The names are familiar to equestrians everywhere: Laura Kraut, Leslie Howard, Rodrigo Pessoa, Norman Dello Joio. Their achievements in equestrian sport have earned them worldwide acclaim, medals and money. They’ve represented their countries with dignity, standing with their exquisitely-groomed horses for photos and shaking hands with presidents, princes and prime ministers. Those vignettes don’t tell the whole story, though.
Somebody worked anonymously but with extraordinary dedication for hours before world class horses like Cedric or Donna Speciale entered the ring. In the stable area, surrounded by the tools of their trade, grooms are hard at work—often before dawn. Grooms for upper level show horses are critical members of the team. They make sure every braid is perfect, every stirrup is polished, every inch of the horse is spotless.
Although it’s unlikely they’ll ever achieve the fame of the horses and the riders they work for, some grooms at the equestrian world’s most prestigious events are finding their ways to the limelight. The effort to recognize how much work and skill grooms bring to the team began in 1998 at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. “My friend Noel Glavin and I created the award in memory of Moira Caffarey who passed away in 1997, from cancer. She was one of the best grooms ever,” Andrea Mewhinney explains. Mewhinney was once a groom, but is now a kidney/pancreas transplant nurse.
December marks the tenth anniversary of Horse Power For Life, a non-profit organization using horses to help families impacted by cancer. Founded by Shiree Radie and Barbara Rosoff, the organization provides a program combining riding instruction and interaction with horses to patients in treatment, survivors, family members and caregivers.
“A lot of people think that it is just the patient or it’s just kids. It’s men, women or children, it’s anyone who is currently going through treatment as well as survivors. We also opened the program up to people who have lost a loved one to cancer,” Radie said.
At the time they founded the organization, both Rosoff and Radie had lost family members to cancer. “We both have the passion for horses. There are a lot of therapeutic riding places, why not for cancer?” Radie said. “I found there were several programs around the county that specifically focus on cancer, but there was really nothing in this area for therapy for cancer.”
Instructor Becca Smith has a special place in her heart for her students, and all the Horse Power For Life participants, having lost her husband to brain cancer in 2011, and prior to that, surviving her own struggle with colon cancer.
The 83rd running of the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup in Unionville, PA was held Sunday, Nov. 11 under cloudy skies, on turf that was wet from rain the previous night yet firm for good going.
For the second year in a row, Ebanour, owned by Irvin S. Naylor and ridden by Darren Nagel, was the winner of the $35,000 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, even though trainer Cyril Murphy had not originally planned to run the horse in this race.
“We planned not to come last year. We didn’t get to the (Virginia) Gold Cup. At Geneseo (the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup in October) he turned over and stung his stifles and this was a backup,” Murphy explained. After that fall last year, Darren Nagel replaced Gus Dahl for a winning ride his first time on the horse in last year’s PA Hunt Cup.
Once again this year, Murphy had hopes of taking Ebanour to the fall Gold Cup. “After this spring, winning at the Gold Cup, the plan was to try to get back to the International Gold Cup in the fall. We went to Shawan Downs (in September) to give him a run around and we finished where we anticipated he would finish. We went to New Jersey (Far Hills) and he ran and jumped terrible. You couldn’t put a finger on it. He just didn’t seem to have any enthusiasm to run and jump on the day.”
Many quality Morgans from Pennsylvania were shipped to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to compete in the Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show, held October 7-14. More than 1,000 Morgans were entered from all over the country and Canada, and they competed in excess of 300 classes for over $400,000 in prize money.
For the four consecutive year, Matt Kwapich of Bernalillo, New Mexico, was the show's manager. This year, Sally Plumley of Monmouth, Oregon, served was show chairman. "We were so happy to have more entries than in recent years participating in a record number of classes," Sally said. "From thrilling park saddle classes to carriage driving classes, including a spectacular four-in-hand presentation, to 38 entries in the newly added Ranch Horse Pleasure class, and everything in between, there was something for everyone as the versatility of our Morgan horses was demonstrated magnificently.”
Merriehill Nighty Night was the first horse from Pennsylvania to bring home world and national titles. Owned by Debbie Confer of Cardinal Hill Stables in Bedminster, she won the Grand National Two-Year-Old Mare Championship, the Reserve World Junior Champion Mare and the World Futurity Two-Year-Old Mare Championship. Scott Neidlinger of Lingering Hill Stables presented her.