Grass Lakes, Michigan – Kelly Hayner has never doubted she has two stellar horses in her barn and multiple wins at the Waterloo Dressage Summer Finale proved her right. Hayner went home with nearly two dozen blue ribbons after racking up victories in First and Second levels with Sonata Grace and wins in Intermediaire with Rantaro.
"They are both great horses, but they could not be any more different," Hayner said. "Rantaro is 16 hands and Sonata is 17 hands. He's a power horse and she's as long-legged and graceful and laid back a horse as I've ever seen. Rantaro, on the other hand, has limitless energy."
"Wow" was about all Hayner, of Hamburg, Michigan, could say of her weekend of competition. If Hayner adds her blue ribbons to those won by her student, Suzanne Capps, the two of them can nearly paint the barn blue. Capps won half a dozen blue ribbons. Hayner scored multiple wins in Intermediaire competition with Rantaro, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding sired by Rantares that she co-owns with Amy Dahlgren. And she scored multiple wins – with several scores over 70 percent – with Sonata Grace, a six-year-old Holsteiner mare owned by Hayner that is a niece to Rantaro.
The sire of Sonata Grace is Lacoste and the dam is a mare owned by Hayner named Alcor. "Sonata is home bred with my own mare. She's my pride and joy," Hayner said. This year is only Sonata's second season of showing and she's currently ranked among the top five in the U.S. at First Level. "I haven't checked the latest rankings to see where she is at Second Level," Hayner said.
Rantaro has been in training with Hayner, who works with Carole Grant, for the past two years. He had belonged to a cousin who lives in Wisconsin and who had sent the gelding to Hayner to train up to Grand Prix. "We really began to see last year that he was very, very special," Hayner said. She and Rantaro have already qualified for regionals at Intermediaire I and II and Hayner is now considering a trip to Florida to campaign him this winter.
"I'd like to do his first Grand Prix in Florida. But, I have three children (ages 4, 6 and 9) and a husband so it requires organizing a sort of mini-tour. I don't want to be away from my kids that long and I don't want to take them out of school. So, I'm trying to plan one short trip and hit a few shows."
The logistics and costs of a Florida trip are a bit difficult, but Hayner, a mother of three children, said Rantaro has such potential that she doesn't want to hold him back. He's a high-energy horse that needs some mileage to help him settle into a Grand Prix career. "He's a bit over energetic and tense so he needs show experience to gain his confidence that my riding won't change at competitions. I'm very happy because at the last two shows, we had some great rides in which he was as settled as if we were at home."
If Hayner and Rantaro make the trip, Sonata Grace will likely be left behind in Michigan. Unlike her relative, she's in no need of show experience to settle her in to a competitive career. "This is a horse that as a weanling cut her face in the pasture and we had to shave it. We put on her halter and let the lead hang and shaved her. She never moved. Nothing fazes her. She'll go anywhere, any time and do anything we want. All she needs this winter is to stay home and train up. She's a blank slate and never says 'no' so I have to walk a line of how hard to push her yet keep her happy."