Left to right: Patty Foster with her daughter, Ashley, and sister, Marylisa Leffler, during a busy day of riding at the Vermont Summer Festival. Photo by Jump Media.
By Lindsay Brock/Jump Media
For most families, when the final bell sounds indicating the end of another school year, it also signifies the start of a summer full of beach vacations, sunshine, and non-stop fun. For horse show families, it represents something even more special. It marks the time of year when they can show together!
As the weather warms and the days lengthen, one of the most popular horse show destinations for families is the Vermont Summer Festival, nestled among the green mountains of southern Vermont. We caught up with three families that can always be spotted at the Vermont Summer Festival, and that are making their plans for the 2017 edition. They may come from different parts of the country and have different goals for the six-week circuit but their experiences, both in and out of the show ring, can be summed up in two words: family fun.
For Rolling Acres Show Stables, horse sport has been a family tradition and the Vermont Summer Festival has always played a role. Family ties bind the Rolling Acres team, led by Patty and Kevin Foster, their 21-year-old daughter, Ashley, as well as Patty’s sister and accomplished rider, Marylisa Leffler. Based in Montgomery County, Maryland, the 200-acre farm has had a temporary home in Vermont for nearly 20 years.
“Ashley was two years old when we first came to the Vermont Summer Festival,” said Patty who, after a successful career in the irons, now manages Rolling Acres Show Stables from the ground. “It always was, and still is, my favorite show. The Vermont Summer Festival feels more like the shows did when I was still competing. We used to have so much more fun in those days and we find that again when we are in Vermont. From shopping to enjoying the restaurants and doing things like tubing or fly fishing, we always have a ball. We love being together as a family and Vermont is a family-friendly place.”
While some families may pile in a car for a road trip or gather around a table to share a meal, the Rolling Acres family does their bonding among horses. Patty still enjoys watching from the sidelines, but when they converge in Vermont, Kevin can be spotted competing in amateur jumper divisions and Marylisa is among those chasing blue ribbons in the weekly hunter derby and grand prix offerings. As the next generation emerges, Ashley has already made a name for herself at the Vermont Summer Festival with frequent wins in both the hunter and jumper rings.
“I don’t remember a summer where we didn’t come to the Vermont Summer Festival,” said Ashley. “I used to show in the leadline there, and my favorite memories from my junior years were definitely competing in the ‘Equitation Tuesday’ classes. Now as an adult, I will be competing in the amateur divisions.”
A recent graduate of Auburn University, Ashley plans to return to the family business and, perhaps one day, carry the torch for her family as they head off to spend another summer at the Vermont Summer Festival.
For the Torano family, the Vermont Summer Festival feels a little more like home than just another horse show. The late Raul ‘Ruly’ Torano, uncle to grand prix rider, Jimmy Torano, considered the Vermont Summer Festival to be a special event and was a generous supporter for many years. Today, the $10,000 Sir Ruly, Inc. Open Jumper Awards are named in his honor and his wife, Maria Teresa, still owns a home located minutes from the showgrounds. For several weeks each summer, the Torano family shares that home while competing at the Vermont Summer Festival.
“Ruly loved this horse show so much,” said Jimmy, who owns and operates JET Show Stables based in Mohrsville, Pennsylvania, and Wellington, Florida, alongside his wife, Danielle. “We have been coming to Vermont for over 20 years and we enjoy everything about it.”
Ten years ago, Jimmy and Danielle’s passion for horse sport was passed down to the next generation of Toranos. Now ten and seven respectively, their daughter, Natalia, and son, JJ, are giving their parents a run for their money in the ribbon department. While their parents are often seen competing, and winning, in the grand prix ring, Natalia and JJ both made their competitive debuts in the leadline classes.
“What I like most about showing in Vermont is that they have classes for everybody and anybody, and we have so many friends and family who can come and watch,” said Danielle. “I feel like we can relax a little; it feels like home.”
Relaxation by Torano standards may differ from the average family as Danielle, Jimmy, Natalia, and JJ often spend their only day off each week exploring what Vermont has to offer in outdoor entertainment. From swimming to hiking and the occasional cliff jump, they try to make the most of their time at the Vermont Summer Festival.
Summer vacation means one thing for the Schauder sisters; horse showing! Emma, 21, Lindsay, 18, and Avery, 12, accompany their mother, Christina, and father, Fred, to the Vermont Summer Festival each summer to compete for their family-owned and operated Country Lane Farm of Greenwich, CT. It would be considered a working vacation for most, but the Schauders embrace any opportunity to horse show together.
“Training your own children doesn’t always work for everyone, but I enjoy every moment I am with them,” said Christina, who makes an effort to incorporate her daughters into the running of her business. “They know how to go into a ring, walk a course, and almost put themselves in the ring by themselves. I am confident they could run a barn all on their own and I am proud of that.”
While Avery masters the pony ranks, Emma and Lindsay have most recently been seen winning ribbons in hunter derby competition at the Vermont Summer Festival. However, sibling rivalries remain cordial for the three girls.
“Riding against my sisters is actually really fun because I get to watch them and learn from them,” said Lindsay, who is set to embark on her freshman year at Texas A&M University this fall.
For Lindsay’s older sister, Emma, the Vermont Summer Festival has been a part of her show schedule since she first sat in a saddle. Emma recently graduated from the University of Georgia and is eager to return to Vermont this summer, saying, “We have seen the Vermont Summer Festival get better and better each year. It has become a second home for me, my family, and our barn.