Northern Pines Farm: Bringing Along Jumpers For The Win

Paige Matthies rode Dirkie Z to win the $20,000 SJHOF at the prestigious Devon Horse Show.

Maple City, MI – July 12, 2018 – With over 20 young horses at the farm of various ages and stages of being broke, everyone at Melissa Hirt’s Northern Pines Farm stays busy helping out. Hirt’s program for young horses, as well as bringing riders up through the ranks, has lead her to the victory gallop numerous times.

“Every day I look at the list of horses and think very hard how each of them need to be handled and worked with, as they are not generic at all,” said Hirt. “As a breeder you get excited and want to start them right away to see what you have. Some are really ready to go and do the five-year-olds, they have the maturity and are physically able to withstand showing at that age. Others you start and realize that maybe they need to sit out a year or just go to the show and “hang out”. I have brought several to WEF in the past just to experience the show but not show as they are mentally or physically not ready.”

Gabriel Rodrigues and My Pride Z. Photo: Kathy Russell Photography

Gabriel Rodrigues, who rides for Hirt, has brought along My Pride Z, purchased from AliBoo Farm, to earn top ribbons at WEF in the 7-year-old jumpers as well as multiple championships including the week II of Showplace Spring Spectacular and the reserve championship during week III.

Aristea Sanoro and Raquel.

Aristea Santoro’s horse, Raquel, sat out until this year and did a few Children’s Jumper classes to start and recently has won a few seven-year-old classes. Roc N’ Groovy won the Five-Year-Old Championships, was 2nd in the big Six-Year-Old Circuit End at WEF and then started the seven-year-olds to realize she had all the heart but not the scope to continue up the ranks. Roc N Groovy is now a near unbeatable Child/Adult Jumper.

Marco Polo Uchoa and Roc N’ Groovy in the winner’s circle at at Balmoral Park.

Santoro was Champion in the High Child/Adult Jumpers week III with Roc N Groovy at Showplace Spring in Chicago. Marco Polo Uchoa was also Champion with Roc N Groovy during weeks I and II in the High Adult Jumpers. Uchoa also rode Questa Capriole (Robin Vilter) to the championship in the Low Child/Adult Jumpers.

“It’s not if they make it to the top or not, its keeping them healthy, happy and sound to do a job,” added Hirt. “In my mind, if the horse is competitive doing the Low Children’s Jumpers or the Grand Prixs, if it’s successful, then I have placed it well in a job.”

Matching horses and riders is also tricky. Hirt mentioned that most of the time the kids try horses with goals and have big ideas. Just because they try a High Junior Jumper or Grand Prix horse does not mean that the minute they buy it that is what they are doing with it. It takes a long time to build a relationship and takes a very short time to blow the confidence of a horse and rider as well.

Santoro started her horse, Raquel, from the ground up with very little trainer assistance and now they have a great bond. However, she has Rodridgues ride her in the seven year olds to help the horse gain more confidence and experience since Santoro has little experience over the bigger jumps.

Northern Pines rider Paige Matthies has been mounted on two excellent horses, Dirkie Z and Climbus. After taking the reins from Nick Novak during the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), Matthies and Dirkie Z have been a whirlwind in the junior jumper divisions. The pair won the $10,000 SJHOF (Show Jumping Hall of Fame) during WEF 10, top 3 placings during WEF 11 & 12 and won the World Equestrian Center Grand Prix in April. At Devon, Matthies won the $20,000 SJHOF Junior Jumper night class on Dirkie Z and won the other night class on Climbus. Matthies and Climbus also won top ribbons at WEF including the Junior Jumper Championship WEF 8 and Reserve Champion WEF 9.

“With Paige focusing on the equitation as well, the jumpers are a bit of a mental transition,” discussed Hirt. “It is great to go into all three rings but for the purpose of attaining two new jumpers this past WEF season, we have put hunters on the back burner in order to keep the focus narrowed down to two disciplines. Once again, keeping the level of confidence going for both horse and rider.”

Client Mackenzie Snider leased two very nice Grand Prix horses in hopes of really moving up. Hirt explained how it has been a rewarding ride for her as well as an eye opener, as to the commitment to keeping a high level horses fit as well as understanding the level of mistakes these horses are willing to take is far different than a 3’6″ horse.

“Leasing one or purchasing one with great experience is for sure the route to go, however don’t fool yourself that your kid can just move up because the horse can do it. You have to be even more accurate, physically fit and be willing to go up and down the ladder from low junior jumper to high then back down again if need be,” explained Hirt. “Corrections with these types if horses are always being made in order to keep the confidence of the horse and rider once again.”

Mackenzie Snider and Skara Glen’s Basel in the Junior Jumpers at WEF. Photo M4E

Snider and Skara Glen’s Basel galloped to the 2nd place spot in the $5,000 Johnson Horse Transport Open Jumper Class during Showplace Spring Classic II. Snider also earned the Medium Junior Jumper Reserve Championship during WEF 4, then moved up to the highs to earn top ribbons there.

How quickly a jumper can be brought along all depends on the horse, trainer and rider in Hirt’s program. It depends on the physical and mental qualities of the horse but also who is training and riding the horse.

“Sometimes as owners and trainers we get really excited about a prospect that appears to have a lot of talent. That talent can go away very fast if the rider is not consistent with what they are asking of the horse, if the corrections are not appropriate or whether or not the job fits the horse,” summarized Hirt.

The Northern Pines team will spend the next several weeks at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival right in their back yard. Hirt has horses for lease during the circuit or make plans to stop by the farm and see some of the quality young horses for sale.

Contact Melissa at 231-920-5212 for more information.

About Northern Pines Farm
Melissa Hirt is a native of suburban Chicago and moved to Leelanau County in 1995, completing construction of her Northern Pines equine dream in 2000. Today, Melissa’s students are winning numerous top honors at the zone, regional, and national levels through her experienced training and remarkable skill of matching riders and horses to create impressive teams.

Northern Pines Farm boasts 32 stalls with spacious heated viewing room, large indoor and outdoor arenas and 15 paddocks set in the beautiful countryside of Maple City, Michigan. Amenities include Theraplate and treadmill along with a roomy wash stall with heat lamp. The farm has a location next to the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival show facility in Traverse City and now Wellington, Florida.

For more information on Northern Pines Farm please visit or “Like” them on Facebook. #LoveWhereYouRide

Northern Pines Farm
7347 S. Stachnik Road
Maple City, MI 49664

Traverse City Location
Next to Great Lakes Equestrian Festival

Northern Pines Farm (South)
14903 Paddock Dr.
Wellington, Florida