Always a summer highlight, The 94th Annual Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show didn't disappoint as Finally Farm riders and horses starred in the ring and enjoyed ample time for celebration and relaxation, July 26-August 6 in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
Success was ample, from the ponies to the USHJA International Hunter Derby to the jumpers, over the two weeks spent in the North Carolina mountains.
"We had a great show, and it was so much fun," said trainer Liza Boyd. "The staff and volunteers do an amazing job, and each year they find a way to improve it!"
Liza was particularly proud of one of their youngest students, Zola Thompson, who set a pretty impressive goal and worked hard to achieve it.
"Zola came down to Camden the week before Blowing Rock and had lessons. Her goal was to be grand champion on her pony, Elegance," said Liza. "I thought, 'Gosh, this is going to be hard!' One day she came out to the barn and wanted a flat lesson and wanted to learn how to get her pony on the bit. She just worked and worked. In the end, she was Medium Pony champion both weeks and just missed the grand championship.
"But it was so exciting to watch the progression and see how a student can set a goal and attain it," Liza added. "Her focus on flatwork really has made her stronger and more aware of her pony’s track. For example, learning how to move her pony into the outside rein, which is a little technical for a young rider, made a big difference. Showing is more than just jumping around, and she's old enough now to learn how to get a lot more out of her pony."
Liza also found her own success throughout Blowing Rock and earned a number of the traditional silver memorial and perpetual trophies, many named after icons in the industry who helped establish Blowing Rock nearly a century ago.
Liza guided Maggie Hill's Capriccio to the meaningful Roger Young Memorial Grand Conformation Hunter Championship. "This win meant a lot. Roger always loved conformation horses," said Liza of her late Camden neighbor. "Maggie was also grand champion in the 3’3” Juniors on him and earned the Critz Trophy. He's such a nice horse, shows you the distances and is so beautiful between the jumps. I've found that all types of judges seem to like him; he’s very appealing."
Stella Styslinger's Cassanto also earned double grand titles, first with Liza for their 3’6" Performance Working Hunter championship and then with Stella and Devin Seek in the irons for the Cassalo Trophy as the Grand Large Junior Hunter Champion. Stella's O'Ryan also won the Lyrik Trophy for Overall Grand Champion Junior Hunter and the Elizabeth Crockett Luczak Trophy for Grand Champion Small Junior Hunter.
In addition, Wells Fargo sponsored a rider bonus program where the top-scoring rider from each day from each ring received $500 and his or her groom received $100.
"So, it was really fun and competitive--we were all really going for it," said Liza. "And what was great was that some days the Ponies and the Green Hunters would go in the same ring, so the kids would be riding against the professionals! One day Maddie Tosh beat her dad, Hunt. It was cool because it wasn’t just the pros winning. Devin Seek also got it one day on Cassanto in the Juniors and Mary Carton Mitchener won it in the Amateur-Owners. I won the bonus twice on Cassanto. He was jumping to some really high scores! And Maggie Hill got it one day. It's a great idea, and I believe Burr Collier thought of it and Wells Fargo took it on, and I thank them all for coming up with such a great idea!"
Liza also thanked Devin Seek for once again riding Stella's Cassanto and O'Ryan when she couldn't be there the first week. Liza finished up the first week with second place aboard Cassanto in the $15,000 Kathryn G. Clark Memorial Challenge of Champions behind Havens Schatt aboard Crack. Liza also picked up fourth place with Clemens.
Sunday evening of Week 1 also featured Finally Farm's traditional good-bye gala for the juniors graduating and going onto college. This year, the celebration was for Stella, who will be moving to Virginia and Mary Carton Mitchener, who is off to California. Mary Carton finished her final show with Trinity by earning her highest score to date of an 88 and taking the reserve championship.
For the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, Liza and Cassanto jumped to the top with Clemens placing third.
"I always think Blowing Rock is a great prep for the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships in Kentucky. Even though it's a smaller ring, the class is held at night, it's dark with a party, and there's a lot of energy around the ring," she explained. "It's a lot of pressure for the horses and riders. This year's course was hard, the jumps were big and the Handy was really challenging. Some of the distances were set on the half-stride, so you had to plan and make good decisions."
Liza and Cassanto stood second going into the Handy, and she chose to jump three of the four high options but added some tighter turns to up the degree of difficulty. In the end, her strategy paid off as she edged Sara Taylor with Carento for the blue ribbon. Clemens also rallied in the Handy to move up from seventh to third overall.
"It felt like good prep for my horses and myself. I'm super proud of Clemens. He's a First Year Green horse, and he was really on his game," she said. "This was a positive note going into his first Derby Finals."
As preparation for the USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championship, Liza piloted Megan Schall's Frederica to a reserve championship in the 3'3" Green Hunter section, and Liz Fogleman's Sawyer earned good ribbons both weeks. "Blowing Rock is always a good experience for a young horse, because sometimes they show later in the evening as they do at the Green Incentive. There are no warm ups, like Kentucky, so they have to walk right into a spooky ring. It's a good way to gauge their preparation, and they both seem ready, so we're all looking forward to Kentucky!"
Elly Ficca with Quatrain, Ellen Addison riding El Tindo, Sarah Isgett riding Fieona and Sarah Ekola with Zanzibar also collected top ribbons in their respective sections during Blowing Rock to wind down their summer show seasons.
In the Jumper Ring, Lily Bennett showed just Week 2 but made it count. "She had a great day on the final Sunday and was second in the Low Children's Jumper Classic on Athina 18, just ahead of Stella with Cassiana, and Lily also claimed third in the Highs on Zimba," said Liza. "Everyone had a great time at Blowing Rock this year, and we're now looking forward to Derby and the Green Incentive championships!"