They Preach it and Teach it, But Can They Still Equitate?

Winner, Michael Dennehy.

The Santa Fe Summer Series’ $1,000 Professional Equitation on Wednesday proved to be a raving success. The day’s warm temperature was no match for the heat the professional trainers brought to ring in their bid for bragging rights, prize money and award. Held during the weekly Competitor’s Welcome Party, sponsored by Queenie Productions, the cool breeze and chatter set the stage for this inaugural class. Nine professionals took on the challenge and proved to not miss a beat since graduating from their junior equitation backgrounds. Cobwebs were not in need of dusting, because these professionals competitively marched in the BMW/MINI Hunter Arena for this two- phase class with confidence, shoulders back, and prim posture. In a flurry of direct counter-canters into the arena, shoulder-in’s, and bold sitting trots—the professionals attacked the flat phase.

Michael Dennehy, head trainer at Bridlewood Farms, took the top pinning aboard Rylee Shufelt’s Spar Colt and Ashley Stannard of Ashbrook Farm took second place. Dennehy noticed how competitive the rest of the professionals were by their direct entrances into the arena and said, “Both Sarah [Invicta Williams-Echols] and I joked about going in the arena as a pair at the counter canter.”

With two exceptional inside turns executed in Scott Alder’s course and a determined entrance into the flat portion, Dennehy stole the judge’s attention. Alder’s course design included small islands at the edge of the arena to encourage inside turns. “Michael saw the inside turns the way I designed it,” said Alder, “I expected that of him!”

Talking with Michael on warm up day, he spoke of how it is easy to get too serious, mentioning that his competitive goal is to “lighten up and have more fun.” “Truthfully, we need to go have more fun. And honestly we just got this horse and I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to show him in the ring to learn a little bit more about him.” The Shufelt family recently purchased this Warmblood gelding in Parker, Colorado from Kayla Savard and is well on-track to becoming Rylee’s equitation horse in the fall. After receiving his blue ribbon and $250 gift certificate for dinner at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, he laughed saying, “I had a great time!”

Dennehy’s win proves that he can preach what he teaches, “You know the old adage ‘do as I say, not as I do?’ It’s good to be able to go out there and still be able to do it.” His bold ride reflects what he encourages his equitation students to do, “You gotta walk in, be one of the first ones in the ring—If not the first—because the judges’ first impression will be lasting. You want to be the first one to be in there and be like ‘hey you seeing this?”

Ashley Stannard finished in second place, riding Faraon owned by Christian Del Bosque. Stannard appreciates when horse shows come up with new initiatives, “I think it’s a fun idea to have a professional equitation division. It is something different that you don’t see everywhere else, so I wanted to support it. I loved doing the equitation when I was younger and thought it would be fun to do again.

$1,000 Professional Equitation Results

Placing/ Horse/ Rider/ Owner

1/ Spar Colt/ Michael Dennehy/ Rylee Shufelt
2/ Faraon/ Ashley Stannard/ Christian Del Bosque
3/ Wheels Up/ Mindy Coretz/ Eighteen Acres Farm
4/ Converse Point/ Sarah Invicta Williams/ Invicta Farms, Inc.
5/ Cliff Richard/ Gretchen Lof/ Alexandra Freeman
6/ London Fog/ Stephanie Gershon/ Lisa Piasecki