By Catie Staszak Media for Heritage Farm
In this behind-the-scenes series from Heritage Farm, get to know the program’s horses and riders beyond what you’ve seen ringside:
- Age: 12
- Rider: Skylar Wireman
- Owner: MJ & Todd Kaplan
- 2022 Highlights: Reserve Champion, USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final; Reserve Champion, WIHS Equitation Championship; Winner, Gladstone Cup Equitation Classic — West; Winner, ASPCA Maclay Region 8 Championship; Winner, WCE Medal Final; Champion, 17-Year-Old Equitation at Capital Challenge; Winner, CPHA Foundation 21 & Under Final; Winner, CPHA Style of Riding Championships South; Third, North American Junior Equitation Championship
The list of accolades for 12-year-old KWPN gelding Famous and Skylar Wireman reads like a laundry list, capped by a win in Saturday’s WCE Medal Final at the Las Vegas National Horse Show. But when Wireman first sat on the big grey in the fall of 2021, neither she nor the horse’s owner Maryjo “MJ” Kaplan would have predicted such results.
In fact, Wireman was paired with “Oskar”—who had spent the majority of his career as a jumper—to help sell him. Kaplan was having trouble with the grey and ultimately came to the conclusion the horse wasn’t the right match for her.
“Last fall, after Oskar stopped with me twice in one medal class, the judge actually called me to her stand to tell me I needed a better horse,” Kaplan recalled. “Skylar fixed it.”
Wireman was asked whether she thought Oskar would make a good equitation horse, and in their first show outing, they won both phases of the WIHS Equitation during the 2021 National Sunshine Series in Thermal, CA.
“It was the first Big Eq class he’d ever done. He went right in [and won]. I was flabbergasted,” Kaplan said, “and I had so much fun watching [Skylar].”
“I said, ‘I think this is going to work out!'” Wireman said.
Kaplan had already sent another of her horses, junior jumper mount Karen, to Wireman, and after Wireman took another win with Oskar under the lights in the CPHA Style of Riding Championships South, she sent him along to Wireman’s base in Bonsall, CA as well. That sparked a remarkable streak.
Between November 2021 and September 2022, Wireman and Oskar won four medal finals: the CPHA Style of Riding Championships South; the CPHA Foundation 21 & Under Final; the ASPCA Maclay Region 8 Championship; and the Gladstone Cup Equitation Classic — West.
Kaplan was so impressed, she took Oskar off the market.
“[Skylar] just has an innate talent to recognize what a horse needs, and she has such empathy [for the horses],” Kaplan said. “It occurred to me that [Oskar] just didn’t understand [what I was asking him]. [Skylar] has since taught me how to ride him.”
“He just rose to the occasion every time I put him on a bigger stage,” Wireman said. “I was like, ‘He really wants to do this right.’ Final after final, he just kept winning [in California], and I said, ‘I think he has what it takes to be the east coast horse, too.’ He just didn’t disappoint.”
At Capital Challenge, Wireman and Oskar jumped to the 17-Year-Old Equitation Championship before finishing third in the North American Junior Equitation Championship. Then at the USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final, the pair finished with the Reserve Championship, putting forth a show-stopping test.
“I couldn’t have asked him to be any better,” Wireman said. “I wasn’t even sure it was possible to hold both counter leads [in that space]. He was so amazing.”
Wireman and Oskar added another Reserve Championship in the WIHS Equitation Championship, thanks to Kaplan’s generosity. Kaplan had qualified for the THIS NHS Adult Equitation Championship at the National Horse Show on the same weekend with her horse, but she elected to bypass those finals so that Wireman could have the ride.
“In her last junior year, I’d rather Skylar have the chance with him,” Kaplan said.
Wireman and Oskar ended their season on a high note, topping the WCE Medal Final after three rounds of jumping in Vegas. Oskar will transition to Kaplan’s main ride in 2023—with a standout resume.
“I turned down two offers,” Kaplan said. “He’s such a happier guy now. He goes differently.”
“He’s so sweet. He’s totally in your pocket,” Wireman. said. “He’s just all about pleasing.”
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