BY SISSY WICKES
From the fields of Vermont to the shores of Long Island to the sunshine of Florida, Joey Currais is a familiar figure on the horse show circuit. He is most often found at the in gate, keenly observing a young rider as he or she completes a course. His signature whoops and vigorous clapping can be heard well into the schooling areas. Joey Currais and Hunter’s Landing promote the positive in all things equestrian.
Currais is a Florida native who has been in the horse business for decades. An accomplished junior rider himself, he climbed the professional ladder by working with some of the best riders and trainers in the business, including Jimmy Torano, Chris Kappler, Jennifer Bieling, Mindy Darst, and Christina Schulsemeyer, among others. His acumen extends into the hunter, jumper, and equitation rings, but he may be best known for his ability to advance young riders from the very start of their careers to national success. He has the unique distinction of training the USEF Pony Finals Champion or Reserve Champion in all three regular Pony Hunter divisions. The key to Currais’ success may be in his upbeat, encouraging approach to riding. He describes his method, “I always point out the positive with kids. I want them to have fun, learn to ride, and to care for their ponies.”
Sisters Helen and Cady Ryan have ridden with Currais and his team at Hunter’s Landing throughout their young careers. Beginning as tiny short stirrup riders, they have moved up through the divisions to compete in the Children’s Pony Hunter divisions as well as the regular Pony Hunter divisions. In 2018, the sisters have had a stellar year with numerous top ribbons, championships, and Best Junior Rider awards.
Helen has ridden several different ponies throughout the season in the Small, Medium and Large Children’s Pony Hunter divisions as well as the Small Pony Hunter division. On MT Pockets, she garnered numerous Championship awards at The Winter Equestrian Festival, including three consecutive Large Children’s Hunter Pony Championships. On Charming, she was consistently in the front of the Small Green Pony Hunter jog. Helen participated in the Devon Horse Show for the first time aboard Small Pony Hunter, Smitten, earning fourth place in the Under Saddle.
Helen’s show season with Smitten and Charming continued to improve through the summer as the rider and her ponies hit their stride in the ring. Blue ribbons, Championships, and Reserve Championships were earned at Old Salem Farm, Princeton Show Jumping, HITS, Fairfield, and Garden State Horse Shows to name a few. Helen crowned her summer with a superb performance at USEF Pony Finals. Aboard Charming, Helen was consistent, guiding the Small Green pony to a second place finish in the Under Saddle portion and a ninth place finish overall. The pinnacle of the event was achieved on her partner, Smitten. With an eighth place finish in the Model, a fourth in the Under Saddle, and a second place in the Over Fences class, the pair was Reserve Champion out of a total of 103 Small Pony Hunters. Helen is thrilled with the experience and with her pony. “So much happened this year. I started riding in the smalls on Smitten in February. I love this pony – I think he is the most beautiful pony out there. I was proud because we made it into Devon. Then we went to Pony Finals this summer and ended up Reserve Champion. We were third to last [in the order] going in to the Over Fences, so I was very nervous. But I trusted him and he was perfect. I also love Pony Finals because I get to see so many riding friends and there are so many amazing ponies there.”
Cady’s show season has also been one to remember. On the lovely grey, Saltwood Tuscany, she was a consistent winner in the Medium Children’s Pony Hunters. The pair was Champion or Reserve Champion in five of the nine weeks they competed at the Winter Equestrian Festival, thereby earning the title of 2018 Circuit Champion. Their success continued through the summer and Cady began to show MT Pockets in the Large Children’s Pony Hunter division. Her hard work on both ponies paid off at the hotly- contested Hampton Classic Horse Show, where she earned the Reserve Championship in the Medium Children’s Pony Hunters on Saltwood Tuscany and the Large Children’s Pony Hunters on MT Pockets. A few weeks later at the Marshall & Sterling Finals, Cady continued her winning streak with a Championship on MT Pockets and a Reserve Championship on Saltwood Tuscany. She was named Best Junior Rider at the competitive event. Of her great performance at the HITS show, Cady states, “I’m so lucky to have two amazing ponies! I was so nervous at M&S (Marshall & Sterling Finals) when I saw the huge ring. Once I got in the ring, I forgot about being nervous and focused on looking for distances. Both my ponies were amazing at getting around. They were perfect! After I got an 87 on MT Pockets, I saw my sister and two of our friends running toward
me and it was the best feeling.”
Hunter’s Landing has a top rate staff, including co-trainer, Alexandra Charles, and administrator, Anna Hendricks. Currais says of Alex, “She is a great part of our business. As a rider and a trainer, she brings talent and expertise and the kids love her.” Cady concurs, “I can’t believe how much I’ve improved since starting with Joey and Alex a year and a half ago.” Charles was part of Currais’ training program beginning at 12 years old and continuing through her successful junior career. She attended Rutgers University and had great success in IHSA competition. She is an integral part of Hunters Landing as a trainer and rider.
Both of the Ryan sisters enjoy Currais as a coach and emphasize his positive outlook. Helen points out, “Joey has a lot of energy and notices everything. This makes me pay attention to everything too. My favorite thing about Joey is his loud whoop from the in gate when you have a good trip. I know he is disappointed if I make mistakes, but he finds a way to point out the good parts of a trip too.” Cady appreciates that “(Joey) doesn’t make me feel bad about mistakes. He always says, if I am making a new mistake that’s fine, because then we have something to work on.”
Helen and Cady are excited about their future with Hunter’s Landing. Each girl has goals for the fall and the 2019 season. Helen states, “I would like to qualify for Devon again and am looking forward to indoors this year. Next year, I want to see how my green, Charming, comes along in the small division. He’s going to be really special!” Cady says, “I am so excited to start riding in the Small Pony Hunter division on Everyday Enzo. He’s amazing!! I’m hoping to make it Pony Finals in 2019, because I haven’t been there yet. I’m also excited about Zone 2 Finals in October.”
Helen and Cady Ryan have a bright future ahead of them under the careful guidance of Joey Currais, Alex Charles, and the team at Hunter’s Landing.
About the Author: Sissy is a Princeton University graduate, a lifelong rider and trainer, a USEF R rated judge, a freelance journalist and an autism advocate. Her illustrious resume includes extensive show hunter and jumper experience. She lives with her family in Unionville, PA and Wellington, FL.
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