Above Photo: Color Up and Lauren Watts were Champion in the 3’6″ Juniors at the World Equestrian Center and won the combined Junior Hunter Classic with scores of 86 and 88!
By Sissy Wickes
Caves Farm trainer Katie Cooper and her associate, Katie Francella, traveled from Owings Mills, MD, to Wilmington, OH, to compete at two consecutive horse shows at the beautiful World Equestrian Center. Bringing sixteen horses with them, the team accrued numerous Championships and Reserve Championships during their stay.
Cherry Knoll Farm’s Sandlot is Cooper’s unabashed favorite. Competing in the High Performance Hunter division, Sandlot, or “Star” as he is adoringly called, was Reserve Champion week one and Champion week two in the 3’6” Performance division, as well as placing second and third in the International Hunter Derbies. “He is the best horse I have ever ridden,” moons Cooper. “He is not always the easiest, but he has taught me so much in the past four years.”
In addition to Sandlot’s success, Cooper also dominated the 3’ Green Hunter division with two green prospects, Dapper and Palmer. Both horses were making their recognized debuts, and Cooper was thrilled with their performances. She compliments the quiet atmosphere and ample schooling areas at WEC as a bonus to young horses. “I love it here because there is a calm demeanor to the facility. The staff is so nice and there is plenty of room to get your horses out and relax them.” Dapper and Palmer were Champion and Reserve Champion respectively during the second week of competition.
The professional divisions were not the only place that the Caves Farm contingent shined. Junior rider Lauren Watts was unstoppable on her sister’s mount, Color Up, winning Championship in the Older Large Junior Hunter division and winning the Junior Hunter Classic. Lauren’s parents, Emily and Rick, are horse show veterans who praise the amenities of WEC. “All of the rings are spectator friendly and had good, comfortable seating. Lauren took advantage of one of the two rider’s lounges stocked with snacks and drinks to escape and do homework.”
Amateur jumper riders Molly Wolfe and Alys Howland represented Caves Farm well in the jumper divisions. Wolfe and Ballymoons VDL Cavalier were Champion in the Adult Jumpers and moved up to a win in the Low Amateur division. Howland had a successful start to the season with two mounts in the Low Amateurs.
Two mother and daughter duos had great success at WEC. Holly and Rylan VanCourt went back to Maryland with numerous ribbons from the adult and short stirrup divisions. Trainer Katie Francella laughs, “All Rylan wanted to do was win one of ‘those crazy ribbons,’ as she called them!” Both Robin and daughter Annabella Bozzuto had great results for their efforts. Young Annabella was second in the Pony Hunter Classic out of 29 on Our Song.
Not to be outmatched, the adult riders from Caves Farm made their mark at WEC. Caroline Lurie, Ashley Brown, and Catie Wegner were prize winners in the Adult and Amateur Hunter rings. Brown describes the facility as “the Las Vegas of the horse show world where everything is indoors and seemingly larger than life! Definitely a great experience.”
Having competed at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL, and Gulf Coast Winter Series in Gulfport, MS, in winters past, Cooper and Francella find the World Equestrian Center to be a valuable alternative. The commute is closer and easier on the horses, the expense is considerably less, and the quality of competition is excellent. Cooper explains, “With the option of WEC, I can find great double ‘A’ shows that are close enough to home to bring a variety of horses and riders. It is a great opportunity for all.”
About the Author: Sissy is a Princeton University graduate, a lifelong rider and trainer, a USEF R rated judge, a freelance journalist, an autism advocate and Editor of The Plaid Horse. Her illustrious resume includes extensive show hunter and jumper experience. She lives with her family in Unionville, PA and Wellington, FL.
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