Over the past 12 years, The Equiery has highlighted the accomplishments of Maryland event riders successfully competing at the Training Level with the Perpetual Combined Training Award. This annual award was created to not only recognize those competing at the Training Level, but promote eventing within Maryland and encourage event riders to aspire to higher levels.
As the sport of eventing has grown in Maryland, so has the requirements for this award. In 1996, the first year the award was given, there were only about eight horse trials held in Maryland. That year, to win the award, the rider had to be a Maryland Combined Training Association member and compete in at least half of the Maryland recognized horse trials, which was about four events. Though the MCTA membership requirement has never changed, “half of the Maryland recognized horse trials” has grown, and in the last few years, The Equiery has changed the requirement to at least six events. (See sidebar for the 2009 requirements.)
Six events may seem like a lot; however, past winners have completed many more than that in a single season. Some have gone on to compete at the upper levels. Others have continued at Training Level, ever improving their skills. These are the stories behind the winners, their horses, their dreams and their accomplishments.
Michele Buford & As Easy As
Michele Buford and As Easy As were the first winners of the trophy in 1996. Michele owned Weave-A-Dream Farm in Hampstead with her husband Dave. There they ran a successful eventing stable that hosted multiple USEA horse trials a year. The couple recently moved their business to Kentucky.
In 1997, Barbara Foose rode As Easy As in several Preliminary events. She finished second at Menfelt that June and second again at the Virginia Horse Trials in November. They also competed in Radnor Hunt’s three-day in the one-star division. The following year, the pair continued to improve at Preliminary, winning three horse trials and finishing fourth at Bromont’s three-day event.
Michele is still active within the eventing community.
Stephanie Butts & Sir Maxwell
In 1997, then 13-year-old Stephanie Butts of Laytonsville won the trophy aboard Sir Maxwell, affectionately known as “Willy.” Stephanie rode in her first event in 1992 and has since ridden up through the Advanced Level. She had only been riding Willy for about a year before they won the award. “He was phenomenal and helped me out a lot. I had fun on the flat for the first time, and learned something new at every event,” she said. Stephanie credited Willy for getting her interested in the sport and giving her the drive to want to do her best at every level.
While still eventing Willy at Training level, Stephanie bought Bungee. At the time, Bungee was only 4 years old. Stephanie’s proudest moment since winning the award was riding Bungee, a horse she trained herself, through the Advanced Level. “For sure, riding Z was a great experience,” she added, referring to her mother Gretchen’s four-star horse who Stephanie competed at the Advanced level as well.
Now Stephanie really enjoys “starting the young horses and bringing them along.” She spent the winter competing a few up through Preliminary and plans to ride some of the younger horses in Young Event Horse competitions this season.
Willy went on to compete with several other riders, including the 2003 trophy winner Alexandra Curtiss. “He was a great horse to teach people the ropes,” Stephanie said. Willy passed away in 2007 after teaching countless riders about the joys of eventing.
Curtis Green & Alterman
In their first season together, Curtis Green of Derwood and Alterman won the trophy in 1998. Curtis had been eventing for five years prior to buying “Moe” and moved the horse up to Preliminary the following season.
Curtis won his first Preliminary horse trials aboard Moe, which was at Elysian Hills in Virginia. Also in 1999, Curtis and Moe were on the winning Area II team that competed in the Adult Team Championship.
Curtis never did a one-star with Moe, deciding to retire him at 18 years old instead. Today, Moe still lives at Curtis’s farm and is a happy and healthy 26-year-old horse.
Laura Pitts & Luna
Laura Pitts and Luna won the trophy in 1999. That same year, the Dickerson rider moved Luna up to Preliminary. More recently, Laura has campaigned several horses at the Novice and Training Levels.
Mindy Soethe & Deliparad
The 2000 trophy winners were Mindy Soethe of Churc Hill and Deliparad. That season, the pair moved up to Preliminary, placing second at Waredaca and Elysian Hills, both in October. The following year, Mindy and Deliparad continued to compete at the Preliminary Level.
Abigail Gibbon & Forever
In 2001, Abigail Gibbon of Silver Spring won the trophy aboard the Trakenhner Forever. Highlights of their 2001 season included wins at both Plantation Field in May and Waredaca in September. They also placed second three other times that year and third once. In fact, the pair never placed outside the ribbons in its eight completed horse trials that season; two of which were at the Preliminary Level.
In 2004, Forever hit the eventing scene once again. This time with Christina McNemar of New Windsor aboard who placed seventh at Fair Hill in May.
Lizzie Wisner & Top of the Mast
Before Top of the Mast and Lizzie Wisner of Upperco won the trophy in 2002, the Thoroughbred had been competing up through Intermediate with owner Karen Elbert of New Jersey. He had won at both Preliminary and Intermediate with Karen and finished fourth at Advanced with Buck Davidson.
The horse’s success continued with Lizzie aboard in 2003 when they placed in the ribbons at every Training-level event they entered. Moving up to Preliminary that same year, Lizzie and Top of the Mast placed seventh at Flora Lea’s fall horse trials. He was then evented by Karen’s daughter before sustaining a life-ending injury.
In 2005, Lizzie began to campaign String Me Along, a horse her older sister had trained. Together they quickly moved up to Preliminary. The next year, Lizzie started competing Fast Quadrant, another one of her sister’s horses.
Today, Lizzie attends Cornell University where she rides on the school’s polo team and fox hunts String Me Along.
Alexandra Curtiss & Pumpernickel
In 2003, Alexandra Curtiss rode her family’s homebred Clydesdale cross to win the trophy. Alex started eventing Pumpernickel as a 4-year-old and he was 6 years old the year he won the trophy.
The following year, the pair moved up to Preliminary. “With his size, he really did not want to run at [Preliminary],” Alex said. Instead the Curtiss family rode him as a foxhunter, which he still does today. In 2008, Pumpernickel was brought out of “retirement” so that Alex could ride him for her “A” rating through Howard County Pony Club. Her younger sister Molly Curtiss (the 2007 trophy winner) also rode him that year during her “B” rating. Both girls were successful in achieving their ratings.
Alex went on to ride Tara Zieglar’s horse Carakat through the Intermediate Level. Together Alex rode on both the Area II Young Rider one- and two-star teams. “It was a great experience to represent the country and the area,” she said. Alex is now finishing college at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and will be attending vet school at the University of Pennsylvania this fall. As for Pumpernickel, “he’s never leaving our barn!” exclaimed Alex.
Courtney Sendak & Wil’ Ya Love Me
Courtney Sendak of Sparks rode the Connemara Wil’ Ya Love Me, another winning “Willy,” to earn the 2004 trophy. Courtney had been eventing since 1998 and owned Willy since he was 2 years old. Since winning the award, Courtney and Willy have steadily moved up the levels and represented both Area II and the Maryland Pony Club region in several national and international competitions.
Just two years after Courtney’s winning season, the pair won a silver medal as part of the Area II Young Rider one-star team at the North American Junior Young Riders Championships. At the competition, they completed the traditional long format three-day with flying colors. Last year, the pair was on the winning Maryland Region Pony Club Level 3 Show Jumping team. It also won a special award for being the only pair with five clean championship rounds.
Courtney recently began her own business, which is called Defining Gravity Eventing. Now competing at Intermediate, she is looking to earn a spot on this year’s Area II Young Rider two-star team. “I also want to get my “HA” and “A” through Pony Club and do the Instructor Certification Program through the United States Eventing Association,” she said. Courtney added that winning the trophy “was a great confidence boost that I needed! So many people have told me I was crazy to compete Willy at Training, and now look at him: a successful Intermediate horse!”
Teresa Ormsby & Bryce Be Quick
Teresa Ormsby, now living in York, Pennsylvania, won the trophy on Bryce Be Quick in 2005. Teresa did not start riding until she was 23 years old and began her riding career in the hunter ring. After she bought Bryce in 1994, a hunter trainer advised her that she should either sell the horse or take up eventing.
Teresa promptly entered her first horse trials. The pair moved up the levels quickly and competed at Preliminary before ever winning the trophy. In 2005, Teresa started graduate school at Villa Julie College in Stevenson. She found it difficult to keep Bryce Preliminary fit and attend classes so they competed Training only. Her 2005 season was near perfect, placing in the top six in all but one event entered.
The following year, Teresa focused on completing classes and took a brief hiatus from competing. Then in 2007, Teresa took another season off to have her first child. In 2008, the pair returned to eventing at MCTA where Teresa eased back into things, competing at Novice. This season, she plans to do the same. “Bryce turned 20 [years old] this year. The most we’ll do is a Training just for fun. It’s now about me competing against myself, no other goals,” she said.
Mardi Herman & Zoe
Mardi Herman of Darlington had been eventing for about four years before she and Zoe won the trophy in 2006. Mardi and the then-11-year-old Zoe, a homebred mare, competed in 10 events that season, one of which was the Training three-day event at Waredaca where she finished seventh.
The only non-Maryland event in which they competed was the Area II Training Level Championships, which was held in New Jersey. They finished fourth at that event.
The following season, the pair moved up to Preliminary and has since competed at that level for about one and a half seasons. “[Zoe] was always good; it was more me figuring it out,” she said. Mardi says the highlight of the pair’s Preliminary career so far was in 2008 when she completed her first one-star.
Mardi plans to continue competing Zoe at Preliminary this season.
Molly Curtis & Savannah
Molly Curtis of Brookeville is the most recent winner of the trophy, having won the award in 2007 aboard Savannah. That season they competed in 13 events, seven events in Maryland at the Training level, plus the Training Three-day at Waredaca.
The pair also moved up to Preliminary that season and represented Howard County Pony Club at the U.S. Pony Club Championships in Kentucky. The following season, Molly and Savannah traveled around the U.S. and Canada competing at both the national and international level. They competed at the Bromont CCI one-star in Canada and then went to Colorado to represent the U.S. on the Area II Young Rider team. Molly also passed her Pony Club “B” rating in 2008.
This year, Molly and Savannah will continue to compete at the Preliminary Level and would like to grab a spot on the Area II Young Rider team once again. Molly will be attending Elon University in North Carolina this fall.