting with the Towells at the Central Park Horse Show last fall, Meg decided to return to horses and is leasing Fenway for the WEF circuit.
"Meg was great, and is a really good rider. To hop back on and do so well is a testament to her talent. By the last class in the Grand Hunter Ring she got a score of 85 and won," said Liza. "She came down from Minnesota and spent the week with us. It was her birthday on Thursday, and we had a little party for her. I think she had a great birthday present!."
Maggie Hill made her debut in the 3'3" Junior Hunters this week after much success in the Children's Hunters during WEF 1. She earned impressive ribbons aboard all three of her mounts, Co Co Chanel, Parkland and Tasty.
"I was so impressed with Maggie to do well her first time out at that level," said Liza. "The handy course was actually quite technical for her first-ever first handy. She got nice ribbons on all of her horses and had a great experience."
Prior to making the decision to move up from the Children's to the Junior hunters, Liza and Maggie sat down and discussed the pros and cons.
"I told her that if she did the Children’s again she'd probably be very competitive, which is a reward for all of the hard work," said Liza. "Or, I told her she could move up to 3’3”. I felt confident that she was ready and it was very safe for her to do so. She's very prepared and has done all of her homework, but I told her she might not be as competitive. She told me, 'I want to learn and become a better rider. I’m fine with moving up.' It was very mature of her, and I had a feeling she would step up successfully."
Liza credited Finally Farm's Florida home base, which includes an off-site ring with beautiful jumps and courses, for helping better prepare their riders and horses.
"In preparation for the Juniors, Maggie worked on bending lines off both leads and practiced on all of the horses," said Liza. "This week in the handy she had a bending line from the trot jump, and she nailed it on every horse. This week we’ll practice what to do after a trot jump. Do yo hold the counter lead or do a flying lead change? Every week we pick something and work on it. She's not as familiar with trotting jumps, so we’ll focus on that for a while".
This week Daisy Farish catch-rode Stella Styslinger's Cassanto to excellent ribbons in the Large Junior, 16-17, section. " Stella couldn't be here this week, and Daisy did a lovely job," said Liza. "I want to thank her for helping us out."
Like Maggie, Lily Bennett moved up a level this week with much success. She piloted Athina 18 and Zimba in the Children's Modified Jumper section at 1.15m, even winning a class in a field of 30 competitors with Zimba.
"She showed me she was probably ready to move up at the end of last year, but I wanted her to start out the Week 1 with confidence and to get acclimated in the Children's Jumpers," said Liza. "She’s proven over and over that she's gotten quite competitive, more educated and was ready for the new challenge.".
Liza also earned her own accolades this week, guiding Bridget Hallman's Gala to a first and second in the Green Conformation section for trainer Rachel Kennedy. "We're continuing the partnership we established two years ago prior to the USHJA Pre-Green Incentive Championship," said Liza. "Gala is a wonderful horse, and I'm thrilled to be able to continue showing her."