Edited Press Release
The 2022 Washington International Horse Show (WIHS), presented by MARS Equestrian™, kicked off its expanded seven-day run on Monday, October 24, at the Show Place Arena at Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Children’s and adult hunter riders closed out the opening day of triumphant return of WIHS to the Washington D.C. area, where Laurie Barna and Hundred Acre came out on top in the $10,000 WIHS Adult Hunter Championship and Hannah Blasdell and Talisman took the win in the $10,000 WIHS Children’s Hunter Championship.
Barna, of Dallas, Pennsylvania, was not sure she would be competing during the indoor season at all. Just 10 weeks ago, she had an unfortunate fall and fractured her hip, resulting in emergency surgery and her hip being pinned. Though she feels physically comfortable, Barna is not quite back to 100 percent and is riding through the lingering challenges. Despite the setback, when it counted most, she knew she could rely on Hundred Acre to be there for her.
“That is just another facet of being so grateful for my horses, because I felt like he knew and he took extra good care of me at this show because I’m just getting back to riding now,” related Barna of her 15-year-old Westphalian gelding. “‘Milo’ has such a great personality. In the barn, he’s a real character. He loves to show off, and he loves to win. He really put his best foot forward tonight.”
Milo has been with Barna for four years, and their partnership was on full display when they scored a 90 in the first round from judges Linda Andrisani and Peter Lombardo. With the top 12 being called back to return for the second round in reverse order, Barna was last to go. In a competitive group, she could feel the pressure but kept her composure, scoring a 91 for an overall score of 181.
“I was a little nervous walking in the in-gate, because the woman before me got a 90, and I thought to myself, ‘Okay, I need an 87 or better,’ but I was like, ‘I know he can do this,’” recalled Barna. “He just went out there and was very relaxed in the second round and put his best effort in. He just let me guide him, and he was perfect.”
Since Barna has not been able to ride since her accident until recently, it has fallen on her trainer Liz Perry of Pear Tree Show Stables in Ringoes, New Jersey, to keep her horses fit and ready to win.
“I’ve been riding with her for 23 years, so this is a long venture with the two of us,” explain Barna smiling. “It’s super exciting to have it all come together and win on such a good horse and be so consistent tonight.
“We work all year to qualify for Washington,” she continued. “It’s one of our favorites, and I love that they have some elements of what they had in the city, but now in a more horse friendly facility. It’s really lovely.”
For her win, Barna was presented with the Diane Wade Memorial Award. Adding to her stellar evening, she also picked up eleventh place with her second horse, Cinestar. Kim Shuler rode her own Varekai to second place with scores of 86 and 90 for a two-round total of 176. Kathleen Mathews piloted her own Downtown Brown to scores of 84 and 85, earning a 169 total for third place.
In the children’s class, Blasdell was awarded an 84.5 for her first trip aboard Talisman around the decorated indoor. When the top 12 were called back for the second round, Blasdell was sitting in fourth place. An impressive second round score of 87 shot her up the leaderboard and straight into the winner’s circle with a total score of 171.5.
“In the first round, [Talisman] was so good,” reflected Blasdell. “I felt like for some of my distances I sort of gave him mixed signals, but he was really super throughout the whole thing. The second round was even better. He was just perfect going around. He listens to everything I tell him to do, and I love him so much.”
Blasdell inherited the ride on Talisman about two years ago from her sister. She has since built a strong relationship with the personable 11-year-old chestnut Danish Warmblood gelding by Toulouse. Even still, the 15-year-old rider from Portsmouth, Virginia, didn’t expect the day’s outcome.
“I never would have ever thought I would be riding here at WIHS,” said Blasdell. “It’s really awesome. I’m feeling really great. I can’t believe I just won. It means everything just to be here. The top riders come here, so the fact that I just won is really crazy to me.”
Upon walking out of the prizegiving, Blasdell’s elation was apparent. Her emotion was matched by her trainers and family, who rushed out to meet and congratulate her.
“I would really like to thank my trainer Peg Seals and my other trainer and support Laura Wright,” expressed Blasdell of the team at Freedom Farm in Carrollton, Virginia. “They are just fantastic. I couldn’t ask for a better trainer. Peg is so knowledgeable and every single thing I ask her, she knows, and she’s a really great teacher. It was also amazing to have my family here. They all came out to the show, and they’re so supportive.”
Blasdell was awarded the H. Fenwick Kollock Memorial Perpetual Trophy for her victory. Just half of a point behind, Ava Scharbo and her horse Logan notched scores of 86 and 85 to take second place honors with a total score of 171. Rounding out the top three in a tightly contested class was Mia Thompson and Coco, scoring two 85s for a 170 overall.