Rewards Abound For Finally Farm at Aiken Charity I

 Elle Boyd and Otis Spunkmeyer

Elle Boyd and Otis Spunkmeyer

The Finally Farm team enjoyed success and memorable moments during the Aiken Charity Horse Show I, held May 3-7 on Bruce's Field in Aiken, South Carolina.

"It was a wonderful horse show and so competitive," said trainer Liza Boyd. "It was refreshing to see so many quality hunters, and all of the sections were filled during this World Championship Hunter Rider week. You don't typically see that nowadays, and I know that (the late) Bruce Ducchosois would have loved to see all of this. I think that the support for the show says a lot about the tradition here and how important the hunters were to Bruce and his horse show." 

Liza enjoyed ample success in the open sections, earning the 3'9" Green Hunter Reserve Championship aboard Lindsay Maxwell's Technicolor.

 Liza Boyd and Lindsay Maxwell's Technicolor

Liza Boyd and Lindsay Maxwell's Technicolor

"I was really pleased with how well he went," said Liza of Technicolor. "With Hunt Tosh, Daniel Geitner and Havens Schatt all preparing their horses for Devon, it was a super competitive section."  

Liza also piloted Megan Schall's Frederica to the 3'3" Green Hunter Reserve Championship, for an excellent start to the week. Megan also collected nice ribbons on the mare in the Adult Amateur Hunters later in the week.

The Juniors continued the momentum Liza started, as Stella Styslinger dominated the 3'6" Junior Hunters, taking the Small Junior championship with O'Ryan and the Large Junior championship aboard Cassanto. Stella and Cassanto also won the Junior Hunter Classic, to top of their show with a bang. Maggie Hill also guided Co Co Chanel to the 3'3" Junior Hunter Reserve Championship.   

On the Jumper side, Stella and Lily Bennett were impressive in the Children's Jumpers, winning consistent ribbons, as was Kelly Maloney on Justified in the Adult Amateurs.

"We were really pleased with how all of the jumpers finished up on Sunday," noted Liza. "They all rode super and the horses jumped great, with everyone earning a ribbon in their respective Jumper Classics."

 Sarah Isgett and Fieona

Sarah Isgett and Fieona

Sarah Isgett continued her winning streak aboard Kelly Maloney's Fieona in the Adult Amateur Hunter, 18-35, section. "Sarah and Fieona won both classes the second day, and they were great," said Liza. "I'm so thrilled for Sarah. She rides on her school's intercollegiate team during the school year, and that's helped her so much. We're so appreciative of her spending the summer with us to ride and happy she's so competitive in the Adults." 

Liza was also pleased to see the 13-year-old, Oldenburg mare (Grand Coeur--Hauptstutbuch Festa) return to the show ring this spring after recovering from an injury. "Fieona's coming back strong, and it's so wonderful to see her doing so well so quickly. Kelly bought her as a 5-year-old, and she’s been around a while. She’s had some injuries and lived in Kelly’s backyard while she nursed her back to health.

 Owner Kelly Maloney with Fieona and rider Sarah Isgett

Owner Kelly Maloney with Fieona and rider Sarah Isgett

"Fieona has done a little bit for everybody," Liza added. "I like to say she helped me win the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships one year because I went first on her and then rode Brunello later in the class. My brother Hardin also did her in the grand prix classes in Kentucky (click here for a video) and all over. So, it’s fun to see her now again with Sarah, giving her all again and winning."

Elle Boyd, 7, added another tricolor to her growing collection with the Short Stirrup Reserve Championship aboard Otis Spunkmeyer. 

"She was so proud of herself! The jumps were big. The course designer left the hay bales in there, so it was a solid course. This was also the first time she hasn’t gone off course, which was a huge achievement. Her goal the second day was not to let him trot, and she was really excited that she did that, too. And, I think her grandparents were more excited about the reserve than she was," Liza added with a laugh.

 Elle Boyd and Alberto Ramirez celebrate the tricolor!

Elle Boyd and Alberto Ramirez celebrate the tricolor!

Posted on May 11, 2017 .

New Arrivals at Finally Farm

 Annie Walters and Clemens

Annie Walters and Clemens

Spring often means new arrivals and fresh starts, and that certainly applied to Finally Farm over the past several weeks. 

Finally Farm said good-bye to long-time Assistant Trainer Tamara Berkowitz and welcomed Katie Wood to fill that role at the Camden, South Carolina-based show stable.

"We will greatly miss Tamara, but after almost 3 1/2 years we're happy for her and to see her take this new adventure," said Liza Boyd.  

North Carolina-based Katie Wood was added to the Finally Farm staff as Assistant Trainer and rider following Tamara's departure after the Longines Global Champions Tour event in Miami.

"It's nice to have someone here who has family nearby," said Liza. "Her last job was with Eight Oaks in Middleburg, Virginia, with Kitty and Johnny Barker. She learned so much there, even how to drive a tractor, so Johnny trained her well! Katie will take over the barn managing, do some teaching and riding. She's a good rider, and the horses seem to like her. Her first show was at Aiken (at the end of April), and she prepared the horses beautifully. We're really excited to have her on board."

Finally Farm also welcomed Clemens to the barn at the end of April. The 7-year-old Oldenburg (Clemence--Diana), imported by Annie Walters, was purchased by Finally Farm and Westerly Farm as Liza's next derby superstar.

Annie posted on her Facebook page: "AMW Stables, LLC is thrilled to announce and congratulate Liza Towell, Finally Farm and Westerly Farm on the purchase of our "Clemens". This horse is full of heart and has unlimited talent. With Liza in the irons, this team will be one to beat! I am excited to watch this duo crush the derbies!"

 Annie Walters and Clemens

Annie Walters and Clemens

Annie, a young professional from the Charleston, South Carolina, area, imported Clemens and had been showing him this spring locally. She asked Liza to help her at the Aiken Spring Classic Masters in preparation for their first USHJA International Hunter Derby together.

"Each day he got better and better," said Liza. "So, I said to my dad (Jack Towell), 'I like this horse a lot.' I sat on him Friday, jumped a few fences and loved his balance. For me, he's what you look for in a derby horse. He's scopey, athletic and attractive. I look forward to the future with him."

After Annie and Clemens earned the 3'6" Green Hunter championship and placed ninth overall in the USHJA International Hunter Derby, the deal was made. Clemens then relocated to Camden, where he's co-owned by Finally Farm and Ann Misenheimer's Westerly Farm.  

"He has so much scope that he easily cantered out of the paddock the other day," said Liza laughing. "He jumped this big fence, which is up a hill. It's super tall, and we all watched him canter a little circle and jump over it like it was 3’. Alberto turned to me and said, 'You should do him in the Grand Prix!' All the guys were excited because he jumped it so easily. Usually, when a horse gets loose people are freaked out, but not this time. Everyone was excited! The bugs are already out down here, and I don't think he’s used to them, so he was just putting himself back in his stall!"

Liza is also excited to welcome Ann Misenheimer back to the Finally Farm family. She had previously been in a syndicate that owned the Grand Prix Jumper Kargita that Liza competed in the early 2000s. 

"I'm so happy that Ann is back and she and my mom can hang out together and cheer us on," she said. "To have her back on the team with this horse is really exciting."

 Annie Walters and Clemens

Annie Walters and Clemens

Posted on May 2, 2017 .

Hardin Towell and Darragh Kenny Take Thrilling Win in Shanghai

 Darragh Kenny, left, and Hardin Towell lead the Longines Global Champions Tour victory lap in Shanghai.

Darragh Kenny, left, and Hardin Towell lead the Longines Global Champions Tour victory lap in Shanghai.

Source: LGCT/Stefano Grasso

Paris Panthers turned up the heat in the Longines Global Champions League ranking with a thrilling win in Shanghai with fans on the edge of their seats until the final fence. Darragh Kenny and Jack Hardin Towell sealed victory after a major upset saw leading team St Tropez Pirates tumble from pole position to eighth overall.

Today’s dramatic team competition went down to the wire and ended with the GCL season leaderboard tighter than ever. Valkenswaard United’s heavyweight squad ensured they held on to their lead for the third leg in a row. New recruit Marcus Ehning proved he was a strong signing and went clear in his GCL debut pairing with Alberto Zorzi today for the Final in Shanghai. The team are on 74 points overall and only 6 points ahead of second place London Knights who jumped ahead of St Tropez Pirates, now in third position, in the ranking.

Thousands of fans watched the team competition, sponsored by BMW, play out on the spectacular show ground in Shanghai overlooked by the imposing red China Art Pavilion. BMW China President Michael Liu praised the event and the world class sport. Families enjoyed the stunning shopping village and entertainment as dignitaries from China joined the VIP guests.

 Hardin Towell and Lucifer V

Hardin Towell and Lucifer V

The GCL competition was not short of drama as the heavyweights of show jumping ensured a formidable calibre of competition. St Tropez Pirates looked confident for most of the class after a flawless performance in Round 1 yesterday put them in pole position. Julien Epaillard and Quatrin de la Roque jumped clear following his clear round yesterday on Cristallo. The pressure was on Simon Delestre and chestnut gelding Chesall to hold on to the lead. But the pair picked up an unusual and agonising 12 faults leaving the team plunging down the scoreboard to 8th overall.

Hamburg Diamonds took a strong second, with John Whitaker and Jos Verlooy also jumping clear, just shy of the fastest time in 161.94s. Third went to the London Knights, after Ben Maher and Kent Farrington teamed up once more, with both riders jumping clear but carrying through four faults from the previous round. Fresh from their win in Miami Beach, the pair were the ones to beat with top horses Don Vito and Creedance.

 Darragh Kenny

Darragh Kenny

Uliano Vezzani's course was a tough test for the world’s best, featuring formidable oxers, a distracting water tray and delicate verticals. A challenging dog-leg back to the in-gate caught out a few combinations. Others rolled poles in the Longines combination set against the long side of the arena, where the challenge was the short four strides to a big oxer to finish in a time allowed of 84 seconds. The first of the related distances troubled several competitors with the majority of fences at maximum height, including a 1.60m plank, which was gappy, light and with no ground line.

There were thrills and spills aplenty throughout the class, with 14 riders going clear throughout. Kimberly Prince and RMF Bella Baloubet had a double refusal at the water tray, meaning that Miami Glory were eliminated, with teammate Scott Brash’s score not counting despite his phenomenal clear with Hello Annie. Home team fans were left disappointed as Shanghai Swans’ Daniel Deusser and the large-striding Clintop had the final fence down despite flying round in masterful style. Team mate Roger-Yves Bost rode a flying clear with Pegase du Murier, winning the class individually as the fans waved their burgundy and green Shanghai Swans flags. But it was not enough for the home team who finished in 10th overall.

Nicola Philippaerts, riding the popular H&M Harley v. Bisschop, also collected an unusual number of faults. The stunning dapple grey stopped in the second part of the double after crashing through the water tray. Another refusal from teammate Lauren Hough and Cornet 39 also meant the team collected a total of 40 faults overall, dropping them down the order and out of contention. Laura Kraut looked strong for the Rome Gladiators, however Zeremonie dropped her legs in the final oxer, kicking back to knock the pole and racking up points for the team total.

Marco Kutscher and Clenur kept their 'calm and steady' strategy, with the expressive duo jumping clear for the Cannes Stars. An unlucky time fault contributed to the team score of 9 after new recruit and German legend Ludger Beerbaum and Chiara had a pole down in the second round. Fresh from their win in Miami Beach, Ben Maher put in a sensational round with Don Vito for the London Knights, jumping clear in 76.61s, a full four seconds ahead of the rest of the field. The London Knights were on incredible form, with Kent Farrington also jumping clear for the team to shoot them up to third place and second in the overall rankings.

 Hardin Towell and Lucifer V

Hardin Towell and Lucifer V

But it was the Paris Panthers combination of Jack Hardin Towell and Darragh Kenny who stole the show, taking the win in emphatic style in front of wowed local spectators. Both riders have looked on form throughout the event however proved to be unstoppable in today’s final, with both riders jumping clear and riding fastest with combined total of 155.99s. The League now looks to Europe, and Madrid, where temperatures will continue to rise as the battle for valuable ranking points moves up a gear.

Jan Tops, Co-Founder Global Champions League; "It was really exciting today and the more we run through the year the more exciting it will be. It is now very close (GCL ranking) with London Knights only 6 points behind Valkenswaard United and with St Tropez Pirates and Hamburg Diamonds and now Paris Panthers move up again. We are very fortunate to have a brand like BMW for a long-term contract in Shanghai. It is very good to be associated with and also for BMW it is a perfect fit. It is great to have Shanghai in our circuit."

Darragh Kenny, Paris Panthers (1st place team): "It has been a very successful weekend for me, he (Charly Chaplin) is an incredible horse and it was great for us today to win the team event. We had a strong chance to do well and were very positive about it. Hardin (Towell) had two different horses and it was a really fun competition."

Jack Hardin Towell, Paris Panthers (1st place team): "The weather today was fantastic for show jumping. Sometimes when it is hot it takes a lot out of the horses but it was not too hot here.”

John Whitaker, Hamburg Diamonds (2nd place team): "We had a good day. We perhaps played it a little bit safe but both double clear but not quick enough. Very happy with the horses and the way they jumped."

Jos Verlooy, Hamburg Diamonds (2nd place team): "I am very honoured to be in a team with John Whitaker, a rider I always looked up to and it is great to ride in the same team."

Kent Farrington, London Knights (3rd place team): "Ben and I had two really good horses for the class today, they’re both quick so when it comes down to time that plays to our advantage for the second round.”

 Full house in Shanghai enjoying world-class show jumping.

Full house in Shanghai enjoying world-class show jumping.

GCT Third Stop - Shanghai

With little time for jet-lag and fresh from The Americas, the Tour makes its third stop in the spectacular destination of Shanghai, China from the 28th April - 30th April. Synonymous with glamour and new beginnings, Shanghai is renowned for its record-breaking skyscrapers which have sprung up where just twenty years ago there was only farmland, and the growing number of new show jumping fans in the region is developing just as fast. 

Whether you fancy a night in one of the world’s highest hotels, or a stroll through streamlined art-deco apartment blocks or the home-grown Lòngtáng Laneway housing, Shanghai has something for everyone. Though it’s most alive at the end of the day when the local population pour out of offices, food is the centre of social life and the culinary scene is wide-ranging and engaging. 

Many people visit Shanghai purely for the shopping experience. But if you would rather enjoy the renowned culture, art galleries offer contemporary local art and acrobatic shows are always close at hand. A massage is always popular with visitors if you are looking to relax in-between enjoying the world-class showjumping on offer in the heart of the city. 

Posted on April 29, 2017 .

Cassanto Claims the Derby at Aiken Spring Classic Masters

 Cassanto with Liza Boyd and Stella Styslinger

Cassanto with Liza Boyd and Stella Styslinger

Cassanto and Liza Boyd solidified their partnership at the Aiken Spring Classic Masters, April 19-23, in Aiken, South Carolina, and the results were gratifying. The pair picked up the overall victory in the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby and earned the 3'6" Performance Working Hunter Championship.

Cassanto is a relatively new ride for Boyd, whose student, Stella Styslinger, is leasing him for the year. Boyd and Cassanto contested their first classes together on the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit, and this was their derby debut.

For the USHJA International Hunter Derby at Aiken, Liza's plan wasn't necessarily to win, but instead for them to gain confidence in one another. 

"My plan with him was first and foremost to have a good experience," she said. "I wanted to ease him into another pressure situation (after Florida) and work on our partnership. Because of that goal, I wasn’t jumping all of the high options and was simply hoping for a nice ribbon and good experience."

 Liza Boyd and Cassanto

Liza Boyd and Cassanto

After a solid Classic Round performance, Liza and Cassanto stood in second place going into the Handy Round.

"Havens Schatt was leading and so far ahead that I thought I was riding for second place," said Liza. "Havens had done all of the high options in the first round and handily won it. In the second round, my plan was to be handy but not risk jumping a big oxer and having it down. I stuck to my plan and did it. I was very handy and only jumped one high option vertical, and, as it turned out, that was a wise decision. Daniel Geitner was second to me by 1 point. It's a good thing I did the one high vertical. It's funny how strategy comes into play in these classes.

"It was good for me to do a derby and move forward," added Liza. "It was a competitive class and very exciting for the spectators, I think. For Cassanto, it was a good atmosphere, with lots of spectators and energy. I'm very happy with how it all turned out. We have plenty more classes to build on this spring, with lots of opportunities and stepping stones. I think I have him figured out now."

Liza also finished sixth overall aboard Lindsay Maxwell's Technicolor, a new ride for her.

 Lindsay Maxwell and Technicolor

Lindsay Maxwell and Technicolor

"I was really proud of him. He's only 7 years old, and I don’t know how many derbies he's done, but it can't be too many," she said. "Lindsay was also champion on him in the 3'6" Amateur-Owners. She rode vey well and was first or second in every class. He's such a quality, beautiful horse. I think he really loved this horse show, where there are 20 strides between the fences, and he loved galloping on that field. Lindsay is a good rider and knows her horse well, so it was fun to watch them out there together."

 Erin McGuire and Casallo with their fans.

Erin McGuire and Casallo with their fans.

Casallo and Erin McGuire reunited this spring after the gray warmblood returned from a lease. They placed 11th overall in the USHJA International Hunter Derby, "He's a wonderful horse, and Erin has so much fun with him," said Liza. "He's available for lease again, and I'm sure he won't be in the barn long!"

The Finally Farm team also cleaned up in the 3'3" Junior Hunters, where Maggie Hill and Shamrock topped the Junior Hunter Classic, Quatrain and Elly Ficca earned the section championship and Maggie took the reserve on Co Co Chanel as well as second in the Classic.

"Elly was really good on that big field and understood how to gallop and go forward out there," said Liza. "Quatrain jumped beautifully and had a great time. Maggie was reserve and won the Classic on Shamrock. He loves her, and it's so interesting for me to watch them. He’s really found his calling with her and being a Junior Hunter. I think he'd still be good with me in the derbies, but I can see how happy he is doing this job. He just loves it and is so overqualified. They are a great match."

 Sarah Isgett and Fieona

Sarah Isgett and Fieona

Sarah Isgett returned from the University of South Carolina to resume her summer showing with Finally Farm. She earned the Adult Amateur Hunter, 18-35, championship aboard Finally Farm's Fieona.

"It was their first show back, and they were great. They improved each day," said Liza. "She's such a hard worker and team player. I want to credit USC coaches Boo Major and Hillary Dobbs. They've done a great job, and riding all those different horses has been great for Sarah. She's riding so well."

Liza also enjoyed time in the show ring aboard a fancy new prospect named Gratis. The 5-year-old gray earned the Baby Green Hunter Championship for owner Karen Lackinger.

"She sent him to me just before Aiken and had bought him in an auction in Germany sight unseen," said Liza of the Hanoverian (Gray Top--Akazie). "She studied his pedigree and bought him to be a future derby horse. I'm really excited to have him in the barn, and for him to do so well in his first horse show is thrilling. He has a great brain. I haven’t jumped him very high yet since he's so young, but he feels very scopey and eager. She bought him to bring him up the hunter pipeline, and it will be so much fun to bring him along. He’s a pleasure to work with, cute and willing, and seems to have the right balance and talent to be a derby horse--that natural god-given canter, with a good rhythm. I'm super excited."

 Liza Boyd and Karen Lackinger's Gratis

Liza Boyd and Karen Lackinger's Gratis

Posted on April 24, 2017 .

Finally Farm Makes Memories in Miami

 Stella Styslinger and Cassiana

Stella Styslinger and Cassiana

The Finally Farm training team of Jack Towell and Tamara Berkowitz traveled to the Longines Global Champions Tour in Miami to soak in some sun and secure some ribbons with the backdrop of waves washing ashore.

"Miami was great," said Jack. "It's really an amazing venue. Right outside the arena you see the water, the yachts and all of the people on the beach."

In addition to training Stella Styslinger who competed in the 1.10 and 1.15m classes, Jack cheered on his son, Hardin, who piloted Lucifer V and New York in the 5* events. Miami was the second of the 15-leg Championship Tour, which attracts the best grand prix riders in the world. Hardin is right among them, placing fourth in the Saturday's Table A 1.55/1.60m class.

 Hardin Towell and Lucifer V

Hardin Towell and Lucifer V

"Hardin is in the biggest league now and riding against the best there is in the world," noted Jack. "He was in the top 10 three times and fourth in one class at Miami. He just had some bad luck in the last grand prix, where his horse cut in a little around one corner, shifted and had a jump down. But he was great and was right there."

Hardin is currently ranked ninth in the GCT 2017 world rankings, with earnings of more than $43,000 this seasin so far.

Stella made attending the Longines GCT in Miami one of her primary goals for 2017, and she achieved it with success. Aboard Cassiana, Stella competed in the 1.10m and 1.15m classes, with a highlight being their fifth-placed finish with a double-clear performance. 

 Stella Styslinger and Cassiana

Stella Styslinger and Cassiana

"Stella rode really well. She had one time fault in one class and was fifth and double clear in another. She'd never done anything like this before, so I couldn't have been happier," said Jack. "The courses were really hard and technical, with related distances. She hasn't been doing the jumpers long, and only practiced in Florida, but she was very comfortable doing it. She brought her whole family, too, and I think they really enjoyed the whole experience."

Special thanks to The Book LLC for the fantastic photographs!

Posted on April 21, 2017 .

Stars in the Spotlight: Jack Hardin Towell

Special thanks to the Longines Global Champions Tour for featuring Hardin Towell in their "Stars in the Spotlight" article!

Release date: 17/04/2017

Photo: LGCT / Stefano Grasso

Jack Hardin Towell, better known as Hardin to his friends, is one of America's rising show jumping stars. Humble, grounded and infectiously enthusiastic, the 29 year old American has been quietly smashing his goals and rising through the levels to where he is now counted as one of the top show jumpers in the world. Ahead of LGCT and GCL Miami Beach, we caught up with Hardin to talk teams, tactics and taking stock of how far he's come.

Hardin, just give us a little background – your family is one with a history in the sport... That's right, my father is a professional; I grew up riding and my sister is also a professional – she competes in the hunters. I've been riding since I was a kid although I actually didn't like it that much when I was younger, I liked to play baseball and football! But I grew up and I realised that this is what I was going to do for my living – I wasn't going to make any money playing football or baseball so horses it was!

 Was there a moment then where you said, 'ok this is for me, it's time to put the bat down'? I wasn't great when I rode ponies but then I started to improve a little bit. I had a little success when I was around 13 or 14, I started to enjoy it and saw that what I did was pretty cool. That's when I decided that it was what I wanted to do.

We've seen you on the Longines Global Champions Tour these past few seasons, what has been your experience of it and what differentiates it from competing on any other type of circuit? The shows are amazing. The destinations are amazing. I was lucky enough two years ago to win one of the big classes in Miami Beach on the first day. Everywhere you go on the GCT if you win classes or have success it's very highlighted – there's a lot of publicity. They're great shows. I've been lucky to take part these past two years and this will be my third year competing in the GCT and my second in the GCL.

Do you think the event in Miami Beach changed the game a little bit here in the United States? I do. I think there are a lot of Americans who are taking part in the GCL, and I think Miami has helped with that. People got excited last year – it was the first GCL – and I think it has helped a lot.

Last year you travelled to quite a few of the LGCT events – which ones stood out for you and what was your best experience? Well last year I won a big class in Shanghai, so that would be the best one for me! Mexico City was amazing, and Miami was great as always. I did Shanghai which I liked – maybe because I had a good week! And I also did Vienna which was very nice. I was lucky enough to be on a team with Laura Kraut and Emma Heise for the GCL Rome Gladiators; they gave me a nice opportunity and it was a very good experience for me to be able to compete.

Tell us a little about the Rome Gladiators, the team with whom you were competing for the GCL last year. What was your experience of that? I really liked it. The first one I did was Mexico City, and it was tough. It was bigger than I think a lot of people expected and a new format. I didn't have a great result so I wasn't thrilled with how I performed for the team there. In Shanghai my horse jumped well, but I was still a little disappointed in myself so it was nice in Vienna that Laura Renwick and I ended up second and I jumped double clear. I felt good that I could put in a nice effort for the team and I could contribute. I went into Vienna very focused on the team event and I'd brought my horse specifically for the show with that in mind and it worked out.

When you ride second in particular there is a lot of pressure. There's no drop score and you want to do the best you can for the team, so it's fun – I really enjoyed it last year and I'm looking forward to it again this year. Our team [the Paris Panthers] this year will be great. We have Jennifer [Gates] who I can't wait to ride with, Darragh Kenny who is one of my best friends, Lillie Keenan as another U25 American and Nayel Nasser who lives in California. We know each other very well and it's a good group. Two of the riders, Jennifer and Lillie are U25 and then the rest of us are under 30 so it's a cool, young team and I'm looking forward to it.

What do you think the GCL offers to fans of the sport? It can bring a new following to the sport. It's a new concept. Last year was great but it was the first year. This year the format is a little different – and I think the way it is going to work this season will be even better. There is serious money and world ranking points so I think you're going to see people using their best horses and really fighting for it.

Your team sounds strong... Yes, and we're not coming to a competition without trying to win! We all have different horses. Nayel's horse is very careful and I think would be great for Monaco and the smaller rings. So at the moment we're going over the team dynamic, which horses are going to suit which venues and we need to be strategic about it. Hopefully it pays off!

You also train Jennifer, how will it be competing on a team with her? I'm looking forward to it. In the past couple of years it's been quite fun as both Jenn and I have reached the next level. It's actually sometimes more difficult for me when she's showing as I'm so nervous for her! It's nice that we're going to be able to do this together. It does [have a family feel], we're all good friends so it's going to be fun.

What advice would you give to someone looking to compete on your level in the future? It hit me last year actually when I was talking to one of my friends as I was leaving Mexico. I was frustrated with how my results had been, and he said “you know what Hardin, take a deep breath – look, you're showing in Mexico, you're showing at the best events in the world, enjoy it a little bit.”

You put so much pressure on yourself that you don't get to enjoy the ride sometimes, and that's where I've recently tried to take a deep breath and realise if I keep doing what I'm doing with my horses, it's eventually going to happen. You're going to have rough times where you're not going as well but if I look back to five years ago, I never thought I'd be jumping these shows. That version of me would be delighted to be competing at this level. With this sport you just have to keep going and working hard – you'll never know when you'll find a great horse and move up the ranks.

One thing to remember is you need to take time. You won't get from 1400th in the world to the top 30 overnight. You need to have a plan.

Two years ago I said to myself: 'by the end of Spruce Meadows I want to be in the top 100 in the world' and then by the end of that year I wanted to be in the top 50. It's been a few months now and I've stayed in the top 50. You have to pick stepping stones and then look at the final goal.

You're also very knowledgeable about the sport... There are riders like Bertram Allen or Darragh who are amazing, absolutely amazing. They can do anything. Then there are other people who don't have as much talent but have worked hard and are smart – it's like with any sport; smart with how they point themselves. I feel like you need to know, you need to be a fan of the game. I might not have the talent that those guys do, but if I point towards a certain goal when my horses are going right, on any given day I can still beat them. You need to understand the sport and be a fan of the sport, especially as it's evolving – even in my lifetime if you go back and watch videos from the Olympics in 2000, it's crazy to compare it to what it is now. You need to understand the sport to change with the times.

Posted on April 18, 2017 .

Finally Farm Finishes A Great WEF Season


The Finally Farm team wrapped up the 2017 Winter Equestrian Festival circuit just the way it started--with multiple tricolors and blue ribbons. The difference this week, during WEF 12, was the added mileage and experience riders and horses accumulated during their stay over the three-month circuit in Wellington, Florida.

 Stella Styslinger and O'Ryan

Stella Styslinger and O'Ryan

"This year we had a great circuit," said trainer Liza Boyd with a smile. "The horses left really sound and healthy, and I think everybody did a good job with each horse’s schedule. We were able to set a showing schedule that was geared toward the needs of each horse, so they weren't too tired or overused. We chose the weeks to show according to what each horse needed as well as the riders' goals and mapped it out. Our goal was for all of the horses to leave Florida fresh and happy and on a positive note, and I believe we accomplished that goal.

"Our horses and riders are also well prepared for the spring shows and Devon," Liza added. "For those who have Devon on their radar, we kept that as a distinct goal throughout the last month within our lessons and showing schedules. We didn’t cut any corners, and the horses and riders are ready to continue on with their successful show seasons." 

Stella Styslinger was one of those who benefitted from more time in Florida. "Stella came early during Week 12 to practice, and it really paid off," said Liza. "She had one of her best weeks of the entire circuit. Cassanto was reserve champion in the Large Junior, 16-17. and O’Ryan was champion in the Small Junior, 16-17, hunters."

Stella also placed second in the $1,500 Children's Jumper Classic with Cassiana, her newest mount, and is looking forward to competing in the Longines Global Champions Tour in Miami later this month.

 Stella Styslinger and Cassanto

Stella Styslinger and Cassanto

"This is Stella's last junior year, and one of her goals is to ride at Miami," said Liza. "This time last year she said, 'I want to go to Miami.' She's worked very hard to make that happen, and we're looking forward to her having that experience this spring."

Megan Schall finished up the WEF season well with top placings in the Adult Amateur hunters on Fenway and Frederica. "Megan won the very last class on Fenway and the under saddle on Frederica, which was a great way to wrap it all up," said Liza.

Abigail Poss also finished the circuit strongly on Upset De Talma, with second, fourth and eighth-placed ribbons in the 15-17 equitation in a field of 39 riders.

"Abby and her horse improved greatly throughout the circuit--they are so much more polished and confident," said Liza. "This is the horse's first year doing the equitation, and his rideability improved so much. He was a jumper in Europe, and it took some time for him to figure out his new job. I also credit Tamara (Berkowitz, Finally Farm assistant trainer) for her care and training. She regularly did schooling jumper classes on him, which helped tremendously."

Liza's daughter, Elle, concluded the circuit with a strong finish aboard Otis Spunkmeyer. "She was second in a class the last week and has improved so much," said Liza. "She's much better with the basics, not cutting corners and those little things that are important in the show ring. Her position has also improved. She's ready to get home and keep working hard and improving."

 Young Hunter Champion Sawyer

Young Hunter Champion Sawyer

Liz Fogleman's Sawyer ended his WEF stay with yet another Young Hunter championship, winning three out of the five classes.

"It's so nice to see a young horse progress so well," said Liza. "He started out strongly, then went through some learning curves, and then finished on such a high note. It was great that he could stay for the circuit, and I credit Liz for keeping his mind and body so fresh. He had plenty of turnout, walks and trail rides. He made great progress in Florida."

Posted on April 10, 2017 .

Co Co Chanel Designs a Championship During WEF 11

 Maggie Hill and Co Co Chanel with trainer Liza Boyd.

Maggie Hill and Co Co Chanel with trainer Liza Boyd.

After beginning last year’s Winter Equestrian Festival circuit in Wellington, Florida, in the Pre-Children’s section, Maggie Hill has come a long way. She moved into the 3’3” Junior Hunters this season, and her hard work and dedication has paid off. She and Co Co Chanel earned the championship during Week 11, held March 22-26.

“She was awesome, and I’m so excited for Maggie,” said trainer Liza Boyd. “She was first and fifth the first day and won the hack day on the second day. She finished strongly with a second in the first class over fences and ended up champion.

“It was fun to see her do so well,” Boyd added. “On Sunday, she did all three of her horses in 3’3” and got ribbons on all of them, and she scored an 81 and above in all six rounds. Clearly this circuit has been great for her, and she’s dedicated and gets to practice a lot. Last Tuesday she was flatting one without stirrups just on her own.”

Hill, of Jackson, Wyoming, will now travel back to her home state and meet Finally Farm at the Aiken Spring shows later in April.

Boyd had her own blue-ribbon success during Week 11, piloting a new ride, Lindsay Maxwell’s Technicolor to victory in the 3’9” Green Hunter handy class with an 89 and earning other great ribbons, including a score of 88 for a second place over fences.

“He’s such a lovely horse to ride,” said Boyd. “This was the second time I’ve shown him, and I feel I’m getting to know him. I was really excited to do some of the inside turns during the handy, and it felt like we were quite handy together.”

Boyd described Technicolor as a lovely, textbook hunter. “He has a wonderful style and is so good and pretty in between the fences,” she noted. “He’s very scopey, and this height is effortless for him.”

Boyd also scored blue-ribbon results on Megan Schall’s Frederica in the 3’3” Green Hunters, while Megan earned ribbons in the Adult Amateur, 18-35, section on both Frederica and Fenway.

“We moved Frederica up this week from the 3’, and she was reserve champion,” said Liza. “She’s really getting a hang of this hunter life and liking it. We competed in the Grand Hunter Ring, which she’d never done before. She had a few green moments, but it was a great experience.”

Lily Bennett added more ribbons to her collection in the jumpers, taking second in the Modified Adult Amateur speed class on Zimba and then a ribbon in the first class on Athina for a successful weekend.

Posted on March 31, 2017 .

WEF 10 Brings the Luck of the Irish to Finally Farm

 Maggie Hill and Shamrock

Maggie Hill and Shamrock

It was fitting that the week of St. Patrick’s Day, and the 10th week of the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit, March 15-19 in Wellington, Florida, would see good fortune come shining down on Shamrock.

Maggie Hill and Shamrock earned their first blue ribbon on the WEF circuit, taking an over fences victory in the 3’3” Junior Hunter section as well as other nice ribbons. Shamrock also scored an 89 for the top call in a 3’3” Performance Working Hunter class with trainer Liza Boyd earlier in the week.

“Maggie was great. Her other horses had the week off, so she focused on Shamrock and got better and better each day,” said Liza. “The 3’3” is challenging down here when the division isn’t split, so that was a great win for them.”

Liza described Maggie’s rides as increasingly smooth and seamless. “The difference between Day 1 and 2 was her riding in between the fences. In that division, with that many great horses and riders, it’s not just being accurate to the jumps. You have to have those invisible aids. She also let him poke his nose out, and it was a beautiful hunter picture,” she noted.

Elly Ficca also brought nice ribbons back to the barn from the 3’3” Junior Hunters aboard Quatrain. They earned a second, fourth and fifth with consistent performances.

Cassanto once again starred in the Large Junior, 16-17, section, earning the championship with the team effort of riders Stella Styslinger and McKayla Langmeier.

“Stella couldn’t get to the show the first day due to school commitments, so we want to thank McKayla for showing him the first day,” said Liza.  

Stella also continued her blue-ribbon streak aboard O’Ryan, once again winning the Small Junior, 16-17, stake class. “So that was a good way to finish the week, with an 87 score,” said Liza. “They were fantastic.”

With the circuit winding down, two Finally Farm horses finished their time at WEF with accolades.

Kelly Maloney and Justified placed fourth in the $10,000 Masters Jumper Classic and earned a blue-ribbon clear for a great finale. In addition to taking home lots of ribbons, Kelly also made great inroads in her riding and partnership with her homebred mare.

“They were really consistent, and it was wonderful that the riders in that division get to compete in so many different rings down here,” said Liza. “Kelly rode a lot of different types of courses in many rings with a variety of course designers. That’s great mileage.

“We also ended up discovering that Justified likes to go in a hackamore,” added Liza. “She would tend to toss her head at times, so we used some different bits during the circuit. Kelly suggested a hackamore, and it worked really well for the last three weeks.”

 Mary Carton Mitchener with trainer Jack Towell and Trinity

Mary Carton Mitchener with trainer Jack Towell and Trinity

Mary Carton Mitchener’s Trinity also returned home to Camden, South Carolina, after capturing top ribbons in the 3’3’ Amateur-Owner Hunters, including third in the stake class during Week 10.

“Especially this past week, the courses in the hunter ring have been challenging, with lots of bending lines and different types of courses,” said Liza. “This week the division classes included some derby-style questions. Even for the pros, we had an oxer-to-oxer bending line to start with, which was fun. Mary Carton will go home with great exposure and is set up to shine for the Aiken Spring Shows at home.”

 Jack Towell and granddaughter Adeline

Jack Towell and granddaughter Adeline

This year, in particular, Liza has been pleased with the consistency and mileage the Finally Farm team garnered as many riders and horses were able to spend additional time in Florida. Having access to a practice ring also allowed for more lessons and training outside the show ring.

“During a year like this, we get to learn a lot about the horses,” she said. “Yes, we’re able to practice at home, but I think it’s different getting experience in the show ring and having the opportunity to do your homework in between the shows. You and your horse learn and incorporate the pressure of competing, so it’s a win-win for everyone.”

Posted on March 20, 2017 .

Callahan Continues His Ribbon Collection During WEF 9

 Liza Boyd and Joann Loheac's Callahan

Liza Boyd and Joann Loheac's Callahan

Callahan continued his collection of tricolor ribbons during Week 9 of the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit, March 8-12 in Wellington, Florida.

Joann Loheac's 7-year-old Oldenburg earned the reserve championship in the 3' Green Hunters for the second consecutive week, taking a win over fences and other top ribbons in a field of 28 with Liza Boyd in the irons. The pair also placed third in the USHJA Green Incentive.

"Callahan is a wonderful young horse, with so much talent," said Boyd. "He's so solid now at 3' that he'll move up to the 3'3" height next week. I'm thrilled with him."

 Liza Boyd and Callahan

Liza Boyd and Callahan

Boyd was also thrilled to watch as Maraschino and Stella Propp forged a new partnership. Stella just purchased Maraschino, and they made their debut a winning one in the 3'3" Junior Hunters. After blue ribbons over fences and in the under saddle—along with other impressive placings, the pair concluded their first show together with a section championship. 

"I want to congratulate Stella and trainer Joey Currais on the purchase of 'Cherry' and also for such a wonderful start," said Liza. "Stella trains with Joey but will keep Cherry with us at Finally Farm for the rest of the WEF circuit as she gets to know her and before they return home to New Jersey. It will be a join effort and a lot of fun to watch them get to know each other."

Another new face joined the Finally Farm team this week with Megan Schall's purchase of Frederica, a 7-year-old Westphalian mare (Cristallo I--Penny Lane). 

Megan, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, will show Frederica in the Adult Amateur Hunter section while Liza campaigns her in the Green Hunters. During WEF 9, Frederica and Liza scored an 88 in the Rost Arena, an impressive start to their career together.

"She's super brave, and I think she’ll go on to do the derbies and be a great Amateur-Owner horse," said Liza of the flashy bay mare. "She's a good mover, and her brain is exceptional. She takes very little preparation, loves her job and is a lovely mare to have in the barn. I look forward to seeing how far she goes in the sport."

Megan and Frederica also made their debut, with ribbons in the Adult Amateurs. In addition, Megan competed Fenway to top placings, with a second and third over fences in the competitive Adult Amateur, 18-35, section B.

Top scores also abounded for riders Maggie Hill and Stella Styslinger. 

 Elle Boyd and Otis Spunkmeyer

Elle Boyd and Otis Spunkmeyer

"Maggie was super consistent through the week, with solid 80s and nice ribbons in every class," said Liza. "I was really proud of her, especially for her consistent riding through the more technical courses, handy classes and bending lines."

Stella Styslinger's highlight was a score of 89 on O’Ryan to win the Small Junior Hunter, 16-17, Stake class.

Elle Boyd and Otis Spunkmeyer kept their momentum going in the Short Stirrup section.

"Elle was so good this week," said Liza. "She was second, third and fourth in her three classes. What I loved most, though, was what she said afterward. Now that she's remembering her courses, she said it's so much fun. And I said to her, 'I'm so glad you're having fun.' And she replied, 'Why would we do this if we didn't have fun?'"

Posted on March 16, 2017 .

WEF 8 is Rewarding For Finally Farm

Callahan made his presence known in the 3' Green Hunter section, taking reserve championship honors and second place in the USHJA Green Hunter Incentive class in just his second outing on the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit in Wellington, Florida, on March 1-5.

 Callahan and Liza Boyd

Callahan and Liza Boyd


Owned by Rolling Hills Show Stables, Callahan is a bay 7-year-old Oldenburg gelding. 

"He was great this week and so brave," said rider Liza Boyd. "He went in the Rost Arena and just marched around. He scored in the mid- to high-80s in each round, which was wonderful."

Liza credited owner Joann Loheac of Rolling Hills Show Stables for preparing him so well.

"Joann picked him out and has brought him along since he was a young horse with lots of flatwork," noted Liza. "He’s a striking horse, quite pretty with lots of show ring presence, which I love about him. He's quite a good jumper and is for sale, so someone will have a super nice show hunter."

Sarah Ekola and Zanzibar picked up their second reserve championship in the Children's Hunter, 15-17, section.

"Sarah and Zanzibar are really clicking, and they'll shortly move up to the 3'3" Junior Hunters," said Liza. "She's leasing Zanzibar from trainer Jim Hagman, and I want to thank them for such a wonderful horse. Sarah will have lots of fun this year with him."

Stella Styslinger added a new mount to her string with the purchase of Cassiana. Not to be confused with her top Junior Hunter Cassanto, her new horse will take a starring role in the jumper ring.

"They started out with nice ribbons in the 1.10m Children's Jumpers, and I couldn't be happier," said Liza. "I want to thank Brady Mitchell for helping to pair them up. She's a nice mare, and I think Stella will have a lot of fun learning the ropes in the jumper ring. The mare had good experience in Europe, so she came here ready to go. It will be exciting to have Stella in the jumper ring, too."

After last week's success in the Children's Hunters, Maggie Hill and Shamrock moved up to the 3’3” Junior Hunters and collected ribbons in two classes.

"I was especially thrilled with their sixth place in the Handy round," said Liza. "It was their first Handy together, and they were quite competitive in the field of 31 horses. Maggie also scored an 87 on CoCo Chanel and was third in the Stake class. Just to be up there and getting scores like that is quite an accomplishment."



Posted on March 8, 2017 .

Perseverance Pays Dividends For Finally Farm During WEF 7

 Trainer Liza Boyd instructs Maggie Hill with Shamrock.

Trainer Liza Boyd instructs Maggie Hill with Shamrock.

The Finally Farm team of Camden, South Carolina, may have had a smaller string of horses showing during Week 7 of the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit than during WCHR Week 6, but their results were just as big.

Maggie Hill made her WEF show ring debut aboard Finally Farm's Shamrock and was rewarded with great performances and ribbons in the Children's Hunter, 14 and under, section, including a second, fourth and fifth over fences out of 26 entries.

Trainers Jack Towell and Liza Boyd shipped Shamrock to Florida at the start of the 12-week circuit in January, but they employed a different plan with the 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Comte--Etienne), leased by Maggie. 

Although Shamrock is technically a 3'9" Green Hunter, he came from the eventing world last year and has less hunter experience than most of his peers.

"We didn't want to hurry them to the ring, so our plan was for Maggie to take lessons and work with Shamrock until the time was right," said Liza. "We weren't in a hurry. It took us seven weeks down here to focus on getting him where we wanted him. We didn't want the pressure of teaching him at the same time we were showing him."

Instead of competing, Maggie took lessons aboard Shamrock where they concentrated on flatwork and gymnastics, integrating lots of transitions, counter canter and focusing on Shamrock's confidence and Maggie's position.  

"Through gymnastics, Maggie learned to control her body and that helped Shamrock learn how to handle the deep distance and the chip," explained Liza. "When I showed Shamrock last year, I held his hand a bit, so it was time for him to take that next step. It was a fun process to watch and for Maggie to experience." 

Liza showed Shamrock one day in the 3'3" Performance Working Hunters, placing first and second out of 25 entries, before Maggie took over for the Children's section.

"They got better and better every class," said Liza. "So that was gratifying for her. I think the progress they made meant more to Maggie than winning a class on one of her made horses. She's been a big part of producing that horse, and she feels like he's her baby. It was so cute to see all of that happen and the partnership develop. Shamrock came out of the ring so happy, self assured and proud of himself. It was fun for all of us!"

Elly Ficca continued her momentum from WCHR Week 6 and scored great ribbons aboard Quatrain in the 3'3" Junior Hunters, winning an over fences class and receiving other top ribbons.

Libbie Gordon also showed Elegance to excellent ribbons in the Medium Pony section for Zola Thompson, who was unable to attend Week 7. "I want to give a big thank you to Libbie!" said Liza. "We really appreciated her nice rides." 

 Trainer Liza Boyd and daughter Elle at work.

Trainer Liza Boyd and daughter Elle at work.


Posted on February 28, 2017 .

Finally Farm Enjoys Sweet Success during WCHR Week at WEF 6

 Maraschino and Liza Boyd

Maraschino and Liza Boyd

Highlights abounded for Finally Farm horses and riders during the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit Week 6, the WCHR CSI 3*, held February 15-19 in Wellington, Florida.

The $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular was a featured event, and once again Liza Boyd didn't disappoint. The three-time winner of the class, now in its 21st year, placed third aboard Lily Bennett's Maraschino with two brilliant performances under the lights of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center's International Ring.

"She really stepped up, and I was so proud of her," said Liza of the 10-year-old chestnut warmblood. "McKayla Langmeier showed her during the week in the Junior Hunters, and I had a good feeling about her going in there. She's 10 now, old enough and experienced, so I could ride her boldly."

 Maraschino and Liza Boyd

Maraschino and Liza Boyd

That decision proved to be a great one, as Maraschino rose to the occasion, even making up for Liza's fall from Cassanto earlier in the first round when he bucked and played after a particularly brilliant jumping effort.

"Thankfully, I had Maraschino to redeem myself! After I fell off Cassanto, I got mad but in a good way. I said, ‘Come on mare—you can do this!’ Our philosophy is that third place in that class was like a victory," Liza said. "Catch Me, the horse that won with Scott Stewart, is in a league of his own, Scott's an amazing rider, and Private Life was great, too. Being on a veteran Junior Hunter, I chose to make it a bit more exciting and really go out there and be bold.”

 Jack Towell and Liz Fogleman cheer on Liza and Maraschino during the WCHR Spectacular.

Jack Towell and Liz Fogleman cheer on Liza and Maraschino during the WCHR Spectacular.

Liza added: "Now that Lily is doing the jumpers, Maraschino is for sale, and I know she'll make someone an amazing Junior or Amateur horse. She's also more than capable of doing these big classes under the lights, which is great. She's really an amazing horse."

Unlike a USHJA International Hunter Derby, the WCHR Hunter Spectacular is a Hunter Classic, therefore it doesn't include a Handy Round. Nevertheless, Liza chose to take some tighter turns and show off Maraschino's bravery in Round 2, which certainly impressed the spectators and judges. Strategizing in Hunter classes is a skill that Liza and her father Jack Towell take seriously.

"We knew that if Catch Me went well we weren't going to catch him, since he was so far ahead after the first round," said Liza. "So, we decided to do something a little different. Jack said, 'Why don't you pick up the pace and make it more exciting? Ride the course with more of a gallop, and I think that will encourage her to jump higher and make it more exciting.' So, that's what I did. Some people had to hold their horse's hands out there in that big ring under the lights, but I had the luxury of being on a made Junior Hunter and could really go for it, and it worked out." 

Despite Liza's unexpected dismount from Cassanto in the WCHR Spectacular, she was proud of the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding for his consistency throughout the week. In addition to earning a 3'6" Performance Working Hunter section championship with Liza in the irons (including winning a class with 106 entries!), Cassanto also carried Stella Styslinger to excellent performances in the Large Junior, 16-17, section.

 Liza Boyd and Cassanto

Liza Boyd and Cassanto

"He's really a phenomenal horse," said Liza, who estimated she'd shown him in just five classes prior to the WCHR Spectacular. "Now that I know him a little better after this week, I'll be better prepared in the future. We plan to do some derbies this year, and I really look forward to forging a partnership with him. He's very special."

Stella also earned her own accolades over the weekend, taking top ribbons aboard O'Ryan, including a score of 87 in the Small Junior, 16-17, section.

In addition to watching Maraschino star on Saturday night, Lily Bennett welcomed a new jumper to her string, Westpoint Baros. They started out strongly with ribbons in the Children's Jumper, 15-17, section.

"I want to thank Darragh Kenny for the new horse," said Liza, of the recently imported 11-year-old wamblood by Balou Du Rouet. "They are already a great match together."

Lily also earned top ribbons aboard Zimba in the Children's Modified Jumpers, including a second and third out of 25 entries. 

 Elly Ficca, second from right, tied for the 3'3" Junior Hunter High-Score Award with Isha Swani and received her award from the USHJA's Marla Holt and ringmaster Steve Rector.

Elly Ficca, second from right, tied for the 3'3" Junior Hunter High-Score Award with Isha Swani and received her award from the USHJA's Marla Holt and ringmaster Steve Rector.

Elly Ficca was thrilled to stand center ring on Saturday night to receive one of the coveted WCHR High-Score Awards. Elly and Quatrain earned a score of 88 in the 3'3" Junior Hunters, winning two over fences classes, on their way to a tie for the High-Score Award. They also placed eighth in the 3'3" Junior Hunter Classic.  

"They were great!" said Liza smiling. "She was really clicking with him, and it was the perfect weekend for them to do so well together. I rode Quatrain earlier in the week, and I think watching me helped her out. She and Maggie Hill also watched me in the WCHR Spectacular on Saturday night, and the course for the Junior Hunter Classic the next day was almost identical. It was great for them to watch and then go out the next day and ride the course. Maggie was fifth and seventh, which was great for her, too. I was really proud of Maggie to step up and go in the big ring for the first time."

During Saturday night's press conference after the WCHR Hunter Spectacular, Liza took a moment to formally acknowledge assistant trainer Tamara Berkowitz for her hard work and dedication to the Finally Farm team. She also credited the entire team for helping to prepare the horses and stepping in to assist the clients during the busiest week of the WEF circuit.

"I don't think people really know how important our assistant trainers are to our programs, and I want to thank Tamara, who was up in the dark with Maraschino, teaching lessons and giving us pros the time to focus and keeping the show running," she said. "Without our team we wouldn't be sitting up here."

 Finally Farm Assistant Trainer Tamara Berkowitz helps school Quatrain with rider Liza Boyd.

Finally Farm Assistant Trainer Tamara Berkowitz helps school Quatrain with rider Liza Boyd.

Posted on February 23, 2017 .

Handy Blues Highlight Finally Farm’s WEF 5

 Mary Carton Mitchener, Liza Boyd and Trinity

Mary Carton Mitchener, Liza Boyd and Trinity

Mary Carton Mitchener and Maggie Hill made great strides in their respective sections during Week 5 of the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit, February 8-12 in Wellington, Florida.

Mary Carton, 18, a senior in high school, graduated to the Amateurs this show season and has made a smooth transition. During WEF 5, she guided Trinity to the blue ribbon in the 3’3” Amateur-Owner, 18-35, Handy class.

“She watched the videos of me showing him earlier in the week, and I think they really helped her fine-tune her own riding,” said trainer Liza Boyd. “She saw what a strong and confident ride I gave him. She rode him a little bit stronger, with more pace, energy and took more of a feel of his mouth, and that made a big difference.”  

Mary Carton, of Charlotte, North Carolina, has ridden with Finally Farm since she was on a Children’s Pony Hunter, so making the transition to the Amateurs is a major milestone and testament to her commitment to the sport.

Liza was especially impressed with Mary Carton’s inside turns, where she maintained balance and impulsion. “She was super handy and impressive,” said Liza smiling. “Even her mom said she had to close her eyes when Mary Carton took the inside turns! I was proud of her confidence and how strong she rode him. She really earned that blue ribbon, and winning a class in the Grand Hunter Ring was great for her.”

 Maggie Hill and Co Co Chanel

Maggie Hill and Co Co Chanel

Wyoming-based Junior Maggie Hill also scored a blue ribbon in her Handy class, winning the 3’3” Junior Hunter class aboard Co Co Chanel.

“I was incredibly impressed with Maggie’s ride in the Handy, and I feel like her performance resulted from how well she’s practiced and prepared for the Handy tests during our lessons. In each lesson, we’ve been emphasizing something that would be asked on Handy course, and we even work on these questions in our flatwork. Maybe we practice a tight turn around a jump or trot a small jump or focus on a bending line. I feel like this homework has prepared all of our riders well for the courses they’ll see here in the show ring.”

Liza described this week’s Handy courses as challenging, from a trot jump, to tight rollbacks, inside turn options to bending lines. She also credited Maggie’s extra practice rides aboard Shamrock for helping her gain confidence during her recent move up from Children’s to Junior Hunters.

“The past two weeks we worked on gymnastics at home with Shamrock, and we set a tight one-stride combination to a five- or six-stride line to a normal one-stride. Having her do that exercise back and forth helped Maggie figure out how to use her body position to help Shamrock get his best jump. Then, in the show ring, we could see how her improved position in the air allowed everything to flow more smoothly. That practice really carried over, and she was able to make the tight inside turns with organization and balance.”

 Sarah Ekola

Sarah Ekola

During Week 5, Finally Farm welcomed new client Sarah Ekola, of Blythewood, South Carolina, to the barn. She rode Zanzibar to excellent ribbons and the reserve championship, out of 36 entries, in the Children’s, 15-17, section during her first visit to the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit.

“We are so happy to have Sarah in the barn. She came down to try horses and leased Zanzibar for the week,” said Liza. “Her mom said Sarah was thrilled, and the experience even exceeded her own expectations, which her mom said rarely happens. Being down here for the first time can be overwhelming, but Sarah was great and took it all in stride. She was also second in the THIS Children’s Medal, with a wonderful ride.”

Liza enjoyed her own blue ribbons during Week 5, including one with Finally Farm’s Ballerino. “We bought him as a stallion, gelded him and then turned him out for a year to let him mature,” said Liza. “He hadn’t shown since August of 2015 and went straight into the 3’6” Green Hunters in the Grand Hunter Ring and won the first class with an 88. We’ll continue to work on his rideability here in Florida. He’s a lovely jumper and fun horse, and I’m thrilled to have him back.”

 Elle Boyd

Elle Boyd

Liza also enjoyed the ride aboard Rolling Hills Show Stable’s sale horse Callahan. “He a young hunter that just showed one day in the 3’ Green Hunters, but he was impressive and was second out of 28 over fences,” said Liza. “He has a bright future ahead of him.”

Elle Boyd continued her blue-ribbon streak in the Short Stirrup section, winning a class aboard Otis Spunkmeyer. Perhaps Elle’s highlight of the week, though, was attending the Cavalia show during the Equestrian Aid Benefit on Sunday night.

“We went with Louise Serio and her granddaughter Mary Jo, Elle’s friend, and it was so much fun,” said Liza. “The kids were amazed with the horses and how they performed without tack, the bowing and the rearing. It was a fun way to end a great week.”

Posted on February 15, 2017 .

Finally Farm Shines From Short Stirrup to Grand Prix

 Elle Boyd, left, and Mary Jo Serio shared blue-ribbon rewards in the Short Stirrup section.

Elle Boyd, left, and Mary Jo Serio shared blue-ribbon rewards in the Short Stirrup section.

From the Short Stirrup to Grand Prix ring, the Finally Farm team made great strides during WEF 4, held February 1-5 in Wellington, Florida.

Elle Boyd made her Short Stirrup debut aboard Otis Spunkmeyer, moving up from the Crossrails section, and earning the championship tricolor, with friend Mary Jo Serio and Pongo also winning a class and earning the reserve championship.

"It was great having trainers and grandparents Louise Serio and Jack Towell at the Short Stirrup ring," said Liza Boyd, Elle's mother. "Everyone had a great time, and it was so much fun!

"The night before, Elle and I walked the course," said Liza. "It was a big jump from the cross rails, where they go twice around the outside. The Short Stirrup courses are real hunter courses, with diagonals and outside lines. We walked the course and the lines and talked about her plan, so she was well prepared."

This week, Quatrain earned double tricolors, taking the Junior Hunter 3'3" championship with Elly Ficca and the reserve championship in the 3'3" Performance Working Hunters with Liza.

"I showed him just one day, and he won both classes," said Liza of her longtime partner. "I wanted to get him into the Grand Hunter Ring one day since Elly showed him both days in that ring. It was exciting for those kids to be able to show there, and the courses were really technical, with handy classes with hard rollbacks and always a trot jump."

Liza credited Quatrain, a 13-year-old Westphalian (by Quatro), for his continued success and his longevity in the sport.

 Jack Towell and Liza Boyd did a lot of cheering during WEF 4.

Jack Towell and Liza Boyd did a lot of cheering during WEF 4.

"He still has that freshness and spark, and that’s what keeps him so good," said Liza. "Even as veteran in the sport, he loves his job and is amazing. He feels like he has years left in him."

Liza recalled veterinarian Diane Scheireck telling her when they purchased Quatrain as an 8-year-old that he was a horse with longevity. And, through their collaboration on healthcare, fitness and training, Quatrain has indeed become yet another poster child for the Finally Farm tradition of maintaining and successfully showing these campaigners well into their teen years. In fact, the 19-year-old superstar Brunello is now back in work in Camden after a winter break in preparation for the 2017 competition year.  

Maggie and Parkland continued their ribbon collection in the 3'3" Juniors, and she also showed Tasty to excellent results. "Again, she had fun showing in the Grand Hunter Ring, and it was great for those kids to be out there and experiencing the increased challenges," said Liza. "When we go home, they’ll have great exposure down here and be ready to step it up."

After Lily Bennett moved into the jumper ring full time, McKayla Langmeier took over the ride on her Maraschino. Their top ribbons resulted in the Small Junior Hunter championship during Week 4. "Maraschino is for sale now since Lily is focusing on the jumpers, and we really appreciate McKayla showing her for us. She's a great rider and really fun to work with," said Liza.

 Abigail Poss and Upset De Talma

Abigail Poss and Upset De Talma

Abigail Poss enjoyed another successful week in the equitation aboard Upset De Talma. "I was so proud of her this week. In addition to eighth in the ASPCA Maclay, she stepped up and did the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search 3*, where she had to jump the open water in the de Nemethy Ring," said Liza. 

"This was her first Talent Search, and there happened to be a bending line to the open water and a tight line afterward, and she did it all so well," Liza added. "She and her horse were well prepared, and I have to credit Jack and Tamara (Berkowitz) for schooling him and practicing the open water. It was team effort and everyone deserves congratulations!"

The Finally Farm team also sent congratulations to Evergate LLC, Jennifer Gates and trainer Hardin Towell for their spectacular week at the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit, where Jenn guided Pumped Up Kicks to third place in the featured $216,000 Ariat Grand Prix CSI4*, her best finish to date at that level. Jenn also received the Leading Lady Rider Award.

 Jennifer Gates and Pumped Up Kicks

Jennifer Gates and Pumped Up Kicks

Hardin piloted Emilie De Diamant AS to 16th in the class with one rail down and also placed third in the $35,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 4 earlier in the week. Hardin also contested the Longines Palm Beach Masters, at Deeridge Farms in Wellington, where he and SF Ariantha had just one rail down in the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup class on Sunday after jumping clear and placing fifth in the $35,000 Longines FEI World Cup Qualifier on Friday.

"We're so happy for Jenn, Hardin, Sayre and the entire Evergate team for such an amazing day," said Liza. "We were fortunate to be able to go over to the Stadium and watch them go. Jenn has come such a long way in her riding career, starting in the Short Stirrup division herself, and her performance in the grand prix this week was a testament to her hard work and dedication in the sport.

"It was such a rewarding week, from Elle in the Short Stirrup to Jenn in the Grand Prix ring, and we're so thrilled that we're able to share such great achievements and moments with our Finally Farm family, clients and friends," concluded Liza. 

Posted on February 7, 2017 .

Between Rounds With: Jack Towell

Finally Farm's Jack Towell was asked to write this year's Show Hunter Between Round column for The Chronicle of the Horse magazine's American Horses in Sport edition.

In his column, titled, "It's Time To Focus On Education," Jack believes in order to make our sport stronger, we need to increase education across all aspects.


Posted on February 7, 2017 .

Sawyer Soars To Second Championship During WEF 3

Elizabeth Fogleman's Sawyer once again dominated in the Young Hunter section, earning the  championship tricolor for the second consecutive week during the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit in Wellington, Florida.

Sawyer won two of the four over fences classes and earned top ribbons in the others during Week 3, held February 25-29 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.  

 Sawyer models his tricolor!

Sawyer models his tricolor!

"Sawyer was amazing again, and this week he was even more settled and got better in every class," said rider and trainer Liza Boyd.

She credited the 6-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Casall--Iskia V) for his improvement in sighting in on the second jump out of the lines, which in turn created straighter tracks and improved jumping form.

"He was also a bit less playful on the back side of the fences," she noted. "Last week he could get away with it since it was early in the circuit and many of the young horses were excited. This week he was more relaxed in the ring and mellow, yet he was enthusiastic about his job. It's really rewarding to have the young horses improve so much week to week." 

As a reward for his stellar performances, Sawyer will have Week 4 off as Liza believes in keeping the young horses fresh and happy early in their careers. In addition to trail rides and flatwork, he'll have a chiropractic treatment and lots of turn out.

After a week off herself, Stella Styslinger returned to the ring for excellent performances aboard her Junior Hunters Cassanto and O'Ryan. Liza was particularly impressed with Stella's increased consistency with Cassanto, a horse she began leasing and showing at WEF.

"They're really a super match," said Liza. "His balance is great for her, as well as the leg to hand connection. They clicked from the minute she rode him; you could tell. When she tried him, I knew it was a good ride for her, and in watching them together you could tell the horse likes her, too, which is so important when matching rider to horse."

Zola Thompson has continued her ribbon collection in the Medium Pony Hunters aboard Elegance. Now in their second year together, the pair has also forged a strong partnership. 

"Zola ended the weekend on good note in the Handy," said Liza. "She's starting to do the inside turns and becoming much more strategic in her riding. She's come a long way from last year, when she was just trying to find the distances. She's now learning to be a bit more handy and her improved abilities are really paying off."

 Lily Bennett and Zimba

Lily Bennett and Zimba

Lily Bennett returned to the Children's Modified Jumper section at 1.15m this week and once again earned excellent ribbons aboard Zimba and Athina 18. She also took time out from her busy riding schedule for a photo shoot with The Book LLC, where her 2017 show season will be forever captured through their stunning portrait sessions.

Masters Jumper rider Kelly Maloney, of Rembert, South Carolina, enjoyed another stellar week aboard her homebred mare Justified, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Indoctro--Jessica).

The pair jumped two clear rounds earlier in the week and then returned to place third in the Classic. 

This week the Masters were scheduled to compete at 8 a.m. in the International Ring, which is the venue's featured and most decorated arena.

"Kelly was third or fourth in the order of go, and the first couple of riders didn’t make it around because their horses were so spooky. But I wasn't worried. Kelly was really smart about bringing her mare up through the Young Jumper ranks," said Liza.

After showing Jessica at the High Amateur-Owner Jumper level, Kelly bred her to the famous Dutch jumper stallion Indoctro, resulting in the bay mare Justified.

"She spent the time and the money sending Justified with my brother Hardin to do the Young Jumpers, and it's all paying off now," she added. "There's no venue she hadn’t been in with Hardin, and that's a huge confidence builder. Justified has been in the De Nemethy and International Rings here and the Rolex Stadium in Kentucky. She's been in those big rings thanks to the Young Jumper Program, which emphasizes the proper development of these young horses. It's neat that so many years later she's become a great amateur horse. Justified went in, jumped clean and never batted an eye and was confident and brave."

Maggie Hill and Elly Ficca also moved into a new ring this week, jumping to ribbons in the 3’3” Juniors while riding around the Grand Hunter Ring. "It was a nice experience for them to get in there. Once you get to the 3'6" Juniors, you show in the Grand Hunter Ring every week. It's been a great transition for them to move from the smaller rings to the main hunter ring at WEF, and they were able to get good exposure before the featured WCHR week in a few weeks."

Liza was also proud of Abigail Poss, of Locust Grove, Georgia, for her improvement this week with her young equitation horse Upset De Talma, a 9-year old Belgian Warmblood gelding. In addition to contesting equitation classes, the pair jumped around in the Children's Jumpers, where Liza had Abigail work on riding specific tracks, shaping bending lines to add and leave out strides as well as focusing on her accuracy.

"For instance, in the first round I had her do one line in seven strides and then in the jump-off do the same line in six, which I think was really good training for her and her horse," she said. "That hard work paid off on Sunday in the ASPCA Maclay, where she was sixth in one of the sections. It was a really technical course that asked a lot of questions, and she answered them all very well."

Posted on January 31, 2017 .

Finally Farm Youngsters Star at WEF 2

 Sawyer with owner Liz Fogleman and Liza Boyd

Sawyer with owner Liz Fogleman and Liza Boyd

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."

 Elle Boyd and Otis Spunkmeyer

Elle Boyd and Otis Spunkmeyer

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."

 Elle models her Ruespari belt and her first WEF championship ribbon and cooler.

Elle models her Ruespari belt and her first WEF championship ribbon and cooler.

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.

 Megan Schall and Fenway

Megan Schall and Fenway

"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."

Posted on January 23, 2017 .

Hardin Towell and Cadence Open Week Two With a Win at Winter Equestrian Festival

 Hardin Towell and Cadence

Hardin Towell and Cadence

The 2017 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) began its second week of competition, sponsored by Marshall & Sterling Insurance, on Wednesday, January 18, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL. Kicking off the week's competition in the International Arena, Hardin Towell (USA) rode Evergate Stable's Cadence to victory in the $8,000 Douglas Elliman 1.45m speed class.

Ana Catalina Harris Cruz (MEX) was the course designer in the International Arena for WEF 2. Cruz began the week with 25 entries in the 1.45m class and seven clear rounds. Towell and Cadence clocked the winning time of 55.11 seconds. Amanda Derbyshire (GBR) and Gochman Sport Horses' Sibell BH finished second in 55.48 seconds, and Conor Swail (IRL) aboard Blue Hill Farm's Quibelle placed third in 57.83 seconds.

Towell rode Cadence in the morning's speed class to prepare the horse for his owner, Jennifer Gates, to show later in the week. The 16-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Cardento x Irco Marco 662) will compete with Gates in the Hollow Creek Farm Under 25 Grand Prix Series this winter, which begins with its first event on Sunday.

"Jen had not shown for a little bit because she was studying abroad, so Cadence had some time off, and then we just brought him back," Towell explained. "I showed him last week and he feels great. He likes being down here. He is happy here, and he knows the routine. He feels the best he has ever felt, so hopefully she will have a good season on him."

Speaking about his winning round on Wednesday, Towell stated, "It was a nice first day track. The Under 25 on Sunday is a speed class, so I wanted to go a little bit so he would be ready for Jen. It was nice because he was really smooth. He has such a big stride and he turns so well that I actually felt like I had a nice, efficient round, but did not have to go too fast."

Towell has a busy circuit ahead, with many horses to show for Gates, as well as a full schedule training his star pupil.

Towell's preparation was right on target, as Gates placed fifth in a field of 66 in the FEI $25,000 Hollow Creek Farm U25 Grand Prix aboard Cadence. Gates also took eighth place aboard Luftikus S in the FEI $6,000 1.40m out of 108 entries.

Special thanks to Jennifer Wood Media, Inc. for the press release.

Posted on January 19, 2017 .

WEF Begins With Fun and Wonderful Results

 Stella Styslinger and Cassanto

Stella Styslinger and Cassanto

Finally Farm's debut on the 2017 Winter Equestrian Festival circuit in Wellington, Florida, brought many great performances, smiles and ribbons back to the barn. Week 1 of the 12-week circuit, held January 11-15 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, made for a great springboard for the rest of the season. 

Earlier in the week, a special press conference included Finally Farm's Liza Boyd, who joined other top riders to discuss the excitement of starting the new show season.

 Press conference attendees included: Kent Farrington, Liza Boyd, Mark Bellissimo, Kasey-Perry Glass, Allyn Mann and Thomas Baur.

Press conference attendees included: Kent Farrington, Liza Boyd, Mark Bellissimo, Kasey-Perry Glass, Allyn Mann and Thomas Baur.

Along with top show jumping competition, WEF features divisions for every level of hunter horse, including week six's $100,000 USHJA/WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular and week 12's $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. This year's circuit also includes the addition of two new $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby competitions.

Three-time USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship winner Liza Boyd looks forward to a great 2017 season with her horses and riders.

Boyd stated, "There are so many opportunities here for the hunters. The hunter format is growing; the pipeline for hunters is growing. The addition of the Young Hunter classes for the 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds is really appreciated. It's a great opportunity for owners and really good for the industry. The National Hunter Derbies are really good for the young horses. There is nice prize money, and it's also a great opportunity for juniors and amateurs to compete and to learn. The addition of the South Ring is wonderful. There are just so many opportunities, starting from the cross rails, which my daughter will be competing in this year."

A new addition to the barn this year made his presence known. Stella Styslinger has leased Cassanto for the year from Heritage Farm, and they started out their partnership with the Large Junior Hunter, 16-17, championship.  

Liza also competed Cassanto one day in the 3’6” Performance Working Hunter section, where their first- and second-placed ribbons in the field of 45 and 51, respectively, were good enough for a reserve championship.

"It was fun to show him and get to know him, so that I could help Stella later in the week and better explain how best to ride him," said Liza. "It was also nice having rider Brady Mitchell and trainer Andre Dignelli there. I was able to ask them more about him, and their advice was so helpful. One morning I flatted Cassanto in the ring before the show, and Brady gave me good tips to improve my flatwork with him. The better you flatwork is, the higher quality jump you’re going to get. So all of that advice was really helpful."

Liza was thrilled that Stella figured out Cassanto's ride quickly, as he goes much differently than her Small Junior Hunter O'Ryan, whom she's been showing for several years. 

"Cassanto is different than O’Ryan and more like Brunello," said Liza. "So, I said before her handy, 'Think about how I ride Ike, leg into hand more. O’Ryan goes in a rubber bit, and this horse likes more connection, and she got him right away. They won the handy, and then they placed second in the under saddle and second in another over fences class. It's quite a competitive division with quality horses, so I was thrilled for her and feel so lucky to have Cassanto in the barn this year."

Quatrain and Elly Ficca continued right where they left off in 2016, with championship results. The pair earned two firsts and a second to claim tricolor honors in the 3'3" Junior Hunter. 

Liza credited Elly's dedication and time in the saddle over the winter or their immediate success the first week.

"She practiced a lot in December, and she was dedicated and committed to coming to Camden to ride," said Liza. "Elly is really one of the most dedicated students. She worked with trainer Tamara Berkowitz, too, and did a lot of training without stirrups, and so we were able to go to the next level with her. She also got to know the horse better, which she started leasing last fall. She practiced some challenging handy courses at home because I wanted her to be over prepared. I made it harder in lessons so that when she came down here any questions she might have had would have been ironed out at home, and it all worked out so well."

 Zola Thompson and Elegance

Zola Thompson and Elegance

Zola Thompson's hard work also paid off when she walked out of the ring with a blue ribbon in the competitive Medium Pony Hunter section. "With 36 medium ponies, it was a great ribbon," said Liza. "She's had her pony Elegance for a year now, and they've formed a strong partnership. I'm so glad she is able to spend another year with Elegance and not start a new pony at WEF. She and Jack (Towell) have worked really hard, and it was a big moment for her."

Over in the jumper rings, Lily Bennett showed off her talents with Zimba and Athina 18, earning the Children's Jumper, 15-17, reserve championship with Zimba and placing third in the Classic.  

"It's really amazing considering that last year was her first year on the jumpers," said Liza. "She's learned so much over the past year. To go right into the de Nemethy ring, one of the largest and most impressive rings at WEF, and do so well was fantastic. I'm very excited as to how she’s developed as a jumper rider."

Maggie Hill has also come a long way from her start at WEF last year in the 2'6" classes. The Wyoming-based junior rider is now regularly winning in the Children's Hunters at 3' and on the cusp of moving up to the next level.

"Maggie is going to stay in Florida for the season and go to school here, so I'm excited to see where her riding goes this winter," said Liza. "Even though we hadn't seen her since November, she was consistent on all of her horses. After riding dressage at home, she's very fit and strong, so we just have some fine-tuning to do over the jumps, but she's right on track for a great circuit."

Maggie showed Parkland, Co Co Chanel and Tasty to excellent ribbons, including victory in the under saddle on Parkland. She was also seventh in the THIS Medal aboard Tasty, where she scored an 80 over a very techincial course.

Mary Carton Mitchener, of Charlotte, N.C., left the junior ranks and moved up to the adult section this year, taking consistent ribbons her first time out in the Adult Amateur, 18-35, section aboard Trinity.

"It was a great start for Mary Carton, and we look forward to the rest of the circuit," said Liza, who also guided Trinity to a reserve championship ribbon in the 3'3" Performance Working Hunter section.

Kelly Maloney and Justified jumped impressively in the Masters section, with two clear-round blue ribbons and fifth in the $10,000 Don Little Masters Jumper Classic.

Abigail Poss and Upset De Talma started their equitation season with solid performances and ribbons in the competitive Equitation, 15-17, section. Liza was especially impressed with Abigail's ASPCA Maclay performance, where she jumped a solid over fences round and was called back for the flat phase out of 71 entries.

 Elle Boyd and Otis Spunkmeyer

Elle Boyd and Otis Spunkmeyer

Liza's daughter, Elle, finished her first week at WEF with lots of smiles and ribbons in the cross rails section, with assistance from international grand prix rider Uncle Hardin, who helped her to learn her courses.

"She’s gotten so brave now," said Liza laughing. "Trainer Charlie Moorcroft said, 'Look at her hunting those jumps! She looks just like her mom!' She's even been jumping in the ticketed warm ups, which is a step up for her. She's now cantering the entire courses and having so much fun. She loves being down here and taking care of her pony Otis."

This year Elle, a first-grader, is attending Upper Echelon Academy from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday where she has tutoring and classroom time with her peers.

"She’s making good friends, too, and is very busy down here," said Liza. "Then she comes to the barn and has her afternoon lessons with her grandfather, Jack. They take it all very seriously, and he treats her like a student/client, and she loves it."

 Elle Boyd learning her course from mother Liza and Uncle Hardin Towell.

Elle Boyd learning her course from mother Liza and Uncle Hardin Towell.

Posted on January 19, 2017 .