My Road to having a Reserve Champion Foal


By Amy Griffin

What a summer!  From barely halter broken to Reserve Champion Southern Breeders Championship Series in just three weeks!

A HUGE thank you to Cristen Brown, USDF Senior Competitions Coordinator, who took the time, and had the patience, to explain to me (a novice owner and new USDF member) the value of entering my foal in all three days of the Haras Dos Cavaleiros Dressage Sport Horse In-Hand Qualifiers, in order to gain eligibility in the USDF Horse Of the Year (HOY) program.

I made the decision in the beginning of August to move my mare, Dakotah WS, and foal, Sauvignon WS (Sarkozy x Dakotah WS by Dancier, bred and foaled by Janice Marquardt (TX)), aka “Cheers”, to my trainer’s facility, Live Oaks Lane Farm, to prepare them for shipping to me in South Carolina.  When they arrived, my trainer, Cynthia P. Hall, who was planning to attend the Southern USDF Breeders Championship Series, started encouraging me to think about sending mine as well.  The only concern was that Cheers was too young to wean, and my young mare had never been to a show, so it would mean training both of them. Since Dakotah and Cheers had never lived outside the farm she was raised on, we didn’t know how quickly they would settle in at her facility and learn the ropes of in-hand presentation, not to mention how they would handle all the stress associated with show preparations and traveling.

Of course, on the closing date for the show, I was on the road for a business trip and had to make last minute decisions!  Originally, I was only thinking of sending Dakotah and Cheers to the show for one day, but Cristen, with her infinite wisdom and patience, explained the benefits of entering Cheers in all three days to qualify him for year-end rankings. After speaking with Cynthia, she reassured me that her team was making steady progress in their training, so I took the plunge and followed Cristen’s advice.  I so appreciate Cristen for taking the time with me during those stress-filled phone calls.

Little did I know that Cheers would go from barely halter trained to Reserve Champion USDF Southern Breeders Championship in barely 3 weeks.  He just blossomed under Cynthia’s care and training.  A big thank you to Cynthia and her team!  It was a group effort.  I think it’s easy to forget how many people it takes to minimize stress for safely bathing, braiding, grooming, and handling a mare and foal for showing.

I would like all foal owners to know that if I, a very new-to-dressage novice owner, can do it, that you can too!  Yes, you CAN get your foal ready to show, and win.  Even the foals who haven’t been handled much.  My beautiful Sauvignon WS went from a shy baby in the field to thoroughly enjoying the whole show experience.

It has been an incredibly exciting adventure.  A huge thank you to Cristen Brown and trainer/handler Cynthia P. Hall for making my dreams come true.  I can’t wait to see where Cheers lands in the USDF HOY standings!

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