byCatie Staszak| Dec 31, 2016
Going to the gym. Taking better care of yourself. Going out of your way to do good for others. As the ball dropped from Times Square in New York City on New Year’s Eve, people were ready to start anew with their New Year’s resolutions.
With countless victories and accolades this year, the top riders across the globe may appear to be doing things right, but these enduring competitors have already set their sights even higher in the coming year to be better riders, horsemen, and all-around people.
We asked six top riders what they’ll remember most about 2016, what they’ve decided on for their New Year’s resolutions, and how they’ll be spending the holiday.
Margie Engle, Show Jumper
Margie and her stunningly scopey mount Royce made the Short List for the United States Olympic Team this year, competing on Nations Cup teams in La Baule and St. Gallen. The duo won the $216,000 Hollow Creek Farm Grand Prix CSI 4* at Tryon. Margie also won the $40,000 Great Lakes Stake Classic CSI 3* with Elm Rock Partners’ Abunola.
“It’s hard to pick out just one thing that stands out from the year, but showing at La Baule was very exciting. Royce was double clear in the Nations Cup there and also double clean in the [$225,000 Longines Grand Prix of La Baule, where we finished fifth]. That was a nice show for us. Abunola was really good there, too. I used her for the qualifying class, and she went in, and it was the first time I had taken her to Europe, and she was really good for me. (The pair had just one rail.) It was just a nice show to start off our summer tour, and it was a good horse show all the way around.
“In 2017, I’m really just looking to help rebuild the string a little bit. I’m down a little bit on horses, as Abunola got sold. Then, I’m trying to keep my older group together and doing what they can. Indigo is still quite active, but as he gets older, we have to pick and choose a little bit where he goes. Rebuilding the string will definitely be the main challenge for next year. I have Royce, and I just need to find something to help complement him, so I don’t have to use him too hard. He’s a big, quieter-type horse, so the more I can give him a break, the better he is.
“I try to make resolutions all through the year! Having one is hard, but I mainly want to do the best I can and stay fit. I’d like to do a little better as far as eating properly and working out enough to stay fit for the sport. The older you get, the more you need to work out and exercise. I’m not always the best about eating the correct foods, so I’m trying to eat better and healthier. Back when I was in my late teens and up until my 30’s, I was riding between 60 and 70 rounds a day—when I did the hunters, too—and I was definitely a lot fitter then. I did gallop racehorses a little bit, too. A lot of riding was involved, and you stayed pretty fit doing that. Now, it’s harder to take all of that pounding.
“We usually try to do something quiet on New Year’s Eve with friends. It’s been nice over the holidays to spend time with family and friends. That’s been really fun, and it’s been nice to have some down time and reconnect. Your family keeps you grounded, and I’m very lucky to have a family I really enjoy and that I would enjoy being with whether they were family or not!”
Photo by NoelleFloyd.com
Kelley Farmer, Show Hunter
This year, Kelley continued her dominance in the hunter ring for Lane Change Farm, especially in derby competition. In August, she became the first rider ever to win all four of the $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby classes offered throughout the HITS circuits in Saugerties, Ocala ,and Thermal. Putting the cherry on top, she conquered the feat with three different horses—Baltimore (Saugerties and Thermal Desert Circuit), Mindful (Ocala), and Dalliance (National Sunshine Series at Thermal). She also finished as the runner-up in the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship with Nina Moore’s Kodachrome.
“I had a great year. I can’t say enough about the horses and how they went. Winning all four of [HITS CEO Tom Struzzieri]’s $100,000 hunter derbies was pretty amazing. But I really can’t say enough about all the horses. Every one of them has something or more-than something that they did [this year] that I’m so proud of. Everyone at Lane Change worked really hard, and it really showed, and it certainly paid off. The horses produced, and I can’t say enough about all the work that everyone put into it. It’s a hard thing for me to choose [one moment], but I cannot complain about that! We’re selling a lot, we still have a lot of the great group of horses that we’ve had in the past year, and we have a lot of new ones that we’re really looking forward to [showing] and are really excited about.
“I’m a little tired of that red cooler at Derby Finals, to be totally honest with you! As proud as I am of my horses, I’m a little tired of that red cooler! That being said, it’s also a pretty big accomplishment that I’ve had three different horses finish second in that class. But that is certainly a class that has eluded me that I would love to have on my resume, and I would love to have it happen, but if I never did, I can’t say that I’d be lacking anything.
“I haven’t given a lot of thought to a New Year’s Resolution. It gets pretty busy around [Lane Change], so I try to take it day by day. In general, I’d just like to try to keep finding new, young horses to produce. I’m very lucky: I have a group of full-on supporters and helpers—a village behind me that makes it all happen—and my New Year’s Resolution should be not to mess that up!”
Photo by Shawn McMillen
Jennie Brannigan, Eventer
In 2016, Jennie won the Fair Hill International CCI 2* with Beth Battel’s Stella Artois. The two were also named USEF National CCI 2* Champions and awarded the Connaught Grant by the USET Foundation. The $25,000 grant is given to a one- or two-star horse in the United States that the organization feels has potential to represent the United States Equestrian Team in international competition; she also was awarded the $30,000 Rebecca Broussard International Developing Rider’s Grant at the USEA Annual Meeting.
Jennie’s 2016 highlights also include a runner-up finish in the Ocala Jockey Club CCI 2* with Cool As Ice (in the mare’s first ever CCI 2*) and a win with Catalina in the Intermediate at the Virginia Horse Trials. She also piloted that mount to a second place finish at the Red Hills CIC 3*.
“Stella Artois winning Fair Hill was, personally, a proud accomplishment for me this year. She’s a horse that I own part of and have believed in from a young age. That win led us to winning the Connaught Grant, which was really, really special to me, especially with the connection to Phillip. (Brannigan spent time with the grant’s namesake Connaught when she worked for Phillip Dutton, who rode the horse for owner Bruce Duchossois in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.) Winning that grant and the Rebecca Broussard International Rider’s Grant was unbelievable. I was overwhelmed, and it was nice to feel like people are excited about my future and want to help me. That was pretty cool.
“With the string of horses I have, I’m really excited for the New Year. Getting Catalina into CCI 4* Rolex Kentucky would be incredible and going overseas would be amazing. I’m hoping to maybe get there in the spring for a spring three-star. I’m really excited to have so many horses back and going well right now.
“I’ve never really been super into having a New Year’s resolution, but this coming year, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. My resolution is to make the people proud that have invested in giving me those grants. Making those people proud and happy that they gave them to me is definitely something I’m going to try to do this coming season.
“I’m going to a friend’s wedding in Pennsylvania [for New Year’s], and then I’m pretty keen to get down south and back to work!”
Photo by Shannon Brinkman
Catherine Tyree, Under-25 Show Jumper
Cat might be the breakout star of 2016. The 23-year-old won the $86,000 Fidelity Investments Classic CSI 4* at the American Gold Cup with Bokai and the $50,000 Vermont Summer Celebration Grand Prix with Don’t Go. She also finished second in the Saugerties $1 Million Grand Prix in September with Enjoy Louis—all after missing more than five months in the saddle while recovering from a broken leg sustained in a fall at the Winter Equestrian Festival last January. Cat finished the year as the nations’ second-ranked Under-25 rider, according to USEF.
“The accomplishment I’m most proud of from 2016 was finishing second in the $1 million Grand Prix at HITS Saugerties in September. I had been back showing for three months since my injury and it was only my second five-star grand prix ever. Enjoy Louis jumped very well, and everything seemed to come together perfectly that day.
“My goal for this upcoming year is to continue to improve and become more consistent at the higher level. Having the chance to show against the best riders in the world has pushed me to become more competitive and refine my riding. Whether it’s by watching my rounds on video, fellow competitors, or European shows online, I’m always looking for things I can do better and try to learn by watching other riders I admire.
“I’ll be spending New Years Eve with friends and family in Wellington. My New Year’s resolution is to live in the moment. I ride because I love this sport and the horses that I get to work with. I feel very fortunate to have the horses that I do; to me, they’re my horses of a lifetime.”
Photo by Lucio Landa for NF Style
Richard Spooner, Show Jumper
Richard’s masterful horsemanship was on display when he piloted the 18-year-old Cristallo to a third win (and second in a row) in the CNOOC Nexen Cup Derby at Spruce Meadows in June. The California native also won the $50,000 FEI Las Vegas Jumper Classic at the Las Vegas National with his ageless wonder and has young horses coming up the ranks, some of which he bred himself.
“Cristallo winning the derby again at Spruce Meadows was really special. He also won a class at the end of the year in November in Las Vegas. He’s 18 years old, so it was very rewarding to have my old-timer pull through for me at the end of the year.
“I’m hoping Cristallo will win a derby again next year! The young ones I have are also doing well. I have a couple 6-year-olds that are special, and this will be a big year for them. I would call their 7-year-old year to be kind of their “coming out” year. They’re looking really good, so I’m optimistic for them. I also have a couple that are about to be eight, so this year will be interesting for the younger horses to see what their futures hold.
“I don’t really have a specific New Year’s Resolution, but I just try to work as hard or harder than I did last year and just keep my nose to the grindstone.”
Photo via Spruce Meadows
Lucy Deslauriers, Under-25 Show Jumper
At just 17 years old, Lucy accomplished what most teenagers can only dream of achieving. She won both the Quebec Original Grand Prix and the FEI Asante Classic at CSI 3*-W International Bromont in July. She also won the Friends of the Meadows Under-25 Cup at Spruce Meadows and finished second—to only McLain Ward and the indelible HH Carlos Z, no less—in the $76,000 CSI 4* Grand Prix Qualifier at the Hampton Classic. Due to her age, she is not yet permitted to compete in the World Cup Qualifiers, but that opportunity will come in 2017.
“In general, I am proud of becoming consistent at the 1.50m level. I was able to use this year to get my feet wet at the international level before becoming eligible to compete in three- to five-star grand prix classes in 2017. Specifically, I am thankful for my partner Hester, who helped me accomplish a 1.50m win at the CSI 5* Pan American Tournament in Spruce Meadows and second-place finishes in the CSI4* Grand Prix qualifiers at the Hampton Classic and American Gold Cup. I feel prepared for what is ahead in the upcoming year.
“My biggest goal in 2017 is to get comfortable and consistent at the grand-prix level while I aim to smoothly complete the college application process.
“My New Year’s resolution is to spend more time with my horses and become more fit as an athlete. I’ll be celebrating the New Year with my friends in Florida.”
Photo by NoelleFloyd.com