By Jennifer Walker for LEG Up News
After coming remarkably close to winning the PCHA Adult Medal Final several times before, Virginia Fout (Archie Cox, trainer) celebrated her very first medal final victory at the Portuguese Bend National Horse Show (Sep 4-6). “I’ve placed second, third, and fourth in this particular final, so this win means so much to me,” Virginia shared. “I was pretty emotional when they first announced I won it.”
Virginia Fout and Classified celebrate their win in the PCHA Adult Medal Final. Photo: Captured Moment Photography.
Virginia’s victory was even more meaningful because of the special bond she shares with Classified, affectionately known as Pine. “Pine is part of my family. He was originally being trained to race by my father. He wasn’t very fast, but my father loved him,” Virginia recalled. “The summer my father passed away, Pine was a three-year-old and he got the boot from the racing barn. He just didn’t have the stamina to become a racehorse! Thankfully, his owner Beverly ‘Peggy’ Steinman generously gave him to me to make into a show horse. I brought him to California and we’ve been going strong ever since.”
The pair have been together for a decade now and have shared many successes together. “I began riding with Archie Cox and managed to take Pine indoors as a five-year-old in the Amateur Owner Hunters. I have been fortunate enough to take him to the east coast several times to compete indoors and go to numerous equitation finals,” Virginia elaborated. “After so many years, we’ve gotten to know each other very well and trust each other completely. I often say that if the jump were on fire, he would jump it if I asked him to! He truly is a kind and special horse and he has a home for life with me.”
Photo: Captured Moment Photography
The special bond between Virginia and Pine is apparent inside and outside the ring. After a beautiful first round in the medal finals which earned the second place, Virginia found the win was within her grasp once again. She gave it her all in the second round over a challenging course. “The most difficult part of the second round was the slightly blind approach from fence 2 to fences 3A and B,” she explained. “The turn was slightly obstructed by fence 6, so you had to be sure to have your eye on the jump so your horse would know where you were going.” The pair nailed the second round and in fact, demonstrated such consistency that judge did not even call for a work-off. “It is so exciting to finally accomplish this goal after trying year after year,” Virginia said. “I really enjoy these finals too. Portuguese Bend is a special show for a wonderful cause. All the volunteers do such a great job putting it on and it’s wonderful that it benefits Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.” Virginia also won the overall High Point Adult Rider award.
As a mother to a young daughter and a professional event planner, Virginia has a lot on her plate. “I always try to keep riding a priority, but it’s a balancing act for sure. I produce events for a living though, so I guess it’s just one more thing to throw into the mix,” she laughed. “I try to ride three to five times a week, but it all depends on my work schedule. So long as I ride as much as I can, I’m happy because it’s truly in my blood and also my form of therapy.” Virginia’s daughter is slowly learning to ride and getting comfortable around horses.
Grady Lyman and Sinatra’s Ruhm, winner of the PCHA Horsemanship Finals. Photo: Captured Moment Photography.
Like Virginia, Grady Lyman (Michelle Stubbs, John Bragg, and Karen Healey, trainers) has competed in the medal finals before, reaching the top ten in the PCHA Horsemanship Finals the past two years. “I was beyond excited when they called my name as the overall winner! Going into the class, I was a little nervous because it is my last year riding in the 14 and under division. I had the support of my trainers and a wonderful horse, so I decided to just give it my all.” Grady shared. “I’m so grateful to Kristi Clarkson for letting me ride her horse, Sinatra’s Ruhm. He’s got the best mind and is an amazing equitation horse. I also couldn’t have done this without Karen Healey, who trained me at the show, and also my trainers at home.”
Grady and Sinatra’s Ruhm made a clean sweep in the finals, winning all three rounds of competition. For most riders, the pressure would have really been turned up going into the last round of a medal final in the lead. However, Grady was calm and collected. “I didn’t feel that much pressure since I had also been in the lead during the CPHA Junior Finals, which I ended up winning. So I think that helped me learn how to cope with the pressure of being in first, which made it easier this time around.”
The finals were by no means easy though, and Grady had to pull out all the stops for the final round. “It was definitely more challenging than the previous rounds, but I liked the way it was designed and the way it rode,” she commented. “We had to execute a counter canter, a trot jump, a hand gallop, and a halt, all in one course. I was in the lead by a few points, so I knew that I didn’t have to do anything crazy. We made our ride as simple as possible to minimize the chances of a mistake and kept it even and consistent.”
Photo: Captured Moment Photography.
Like many riders, Grady had a blast doing what she loves while also supporting Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “It was unbelievable competing, spending time with friends, and giving back to charity at the same time,” Grady noted. “I especially loved petting the Carousel mini therapy horses.” Grady is looking forward to hopefully competing in the ASPCA Maclay Regionals and USET Talent Search Finals.
Stay tuned for more coverage of the 58th Annual Portuguese Bend Horse Show, a USEF Heritage Show, including the $2,000 Junior/AO Hunter Classic, $15,000 Seahorse Jumper Classic, the $10,000 Barby Hartwig Hereford Junior/Amateur Owner Jumper Classic and more!