Edited Press Release
Upper Marlboro, Md. — In a special presentation on Friday, October 6, 2023, SVF Inaugural, ridden and trained by Maria Rasmussen of Royal Palm Beach, Florida, and owned by Kristen Hamel’s Sunset View Farm LLC, of Richfield, Wisconsin, received the fifth annual Connaway & Associates Equine Insurance Services, Inc. High Point American-Bred Horse Award at the Capital Challenge Horse Show (CCHS).
With Rasmussen in the irons, the seven-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, bred by Heidi Smilde and H2 Sport Horses LLC, of Lexington, Kentucky, scored an 83.25 over fences in the Green Hunter Colts & Geldings division to capture the award.
“It’s great to recognize American breeders [with this award] because we need all the support we can get,” stated Smilde. “In many ways, breeding in the United States is an uphill challenge. This country has access to so many valuable bloodlines and genetics through the mares and stallions that have been imported from Europe, but they are largely untapped.”
“I am honored to sponsor the High Point American-Bred Horse Award for the fifth year at Capital Challenge,” said Connaway & Associates President Laura Connaway of Little Rock, Arkansas. “Congratulations to SVF Inaugural and Maria Rasmussen as well as to Kristen Hamel and Heidi Smilde, all of whom have played an integral role in developing this stellar young American-bred horse. Acknowledging the time and commitment it takes to responsibly breed and produce sport horses is something that is very near and dear to my heart. As the breeder of my mounts, I understand the dedication that is required, and I hope our community will continue to recognize North American homebreds and the efforts of the people who are instrumental in their achievements.”
SVF Inaugural is sired by Comme Il Faut and out of Indy 28, a mare owned by Smilde that initially had a career in the young rider divisions in Europe and later became a successful grand prix mount. For Smilde, breeding responsibly means doing her best to ensure the foals she has bred and helped produce have qualities that will enable the horse to be a reliable mount for various riders.
“In the United States, the hunter/jumper horse show market largely serves amateur and junior riders,” she said. “Breeding and producing a horse that’s both rideable and has a kind disposition will result in more career options for them going forward.
“SVF Inaugural was one of the first sport horses I bred,” continued Smilde. “Horses need to have talent, and they also have to have the right mentality. Since he was a foal, SVF Inaugural was a delight to be around and always tried to do the right thing. Even as he matured into a stallion, I handled him by myself thanks to his [kind] demeanor.”
Rasmussen, who began her partnership with SVF Inaugural after Hamel purchased the then-stallion in August 2022, echoed Smilde’s sentiments.
“You can go in his stall to snuggle him and sit with him; he’s the sweetest thing,” shared Rasmussen.
Before entering Rasmussen and Hamel’s program, SVF Inaugural had been competing in the six-year-old jumper divisions. Rasmussen took note of his jumping style and way of going and thought he would be a strong hunter prospect. Since beginning her training with SVF Inaugural, Rasmussen has taken careful steps to slowly transition him to the hunter ring.
“After he was gelded, we focused on flatwork for several months. Over time, we introduced small jumps so he could learn to jump a course and keep his form,” she explained. “He’s showed only a few times before coming to Capital Challenge. He tries really hard every single time you jump him or walk into the show ring. He’s always trying to figure out what you’re asking him and because of that he keeps getting better. It’s been really fun to work with him.”
The award is particularly special for Hamel who has recently dipped her toe into the world of American-bred horses by breeding her daughter’s former jumper mount in hopes of producing a quality jumper prospect.
“Supporting American breeders is a little bit like shopping local,” shared Hamel. “You want to support people in your industry who are trying really hard. If someone brings me a horse that intrigues me and it’s American bred, I’m way more interested in that than shopping in Europe.”
“I’m super grateful for our team and to Laura [Connaway] for sponsoring this award,” she continued. “It’s great to support the horse industry in a positive way and in a manner that educates the community, as well as encourages people to jump on the bandwagon.”
While SVF Inaugural is done showing for the season, Rasmussen and Hamel are looking forward to easing him into the 3’3” Green Hunter division next year with the goal of competing him at the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) Green Hunter Incentive Finals in 2024.
About Connaway & Associates Equine Insurance Services, Inc.
At Connaway & Associates, teamwork allows horse people to protect horse people. Since 1992, Connaway & Associates has built a strong reputation as a reliable partner in competition and in business. Connaway and Associates is licensed in 48 states and offers competitive insurance coverage options through several A-rated admitted insurance carriers. Connaway & Associates does the work so its clients can enjoy their passion for horses. For more information on Connaway & Associates and its offerings, visit www.connaway.net.