Morgan Ashby Makes it Two Top Finishes in $15,000 Leibold 1.30m Junior/Amateur Jumper Classic

Summer Grace / Flaxen Mane Media 
For the Sarasota Winter Classic 

Jan. 14, 2024 – Myakka City, FL – The final weekend of competition during the 2024 Sarasota Winter Classic was all about the junior and amateur riders. Throughout Saturday and Sunday, a plethora of junior/amateur and child/adult classics took center stage in the Lakeside Arena at TerraNova Equestrian Center. In an effort to continue to produce an exceptional exhibitor-focused horse show experience, the Sarasota Winter Classic partnered with TerraNova Equestrian Center in 2023 to provide unparalleled accommodations and hospitality. The $15,000 Leibold 1.30m Junior/Amateur Jumper Classic debuted the non-professional competition for the weekend with the win once again coming from young amateur Morgan Ashby. 

Morgan Ashby stands for presentation with Allen Nabors & Show Manager Bill Worthington. Photo By Eye Was Here Photography

Ashby piloted two mounts across the first round track, designed by Mauricio Garcia, but qualified only Allen Nabors’ 13-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Revaou de la Bergerie), Bon Chatsworth Pierre, for the short course. Ashby returned as one of four competitors to qualify for the jump off, out of the original nine-horse starting field, and was one of only two combinations to procure a fault-free finish. 

“I wanted to go for it this week,” she admitted. “He’s a very fast horse and last week I sort of held him back. The first week I took it way more relaxed and just worked on getting them all back in the ring and confident, but this week I decided to get their feet moving and I think they feel really good.”

Hear from winner Morgan Ashby here!

While Ashby also competes in the grand prix circuit as an amateur rider, she has been thrilled to see the junior and amateur divisions highlighted throughout the past two weeks and spoke to how it has prepared her for the upcoming circuit. 

“The atmosphere was actually really nice because I’ve jumped the grand prixs with him but he’s just coming back,” described Ashby. “ This class was similar in format to a grand prix where you come back for the jump off, and it was good for his brain to be able to train that without the fences being as big as yesterday; it was great for his confidence building.”

Porter Tobin piloted Melinda Taylor’s 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare (Boss), Arielle Race, to the second-fastest clear round, clocking in at 41.946 seconds behind Ashby’s blazing 38.597 seconds. With just two on the clock, Haley Gassel and the Westwind Equine Training Center’s 16-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Ogano Sitte), Iliano van D’abelendreef, rounded out the lap of honor. 

Sunshine Buchanan & Don’t Stop. Photo by Eye Was Here Photography

At the start of the day, Saturday morning competition debuted with the $3,500 Michael Saunders & Co 1.15m Classic where Sunshine Buchanan took the top call aboard Hudson Meadows Racing LLC’s Don’t Stop. The pair stopped the clock in 39.630 seconds, just ahead of Ashby’s time of 39.886 seconds with her own 13-year-old Warmblood gelding (Yalambi’s Carpino Z), Yalambi’s Garibaldi. Porter Tobin put himself in the ribbons once more as he took the third place honors on his own 13-year-old Oldenburg mare (Carrico), Carla, with a time of 40.226 seconds. 

Sunshine Buchanan stands with Show Manager Bill Worthington. Photo by Eye Was Here Photography

Classic competition continued into Sunday as the series came to a close for another season. All classifications of riders were welcome in the morning’s debut class, the $10,000 1.30m Open Jumper Classic. Flying high from her Saturday success, Ashby once again picked up the coveted blue ribbon, this time aboard her own Dutchess Carola. Five entries of the original 11-horse starting field advanced across Garcia’s final first-round course. Only one pair put forth a better time than Ashby, but at the expense of a fallen rail that cost them the lead. As the final to contest, Ashby smoothly piloted her 13-year-old Holsteiner mare (Contados) safely into first place with a time of 39.407 seconds. Stephanie Gallucci and the Equine Partners International LLC’s seven-year-old Zangersheide mare (Ilias vh Vlasmeer), Infinity SMS Z, earned the reserve title with their time of 41.171 seconds. Shannon Hicks and Helen Gilbert’s seven-year-old Selle Francais stallion (For Pleasure), Halo de Maugre, rounded out the top three for the first classic. 

Photo by Eye Was Here Photography

Following the morning class, the day moved into its full schedule of junior/amateur and child/adult classics beginning with the $10,000 1.20m Junior/Amateur Jumper Classic. In an exciting head-to-head duel, Ashby’s barn mate, Sharon Brown, fought for victory and won after besting Ashby by close to six seconds. Determined not to take the runner-up position, Brown blazed across the short course on her self-bred 14-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Roc USA), Thunderstroc USA. 

“Morgan [Ashby] is an incredibly fast rider and yesterday we were both in another classic and I  ended up fourth,” Brown explained. “I was determined not to let her beat me today! I could tell he was really in top form today and we’ve been working on tighter turns with our trainer, Allen Nabors.”

Sharon Brown & Thunderstroc USA. Photo by Eye Was Here Photography

For Brown, building a partnership with the gelding has been a lifelong process – as in since the day he was born. 

”It was a dream of mine from the time I was a kid to breed my own horse,” she detailed. “When I got out of college, I didn’t ride for 25 years because of expenses and time, but as soon as I got back into riding I thought about it again. I was there the day he was born and I always said that someday, when he was done jumping the grand prixs, he was going to be my amateur horse. He’s fourteen now, and it’s worked out great because he thinks this job is pretty easy. He has been the thrill of my lifetime.

Sharon Brown & Allen Nabors. Photo by Eye Was Here Photography

“Allen’s been a phenomenal trainer and he has helped us immensely,” Brown added. “He is so dedicated so it really means a lot to him when we do well.”

Ashby accepted the second place ribbon with Kristen Franz’s 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Numero Uno), Numero Dos, with a time of 44.145 seconds and the only other clear effort. Vida Vasic and David Jenning’s 18-year-old Warmblood gelding (Conquistador), Diamond B Casanova, posted the fastest four-fault performance for third place. 

Kaitlyn Nussel & Nacint Z. Photo by Eye Was Here Photography

Competition moved into the afternoon with the $7,500 1.10m Child/Adult Classic where Kaitlyn Nussel and RCR Equestrian’s 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Numero Uno), Nacint Z, took the win after landing from the final jump-off fence in 42.529 seconds. As the only other combination to post a flawless first-round effort, Jordann Fabian and the 12-year-old Warmblood gelding, Porthos, advanced to the jump off for second place, while Tayler Eldridge and her own 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Clarimo), Carlson Vom Dach, finished out the victory gallop in third. 

Lily Lidsky & Technical Coordinator Mason Garrity. Photo by Eye Was Here Photography

Classic competition closed out as six horse-and-rider pairings took on the $2,500 1.0m Child/Adult Classic. Of the three double-clear rounds produced, Lily Lidsky and her own 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Clinton I), Calisinni, earned the final first place classic ribbon of the day with a fault-free time of 36.498 seconds. Danielle Walawender did her best to overthrow Lidsky’s efforts on Kallie Schaefer’s 15-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Jumpstart), Kolohe, but settled for second place ahead of Sydney Woodroof and SPW Equestrian LLC’s Connor’s Boy. 
For a full list of series results please visit showmanagementsystem.com. To learn more about the Sarasota Winter Classic, click here.