The Finally Farm team escaped South Carolina just in time to miss the historic snowstorm that blanketed the state with up to eight inches of snow the first week of January. And their perfect timing continued on into the first two weeks of the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit, held January 10-21 in Wellington, Florida.
“We’ve had a wonderful start to the circuit, from the Short Stirrup to the Junior Jumpers,” said trainer Liza Boyd. “We have a great group of ponies, horses, juniors and amateurs here for the season, and we’re looking forward to a great winter.”
Liza herself started out strongly in the open hunters, piloting S&L Farm’s S&L Just A Cobbler to the 3’9” Green Hunter Championship.
“That was so exciting,” said Liza. “I showed him once in Aiken (South Carolina) for the first time and then here. He’d never jumped this height, and he handled it really nicely. He’s a brave horse, so walking into the Grand Hunter Ring was easy for him. The Handy was especially fun, and he was right there for me.
“He’s had a lot of good riders on him who brought him along through the USHJA Pre-Green Incentive Program, so he’s seasoned in that sense,” she added. “It was more about me just getting to know him. I couldn’t have been happier with him. He’ll have Week 3 off and trail ride, and then we’ll show him again Week 4 and plan to do the USHSJA International Hunter Derby.”
Liza is also showing S&L Lion King, who contested the 3’6” Green Hunters, for owner Sam Edelman.
“Both horses are for sale, and I’m excited to have horses to ride for Sam. When I was younger, he sent me jumpers, and he’s had a long friendship with my dad (Jack Towell). Sam has a good eye for a horse and picked out these two and brought them along. It’s great that he’s bringing young horses through our American hunter programs,” she said.
The names Cassanto and O’Ryan are frequently heard at the Junior Hunter ring, and this year is no exception. However, the two talented mounts are now under the direction of Maggie Hill in the younger sections after owner Stella Styslinger went off to college.
“WEF 1 was Maggie’s first time ever dong the 3’6”, and she won a class with Cassanto in the Large Juniors!” said Liza. “I’m so proud of her consistency. During the second week she earned thirds and fourths on both O’Ryan and Cassanto and ribbons with Shamrock. She’s in such a great spot already, earning scores of 84 and 85. She’s so close to getting those 88s, and it’s just fine-tuning. Her hard work and dedication this winter to riding and practicing has paid off.”
Lily Bennett also showed consistency in the jumpers as she piloted Zimba and Athina 18 to top ribbons in the Children’s Jumpers Week 1 before moving up to the Low Juniors with Zimba during Week 2.
“She’s riding great,” said Liza of Lily. “To be in the top ribbons and be that fast down here just shows how far she’s come. It’s hard to go clean in the first place over these technical courses, and then to go fast in the jump-offs is challenging. She’s really turning into a good little jumper rider.”
Ruby Sloan also showed her prowess in the jumpers, guiding Libertina to third place out of 48 in the Low Children’s Jumper Classic in just her first season showing jumpers.
“The courses are technical, and it’s hard to even remember the courses,” said Liza laughing. “The courses down here really push you to the next level, so Ruby held her own in that. We’re excited to have her back, and I think she really found her niche in the jumper ring.”
Finally Farm welcomed new clients to the barn this winter, including Amy Nolan who was reserve champion on Caruba in a section of the Middle Adult Amateurs. “She’d never shown down here, and her horse hasn’t been here, so to walk in the Grand Hunter Ring and be competitive on a green horse is really a big deal,” said Liza. “Now, she’s moving up to 3’3” Amateurs, where they’ll be quite a good competitive combination.”
Paige Miller started her time with Finally Farm aboard Lavasco in the Low Adult Hunters, where she earned second- and third-placed ribbons in a field of 34 competitors. “We’re so happy for her, and she’s leasing this horse for the year,” noted Liza. “It won’t be long before she’ll move up to the Adult Amateurs, where I’m sure they’ll shine.”
Bridget Hallman also joined Finally Farm this winter and started out strongly with ribbons in the 3’6” Amateur-Owner section aboard Gala. Liza also showed Bridget’s Salt in the 3’9” Green Hunters, where they won a competitive class.
“We’re excited to help Bridget with her horses,” said Liza. “She and Gala make a great team and have already started the circuit with some impressive placings.”
The 3’3” Junior and Amateur Hunter riders added many ribbons to the Finally Farm banner, including Sarah Ekola with Zanzibar and Ellen Addison with El Tindo.
Joann Loheac’s Callahan also earned prizes in the 3’3” Green Hunters with Liza before making his presence known in the Adult Amateurs with catch rider Lisa Baugh during Week 2. “They won a class in the Adults, which was super for them. Lisa did a great job,” said Liza. “He’s such a solid horse, and for a green hunter he’s so straightforward. He’s for sale and eligible for the USHJA Green Incentive Program, which is a wonderful opportunity for someone to continue on with his success.”
Similarly, after time spent showing in the Green Hunters with Liza, Sawyer is back in the ring with owner Liz Fogleman who is now competing him in the Low Adult Amateurs to top ribbons.
“Liz showed him a little last fall and has really worked hard this winter,” said Liza. “She’s jumping bigger, solid 3’ courses at home, so when she walked in the ring she was more than ready. Liz imported him as a barely broke 4-year-old and now at 7 he’s truly ready for an amateur. It’s cool she took the time to put the foundation into him, and she’s rewarded with an amateur-friendly horse who has come up the American Hunter system.”
Other top ribbon winners included Kelly Maloney, who enjoyed great success during WEF 1, with excellent ribbons and clear rounds aboard Fieona and Justified. Gratis and Liza earned excellent prizes in the 6-year-old Young Hunters, and daughter Elle Boyd earned the reserve championship with Otis Spunkmeyer in the Short Stirrup Hunters.
But the star of the jumpers during Week 2 was Cassiana. McKayla Langmeier catch rode the mare in the Low Junior Jumpers and won a class of 78 before returning to claim the classic out of 81 entries.
“It was amazing! She’d never sat on her,” said Liza. “She got on her at the ring on Friday, went first in the order out of 78, and won it. This mare can go fast and turn and go for it. Then on Sunday she walked in de Nemethy Ring and wins again.
“Owner Stella Styslinger is in college now, so Cassiana is for sale,” added Liza. “Someone is going to have an incredible horse. She knows all of the questions and answers them. She’s super brave and fast, and she’s just a good, fun horse—and a lovely girl’s horse because she carries you to the jumps. We’re really proud of her, so that was exciting!”