Wellington, FL – March 23, 2019 – Caelinn Leahy, 17, of Maple Park, Illinois, was recognized as the overall series winner of the WEF circuit for U25 (under 25) riders in the 7-year-olds during the Developing Young Jumper Series at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida. Leahy rode her Dutch Warmblood mare named Happiness to multiple fault free rounds during the circuit, which began in January. The talented young rider finished the series in the top 18 of the Developing 7-year-old Jumper division, competing against over 60 horse and rider combinations with riders from all over the world, including her trainer, Steve Schaefer of Maple Park, who finished the series in 7th place with Elano, also a Dutch Warmblood.
Leahy smiles from ear to ear when you ask her about Happiness.
“I love her name, who couldn’t love her name!” laughed Leahy. “Every time I go in the ring I feel like I can win and that’s something I really value in a horse. She always tries her heart out for me.”
While other young riders are riding horses that are older and more experienced, Leahy enjoys participating in the development of her horse.
“It’s been a process,” said Leahy about the training. “She’s a fantastic horse and I’m just getting to know her. We’ve put in a lot of work the past couple of weeks and we’re really becoming a team. It’s great to see them have their light bulb moments when they understand what you want them to do. It’s even better when we both have those moments where it really starts to click.”
Back at the home base, Bellis Show Jumping Stables in Maple Park, Schaefer and Leahy give the horses a variety of experiences which are good for both their fitness and their minds, such as trail riding, galloping in the field, jumping in the grass and gymnastics in the sand ring. Leahy explains you have to have patience when working with young horses and changing up the program builds confidence in both the horse and the rider. Confidence allows the pair to push the envelope during competitions and ultimately improve their performance.
Leahy has a special bond with her horses and particularly adores Happiness. She spends every minute she can in the barn, which is easy since she comes from a family of riders. Her mother, Heidi Schaefer, is also a competitor in the adult jumper division and her father, Tony Leahy, is an avid fox hunter. Leahy is always happy to help ride extra horses in the barn for trainer and step dad, Steve Schaefer. Leahy also schedules in time for homework from the Elgin Academy, where she attends school.
Leahy believes Happiness has what it takes to make it to the grand prix ring some day. While working on bringing up the young horse, Leahy has another mount, Dymendy, who is 11 years old. The pair is already heading into the grand prixs and High Junior Jumper classes. During the circuit, Leahy rode to a second place finish in the $25,000 CP National Grand Prix in the derby field with Dymendy, once again, among some of the best riders and professionals from around the world. She also won the $10,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame High Junior Jumper Classic last week.
Each winter, some of the best equestrians come from around the world to compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival. The area is a hot spot for horse lovers, spectators and competitors to experience show jumping, dressage and polo. It is not unusual to see Olympic medal winners competing in Wellington. To win in this location is not an easy task and to be honored with an award there is truly special.
As the prestigious winter circuit comes to a close, Leahy and Happinessare just beginning the start of a great relationship and a successful future. Bellis Show Jumping Stables will head back to the Chicago area to rest up and regroup before shipping the horses to the International Omaha Horse Show, April 4-7, 2019, where Schaefer and Leahy will compete once again.
For more information, please visit their website at Bellisshowjumping.com or follow them on Facebook.