True North Stables Celebrates Successful First Month with Wins at Winter Equestrian Festival


Elgin, Illinois – In its inaugural month of operation, True North Stables brought home top honors from the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, Florida, including victories for both lead rider and trainer Caitlyn Shiels and amateur competitor Michelle Durpetti. Shiels rode her own Cavalier II to the win in the $2,500 1.35m Jumpers during WEF 1, while Durpetti and Cassius claimed a win and the reserve championship in the Osphos® Amateur-Owner 36 & Over Hunters 3’3” during WEF 2.

“The entire Winter Equestrian Festival season is so competitive, so to be able to start out by launching this new venture there and to have it go so well is fantastic,” said Shiels, whose business is now based out of both Florida and Illinois. “Michelle [Durpetti] rode wonderfully, and the horses all went beautifully. We’ve got a great groove going now for the rest of the year.” 

Michelle Durpetti and Cassius. Photo by Jump Media

Shiels made the decision to launch her own True North Stables in January of 2018 following decades of industry experience. The full-service hunter/jumper training operation is now dedicated to providing top of the line services and helping equestrians of all levels achieve their goals.

For Durpetti, one of those goals was competing her own Cassius in the Amateur-Owner Hunter division for the first time, following the eight-year-old gelding’s highly successful 2017 show season with Shiels in both the High Performance Hunters and in United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) International Hunter Derby events. During week two of WEF, Durpetti not only competed Cassius, she claimed first and third place ribbons and the division reserve championship in the Osphos® Amateur-Owner 36 & Over Hunters 3’3”.

“It makes my heart a bit proud because I spent last year with him; he’s special to me, and he did so much for me last year,” said Shiels of Cassius. “It’s really exciting to see that he’s going to step into the amateur role so smoothly for her. That was our plan, and it’s all working out. I’m so excited to see that they’re clicking so fast.”

While Shiels is dedicated to helping her students achieve their goals, she also has her sights set on goals of her own, in particular with her mount Cavalier II. During WEF 1, the 11-year-old Warmblood gelding stepped up against a highly-competitive field of 42 entries to take the win in the $2,500 1.35m Jumpers. Shiels and Cavalier II finished double clear with a jump-off time of 37.501 seconds. That time would prove untouchable, with Edward Levy (FRA) and Rebeca L coming the closest on a clear jump-off time of 38.227 seconds.

“He had months off last fall while I was at indoors, so I was really excited that we picked up where we left off when we got to Wellington,” said Shiels who has dedicated great time and effort to bringing along the young horse since purchasing him five years ago. “Obviously with a young horse, you never know how it’s going to go after a few months of not showing. He’s starting to really come into his own, and I’m really excited for this year and to move him up to the bigger classes.” 

Caitlyn Shiels and Cavalier II. Photo by Fine Art Horses

While Shiels has been Cavalier II’s sole rider since she first acquired the gelding, and while she has just stepped out on her own, she is quick to acknowledge the benefit that can come from also drawing on the expertise of others – something she spoke to in this recent article for the Chronicle of the Horse. Most recently, that has included working with rider and trainer Wim Janssen of The Netherlands.

“Wim’s been a dear, dear friend of mine, and he works so well with the young horses and ones that are a little bit quirky,” said Shiels of the trainer she began working with off-and-on since last summer. “I’ve done everything with Cavalier since I first got him. I never really had someone that was able to flat my horses in the morning or anything like that. It’s nice now that I have somebody that can ride him a little bit for me here and there so that I can watch. I am a huge visual learner, and I think that that is a huge tool to be able to watch your horse in a training program. Wim has helped me with that and on the ground. It’s always great to have somebody there with you, and I’m very thankful to him for that!”

Following a successful three weeks at WEF, True North Stables now heads to Ocala, FL, for the HITS Ocala circuit. At the conclusion of the winter circuits in both Wellington and Ocala, the True North Stables team will return home to their new location in Illinois and will begin accepting additional clients. 

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