One of the show season’s favorite competitions proved one of the most successful for the entire Finally Farm team during the 96th annual Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show, held July 23-August 4 in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
Jack Towell earned the Sallie Busch Wheeler Leading Hunter Trainer Award, and Liza Boyd won the Ronnie W. Mutch Leading Hunter Rider Trophy.
Gigi Manigault, of Charleston, South Carolina, had a fairytale horse show. During what’s her final junior year, Gigi finished as Grand Junior Hunter Champion aboard Major Key, winning the Lyrik Trophy, and Gigi was named Best Child Rider during Week 2, winning the Bill Daily Perpetual Memorial Trophy. They were also circuit champions in the 3’6’ Large Junior Hunters.
“She’s come such a long way,” said trainer Liza Boyd. “Gigi’s really worked hard this year and developed into such a consistent rider. Major Key is a great horse for her, too. They won the Cassalo Trophy for the Grand Champion Large Junior Hunter, which was cool because Cassalo and Erin McGuire trained with us during their heyday.”
Gigi also guided Bastille great ribbons, and in between Liza rode the elegant bay to place second in The Challenge of Champions during Week 1 and won the USHJA International's Hunter Derby during Week 2 and the Diane Ward Memorial Trophy.
“We did the derby with Bastille at the last minute,” said Liza. “Gigi said to me, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if you did the derby? He’s never done one before.’ It was a great first derby for him.”
The derby was held Saturday evening, with a party going on ringside, but Bastille didn’t bat an eye at the electric atmosphere. The pair won the Classic Round and then placed second in the Handy behind O’Ryan and Maggie Hill for the Overall victory.
“The ring there is a bit challenging for a derby,” said Liza, “because it’s oval. It’s almost like indoors. The courses were technical, with bending lines, and more equitation-like in some ways. Then, in the Handy Round the trot jump was quite big. It wasn’t really a log but more like a tree! Surprisingly, the horses all jumped it well. The inside turns were quite challenging, but going last I didn’t have to do them all (because of her substantial lead). There were three high option fences, and we did two of them. I took it conservatively since it was his first derby and I wanted a good experience for him.”
Maggie also starred in the Junior Hunters and was Best Child Rider during Week 1, earning the Joan Ellis Goodwin Memorial Trophy. She and Cassanto were Large Junior Hunter, 16-17, champions Week 2, and Maggie was reserve champion with O’Ryan Week 1.
Maggie was also the Overall WIHS winner both weeks in the equitation. “It’s nice she keeps chipping away all year in the WIHS and keeps those points up,” said Liza. “For Side VDL has stepped up to the plate and given Maggie’s other horse, Eclipse, a break. That’s been our strategy throughout the year, and it’s paying off. They don’t have to show every weekend, which keeps them fresh and happy. I was also thrilled with Maggie’s derby ride with O’Ryan. She ended up sixth overall and beat me in the Handy! She went in and had nothing to lose and went for it. She was fantastic!”
Maggie showed her prowess in the Jumpers, riding Oakmont Farms LLC’s Concept, trained by Hardin Towell, to second in the NAL Junior/ Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic the first week.
Elle Gibbs also shined in the Juniors, earning a reserve championship in the 3’3” Junior, 15 and under, section, aboard Game Plan in a very competitive group of horses and riders. Elle also jumped to ribbons aboard Oakland Ventures LLC’s Kasiopeja, trained by Hardin Towell, in the Low Children’s Jumpers during their debut together.
Elle Boyd followed in her mother’s footsteps with two great weeks at Blowing Rock. During Week 2, she guided Baby Blue to the Small Pony Hunter reserve championship and won the Pony Hunter Classic. She was also reserve champion on Sugarbrook Pink-N-Blue, a new ride from Jill Hamilton of California.
“Elle had never done a Medium pony, and in the first week she was second in the Classic and then reserve champion in the Mediums,” said Liza. “I’m so proud of her! The pony will be at Pony Finals and is available for lease or sale. What a super pony!.”
Younger sister Adeline debuted in the Walk-Trot, picking up her own blue ribbon aboard the saintly Otis Spunkmeyer. “She had fun! She needs to come home and get serious,” said Liza laughing. “It was fun to dress her up and for her to be there.”
In the Adult Jumpers, Finally Farm riders starred.
Sarah Isgett and Killarney, Kelly Maloney and Condero 3, Audrey Muscari and Cartograna and Madison Sellman aboard MTM Chaccon all vied for ribbons in the 1.0/1.10 Adult Amateur Jumpers and returned home with armloads. Audrey and Cartograna topped the NAL/WIHS Adult Jumper Classic during Week 1 as a highlight.
“Sarah, who goes to USC and rides for the equestrian team, likes to keep riding during the off season to keep fit and tuned up,” said Liza. “She and Killarney were great and placed third in the Low Adult Jumper Classic. She brought Maddie Sellman with her from USC, who will be the team captain this year. It was really fun to have them both this summer.”
In the Adult Hunters, it was Amy Nolan and Extra Credit who were extra consistent. “Amy rode great and received the Toltec Memorial Trophy Sportsmanship Award in honor of a horse that passed away. It was a well received award. She lives in Wilmington, North Carolina. so we don’t see her often because she keeps her horse at home and meets us at the shows. Her friend Paige Miller, who purchased Shamrock from us, moved up to the 3’ Adults for the first time and got nice ribbons, with an 84 and 85. They both had a great show,” noted Liza.
Alison Thorp and Justified also earned consistent ribbons the Adult Hunters, including scores in the mid-80s in the older section. “Alison is a great friend and long-time client. She leases Kelly Maloney’s Justified and got good ribbons,” said Liza. “She started riding with us back in the day when we had that Charlotte, North Carolina annex barn. It’s fun to have her in the barn! We have such a nice group of competitive adults who all are good riders and practice a lot and put the time into it.”
Pagie’s daughter Mckenzie Miller earned reserve championship honors both weeks aboard the Medium Pony Hakuna Matata. “The Short Stirrup was a California split! It was huge! I was so impressed with Mckenzie,” said Liza. “She had never done Short Stirrup and walked right in there and did so well, winning an over fences class, too.”
Liza was also proud of her Green Hunter Ravello, who captured the daily high-score award three times for a $500 bonus as well as the USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Stake during Week 1. “He won the Kathryn G. Clark Memorial Challenge of Champions the first week, and for a 7- year-old that was great. We’re really excited about him and will be taking him to the USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championship in Kentucky, along with our other Green Hunter, Chatham Hall.”
Bridget Hallman’s two Green Hunters are also well prepared for Kentucky after earning tricolors at Blowing Rock. Who’s It was champion in the 3’6” Greens the second week and earned the 3’6” Green Hunter Circuit Championship, and Halston was champion the first week in the 3’6” Green Conformation. Bridget then went on to earn top ribbons in the 3’3” Amateur-Owners on Halston for a tricolor as well. “It’s great to see Bridget do so well, and she won a class with an 87! Her horses have come a long way—she got one quite green and the other was a jumper. She brought them both along. Her priority was to have them get experience with me first, and then eventually show them in the Amateurs, and it’s all working out.”
Please enjoy our photo gallery from Blowing Rock, with special thanks to the Blowing Rock Horse Show for their wonderful social media coverage!