Littlestown, PA - May 13, 2015 - All eyes were on comeback pair Amber Harte and 11-year-old Belgium Warmblood Emir Van De Helle who topped the $2,000 1.40m Jumpers to round out a successful first day of The Blue Rock Classic at Swan Lake Stables.
Though any rider would be thrilled with a win in the class, the victory was especially sweet for Harte, as she has devoted the last year to bringing her mount back from an injury.
"He had bruised heels so he had a year off," Harte said. "We did two schooling classes during the last week of [the Winter Equestrian Festival, and then he just went to a horse show two weeks ago and did the 1.20m. Now he came here and did this!"
No previous injury was evident when watching their double clear effort, but what was clear was the strong partnership between the combination.
"You can tell that I light up talking about him," Harte said. "He's the light of my life. I love that horse. He's probably better suited for a man realistically - he's big and powerful. Riding him makes me out of breath, but he's so gentle with me."
With her gelding's best interest in mind, Harte plans to take everything day-by-day to ensure soundness and happiness of the horse she holds so close to her heart.
"If he feels like he's tired, then maybe that's enough for the week or maybe he'll do the speed on Friday - it's a little lower," Hart said. "If he feels amazing than maybe he'll do either the welcome or the prix. The jumps are easy for him. He's really powerful, and he's really careful. What I don't know is how his recovery will be. That'll be what we'll have to play by ear."
Harte values every ride she can have on her recovered gelding and is so thrilled that he could compete at a show that she has been coming back to for so many years.
"I've been doing Blue Rock for probably 20 years, at Quentin [Riding Club] and everything," Harte said. "We followed it here. The facility is so nice here. We love it here. The management is so helpful. They try to please you in every single way that they can. They're constantly improving the facility. Every time that we come here they've done something new to try to make it better and better."
Taking both second and third in the 1.40m Jumpers was Tracy Magness. Magness rode to the second place ribbon aboard John Bartko's Barsa, and she rounded out the top three aboard Tresor Du Paradis, also owned by Bartko.
Earlier in the day, Mary Lisa Leffer and Amon de Diamante took top honors in the $500 1.20m Jumpers, and Joy Slator with Pisano topped the 1.10m Jumpers.
Open jumper competition continues Thursday beginning at 9 a.m. and featuring the $7,500 Blue Rock Classic Welcome Stake, scheduled to kick off at 4 p.m. in the Grand Prix Ring.
Ken Krome and Mary Lisa Leffler Headline Opening Day of Hunter Competition
At home with owner Louna Primm, Camille, a 10-year-old Thoroughbred cross mare, can be found out on the trail, in a lesson or standing patiently in the crossties as though she were a veteran school horse. In the show ring with Ken Krome, the flashy hunter mare rises to any occasion and sweeps victories in the Conformation Hunters, as she did Wednesday at the Blue Rock Classic.
Krome and Camille were victorious in all of the opening day's Conformation Hunter classes at Swan Lake Stables, earning wins in both the over fences classes and in the under saddle.
"She's as quiet as she could be," Primm said. "You could trust her with your life. She's great on the trails. I lesson; I can make mistakes, and she's fine. She'll do whatever you ask. Then she turns around, and Ken says 'we need to jump a big jump,' and she does it."
Krome added, "Somebody sent her to our barn to see what she would be, and we thought she would be a really nice hunter. She's always just had a really great personality. She's a naturally quiet horse. We thought that that would pair nicely with Louna. [Camille] lessons; trail rides, and gussies up and goes to the horse shows. "
Primm has had Camille for six years, and the mare is one of more than a dozen horses at the Blue Rock Class from Krome's Persimmon Tree Farm and K2 Show Stables.
"We live 21 miles down the road, and it's a nice place to come horse show. We bring all of our babies here," Krome said. "The grounds are fabulous, and we just have a good time when we come."
Also bringing a large group of horses to the Blue Rock Classic is Rolling Acres Farm, whose Mary Lisa Leffler rode to top calls in the First Year Green Hunters on Cartagena BD.
The 7-year-old gray Holsteiner mare, finished second in the first over fences class and first in both the first over fences class and the under saddle to lead the division point standings heading into Thursday's final over fences class.
"I started her last year at the end of April, and I did the pre-greens with her all year," Leffler said. "She won a lot in the pre-greens. Now she does double-duty. She does the first years, and she does the middle adults with her owner. She's just been a great mare. There's not one bit of mare in her."
Leffler and Cartagena BD will return to the main hunter ring on Thursday as the professional hunter divisions conclude.
Other major hunter highlights during the Blue Rock Classic include Friday's $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby. All exhibitors are invited to come watch the derby and enjoy a free western-themed barbecue dinner, beginning at 4 p.m.
Exhibitors and spectators can also enjoy Swan Lake Horse Show's generous hospitality during Saturday night's cocktail party. The cocktail party kicks off at 5 p.m. and runs ringside at the grand prix ring in conjunction with Saturday night's $25,000 Blue Rock Classic Grand Prix.
Blue Rock Classic Horse Shows Fast Facts:
Swan Lake Stables
381 Flatbush Rd
Littlestown, PA 17340
When: May 13 - 17, 2015
$25,000 Blue Rock Classic Grand Prix
$5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby
$1,500 Pre-Green Incentive Stake Class
$7,500 Rock Welcome Stake
$5,000 SJHOF High Junior/Amateur Jumper Classic
$3,500 Adult Jumper NAL/WIHS/M&S Classic
$2,500 Children's Jumper NAL/WIHS/M&S Classic