BY MOLLY SORGE/JUMP MEDIA
She may not have come away from the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) with a ribbon, but Jordan Spinelli couldn’t stop smiling after competing in the Small Junior Hunter, 16-17 division in downtown Washington, D.C. After the stake class of the division, she threw her arms around Lights Camera Karaoke’s neck and told him she loved him.
“This was my goal for this year, to get here and show!” Spinelli said. “It was fun. He was very good. Today was much better than yesterday. He’s fine; I get in my head a little bit. He just packed me around and said, ‘It’s okay, mom!’ My last course was my favorite. Coming off the last fence, it felt like it all came together for the weekend.”
Spinelli, 18, and Lights Camera Karaoke definitely were easy to pick out at WIHS. The spots on “Kony’s” distinctive Appaloosa blanket stood out in the schooling ring among the bays and grays. But Kony’s Appaloosa heritage wasn’t the only reason they made an impression.
After Spinelli showed, there was no groom waiting to take Kony’s reins. Spinelli was the one caring for Kony all week, along with her mother, veterinarian Tracy Brown. Brown is the one who woke before dawn to braid. “We normally do it together, but she didn’t want me getting up at 4 in the morning to do it,” Spinelli said.
Caring for Kony has been something that Spinelli thinks has helped them build a partnership. “It’s something different because not a lot of people do it at this level, but I like it because I get to spend more time with him,” she said. “I ride some horses for other people, and it’s a different experience. I don’t feel like you get the bond with them when you’re just there and riding and leaving.”
Spinelli, of Randleman, NC, chose WIHS as a “bucket list” goal for her last junior year. “My mom and I sat down to plan, because we don’t have enough funds to do all the shows I wanted to do,” she said. “I had to think about what one big show I really wanted to quality for and do. And it was Washington! My mom was from around here, and she showed here, too. She said it was kind of a family legacy that we all had to show here.”
In the night hours, Spinelli would take Kony for handwalks on the sidewalks of D.C. “Last night we were walking down the street, just hanging out,” she said. “There were so many people who wanted to see him and pet him and take pictures with him. He loves that kind of thing, so that was a lot of fun. It’s so much fun being here in the city. It’s a new experience so I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s really cool.”
Brown bought Kony for Spinelli six years ago when the American Warmbood (Kalomino—Impressive Rhythm) was nine and Spinelli was 12 and just learning to jump. “We didn’t get him to do the juniors; we got him as my short-stirrup horse,” Spinelli said. “We started at two-foot, and he was supposed to take me up to the children’s. But he just keeps jumping higher and higher, so we kept going! The 3’6″ is no problem.”
Spinelli rides with Tony Albertson, but also takes dressage lessons with Nancy Sharpless. Both trainers, Brown, and her grandmother were in D.C. to support her. Spinelli was a bit apprehensive about how Kony would handle the busy show atmosphere of WIHS, but he took it all in stride, and Spinelli was proud of him. “He just settled into his stall and said, ‘Okay, we’re here now. Let’s do it.’ We rode in the ring that night, and he didn’t care at all,” she said.
“He’s basically my horse of a lifetime,” she said. “I never thought that I was going to be able to show at a show of this caliber. I’ve had him for so long. It’s like he already knows what I’m going to do before I do it, and I know what he’s going to do before he does it.”
Kony lives with Brown at the family’s farm, but Spinelli started her freshman year at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro this year, so she’s been commuting back and forth the 30 minutes to ride him.
When asked the origin of Kony’s show name, Spinelli laughed and rolled her eyes. “I got him when I was 12, so that’s why! When we got him, my mom’s idea was to name him Karaoke Night, which was cute, but 12-year-old me said that wasn’t good enough. I wanted it to be more extravagant than that!” she said.
As Spinelli heads home from WIHS, she looks forward to continuing to show next year as an amateur rider. She has another horse that she hopes to show in the amateur-owner hunters, while she thinks she and Kony will explore the jumper ring and do some hunter derbies.
Each year, WIHS continues a longstanding tradition as one of the world’s most celebrated indoor horse shows. The 2019 edition will again host the $136,300 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Washington presented by Events DC, with coveted qualifying points on offer for the 2020 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final taking place in Las Vegas, NV, in April. Additionally, WIHS welcomes qualified hunter, jumper, equitation, and pony riders from across the nation to celebrate year-end titles, including the coveted Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund WIHS Equitation Finals. For more information on WIHS, please visit www.wihs.org, join WIHS on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat.