(first appeared in The Equiery May 2012 issue)
by Katherine O. Rizzo

Keeping It In the Family
At the January 2011 Maryland Horse World Expo, Grace Boston announced to The Equiery staff that she would be the 2011 Equiery Perpetual Hunter Award Winner. A little bold for a then 10-year-old! Grace’s twin sister Sarah was being honored that day as the 2010 winner and Grace had already started making plans for how she could be the next winner.

With determination and the help of her parents Sharon and Wally, sister Sarah, trainer Amy Dawson, and assistant Bristol Markward, Grace worked her way up to being the top hunter rider on the Maryland Horse Shows Association circuit as well as claiming other top honors in 2011. “I think it is cool that my sister won this award last year and now I’ve won it,” she said. “And getting to ride at the Cow Palace in front of all those people was cool too,” Grace added, referring to the presentation of the award during this year’s Equiery’s Showcase of Maryland Champions.

At the end of the 2011 season, Grace had earned two MHSA year-end championships, two MHSA year-end reserve championships, a USHJA award, 17 champion tricolors and nine reserve champion tricolors.

Early Lessons

Grace remembers first being interested in horses from the pony rides she and her sister would take at the fair. “That’s all I wanted to do,” she said. Through the riding program at the McDonogh School, Grace first started taking lessons when she was in first grade. Riding quickly turned into a passion and she now takes lessons four days a week. “I walk to the barn after school, ride, and then go home to do homework,” she explained.

Grace started showing when she was seven, getting her start in the leadline classes. “Grace tried hard, even in leadline. She was super cute and enjoyed it,” Amy said of those early days. “Showing is fun. It’s great to be able to show what you’ve been working on,” Grace added. Sharon commented, “This is a great time in our lives; lots of togetherness going to shows as a family.” She added, “It is important to look at this sport as not competing against other people but with other people…not ‘us versus them’.”

Having siblings heavily involved in the same sport can be a challenge but Grace said, “It’s just kind of normal. We don’t get mad at each other if one beats the other.” In general, the girls tend to compete in different divisions but sometimes classes are combined. “They are very supportive of each other. They hack each others’ ponies and jog for each other,” Sharon said.

One of Grace’s early mounts was Sham’s Loganberry, a pony donated to McDonogh by Stacey Schaefer. Logan was the 2004 Pony Finals Grand Champion with Samantha Schaefer on board. “Logan is by far my favorite ‘go to’ pony. He has never let me down,” Amy said.

Amy added that both Boston girls got to show Logan in the leadline mini-short stirrup classes but since both girls were tiny riders, his big canter stride was a bit too much for them when they started jumping. He was then leased to Allyson Henry who rode him successfully in the Children’s Pony divisions.

Building a Connection

The Grace-Logan team came together again in 2011 to win this Equiery award. “Once Grace got bigger and stronger, he was her perfect match; peanut butter and jelly. You could see their bond and how much they truly loved and trusted each other,” Amy said.

Last year, Grace and Logan competed in the Small/Medium Children’s Pony divisions and won almost every show they attended. Together they were champion or reserve champion in 13 horse shows. “I like that [Logan’s] stride is very long and that he can still jump from the deep [distances] when needed,” she said.

Amy said her favorite memory from 2011 was watching Grace ride Logan at the Keswick Horse Show. “They were just on it… like they were reading each other’s minds. I remember after their last fence a trainer from another barn yelled out, ‘you get it, girl!’”

Grace also said Keswick was her favorite show of 2011, but for other reasons. “Sarah and I were the only ones who went from our barn. We showed, then relaxed, and then showed again. We got to see the Grand Prix, too,” she explained. Although watching the big Grand Prix jumper classes was exciting, Grace stated that she sees herself staying in the hunters and not crossing over to the jumpers. “I want to get a junior hunter one day and qualify for the really big national shows,” she said.

“Grace can accomplish whatever goal she sets for herself. If she wants to do it, it’s going to be done, and done well,” Amy said.

In 2011, Grace also got the ride on Hillcrest Treasure Chest, the pony that Sarah won the 2010 Equiery award with. Her year-end points on the two ponies were very close with Logan earning the award in the end. “Charley taught me how to do flying changes,” Grace said of Hillcrest Treasure Chest.

In addition to winning the Equiery award, Grace also earned several year-end championship or reserve championship honors. With Logan, she was MHSA Reserve Champion Small/Medium Children’s Pony Hunter and MHSA Maryland Resident Small/Medium Children’s Pony Hunter Champion as well as earning seven champion tricolors and six reserve champion tricolors. Aboard Charley, Grace was MHSA Champion Small/Medium Children’s Pony Hunter, MHSA Reserve Champion Maryland Resident Small/Medium Children’s Pony Hunter, and earned 10 champion ribbons and three reserve champion ribbons.

“Grace has a lot of technical skill, but what makes her a great rider are the connections she builds with her ponies. She makes them family members. She loves them unconditionally,” Amy concluded.

The Road Ahead

The 2012 season is well underway for Grace and her sister. And this year, Grace is showing two ponies owned by the Boston Family, LLC: Just My Luck (Vegas) and Carlotta (Lottie). “Vegas has a really big stride. Lottie has a huge stride and does act like a mare a lot,” Grace said of her new ponies. She is showing both in the Regular Medium Pony division.

She and Vegas have already qualified for Pony Finals with a win at a Swan Lake A Show. They also won the Handy at the Barracks and Prince Georges. And now Grace is working on getting Carlotta qualified too. “I’m hoping to make it to indoors and Washington [International Horse Show] with both,” she added.

And with the support of her family and trainers, there is no doubt that we will see Grace at Washington this October.