Photos by Taylor Bohac
June 1st was a blue skiedand breezy morning, and as my car pulled up to Liz Atkin’s stunning Benchmark Farms, the air was glimmering with excitement and the driveway was lined with sponsor banners. A long row of cars was parked in front of the gorgeous main barn, and spectators and riders alike were bustling from the barns to the beautifully decorated front porch.
|Diane Carney and judge Sarah Booker provided commentary with each round.|
The next morning, I arrived bright and early to Benchmark Farms to see riders, grooms and trainers hurrying around the grounds, preparing for the day's events. I peeked into the arena to see that a new and interesting course had been set according to clinician Carney’s direction, and a slew of fellow spectators had taken their seats, ready to watch the competition for the day unfold. As spectators quieted and commentator Diane Carney and Judge Sarah Booker took their places in the ring, students from the day prior filed into the arena one by one prepared for their rounds; only this time as competitors. Every rider and horse were beautifully turned out and prepared for the competition. Each pair was allowed a few warm-up jumps coached by their respective trainers before the actual rounds to keep with the tone of education set by the clinic day. After their warm-up, competitors started their rounds around the challenging track for the day, and upon finishing, returned to Carney and Booker to review their performance, and talk about positives and things to improve upon. Carney made a point to a nervous rider after their round that made me personally reflect. She wisely stated that getting nervous is a natural part of showing, but the only element that was different from the clinic the day prior was the fact that you dress up in different clothes. This piece of advice can be easily translated to all of us, as the only part differing a horse show from our regular practice riding is the added element of dressing up, which creates an unconscious anxiety. This is definitely somethingthat was eye opening for me and it seemed to help the rest of the day’s riders as well. Watching every round was exciting, and the crowd kept the energy up by cheering during each of the class's jump offs, which made things even more entertaining.
|Liz Atkins and Carletta earned the second blue of the day.|
|Chris Johnson and Dutch Martini flew to the win in the final Benchmark Stables Jumper Derby of the day.|
With the crowd cheering and the air filled with excitement, we all watched as Chris Johnson and Dutch Martini soared through their jump off to secure the top spot on the podium. After their victory gallop, special awards were handed out to participants, including Best Turned Out Horse and Rider, sponsored by Cynthia Zitko, which went to both Cassandra Jarchow and Casino RSS and Catie Hope Rose and Johnny Bravo. Both riders were awarded special prizes, as well as a fern. Most Improved Rider, which was sponsored by Pouwer Patties, went to Skyler Hendricks riding The Countess and the Dover Sportsmanship Award was won by Nancy Desmedt. Commentator and clinician Diane Carney closed the Derby by thanking the event’s sponsors and congratulating the riders, saying that they had all improved and rode well.
Overall, my time spent at the Benchmark Farms Clinic and Jumper Derby was wonderful, informative and exciting. Liz Atkins and the Benchmark Team put on a spectacular event, and Diane Carney allowed for it to be an educational experience for everyone in attendance. I'm so thankful to have audited and can't wait to head back next year!