By Catie Staszak/Catie Staszak Media
In a new behind-the-scenes series from Heritage Farm, we’re introducing you to the program’s horses and riders in a whole new way. Get to know our group beyond what you’ve seen ringside, accolades and all:
- Age: 17
- Hometown: Long Island, NY
- Horse: Janus Union
- 2021 Highlights: 11th, North American Junior Equitation Championship; 11th, ASPCA Maclay Region 5 Championship; Top 25, USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final
Following the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival, Kenner Scalamandre decided to make a change: He wanted to return home. A native of Long Island, NY, Scalamandre grew up watching the success of Heritage Farm from afar, and in the summer, he joined the program.
“I’ve always looked up to Andre Dignelli as a trainer, and he’s had so much success with so many other people,” Scalamandre said. “I thought, why not give it a try and see if he could do some good with me?”
Within six months, Scalamandre had earned his first Championship ribbons, finishing 11th in both the ASPCA Maclay Region 5 Championships at St. Louis and the North American Junior Equitation Championship at the Capital Challenge Horse Show. He carried that form forward to receive a top 25 callback at the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final in October.
“I’ve gotten consistent,” Scalamandre said. “Before [coming to Heritage], every time I’d go in the ring, I’d come out and hear, ‘Amazing round. Why did you chip the first jump?’ Now, I can just have more confidence when I go in the ring. I can get off after putting in a good round, and it’s easier to put in another good round, because I feel that I can do it. Once you know that you can do it, it’s easier.”
Scalamandre credits his quick success with a greater focus on his “mental game,” as well as what has been an incredible pairing with the 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding Janus Union. Heritage Farm acquired the bay from well-known dealer Maarten Huygens and transitioned him from a jumper to an equitation career with Scalamandre in August.
“For me, it was finding the right horse,” Scalamandre said. “Janus carries me around the ring, and I get to do what he’s telling me to do. I feel what I need to do, and it works. It’s not necessarily easy, but I know what to do. It’s like muscle memory now.
“We just keep laying it down!” he added. “He helps me out in the places I need help, and I can kind of help him out in the places where he needs help. We’re just a great match, I feel. Andre, that’s what he’s good at: finding the horse to help you win.”
Scalamandre heads into his final junior year with excitement, knowing he can only strengthen his partnership with both his mount and his support team.
“[Andre] can take anybody, [regardless of budget], and he’ll match you with the horse that he thinks you’ll do well on. And he’ll support you, and that’s all that you really need,” Scalamandre said. “If you support the kid, it’ll work.”
- Age: 11
- Rider: Skylar Wireman
- 2021 Highlights: Reserve Champion, WIHS Equitation Championship
Heritage Farm’s Fix Blue had a breakout moment when he and Skylar Wireman finished as Reserve Champions at the Washington International Horse Show. The competition marked the grey gelding’s fifth show as an equitation horse and has stamped himself as a rising star in the division.
Fix Blue came to Heritage from Stal Hendrix in The Netherlands in August at the recommendation of Emil and Paul Hendrix as well as their rider Schaefer Raposa, a former Heritage Farm student. Heritage had set out on a global search for equitation horses, even publicizing the search on social media. Despite Fix Blue’s inexperience in the division, the team at Stal Hendrix was confident “Fitz” would excel in the United States.
Andre took their word and bought the horse off of a video, as travel to Europe was still restricted at the time due to the ongoing global pandemic. Upon his arrival, Fix Blue quickly met—and exceeded—expectations.
“From the day he arrived, he just was a special horse. I did not need for him to do what he did [at WIHS] for me to know that he was a special horse,” Dignelli said. “I remember the first show we took him to—it didn’t look that different from the video [from WIHS]. He looked special and made up and everything they said [about him].”
Fitz finished among the top 15 at the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – East with Hannah Hoch before pairing with Wireman at WIHS, held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center. When the pair entered the arena for the Hunter Phase, it marked their first class together outside of a ticketed warm-up.
“I first rode him one day at Harrisburg. I liked him instantly: He had a fun canter and jump,” Wireman said. “He just gives you a good feeling, especially knowing he has scope. His best traits are his canter and his adjustability. You can hand gallop the jump and be handy on the back side.
“He jumped right around the Hunter Phase, and he was absolutely perfect in the Jumper Phase. There were short lines, cantering lines, and a tight time allowed,” she continued. “The partnership was new, but he was prefect. To be top two was amazing.”
Wireman has been training with Heritage for just under a year. Based on the west coast with her mother, trainer Shayne Wireman in Bonsall, CA, Wireman frequently commutes east to ride and train in Katonah. The 2021 indoor season marked her first with the Heritage Farm team; in addition to her Reserve Championship at WIHS, she finished fourth at the USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final (Eretto). She also rode to the Reserve Champion in the Gladstone Cup at the USEF Junior Hunter National Championships — East (Il Mio).
“Skylar rides a lot of horses for a lot of people, and I think that she’s a little bit like Fix Blue in that she has an enthusiasm and an energy about her that has, unsurprisingly, helped her excel,” Dignelli said. “She’s flown east on a bunch of occasions, and I would say most of the time, she has ridden a horse that she has not ridden before—and delivered.”
“It’s been a great experience,” Wireman added. “I’ve ridden so many lovely horses, and a lot of what I’ve learned I’ve been able to take home and apply to the jumpers I ride [in California]. I’m learning everything I can.”