EAST DORSET, Vt. — Riders from New York and New Jersey headed north for the 25th annual Vermont Summer Festival. Competition at the Vermont Summer Festival runs for six consecutive weeks through Aug. 12 at Harold Beebe Farm in East Dorset, Vt.
Simons Back in the Tack After 17-Year Hiatus
Following a 17-year break from the show ring, Elizabeth “Betsy” Simons of Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., returned to the saddle to win seven championship titles in four weeks.
Simons found the sport of show jumping on her 29th birthday. Her husband, John, read a local newspaper announcement about Kim Perlman taking over a lesson and training business at a local farm, now known as Perlman’s Riverstone based in Central Valley, N.Y.. He bought her a gift certificate for a riding lesson and her life changed forever.
A commercial banker by trade, Simons rode with Perlman from 1989 to 2002 and purchased her own horse during that time. Aptly named The Other Man by her husband, the horse was known as “Tom” around the barn.
“It was in 2002 that I had two young children [Will and Katie] at home and my husband, who is also a banker, was going out on his own,” said Simons, who experienced great success with The Other Man in the Adult Amateur Hunter division throughout their time together. “I decided to take a break and I sold him. He was a wonderful horse and we won a lot. I couldn't imagine riding another horse, so I didn't ride anymore.
“When my children got a little more self-sufficient, I went back to work, played tennis, joined a book group, and ran a half marathon, but nothing was the same as riding,” said Simons. “There was something about this world that I felt so passionate about.”
Six months ago, Simons’ husband went on a golf trip and left her with some free time. Her first visit was to Riverstone.
“It felt like coming home,” said Simons, who has been training with Perlman and his wife, Caroline, ever since. “Caroline is the best teacher I have every encountered, and Kim is such a natural with the horses. I could never imagine training with anyone else but them.”
When Simons had The Other Man, her friend and fellow Riverstone rider, Ann Cohen, would often tell her that she would someday own a horse that was just as special. After Cohen died from colon cancer in 2016, her Westphalian mare, Willow Bay, remained at Riverstone and was the horse Simons rode on her first day back under the tutelage of Kim and Caroline.
“I didn’t have breeches, boots, or a helmet, but within 24 hours of my second visit that community had me completely outfitted,” recalled Simons, who had not sat on a horse in nearly 20 years. “I remembered watching Ann ride Willow Bay one day and she told me that this was her “Tom.” Remembering that made the decision to purchase her easy.”
Simons bought Willow Bay in the fall of 2017 and fast-tracked back to the horse show scene, selecting the Vermont Summer Festival as her first horse show in decades. During the pair’s four weeks competing in East Dorset, Simons and Willow Bay were champions of the Modified Adult Hunter division three times and topped the Pre-Adult Hunter division all four weeks, winning all three classes of the division three weeks in a row.
“I have a home in Londonderry, Vt., so the Vermont Summer Festival has always been a special place,” said Simons, who hopes to move back up to 3’ hunter competition soon. “The past four weeks have been a little piece of heaven.”
Candice King Returns to Vermont Summer Festival on Top
Candice King of Long Valley, N.J., returned to the Vermont Summer Festival to win the $10,000 Manchester Designer Outlets Welcome Stake on Thursday, July 19. She hadn’t shown in Vermont for nine years.
Four horses jumped through to a tie-breaking jump-off over courses set by Manuel Esparza of Mexico, who was part of the course building team at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Setting the pace early with tight inside turn to the second fence of the jump-off, King and Calisto 26, owned by Ross Smith, were the first to jump double-clear in 40.39 seconds.
Agatha D’Ambra of Clifton Park, N.Y., was unable to catch King’s time, but finished clear in 47.80 seconds to take second place riding Ça Va Bien, owned by Trade Winds Farm. With four faults in the jump-off, Brenna Doherty of Laurel Hollow, N.Y., finished third riding KM Whatever RV, and Angelo Danza of Brewster, N.Y., settled for fourth riding Euphoria after five rails fell over the short course. Morgan Ward of Milford, N.J., rounded out the top five with the fastest four-fault ride from the opening round on Diacord.
“I love it here!” said King, who last competed at the Vermont Summer Festival in 2009. “I have always been a fan of this show and I know they put a lot of effort into the footing this year I had a customer who was interested in showing here, so that’s what brought us back. There are a lot of good shows going on right now with a lot of options, but it is beautiful here and I really appreciate the management.”
King has had the ride on Calisto 26, an 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding sired by Check Point Charly, for one year, saying, “He is the easiest grand prix horse I have ever had. He goes on trail rides and does lessons with my daughter. My whole career I have done a lot of diverse training with my horses. Overall, he just wants to be there for you and to have a partnership like that is special.”
King, who represented the United States at three FEI World Cup Finals, recently took a step back from full-time competition to found Alamar Equine, a training business for both jumpers and western cow horses that she runs with her partner Cliff Schadt.
“I don’t go from hunter/jumper show to hunter/jumper show anymore, but I have a passion for being a horseman with a mixed group of horses that brought me back to my roots,” said King, 48, who grew up with quarter horses in her backyard. “My father did cutting and as soon as I could walk I was showing in halter classes, then I was competing in western pleasure equitation and trail classes when I was six. I was too little to show in the cutting shows and I got bored, so my dad let me take his top cutting horse and have my first English lesson. The rest is history.”
In addition to her share of the prize money from Thursday’s win, King was awarded a $1,000 gift card to Manchester Designer Outlets. Additionally, Manchester Designer Outlets presented D’Ambra with a $250 gift certificate to the Brooks Brothers outlet store in recognition of her second-place finish.
Ward Speeds to Otter Creek Grand Prix Victory
Morgan Ward of Milford, N.J., had the speed to claim the $30,000 Otter Creek Grand Prix riding Diacord on July 21.
Eight horses advanced to the jump-off where not a single rail fell over the track set by 2016 Olympic course designer Manuel Esparza of Mexico. The deciding factor was speed and 20-year-old Ward had just that. She used her speed, coupled with several inside turns, to stop the clock at 40.16 seconds riding Diacord. Candice King rode Calisto 26 to the runner-up spot with a time of 41.45 seconds for owner Ross Smith.
A young professional based out of her family’s Willow Brook Farm in Whitehouse, N.J., Ward had been knocking on the door of a top finish the previous two weeks.
“Diacord was double-clean in the welcome last week, then a little tired in the grand prix. He had a cheap rail in the welcome this week, and he felt a little tired in the schooling area again today,” said Ward of the nine-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Diamant de Semilly x Accord II). “But he walked in and after fence one I knew we were fine.”
Diacord joined Ward’s string two years ago as an equitation prospect, but stepped up to the grand prix level at the 2017 Vermont Summer Festival.
“He’s an incredible horse and is always ready to win whenever you walk in the ring,” said Ward of Diacord, formerly piloted by Israel’s Daniel Bluman. “We took our time during the first year and then David [Jennings] started helping me this winter in Ocala and the horse has continued to improve.
“This was a great way to end our time here,” said Ward, who gave her horses a break from competition for two weeks.
In recognition of her victory, Ward was awarded a scrim by Mona's Monograms as well as a crystal trophy. In addition, the Vermont Summer Festival also recognized her groom, David Alnoca, with the weekly Grand Prix Groom Award in honor of his hard work preparing Diacord for grand prix competition. He was presented with a monogrammed jacket and coolerette from sponsor Glenn Geary of Horsewatch.
Katie McVeigh Claims Hunter Derby Victory
Katie McVeigh of Mount Kisco, N.Y., topped the $5,000 NEHJA Hunter Derby, presented by Eastern Hay, on Thursday, July 19, during World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) week.
Spanning two competition rings, the derby courses were designed by Joe Carnicom of Toledo, Ohio, with traditional hunter jumps and derby-style fences. McVeigh had the highest score over the opening round to return last and combined an 82 with an 83 for a total score of 165 riding Goyard for their first derby win together.
Keirstin Johnsen of North Salem, N.Y., piloted Upset de Talma, owned by Lynne Schwartz, to scores of 82 and 77 to finish second on a score of 159.
McVeigh’s win also secured her the high-point amateur award, while 17-year-old Ally Archer of Katonah, N.Y., was named high-point junior riding Prophet for owner Showcase Limited.
McVeigh has had the ride on Goyard, an eight-year-old warmblood mare, for a year, saying, “She’s a horse that will do anything for you from any distance and she always comes out the same. She’s my favorite!”
For more information on the Vermont Summer Festival, please e-mail or visit www.vt-summerfestival.com.
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