The 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival circuit in Wellington, Florida, was a huge success for the horses and riders of Finally Farm. In addition to ample tricolors and ribbons, the team earned great mileage and solid preparation for the rest of the year, created new partnerships and solidified existing ones.
"Overall, it was a great season. Everybody had a great time and experience," said trainer Liza Boyd. "Everyone left better riders, and the horses left fit and ready for the rest of the year. The weather was great, and everyone feels strong and confident heading into spring circuit."
Liza herself had a fantastic finish to the circuit, riding S&L Just A Cobbler to victory in the $50,000 USHJAN International Hunter Derby. After getting to know the 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Namelus R--Orabel) during the second half of the circuit, they peaked at just the right time.
"He was amazing in the Derby. He got better every round and was sixth in the Classic Round and then won the Handy," said Liza. "I had a premonition that day, though. The day of a big class like that I’m usually not like, 'I'm going to win today.' But I woke up and thought for sure we were going to win.
"Then, driving to the show that day I was tired," she continued. "After 12 weeks of showing, I was exhausted and was having a little bit of a struggle with my epilepsy. Fading a little. So I thought, 'If I win, I’m going to give back because it's the right thing to do.' I decided I wanted to give the prize money to the Epilepsy Foundation. When I cantered in the ring, that vision helped me. I was doing it for a good cause, and it helped me rally."
Liza and her father, Jack Towell, then spoke to Cobbler's owner, Sam Edelman, who agreed to donate the prize money.
"Epilepsy is one of those diseases that's not talked about as much as some of the others," said Liza. "It’s almost a stigma. I want people to become more aware of it and better understand that it's something a lot of us live with but that we overcome to live our lives and thrive."
Since Liza and Cobbler became partners during the circuit, she and her team have worked hard to develop a training program that suits him.
"I do think we do some different things with him now that he's more mature," said Liza. "I'll often give him time outs. I'll drop my irons and stand in the schooling ring for a while or do a ton of trot jumps in the schooling area to relax him. It's the little things like that I've found he likes."
Liza noted that Cobbler rides more like a Thoroughbred than a warmblood. "When his blood gets up, and when he pulls you, you have to let go," she said, noting it's a different ride than many people use in today's show ring. "I'll pinch at the knee and drop him, and he likes it. It's an old-fashioned ride that seems to work with him."
The pair concluded the circuit in fourth place in the Equine Tack & Nutritionals 3'9" Green Hunter standings with limited showing.
Maggie Hill, 15, of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, earned her own circuit accolades, taking second place in the Small Junior Hunter, 15 and under, standings aboard O'Ryan and third in the Large Junior, 15 and under, standings with Cassanto. She earned so many points during the circuit that she placed 14th overall in the WEF Hunter Rider standings among all hunter riders--professionals, amateurs and juniors.
"This was her first year doing the Junior Hunters on these new horses, and I couldn't be happier or more proud of how hard she worked and how much she learned," said Liza.
Maggie finished the circuit with a new equitation horse named For Side VDL. "I'm really excited about him and their future partnership," said Liza. "He's a nice up-and-coming horse. He was a jumper and just started doing the equitation. They earned the reserve championship in the 15-17 equitation and were third in the THIS Children's Medal the final week. She has many reachable goals this year, and it will be fun for her to work with him and move up the levels."
Sarah Ekola and Zanzibar finished the circuit with one last blue ribbon in the 3’3” Junior Hunter, 16-17, section. By virtue of their consistent performances, the finished seventh in the circuit standings.
"That was her last class and last day showing him, so what a wonderful way to finish," said Liza. "Her lease is up with Zanzibar, and he'll be going home."
While some partnerships conclude at the end of circuit, Gigi Manigault started one through the purchase of Bastille from Eliza Fauntleroy through trainers Ron Danta and Danny Robertshaw. "It's a great match, and we’re very excited for her to start showing him," said Liza.
Bridget Hallman’s Halston secured the 3’3” Green Hunter championship the final week of the circuit to end on a high note. Liza guided the 6-year-old to the blue ribbon in three of the four over fences classes. "It was a hard division. Two weeks ago Halston was champion in the 6-year-olds, had a week off, and then came back to do so well against many older horses. I'm really thrilled with how far we've come over the circuit."
Finally Farm will enjoy a break before resuming at the Aiken Spring Horse Shows later this month.