By Catie Staszak for Weather or Not Equestrian
Rachel Geiger Barker’s first recollection of WCHR Week at Wellington, FL’s Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) came on a most rainy Saturday in February of 2002.
Looking back, the accomplished amateur rider finds the association most fitting, given the founding of her company, Weather or Not (WON) Equestrian, last year. Made to both weather the elements and perform in the sunshine, WON Equestrian’s Stay Dry Breech is water resistant and mud and dirt repellent. She and professional Louise Serio, who was riding her horse Dream Date could have used them ahead of that 2002 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular.
“[Dream Date] was showing in the First Year [Green Hunter division] with Louise, and he qualified [for the Hunter Spectacular]. That year, it rained all day on Saturday, so they had the Spectacular in the DeNemethy Ring,” Geiger Barker recalled, referencing a time when the venue’s International Arena consisted of a grass surface. “[Dream Date] had never been in DeNemethy, but he walked in, and he had two flawless rounds. He ended up second to Strapless.”
(Yes, that Strapless, a member of the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame and a four-time winner of the Spectacular.)
“We were such outsiders [at the time],” Geiger Barker added. “It was [my family’s] first time coming to Florida as owners, riders—anything. And here, our horse was second. It was amazing!”
Geiger Barker has been a part of WEF’s WCHR Week as an owner, a rider and now an entrepreneur, as WON Equestrian has joined WEF’s roster of sponsors for the first time. There’s no shortage of memories, and many include Dream Date, who joined her string in 2000 as a very green hunter prospect. The flashy bay would prove that his runner-up finish was no fluke, jumping to eighth in the following year’s Spectacular (despite some freshness).
“He always exceeded every expectation,” Geiger Barker said.
MORE THAN HORSES
In Serio’s tack room at her famed Derbydown operation, you’ll find a photo of Geiger Barker’s mother, Jeanne.
The day before the 2005 Hunter Spectacular, Geiger Barker’s mother passed away from a tragic accident. Serio dropped everything to be with Geiger Barker in her time of need, even flying Geiger Barker to Pennsylvania to meet her family so she wouldn’t be alone.
Serio returned to Wellington, and she rode Shaw Johnson Price’s Costello in the Spectacular, dedicating the ride to Jeanne. Serio and Costello—a First Year Green Hunter at the time—were winners that night. The two ribbons were split, each framed with a photo of Jeanne. One is with Serio, and the other is with Geiger Barker.
The following year, Geiger Barker had her own moment in the Hunter Spectacular riding Aeropostale, and in 2007, she replicated the feat, qualifying with both Dream Date (by way of the Amateur Owner Hunter 18-35 Championship) and Aeropostale, who received an automatic berth into the class after topping the 2006 WCHR A/O National Championship title at the Capital Challenge Horse Show. Dream Date would eventually be honored in a retirement ceremony during the 2012 Hunter Spectacular, where those in attendance blew bubbles around the bay, a nod to his barn nickname.
“It was really, really special,” Geiger Barker said. “My whole barn family was always there for me. It’s such an unparalleled community. When I lost my mom, especially, people were so loving, so supportive.”
Geiger Barker stepped away from the saddle to raise a family and pursue entrepreneurship. Now, she’s on her way back, while providing her own support for riders and industry professionals with her Stay Dry Breech.
“I’m excited to be back and have all those same people supporting me and wanting me to succeed and also to be able to bring something else to the table,” Geiger Barker said. “I started WON Equestrian for them.”
At WEF 2023, WON Equestrian is the sponsor of the Amateur-Owner Hunter 3’6” 18-35—a division Geiger Barker once competed in herself. You can find her present championship honors weekly; WON Equestrian products are also available for sale onsite at Ride EquiSafe, located in Wellington International’s Vendor Village. Orders can be placed online at WONEquestrian.com.
“I’m grateful to every person that has given my breeches a try,” Geiger Barker said. “I want riders to know that I’ve been in their boots and can relate to so many of the scenarios they face. As I run my small business, I’m applying many of the lessons that I’ve learned as an equestrian.”
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