After six months of watching hundreds of riders at highly-competitive A-rated shows in five different states, I have seen some spectacular junior riders. You probably already know about riders like Lucas Porter and Gia Rinaldi succeeding in Grand Prix events against people over twice their age, but you may not know about these up and coming riders that I think are also poised for big wins in their junior careers. What do these riders have in common? In the ring, they are talented and fierce, but out of the ring they have some of the biggest smiles at the show. I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Claire is only a freshman in high school but has been having a fantastic spring after teaming up with her new hunter, Lucky, toward the end of WEF. She is already competing in the Small Junior Hunter classes with him (pictured above). She has also been picking up ribbons left and right after only recently moving up to the Big Eq on her Equitation horse Playboy (barn name Hef), taking home a 3rd in the Maclay, 2nd in WIHS overall and 1st and 2nds in the Taylor Harris at Showplace Spring. Outside of the show ring, Claire is one of the friendliest, happiest riders you’ll meet, with a genuine love for her horses that is quickly apparent when you see her with them in between rides. A rider already putting in consistently solid rounds in both rings and with several more junior years to come, Claire Azar is a name you will be hearing early and often during the equitation and hunter line-ups.
Lilly stays busy when she’s at a show. You might see her making it look easy in a Pony or Children’s Hunter class. You might see her flying high in Children’s Jumpers on “Barbara” (above) short for “Barbie Dream Horse.” You might even see her showing her jumper in an eq medal. But what you will definitely see is a versatile equestrian with a cool, poised demeanor. If you follow Lilly on Instagram like I do, you may also know that she does acrobatic tricks on her horses that will literally leave you blinking at the screen with your jaw-dropped, gesturing, “HOW?!?!” (keep scrolling for photo evidence.) When I asked Lilly how she discovered this talent during an in-person interview at Kentucky Spring, she said with a smile that she just decided to try it one day. Oh, and yes, she can perform this balancing act on all different horses (I asked.) Whether in or out of the show ring, it’s obvious that Lilly is naturally meant to be on a horse. I’m excited for her bright future on the A-circuit, which will surely include stunting during a victory gallop after casually winning a Grand Prix.
If you were at Tryon Spring, you likely walked by hunter powerhouse Wayside Farm’s set-up between Rings 1 and 2 where you would be greeted by an enormous amount of ribbons, most of them of the blue, red and yellow variety. Elizabeth contributed greatly to this display over weeks 7 and 8, with a 3rd place finish in the Hunter Derby, 1st and 2nd place finishes in the Hunter Classic, 2nd and 3rds in the Maclay, 1st in the Taylor Harris, and as Circuit Champion in the Junior Hunters. After these two weeks at Tryon and a successful winter in Ocala, it’s no surprise that her horse Quintessential is 2nd in the Large Junior Hunter 15 & Under standings for Zone 4. One of Elizabeth’s other horses, Kenan, also swept the Pre-Green Hunter division with four 1sts and a win in the $25k Hunter Derby; Elizabeth currently rides Kenan in the 15-17 Equitation and Medals, which she consistently placed in the top three for all classes with him. Whether they decide to focus on the Hunters or Equitation, they’ll be another unstoppable pair during coming show seasons.
Savannah is a jumper. She’s a jumper in the sense that she only does the jumper events, but also in the “I am going for it every single round, no matter what” sense. I mean, her Instagram handle is “jumpersrbetter.” If there’s an inside turn, she’s going to take it. If it’s a speed round, she’s going to go fast. She rides two horses, Magic Cruise (seen above), and Lagoa, who recently had to have an eye removed, but is still winning champion ribbons under Savannah’s guidance and training. Always close-by during Savannah’s rounds is her family, who has a contagious amount of fun while cheering her on. You won’t be able to miss them as they shout, whistle, and clap during and after her rounds, and she always leaves the ring smiling their way. Savannah just moved up from the Low to Medium Junior jumpers during Tryon Spring and I’m happy to have joined her cheering squad as she continues to go for it, every single time.
Mary Elizabeth recently completed a strong two week run at Upperville and Loudon, claiming a 1st, 4th and 5th in the Children’s Jumper Classic, 1st in Medal and 2nd and 4th in the Maclay. She is also currently 2nd in the WIHS Children’s Jumper standings and 9th in the THIS Medal Standings for 2015. Outside of the show ring, Mary Elizabeth is a Youth Ambassador for the Washington International Horse Show, and enjoys photography, pranking people, and snapchatting videos of her mom trying to talk about her eq rounds. Mary Elizabeth also has a long list of current and former barn mates who she can always be seen supporting at shows when she’s not in the ring herself. Her big win of the spring was at Devon. In a stacked Medal field, Mary Elizabeth was called back first after the first round and ultimately placed 4th after the test. Her performance at Devon was so compelling in a field of “big names” that it prompted this tweet:
Now you know.