Well-trained horses are wanted: Great American Ranch and Trail Horse Sale a spring hit

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The Great American Ranch and Trail Horse Sale takes place each April at the Virginia Horse Center and along with the auction on Saturday, includes two competitions for sale horses.

As the weather warms and the sun starts to feel just a bit warmer, daydreams shift to the promise of another great season of trail riding and hours spent on a favorite horse climbing the Blue Ridge Mountains or cantering along a river at James River State Park.

Last weekend (April 13-14, 2018) in Virginia, both fabulous weather and plans for great trail rides converged at the Virginia Horse Center for the Great American Ranch and Trail Horse Sale as 120 horses, hundreds of buyers and even more spectators gathered for another sale.

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Unique to this sale are the competitions open only to consigned horses. The ranch horses go first on Friday afternoon in a class the requires them to perform an AQHA ranch horse pattern and then box and rope a cow.  On Friday evening, another class of horses tackles a trail course that features obstacles such as logs, a bridge, brush, a campsite complete with campfire and a bear, an outhouse in which they must ground tie outside while the rider steps inside and a horse trailer that the horse hops inside. It also often includes a few surprises like a live animal. This year it included a goat along the trail. Horses may only enter one of the competitions.

After the Top 10 performers from Friday night came back for the Trail Horse finals on Saturday morning, Steve Meadows of Virginia and Ima Sweet Machine (Hip No. 10) took home the top prize in an especially strong group of finalists. Meadows’ 2008 black gelding then later sold in the sale for $30,000. The Reserve in the trail class went to John Roberts riding Marion G. Valerio’s AQHA gelding Get Your Shine On. He later sold for $11,700.

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Steve Meadows and Ima Sweet Machine took home the big check in the Trail Horse competition.
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Get Your Shine on and John Roberts (left) were the Reserve Champion in the Trail Horse competition.
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Tanner Keith and Hy Rem Cowboy took home the Ranch Horse title.

The ranch horse competition is in just its second year at the sale. The class showcases the working ranch horses and their ability to work cattle. In his first year consigning horses to the sale, Tanner Keith of Virginia had three of the Top 5 horses. Winning the class was Keith’s Hy Rem Cowboy, Hip No. 68. Later in the sale his price did not reach the reserve. Reserve champion was Keith’s RobPaulPayPeter, Hip No. 111. He later sold for $6,600.

While many years a champion for the competitions is also the high seller, this year it was pure beauty that took the sale by storm. Hip No. 45, GG Jonah, a gorgeous 2008 black Gypsy Vanner gelding consigned by Buckeye Acre Farm of Ohio stirred hearts all across the country before the sale. And it was a series of phone bids that sent his sale price to $40,000, topping this year’s sale. A video of the bidding can be found here.

Horses really are available at all budgets. Some prices came in at less than $2,000, many ranged between $3,000 – $8,000, and then top sellers brought more than $10,000. Some of 2018’s top sellers included:

  • Roan Hancock Gin (Hip No. 15), 2012 AQHA gelding, $33,000
  • A Pleasure Bar Time (Hip No. 116), 2008 APHA sorrel overo gelding, $31,000
  • FQHR Buddy Blue (Hip No. 49) 2011 AQHA blue roan gelding, $24,000
  • Dun Dun It Again (Hip No. 51) 2007 AQHA Buckskin gelding, $20,000
  • BJs Perty Charlie (Hip No. 31), 2008 AQHA grullo gelding, $19,500
  • Buckeye’s Breeze (Hip No. 60), 2013 Gypsy/QH cross gelding, $19,500
  • Buckeye’s Phantom (Hip No. 23), 2010 Andalusion/AQHA cross gelding, $18,500
  • The Principle Chip (Hip No. 87), 2004 ApHC Brown gelding, $16,000
  • Just Driftin Roan, (Hip No. 25), 2014 Bay Roan AQHA gelding, $14,000
  • You Can Call Me Darlin (Hip No. 21), 2011 Molly Mule, $12,500
  • FQHR Cortez (Hip No. 33) 2012 AQHA Dun gelding, $12,000

Live videos and photos from the sale are also available for viewing on the sale’s Facebook page. Watch the slideshow below for more photos from around the sale.

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‘Horse Whisperer’ coming to Virginia Horse Center in October

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Buck Brannaman

One of the things I love the most about living in the Roanoke region of Virginia is having the Virginia Horse Center just a short jaunt up Interstate 81. The first class horse facility brings top competition and horsemen to our region each year, and 2018 will be no exception.

If you are a fan of natural horsemanship, one of the very top clinicians will be visiting the East Complex on Oct. 5-7, 2018. Buck Brannaman was the inspiration for the movie and novel character Tom Booker from “The Horse Whisperer.” He was also the equine consultant on the film. A documentary about Brannaman called “Buck,”Buck directed by Cindy Meehl, won the U.S. Documentary Competition Audience Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

Brannaman will hold Foundation Horsemanship and Horsemanship classes at the October clinic. For more information, contact taylorf7@vt.edu. Brannaman’s website lists clinic costs at $700 for three days of class participation as a rider and an auditing fee of $30 a day.

The classes offered are described as follows:

Foundation Horsemanship

This new class is for the green rider or a green horse who may feel the need for additional groundwork prior to riding. During each of the three-day sessions half of the class is dedicated to working the horse from the ground in preparation for riding, with the second half of the class horseback.

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For the green horse and rider already comfortable in the snaffle bit along with aged horses needing continued work. This is the first stage of progressing into the bridle with all basic movements introduced. All levels of riders – no matter what discipline – will benefit. The class features strictly dry work – no cattle. All maneuvers stress the vaquero style of riding and are appropriate for horses from first level snaffle to experienced bridle horses. Hackamore horses welcome.

Brannaman, of Sheridan, Wyo., spends much of his year on the road holding clinics around the globe. For instance, his 2018 schedule includes stops in Australia, Italy and throughout the U.S., although most stops are in the Western U.S.

“I often tell people in the clinics, the human possesses the one thing that means more to the horse than anything in the world, and that is peace and comfort,” Brannaman told ABC News in 2012. “That’s all they want.”

The trainer grew up a child of abuse, terrified of their widowed father who forced him and his brothers to perform trick roping.

“The horses at that time in my life, they saved my life,” Brannaman told Weir. “The horses did way for me than I did for them. So they were my friends, and they were sort of my refuge. So it’s interesting that I’ve been given the opportunity to spend the rest of my life making things better for the horses.”

Brannaman is known for his quiet approach to gaining respect from horses. He emphasizes that respect and fear are not the same thing. He was for many years a disciple of Ray Hunt, one of the founders of the natural horsemanship movement, and also inspired by Tom and Bill Dorrance.

Cross View Horse Show holds July installment of its 2017 series

CrossViewBLOG-0306The Cross View Horse Show series continued last weekend at Green Hill Park Equestrian Center with a two-day horse show. Saturday featured hunters/jumpers and Sunday featured an all-breed open horse show with a special division of gaited horses.

The Cross View series is a great show for all levels of riders looking for a well-run show with a low-pressure, community atmosphere. Along with the competition, vendors also camped out in the grassy section between the two arenas.

Green Hill Equestrian Center offers three arenas with dirt footing. There is a large field across from the arenas for easy trailer parking, even for the largest of rigs. There also limited stalls available. The Green Hill venue does get hot in the summer with limited shade, so bring your pop up canopies or consider arriving early to secure a spot near the woods.

The show moves along fairly quickly. On Sunday, the gaited horses and model/showmanship started the show in separate arenas. The gaited portion was completed by 11 a.m and featured Rocky Mountain Horses, Tennessee Walking Horses, Saddlebreds and Peruvian Pasos among the horses shown.

See a photo you love? Photos taken at the Cross View Horse Show can be purchased online by clicking here.

Turnout was good considering the heat in July. Youth classes were particularly well attended with 10-15 in the youth pleasure classes. However the adult classes on Sunday weren’t as well attended and the English pleasure division had just one adult showing this time. Classes run $9/class.

Cross View would hold the last show in its 2017 series on Sept. 23-24 at Green Hill Equestrian Center, where it will crown the high point winners for the entire series.

Below are a sample of photos from the weekend. These photos and many others are available for purchase at roanokeequestrian.smugmug.com.

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Roanoke Valley Horse Show continues to evolve at Virginia Horse Center

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Ceil Wheeler and Callaway’s Brioni. Photo courtesy of Shiflet Photography
The Roanoke Shenandoah Valley Horse Show returned to the Virginia Horse Center on June 21-25. And while high-steppin’ horses took to the Coliseum to compete for top honors, there were no high jumps in a chase for a title.

While technically this is a continuation of the show once run by the Roanoke Valley Horseman’s Association at the Salem Civic Center and hosted by the Virginia Horse Center in 2016, the show is now under new management, R.H. Bennett, of Shelbyville, Kentucky. 

The 2017 show was a very different affair than what fans will remember from 1972-2014. The hunter/jumper classes that were at the heart of the multi-breed Salem show are no more. Nor are the barrels or Western classes that were traditionally held on Monday. And fans would not find a Grand Prix of Roanoke to cap the event on Saturday night. This year’s show showcased only American Saddlebreds.

The show, begun in 1972, has been granted United States Equestrian Federation designation as a USEF Heritage Competition. The designation is only given to those competitions that have made substantial contributions toward the development of the sport, promote and practice equestrian ideals of sportsmanship, and have been established for a long period of time.

For 2017, there were 103 classes. Horses come from far and wide with  23 states represented. Spectators were admitted at no charge. The Salem show sold tickets to its evening classes.

During this year’s competition, Ceil Wheeler and her own Callaway’s Brioni took home the championship in the ASB Ladies Five Gaited Championship. The reserve champion was presented to Phyllis Brookshire aboard Man on the Move.

Suzanne Wright and Fort Chiswell’s Wild Kiss earned the ASB Five Gaited Show Pleasure Adult championship, with the reserve championship going to Jennie Garlington riding Kalarama’s New Moon.

In the Hackney Pony Pleasure Adult Championship, it was Toni Nastali aboard Sandra Surber’s Heartland Resplendent that received the tricolor. The reserve champion in the Hackney division went Patty Hylton riding her own, Crystal Creek’s Legacy.

The win in the ASB Fine Harness Jackpot went to Larry Hodge aboard Trust My Imagination, owned by Hillcroft Farm. Hodge also took home the win in the ASB Five Gaited Jackpot, this time aboard Two Sweet to Kiss.

The ASB Five Gaited Jackpot was dedicated to Matt Shiflet’s grandfather, Claude Shiflet, a trainer whose family has been coming to the Roanoke Valley Horse Show from the beginning. The Shiflet family was honored before the class.

Related:

Former Roanoke Valley Horse Show has new name, format

Alexa Lowe-Wiseman wins Rockbridge Grand Prix on Synapse De Blondel

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Alexa Lowe-Wiseman rode Synapse De Blondel to a win in the Rockbridge Grand Prix on April 29, 2017.
In the end, careful was more important than fast as show jumping took center stage at the Virginia Horse Center on Saturday, April 29. Alexa Lowe-Wiseman and Windsor Farm’s Synapse De Blondel were the only combination to produce a double clear effort, winning the $30,000 Rockbridge Grand Prix and Dubliner Trophy. Out of 14 entries, five returned for the jump-off, with Wiseman qualifying with two mounts.
Synapse De Blondel, a 10-year-old Selle Francais mare, had previously shown with
Wiseman in her first grand prix as a sale horse a year earlier. “My mother negotiated a trade deal with Nicholas Pio to get Blondie (Synapse De Blondel) to stay in the family after the great year we had, so it was my first grand prix with her as ours. It was very special and very exciting for Synapse De Blondel to win.”
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Alexa Lowe-Wiseman and Udstrum Du Lys also qualified for the jump-off round.

Wiseman had the first and last attempt at the jump-off. Her first was aboard Udstrum Du Lys, a green horse who was competing in his first grand prix. Each competitor had a rail down throughout the jump-off when Wiseman entered the arena for her second round on Synapse De Blondel.

 

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Christofoloni H
Christofoloni H and Manuel Torres
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FVF Sailor Man and Maryann Charles
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FVF Sailor Man ridden by Maryann Charles
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Brooke Kemper on Classified
“Normally the strategy, if everyone has had a rail, you still have to go fast because if you also have a rail you don’t want to be the slowest 4-faulter. Knowing that I was the last one on course on my chestnut mare that is so careful I actually played it safe and executed a slower, but safe, clear round. It’s nice when you know that you can count on your horse to leave the jump when you are sitting in that position.”
Although completing the fastest round in the jump-off, Colombian rider Andrea Torres Guerreiro took second place aboard her own Fifty Shades, an 8-year-old Westphalian gelding. Torres Guerreiro also owned the third place finisher for Colombia, Christofolini H, a 9-year-old Rheinlander gelding ridden by Manuel Torres.
As a native Virginian, Lowe-Wiseman looks forward to continually supporting the shows at the Virginia Horse Center. “Everyone is friendly, the horse show staff, the ladies in the office, and the stable manager. They do everything they can, including having people to run you up and down the hill in golf carts so you don’t have to walk. The grand prix is special because the crowd shows up at night and cheer you on and it’s all because of the management of the show.”
On Friday, April 28, Maria Shannon won the $3,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, claiming victory aboard Buble’, a Danish Warmblood owned by Mohammad Attar. The pair rose to the challenge with a score of 169 to claim the Laura Pickett Perpetual Trophy, donated by Rolling Acres Show Stable.
Twenty entries competed over the Paul Jewell designed course in the Wiley Arena. Buble’ — in addition to the reserve champion, Cavallino — were trained by Shannon’s mother, Claiborne Bishop of The Barracks Farm in Charlottesville, VA. Shannon has worked for the farm since 2000 where she competes in the professional divisions.
The Lexington Spring Festival continues at the horse center and will be capped by the $30,000 George L. Olhstrom Grand Prix on Saturday, May 6.

The Great American Trail Horse Sale adds ranch horses to name, competition schedule

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Ranch horse competition champion Stars Stripes N Spike boxing his cow.

The Virginia Horse Center recently hosted The Great American Ranch and Trail Horse Sale, drawing nearly 170 sale horses and hundreds of potential buyers together from April 7-8. While the weekend centers around the auction of well-broke trail and working horses, it is much more than just a horse sale. Many of the horses also vied for $1,000 Ranch Horse competition or the $2,000 Trail Horse competition the day before the sale.

LOOKING FOR HORSE SALE PHOTOS?

Click here to find a gallery of photos from the sale. We are still uploading photos from the weekend, so check back if you don’t see what you are looking for.

The trail horse competition includes eight obstacles, six of which the consignors know such as loading and unloading from a horse trailer or crossing a bridge, and two surprise elements. This year’s surprise included an adorable yet formidable donkey and the ringing of a hanging dinner bell. The course also included live chickens in a cage nearby a tent campsite, log crossings, an outhouse that required the horses to ground tie while their riders answered the call of nature and walking through brush.

All of the horses handled the course well, but only 10 could return the next morning for the trail finals. The finals included some of the same obstacles as the preliminary round, a few twists on the old obstacles, plus some new obstacles. And after each tackled the obstacles, they were given the opportunity to show off their horses in a freestyle routine that showcased the horses’ abilities. Some did reining spins and stops, illustrating their horses’ great handles, others jumped over logs, dragged barrels and spun flags and ropes over head.

In the end, a flashy 2013 sorrel APHA gelding, Doug Only Wishes, consigned by Marion G. Valerio and trained and ridden by John Roberts Performance Horses rose to the top of the 70 trail horse competitors and took home the winner’s paycheck.

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Doug Only Wishes won the Trail Horse Competition.

This year, the sale also included a ranch horse competition. Horses could be shown in either of the two competitions, but not both. The ranch horse class was meant to show the horses’ abilities at working with cattle and performing ranch-type tasks. One at a time, each horse completed a working pattern, then boxed a cow and then illustrated the ability to be used to rope the cow.

Topping the class of about 15 was Hip #18 Stars Stripes N Spike, a 2004 sorrel AQHA gelding consigned by Odel & Susan H. Grose of North Carolina. He later sold in the sale for $14,500, the No. 4 high-seller. The high-seller of the sale was Hip #10 Shiners Spinning Top, who was reserve champion in the Ranch Horse Competition. The 2010 gray AQHA gelding, consigned by Steve Meadows, sold for $25,000.

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Shiners Spinning Top

Gaited horses were showcased on Friday night as well in a “Gaited Horse Show Off” just prior to the start of the trail horse competition.

Besides all the competitions, horses for sale, and the general excitement surrounding the auction, the Coliseum’s concourse was packed with vendors and shoppers including booths from World Class Saddlery (who also sponsored the Ranch Horse Competition), Lucky B Trailers (who sponsored the Trail Horse Competition), Bar C Designs, Cats Tack, Cavalor Care Products, Fisher Tack, Hidden West Jewelry, In Stitches, Richard Toms and many more.

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Incredibly Kool sold for $16,000.

Some other stars of the sale included Hip #56 Buckeye’s Lottery Diamond, a 2014 Gypsy Vanner/Haflinger cross tri-colored paint gelding, who sold for $20,000. He was consigned by Buckeye Acre Farm. Standing 14.3 hands high, he rode and drove.

Hip No. 24, Incredibly Kool, a 2013 sorrel gelding sold for $16,000. The proven show horse had more than 80 halter points and 30 grands and reserves.

Top 10 high-sellers:

  1. Hip 10 – Shiners Spinning Top, $25,000
  2. Hip 56 – Buckeye’s Lottery Diamond, $20,000
  3. Hip 24 – Incredibly Kool, $16,000
  4. Hip 18 – Stars Stripes N Spike, $14,500
  5. Hip 88 – Marissa, $13,500
  6. Hip 27 – Bo Jack BB King, $12,500
  7. Hip 70 – Mr Montana Peppy, $11,200
  8. Hip 46 – WR Missn Dash Jet, $11,000
  9. Hip 36 – Home on the Range, $10,500
  10. Hip 26 – Cowboys N Margaritas, $10,000

Prices were mixed throughout the day and went down to under $2,000. But many of the horses sold in the $4,000-$7,000 range. And several consignors didn’t get what they were looking for and “no sale” was announced at the close of the bidding. While some announcements of what the seller was looking for brought grumbles of disbelief from the crowd, at least one got what they were looking for and ended up with a sale afterall.

Next year’s sale and competitions will be April 13-14, 2018, at the Virginia Horse Center.

Related:

Continue reading “The Great American Trail Horse Sale adds ranch horses to name, competition schedule”

Capt. Mark Phillips new FEI course designer for Virginia Horse Trials

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By Phelps Media Group, Inc.

Capt. Mark Phillips is the new FEI course designer for the Virginia Horse Trials on May 25-28, 2017, and October 26-29, 2017.

The Virginia Horse Center features two separate cross country courses, each with rolling terrain and a stunning view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Capt. Phillips will design the CCI*, CIC2*, CCI2* and Intermediate tracks, with VHT Organizer Andy Bowles assisting at the two-star level and John Michael Durr, designer of the Beginner Novice through Preliminary courses, assisting at the one-star level.

“We’re glad to be bringing Mark to VHT,” Bowles said. “Our hope is that his experience will increase the quality of our FEI courses and present to the competitors a challenge that is true to the level and appropriate for a destination event.”

The FEI and Intermediate competitors will experience a totally new cross country challenge than in past years. The course has been reversed and a second water complex will be built.

“There had been some concern that the Oak Hill course sent horses downhill too long near the end of the course, so to lessen the impact on the horses we reversed the track,” Bowles said. “Now all the significant climbing is done within the first third of the course. This will also place the finish line and vet box closer to the road crossing back to the barns.”

The team also received feedback on the cross-country footing and so have committed considerable efforts towards preparing the best possible galloping conditions. Construction and jump placement are scheduled to be completed early to preserve the footing on cross country, and all tracks will be aerated in advance of both competitions. Mowing has already begun and will continue on a regular basis throughout the year.

This year we’re really focused on good grass maintenance. Between mowing, aerating and keeping heavy machinery off the course as much as possible, we expect the footing to be better than ever,” Bowles said.

“We’re sincerely listening to competitor feedback and making every effort to set a high standard and provide a world-class experience for horses and riders.”

The second cross country area is home to the Beginner Novice through Preliminary courses designed by John Michael Durr. As a USEF “r” Course Designer, he joined the VHT team as part of the Course Design Mentor Program in 2015 under the tutelage of John Nicholson. As part of the natural progression for the program, Durr will be assisting Capt. Phillips in designing the one-star courses this year.

“It feels great to be involved in the design of an FEI course for the first time in my career,” Durr said. “My goal as a course designer is to educate horses and riders and prepare them for the next level. Being a part of the Mentor Program has given me invaluable experience, and I’m excited for the next step in my own education as a designer.”

The Horse Center course will also feature a newly constructed water complex that will be unveiled in May. Durr feels that this addition, as well as the multitude of other new fences constructed at VHT in the last two years, will “maximize the experience” for competitors.

Interscholastic Equestrian Association Hunt Seat National Finals this weekend at Virginia Horse Center

15th Anniversary Final Logo6-colorThe Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) kicks off the 2017 Hunt Seat National Finals at the Virginia Horse Center on Friday, April 21. The competition will run through Sunday, April 23. Nearly 400 of the nation’s leading IEA Middle School and High School equestrians will converge in Lexington at the horse center’s Anderson Coliseum to compete for top honors. The student riders, in grades 6-12, will travel from across the United States to participate in this competition. Riders will compete in Hunt Seat Equitation classes over fences and on the flat throughout the weekend. Although its only a short drive from Roanoke, the show also will be available via livestream on EqSportsNet if you don’t feel like going out this soggy weekend.

Riders will compete in Hunt Seat Equitation Classes, over fences and on the flat, throughout the weekend. The format requires that riders compete in unfamiliar tack on unfamiliar mounts; therefore, they draw their horses the day of competition and enter the arena after a brief, if any, warm up.

 Judging each of the team and individual Hunt Seat classes will be Rachel Kennedy from Brookeville, Maryland and Melanie Smith Taylor from Germanton, Tennessee. Kennedy began riding at the age of 3 outside of Philadelphia at Jack Trainor’s Here and There Farm. Following a successful junior career, she rode to seven AHSA Horse of the Year titles along with numerous state titles as a professional. In 1995, Kennedy moved to Maryland and started her own business — ESP Farm. She has trained and shown numerous hunters and jumpers to championships and Grand Prix wins on the on the USEF “AA” Circuit at shows such as the Winter Equestrian Festival, NAJYRC, Capital Challenge, Devon, Ocala, Washington International, Upperville, Vermont Summer Festival, and Fairfield.

Melanie Smith Taylor also brings a wealth of experience to the IEA National Finals. Taylor became one of only two riders to ever win the Triple Crown of Show Jumping — the American Invitational, the International Jumping Derby, and the American Gold Cup — and the only person to win all three on the same horse. After winning the World Cup Final in 1982, she was named the U.S. Olympic Committee Sportswoman of the Year and inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Two years later, she capped off her show-jumping career with a team gold medal in the Los Angeles Olympic Games.

Today, Taylor serves the horse world as a clinician, a television broadcaster for major events, including the Olympics and World Championships, and a recognized judge for hunters, jumpers and hunter seat equitation.  She is also the author of Riding With Life, a comprehensive training guide detailing her unique program for setting horse and rider up for success.

The IEA Western National Finals at will be held on June 30 through July 2 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where nearly 200 of the nation’s leading middle school and high school Western equestrians will have their chance to compete in team and individual competitions in western horsemanship and reining.    

SCHEDULE:

Friday, April 24

6:00 AM     Schooling of horses
7:30 AM     Varsity Open Draw and Course Walk
8:30 AM–5 PM     (approximate)  Competition

Saturday, April 25

6:30 AM     Schooling of horses
8:00 AM     Varsity Open Draw and Course Walk
8:30 AM–2:00 PM     (approximate)  Competition
2:00 PM     Varsity Open Championship Class followed by Award of IEA                   Leading Hunt Seat Rider
3:00 PM     Parade of Teams (All IEA teams, coaches and riders scheduled to appear in arena.)
3:20 PM     IEA Lifetime Achievement Award (Adult)
4:00 PM – 6:00 PM     (approximate)  Competition

Sunday, April 26

6:00 AM     Schooling of horses
7:30 AM     Holy Innocents Horsemanship Test Finals
8:00 AM     Open and Immediate
9:00 AM–12:00 PM     (approximate)   Hunt Seat Team Semi-Finals
12:00 PM–3:00 PM     (approximate)   Hunt Seat Team Finals Competition
3:00 PM     Awards Ceremony

 

Derby, hunter classic cap hunter competition at Lexington Spring Encore, Premiere at VHC

By Phelps Media Group, Inc.
The kick-off of the 2017 Lexington Spring Premiere is quickly approaching and athletes are preparing for the $3,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby which will take place on Friday, April 28 at 5 p.m. The Virginia Horse Center will host the Lexington Spring Premiere Horse Show from Wednesday, April 26, to Sunday, April 30, immediately followed by the Lexington Spring Encore from Wednesday, May 3, to Sunday, May 7.
The derby competition will take place in Wiley Arena, an outdoor ring stretching 130 feet by 300 feet with footing composed of Kruse Cushion ride. The country’s top horse and rider combinations will compete over Paul Jewell’s hunter course to demonstrate their style during two rounds to win the Laura Pickett Perpetual Trophy, donated by Rolling Acres Show Stable.
The derby has been a tradition at the Virginia Horse Center for years and most recently it was Virginia native Jason Berry aboard Cobalt Blue R, a Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Oak Ledge Farm, who claimed the title in 2016.
Combinations participating in the Green or High Performance Conformation Hunter Divisions during the Spring Premiere and Encore will be eligible to qualify for the $7,500 Huntland Conformation Hunter Challenge Series. In an effort to promote the growth of the Conformation Hunter divisions in Virginia horse shows, the Challenge Series was created and sponsored by Dr. Betsee Parker and Huntland. Qualifying winners must compete at the Upperville Colt and Horse Show where the champion and reserve will be crowned.
New this year for the Lexington Spring Festival is the Trainer Incentive Program, offering one free stall per barn for a trainer-owned, professionally ridden show horse. This program is geared to help professionals in the process of developing young horses for competition.
Moving into the Lexington Spring Encore, the $15,000 Virginia Horse Center Hunter Classic will take center stage on Friday, May 5th at 5 p.m. Any horse participating in at least one of the hunter divisions at Virginia Horse Center is eligible to enter.
Unique to this class, $12,500 will be awarded in Classic prize money, while the remaining $2,500 in the form of a Jr./Amateur bonus, sponsored by Dorna Taintor, for the top six scoring Juniors or Amateurs.
Returning to the Wiley Arena, hunters will complete a Regular Classic Course over a minimum of 10 fences set at 3′ or 3’5″ for the first round. Only the top 12 scoring horses will qualify to compete in a second Classic round over a shortened course.
The Lexington Spring Premiere and Lexington Spring Encore are two of the biggest events of the spring for the Virginia Horse Center. In addition to the $3,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, the Lexington Spring Premiere is a World Champion Hunter Rider Event and features the $30,000 Rockbridge Grand Prix. The $15,000 Virginia Horse Center Hunter Classic takes center stage during the Lexington Spring Encore, followed by the $30,000 George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Grand Prix.

Show jumping caps Lexington Premiere, Encore horse shows at Virginia Horse Center

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The Virginia Horse Center will once again host two grand prix show jumping events in the coming weeks. The $30,000 Rockbridge Grand Prix will take place on Saturday, April 29, and the $30,000 George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Grand Prix on Saturday, May 6.
During the Lexington Spring Premiere on Saturday, April 29, the $30,000 Rockbridge Grand Prix will be held in the Coliseum at 6:30 p.m., where riders will vie for the coveted Dubliner Trophy donated by Margaret Price. Declarations to the show office are due no later than 6 p.m. on Friday, April 28th and the entry fee is $500. Both Grand Prix classes held during the Lexington Spring Festival are eligible for inclusion on the Rolex/USEF Show Jumping Ranking List.
Last year,  Mary Lisa Leffler rode Bling Bling to a double clear and top honors. “It’s just one of my favorite events,” she said. “The hospitality of the Virginia Horse Center is second to none. They try so hard during the evening grand prix and they really put on a good horse show. The best part of the whole thing last year was that my sister drove my parents down, so they finally got to see their horse compete. Having them there and winning was great!”
The pinnacle of the Lexington Spring Encore will be the $30,000 George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Grand Prix also in the Coliseum at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 6. Declarations are due no later than 6 p.m. on Friday, May 5.
Last year Colombia’s Manuel Torres piloted Christofolini H, a Rheinlander gelding owned by Andrea Torres Guerreiro, to victory. “For us, it is one of our favorite shows of the year,” Torres said. “We love the crowd, the facilities, and the stabling — the horses are very relaxed here. We come every year and we really like it. They always pick really good course designers to come and do these two weeks of competition, so it is very exciting for us to come to the Virginia Horse Center.”