Articles: Horse News
Liza Boyd Rides Her Olympic Hunter To Victory
In The 14th AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular
Louise Serio and Castle Rock were third in the 14th annual AHJF Hunter
Classic Spectacular at the FTI Winter
PRESS LINK PR/Diana De Rosa
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February 20, 2010 Wellington, FL He is my Olympic hunter, commented Liza
Boyd after she nailed her third victory in the 14th annual AHJF Hunter
Classic Spectacular in Wellington FL, aboard her seasoned mount, Brunello.
She won the very first one on Monday Morning in 1997 and then in 2008 tasted
victory again on Fiyero. Now just 3 months after the birth of her first
child (Ellen) it was important to prove she still had what it takes. Yet,
it wasnt just knowing that victory is sweet that inspired her.
Liza, second place finisher Peter Pletcher riding Vibe and third place
finisher Louise Serio and Castle Rock talked about the stress leading up to
this class because of how important it is for them to qualify. Liza
recalled that as she entered the arena for her final round it was the stress
of the week that motivated her. As she entered the arena she said to
herself, Liza you have got to win this so you are prequalified for next
After her final round she left the arena and didnt look back. She knew that
everything had fallen in place but it wasnt until she heard the sound of her
dads melodious voice that she surmised she had won. I was very happy with
my round but I didnt look back at the scores. I heard my father and I know
his tone so I thought it was good.
All smiles, Liza admitted that it wasnt just for herself that she was
happy. It is a team effort and I was happy for the horse and everyone who
supported us. Everyone was thrilled even Wayne who takes care of Brunello
was hooting and hollering. Its really fun to win this class, she added.
This conquest was the final one on her check off list to prove she still has
what it takes. After having her baby, the first time back on a horse she
trotted around once, cantered around once and then jumped over a fence. Her
brother Hardin watched in disbelief. I just needed to prove to myself I
could do it, that my eye was still there. Once she knew that motherhood had
only enhanced her life she started back on the road to rebuilding to what
was needed for her to be able to enter this class.
Qualifying with Brunello gave her a certain level of comfort. My horse has
done this before and so I felt pretty good about him going around. My
biggest concern was having just had a baby I was just hoping that momma and
the horse could still do four feetI love when a plan works. It all fell
Brunello, Vibe and Castle Rock Take First, Second and Third
So, on Saturday night, February 20th at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival
Liza and her 12-year-old, 16.1H, chestnut Hanoverian gelding thrilled a
crowd and Brunellos owner, Caroline Morrison. As the 29th combination to go
out in a class of 31 in the first round they took the lead with their score
of 91. In the second round the pressure was on when Peter and Vibe scored a
91 to be combined with his first round score of 88.16. With little room to
spare Liza knew that brilliance was what she needed. Her final score of
91.83 gave her just the margin she needed to wear the championship cooler
and claim her bye.
Castle Rock ridden by Louise Serio claimed the third spot with defending
champion Kelley Farmer and Second City fourth. (Brunello 91+91.83=182.83,
Vibe 88.16+91=179.16,, Castle Rock 86.83+89.66=176.49, Second City
Being so close to victory was good enough for Peter who didnt even expect to
place well on Becky Gochmans six-year-old, 15.2H, Cassall Warmblood
gelding. The small bay had qualified out of the 1st Year Green division to
Regular working hunter Brunello.
I was pretty surprised at how good my horse did. I was a little concerned
about the lights but thought, Just try it. It doesnt matter. It will be a
good experience. And then he went around that ring under those lights as
well as any horse I have ever ridden, commented the Magnolia, TX resident
and former World Champion Hunter Rider Pro winner.
He is amazing, continued Pletcher. He is a small horse but he has the
biggest stride. I let him gallop and he was superb. He is fun. It is
horses like him that are truly what make me want to get up in the morning
and do this.
Louise was equally as proud of Bryan Baldwins 11-year-old, grey, 16.2H, KWPN
Dutch Warmblood gelding. Castle Rock was great. He does the working
hunters and he is an awesome, beautiful, good moving tough horse, explained
the Kennett Square, PA resident and also a former WCHR Pro winner.
The AHJF Hunter Classic Continues to Command the Riders (and Spectators)
Years ago the sport of hunters was at a crossroads and the road ahead was
leaning in the wrong direction but then Louise Serio came along with a goal
of breathing new life into the sport. She worked with a handful of others
to create the American Hunter-Jumper Foundation and the organization
developed a national series and the AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular. Now
years later it continues to be the class riders want to qualify for and
guests want to watch from the fundraising dinner held in the tent
overlooking the beautiful outdoor arena.
Many consider it the kick-off event of the season. We all plan our winter
show schedule around this class, explained Louise.
This was Peters third time and to him it is all about the great crowds that
this event attracts, something you never see at hunter events. The crowd at
this event has to be comparable to a jumper grand prix, he commented.
Liza echoed their sentiments. It is our first big class of the season. You
start to see everyones new horses and it is a good fun start to the year.
It is also fun for our owners and has become very social for them.
AHJF Executive Director Michele Perla chimed in agreement. It has become a
happening for spectators, competitors and vacationers alike. It has become
a focal point.
AHJF President Keeley Gogul agreed. You can tell from the weeks leading up
to the event how important it is because it is the talk of the horse show.
All of the riders and horses really come to the table for this class.
Everyone focuses on putting on a show and doing it as good as they can do it
to try and be the big winner. There is a lot of hard work that goes on
behind the scenes.
It is so nice for a hunter rider to have goals and classes like this,
commented former AHJF President Serio. This is a big deal for us to be
highlighted in the main ring and show off our horses, our riding and our
abilities and it is really exciting for us to do that class. All week you
are focused on getting into it.
Peter, with his usual high energy happy go lucky attitude reinforced that
noting, It is such a high pressure week of showing these horses. This year
most of my horses are really young but I still wanted to do the class
because it is such a great class to go in. Qualifying is always in the back
of your mind.
Looking around that evening one could not help but be impressed by the many
guests who supported the AHJF and the competitors by purchasing tables at
the dinner party, organized by Kim Tudor of Tudor & Company. In the seats
and Tiki Hut surrounding the arena enthused spectators enjoyed the
competition while at the same time having a chance to socialize with
friends, shop at the variety of boutiques or purchase food from one of the
fast food vendors.
Maintaining Their Cool Under Pressure
With so much pressure on them to get into the class you wonder how they
manage to maintain their perspective, their nerves and their desire to win
once the night arrives.
For Peter his nerves may very well be to his benefit. I am nervous a lot,
explained Pletcher. But a friend of mine said, Good, you should be. That
is the drive that makes you want to win.
Peter, who you can always count on to keep an audience laughing even
recalled a moment in the class where the huge jumbotron displaying his round
actually distracted him. Normally you worry about all the things that could
distract your horse but for a second he got so caught up in thinking, wow,
that is huge that I almost forgot about the black and white fence coming up,
he said with a chuckle.
I tell myself my life isnt going to change that much if I mess up, he
continued. I try not to go off course and make a fool of myself but once
you get in there you try your best to win, explained Peter, who also talked
about how the long lines in such a big class can play a role in your demise
or victory. Its those long lines where you can gallop to show off the
brilliance of your horse but meeting the next fence right is also the key.
When there arent any numbers and there is an actual line there is always a
question. Is it a 9 or 10 or 11 stride? I just stop counting and you as a
rider feel the horse and go with your gut.
Yet Louise emphasized that she still has to count even if that count changes
because that is one way for her to keep her cool but also, I tell myself my
life isnt going to change that much if I mess up. I try not to go off
course and make a mistake but once you get in there you try your best to
win, she affirmed.
A Big Thank You to the AHJF and Equestrian Sport Production
The AHJF was formed in 1992 to further the development of the equestrian
sport of show hunter rider and show jumping competition by providing a
national office to organize, coordinate and support hunter rider and show
jumping equestrian competition. Other programs of the AHJF include the World
Championship Hunter Rider Awards, Bowling for Equestrians, which is a
fundraiser to benefit the benevolent arm of the AHJF (the Emergency Relief
Fund) and the AHJF Junior Hunter Challenge.
Since its inception in 1997, the AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular has been a
highlight. Champion and reserve champion riders, who are current members of
the AHJF, qualify throughout the week in the various hunter divisions to
compete in this prestigious two-round competition under the lights. This
year a total of $42,200 (through 12th place) was awarded with $12,000
guaranteed to the winner.
Six judges were paired in teams of two and positioned in three places around
the arena. Thirty-one horses competed in the first round and the top eight
came back for a second round. The height of the fences varied from 36 to 4.
Mr. & Mrs. S. Craig Lindner along with Mr. & Mrs. Jeremy Jacobs chaired the
gala dinner party which took place in the Internationale Club. The annual
dinner party overlooking the main arena is one of the AHJF's major
This year in addition to its usual extensive media coverage the event was
also featured on a local radio program, TudorTalks, was chosen by WHDT World
Sports TV as one of the featured four programs they cover each week, was
streamed live from the horse show grounds so even those not in attendance
could view the event and was featured with its own section on the USEFs
Thanks to out to many people for its success but special accolades go to
Michael Morrissey, David Burton Jr., Mark Bellissimo and the entire staff of
Equestrian Sports Production. Without their support and recognition of the
value of this event, the night would not be possible. Over the years our
partnership with the management of this Wellington winter circuit has
succeeded in creating an event that all hunter riders aspire to compete in,
In addition to the prize money being distributed, the winner of the class
received a custom jacket for the winning rider, owner, trainer and groom
from Whipstick Farm Ltd. Tally Ho Products sponsored garment bags for
1st6th place and boot bags for the 7th12th place ribbon winners. The grooms
of the 1st through 4th place winners received a cash award sponsored by a
Friend of the AHJF. Essex Classic sponsored riding shirts for the WCHR High
Score Riders and the winner of the Peggy Cone Adult Hunter Classic which
takes place the following day.
All competitors were in contention for the Strapless Challenge, with a
trophy and check going to anyone winning the class four times.
Liza received The Dark Continent trophy, courtesy of Jim Green and the Lets
Dance Trophy, which was established by the AHJF in 2005 in honor of friend
and horseman Eugene R. Mische for his support of the AHJF Hunter Classic
In addition to the Classic, special honors are presented throughout the
week. Peter Pletcher, Kelley Farmer, Louise Serio, Scott Stewart and Sandy
Ferrell tied for a WCHR High Score of 90 in the Pro division; Laura Sexton,
Jane Gaston, Stephanie Riggio and Stacy Arani tied for the WCHR A/O 36 High
Score of 90; Emily Wygood was the WCHR A/O 33 High Score winner (88);
Victoria Colvin was the WCHR Leading Hunter Rider with the highest score of
the week (92). There was a tie for Grand Junior Champion between World
Time, ridden by Victoria Colvin and owned by Scott Stewart and Madison,
ridden by Lillian Keenan and owned by Stewart Moran. They won the Lyrick
Trophy. Zoom owned by Laura Sexton received the Mark R. Gregory Memorial
Trophy for Excellence as the best conditioned horse in the first round.
In 2010 the AHJF also hosts the WCHR Professional Finals (October 8 in Upper
Marlboro, MD) and the 2011 AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular will be back in
February of 2011.
For information about the Hunter Classic, the AHJF or its programs, contact
the AHJF at PO Box 369, West Boylston, MA 01583-0369, call 508-835-8813,
fax 508-835-6125, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their web site at
Photos of the event are at this link.