Above: Meagan Murray-Tentua at Buena Vista Farm in Zion, Illinois.
By TPH Editor Sissy Wickes, Photography Andrew Ryback
“Sometimes, I walk out of the ring, look around, and can’t believe how lucky I am.” Thirty four year old Chicago based Meagan Murray-Tenuta is a fresh face on the horse show scene. With recent top placings at premier horse shows, including eleventh overall at the 2017 International Hunter Derby Finals, she has ascended into the rarified air of top hunter riders. Hardly an upstart, Murray-Tenuta has climbed the ladder the hard way – through grit, talent, and perseverance.
Meagan Murray grew up in Chicago showing on the local circuits. She trained with promising young professional, Jeff Katz. When she was sixteen, Katz was killed in a car accident. Her goal of competing on the A circuit was put on hold as she regrouped from the tragedy. Murray-Tenuta began a stint as a working student for a nearby sales barn, and her real education began. I catch rode whatever I could get my hands on. I rode a whole variety of talent and ability. It was quite a learning experience, Murray-Tenuta explains. She rode hot horses, green horses, and naughty ponies. She learned the skill of sitting on a horse for the first time and figuring him out in minutes in order to present to clients. She learned the challenge of a big sales barn and life on the road at horse shows.
With characteristic equanimity and focus, Murray-Tenuta persisted. She took something away from every riding experience as she built her horsemanship base. She became known as a talented and multi-faceted rider and trainer. In 2011, she was awarded the WCHR Midwest Emerging Professional Championship. Armed with a growing reputation and the desire to be independent, Murray-Tenuta started her own business called Buena Vista in 2012 at a fabulous facility in Zion, IL.
Today, Buena Vista Farm resides at the same facility, now owned by client Becky Price. With 62 stalls on 47 bucolic acres, Buena Vista is a place most horsemen dream about. Well-constructed barns and a heated indoor ring stave off the worst of Midwestern winters. A huge outdoor ring with all weather footing, lovely pastures, and a grass jump field provide all of the best amenities for horse and rider. “This has been a life long dream of mine,” said Price. “The farm is such a special place and was truly built with the care and comfort of the horses as a top priority.” Every horse at Buena Vista receives top care and training. Murray-Tenuta and her able assistant trainer, Sana Abbas, carry out individualized programs for both horses and riders at the farm. Their training regimen consists primarily of flat work for horses andpatient teaching of junior and amateur riders.
Becky Price serves as landlord, client, owner, and friend for Murray-Tenuta. A family therapist residing in Colorado, Price has had a lifelong passion for horses. In her youth, she spent most of her time trail riding off the track Thoroughbreds. As an adult, she began to take lessons and formalize her training. In 2009, Price purchased Paramount, a beautiful 17 hand white horse, which she calls a “celebrity” at the shows because of his fame. Before Price bought him, Paramount had a successful career with notable professional riders such as Jay Matter, Rob Bielefeld, and TimGoguen, as well as a roster of amateur riders. Price adores him as “the horse that taught me to ride.” Without previous horse show experience, Price rose quickly through the ranks on the able Paramount, soon arriving in the Low Amateur Owner Hunter division. Throughout graduate school and a move to Colorado, Paramount stayed in the diligent care of Murray-Tenuta. “You know that I trust Meagan and the staff at Buena Vista, because I leave my horses with her and only get to visit a few times per month,” Price laughs.
Along with Paramount, Price owns several other horses like the successful gray International Hunter Derby contender, Editorial, and the up and coming Cheeky, a green horse by the popular stallion Carrico. Price loves to ride and compete, finding success in the Amateur Owner Hunter ring on Diamante D’Heure ABF and Paramount. In 2017, she garnered the Reserve Championship in the Adult Hunter Division during WCHR Week at the ultra-competitive Winter Equestrian Festival. But, important to Murray-Tenuta, Price also loves to own horses. Owners supporting their professional riders is an essential component to the equestrian industry and seems to be a waning situation. Price explains, “I am an owner first and a competitor second. I love to ride at home, but when it comes to showing, I enjoy watching Meagan campaign the horses more than I enjoy competing myself. It is such a thrill to watch my horses in the Derbies and to see the young horses develop.”
While Price looks forward to continuing success in the saddle, her priority is promoting Murray-Tenuta. “My goal is to promote Meagan and get her name out there. I believe that she has the talent and work ethic to be a top professional. It will be important to get more skin in the game in the Derbies, so that is what we are focusing on.”
Price and Murray-Tenuta have teamed up to buy and compete several very successful horses such as Cheeky and Logic. With valuable ties in Europe, the pair has availed themselves of top equine talent. Editorial is a familiar name in International Hunter Derby top results. Murray-Tenuta found the handsome grey ten year old gelding in Canada as an eight year old, and intended for him to be an amateur horse for Price. But, when the gelding kept jumping higher and rounder, the pair decided to dedicate him to a Derby career. The decision has been validated by the tremendous success of Editorial. In 2017, he won the Classic round of the hotly contested $50,000 International Hunter Derby at Deeridge Farm in Wellington, FL. The pair ended up with an impressive 12th place finish overall. In addition, Editorial has had numerous top placings in the High Performance Hunter Division all over the country, including the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, Showplace Spring, and Kentucky Spring.
Their shining moment came at the most difficult hunter competition in the United States: the USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals in Lexington, KY. The courses are not for the faint of heart – equine or human. Brave and scopey, Editorial rose to the occasion in the Rolex Stadium. After a solid trip in Friday’s Classic Round, he stood 25th going into the Handy Round on Saturday. With the pressure on, Murray-Tenuta maneuvered the flashy grey around the course with precision. The pair finished in eight place, with their combined scores elevating them to 11th overall. Against more seasoned horse and rider combinations, Editorial and Murray-Tenuta held their own, cementing their place as a duo to watch in the Derby landscape.
Buena Vista, Murray-Tenuta, and Price have had a stellar year. Their string is deep with quality young horses, a seasoned Derby horse, and Buena Vista hosts many lovely client owned hunters and jumpers. The system of good horse selection, careful, non-pressured training, and a positive outlook has produced successful horses and riders. Murray-Tenuta and Price both embrace the idea of balance and an even keel. “I promote balance between our horse lives and our lives outside of horses,” Price explains. “We aim for longevity as a goal, not burn out in people and horses. You need to take your time and see the potential,” Murray-Tenuta concurs.
Meagan Murray-Tenuta has taken her time rising up through the ranks of the equestrian world. Without a flashy junior career or a string of famous horses to give her a leg up, her success is made the old-fashioned way – hard work, humility, and drive – all mixed with a large dose of talent. Appreciative of the invaluable support of people who have helped on in her journey, especially Price, Murray-Tenuta is poised for continued success in the equestrian world.
2017 Competition Highlights
Deeridge $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby
1st Place Classic Round – Editorial
HITS Balmoral $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby
4th Place – Editorial
Showplace Spring Spectacular Pre-Green Incentive Stake
Reserve Champion – Cheeky
Great Lakes Equestrian Festival Champion Green Hunter – So It Goes
8th Place Overall – Editorial
USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals
11th Place Overall – Editorial
HITS Balmoral USHJA National Hunter Derby
2nd Place – Cheeky
HITS Balmoral USHJA National Hunter Derby
1st Place – Cheeky
Buena Vista Farm Upcoming Events
November 2017 Clinic – Candice King
December 2017 Clinic – Liza Boyd
Visit buenavistaequine.com for details.