With the start of the 2009 show season, Hyperion Farm's star, the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Sagacious HF, was back in action with his long-time partner, Lauren Sammis. The pair had a break from the show ring in 2008 as Lauren focused on becoming a new mother of twins. This dynamic duo returned to the show ring at the start of the Florida 2009 winter season at level new to both of them – Grand Prix.
"In his first time out, he still scored in the mid-60s, even though he blew the ones, the twos and the zigzag. That's not bad especially considering it was only the first Grand Prix for Sagacious and Lauren. It tells you what they'll be able to do as they get more comfortable with the Grand Prix," said Al Guden, owner of Hyperion Farm. "Sagacious really is a fabulous animal. I have to pinch myself when I see him going because I can't believe I own him."
It didn't take long for Lauren and Sagacious to hit their stride. In no time at all, they found themselves in the Grand Prix winner's circle. Their first Grand Prix victory came at the Wellington Classic Dressage Spring Challenge CDI with a score of 67.943, beating out a tough field of more than 20 competitors. Lauren and Sagacious also had a unique opportunity in January 2009 when they were invited to ride with leading world rider Anky van Grunsven during her clinic at the Exquis World Dressage Masters competition in Wellington, Florida. "And Anky loved Sagacious," Lauren said. "She thought he was a super horse."
Al said Sagacious, who, with Lauren aboard, was part of the gold-medal winning U.S. Dressage Team for the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio, is "a real sweetheart." But, since he's now also become a Grand Prix horse, he's gotten a slightly bigger head with the result that Hyperion Farm just put in all new footing in its dressage ring. "He's become a footing snob. He's ridden in this ring for years, but now that he's become a Grand Prix horse, he wants an inch of rubber," Al joked.
Sagacious may be the star at Hyperion Farm, but the farm does have a number of quality horses moving up the ranks, including the six-year-old Wayfarer HF, sired by Sagacious. Wayfarer is out of Sabrina Keur, a mare owned by the farm and ridden by Al himself, who calls her "a delightful mare."
In addition to Sammis, FEI rider and Pan American teammate Susie Dutta has shown Hyperion Farm's Riverdance. Al said the best part for him is that while he doesn't compete the farm's horses, he does get to ride them. "And I love it. Every day, I get to ride these wonderful horses, what a life," he said. Although he admits his more competitive riders are putting a bit of pressure on him to get back in the show ring. "Maybe I will," Al said.
Although competing is not his forte, Al can't quite imagine a day not spent riding. That's quite a change for man who, until he was 40, had only been on a horse three times and "all three were bad experiences." Al didn't grow up around horses, although his father had been a cavalry officer with Troop B of the 101st Cavalry, the last active New York cavalry unit. "They used to load the horses up in trains and take them to upstate New York for summer camp," Al said of his father's experience. "In 1938, they traded the horses in for motorcycles and my dad wouldn't ride a motorcycle so he resigned. In World War II, he switched to the Navy and was a naval engineering officer."
It was his late wife, Judy, who got Al back into horses. The couple vacationed regularly in Hawaii and prior to one trip in 1985 she told him that she wanted to do a trail ride to the Haleakala Crater and that he must go. So, they started taking riding lessons before the trip. "She warned me for months about this trail ride so I got the feeling I wasn't getting out of it," Al said. When the couple returned home, he got talked into competing in a schooling show. "Three months later, we owned our first horse and the rest is history. At one point, we were up to 18 horses," Al said.
In 1995, the Gudens started their Hyperion Farm in Wellington, Florida. The farm specializes in the breeding and selling of Dutch Warmblood (KWPN) horses, all of which are registered with the Dutch Warmblood Studbook in North America (KWPN of NA). Sagacious has been one of the farm's big successes. Just how good he is became evident in 2007 when he and Sammis were reserve champions in the National Dressage Championships for Intermediaire and were members of the Pan American Games U.S. Dressage Team. In addition to their team Gold Medal, the pair also earned the individual Silver Medal.
The year 2007 had its competitive highs, but it was also the year that Judy Guden lost her noble 5 1/2–year struggle with breast cancer. But her horses and the success of Sagacious brought her tremendous happiness up to the last moments of her life, and her memory lives on in the hearts of all those who loved her. Judy's friends continue to celebrate her life with a perpetual trophy that is given annually at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby.
Hyperion Farm sits on four lovely acres with a six-stall barn just a short hack away from the Wellington show grounds. “My wife Judy enjoyed watching her horses from the back porch, and the success of Sagacious was what kept her alive. Even during her last moments on this earth she was able to listen to his freestyle performance which was taped at Dressage at Devon," Al said. "I simply enjoy being around the horses and dressage is such a marvelous sport. To be able to watch these animals progress, they are just so smart. I remember watching one of our thoroughbreds off-the-track advance to fourth level. They are just amazing animals.”
It was Judy's fervent desire that the loss of her life not be mourned, but that her rich and fulfilled time on this earth be celebrated among the friends and family who are a strong part of the Wellington and Dressage community and lifestyle. The inaugural Judy Guden Memorial Trophy was presented to Susan Jaccoma as the winner of the 2008 CDI Intermediaire I at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby. The trophy will have the winners name engraved each year and the winner will be presented with a blanket that is embroidered with the information about the class.
Team Work is Key to Hyperion Farm's Success
Al Guden admits that having a network of expert consultants and friends is integral to Hyperion Farm’s success. Although he jokes about his lack of interest in competing, he actually competed in both hunter and dressage for many years. Over the years, he and Judy owned more than just dressage horses. One of Judy's dearest friends is Carl A. Nafzger, a former championship rodeo bull rider who became a successful Thoroughbred horse trainer and is a member of the Racing Hall of Fame. Nafzger was the trainer of Kentucky Derby winners Unbridled (1990) and Street Sense (2007). Al jokes that his first dressage horse was one of two that were "gifts" from Nafzger. They were rather hyper Thoroughbreds and Al said what he learned most from one of them was not dressage, but "how to stay on a horse."
A part of Hyperion Farm's success is the partnership the farm has with Kathy Connelly and Toine Hoefs, Al said. “We are pleased to have them as consultants and partners.” Kathy is an International rider, trainer and coach and a member of the High Performance Dressage Committee for USET and USEF. She trains in Massachusetts in the summer and Wellington, Florida in the winter.
"Judy and Al have been my dear loving friends for many years. Judy was one of the kindest, most loving and good hearted human beings that I have ever known. These beautiful traits emanated from her deeply rooted spiritual life. We were in the same prayer group," Kathy said. "Judy had an incomparable with and sense of humor. She was a natural comedic story teller. Judy always looked on the bright side of life. She carried her suffering with amazing grace and never complained. The love of Judy's life was her devoted husband, Al. Judy loved her involvement with her horses and was deeply committed to their best interest always. I miss Judy very much but feel deeply her dynamic and luminescent presence."
KWPN-approved stallions, Uptown and Washington are owned by Hyperion Farm, Inc., Kathy Connelly and Toine Hoefs. They remain in Holland where they are being managed under the expert eyes of Toine.
An integral part of the farm's success is Lauren Sammis who recently added a USDF Gold Medal to the Silver and Bronze she already had. The Gold Medal was earned in early 2009 with Sagacious. Lauren has been riding all her life and has trained with a number of leader riders, among them Lendon Gray, Tina Konyot, Ashley Holzer and training spent at Tempel Farms in Illinois. Over the years she has built an extensive network of contacts in both the major dressage centers and off the beaten track to find those rare gems in Germany, Holland, Belgium, France and elsewhere in Europe.
Running her sales operation often meant that many of the talented horses she worked with moved on to other owners before she could realize success with them herself in the show arena. With Judy and Al Guden she was given the opportunity of a lifetime that helped launched her career to the highest level, representing her country as a member of the United States Dressage Team.
Lauren describes her Pan American partner Sagacious HF (Welt Hit II x Cocktail) as a talented horse that loves to be the center of attention, and he lets everyone know that he should be. The well-mannered, drop-dead gorgeous 1999 gelding loves to be fussed over and is very sweet to people and animals. He made his mark in 2006 finishing second in the Prix St Georges at Dressage at Devon and then won the Region 1 Prix St Georges Championship. He was number five in the USDF All Breeds at PSG and was number one of the KWPN horses at Prix St Georges.
But it was in 2007 Sagacious really made his mark. He had a rapid rise to the top of a large field of horses all vying for a spot on the U.S. Dressage Team for the Pan American Games. At the USEF/Collecting Gaits Farm National Championships in June, the pair was victorious in the Intermediaire I, and Reserve National Champions.
This achievement earned them a berth on the Dressage Team to travel to Rio, where they won Team Gold, and Sammis and Sagacious added an Individual Silver Medal in the final. Judy Guden lived to see this dream come true but was unable to travel to Rio due to intensive chemotherapy sessions. Team members and grooms kept them posted daily with text messages and photos, and Al contributed to the overall coverage of the event from behind the scenes on the Hyperion Farm website.
"It has been such a privilege to be able to ride for an owner that got so much joy out of this journey," Lauren said. "In the long run, the relationships in your life are what are truly important. I feel blessed to have the life that I do. Having lost two people in my life to breast cancer, it is so important to value everyday and nurture the people your life. The whole experience of Brazil was so surreal. I felt so lucky to be there that I walked around in a dream. Having my teammates with me to celebrate, those familiar faces made it a reality. It truly does take a 'team' for one to succeed. We had a GREAT team."
The Stallions that Started it All
The team that has made Hyperion Farm a success includes its top horses, particularly its leading stallions. Uptown (Kennedy x Ubis) is a licensed KWPN stallion who stands in Holland. He was the champion at the 2004 stallion show and the 70-day test that year. He won the Pavo Cup for four-year-olds in 2005 and won the L Class Stallion series of 2005-2006. He was fifth in the five-year-old competition at the World Championship for Young Dressage Horses in Verden, Germany during the summer of 2006.
Washington (Rhodium x Jetset-D) is a KWPN-approved stallion who also stands in the Netherlands. He was approved on November 30, 2006—an early Christmas present for Hyperion Farm—after completing the 70-day test in Ermelo, The Netherlands. Washington and Uptown are co-owned by Hyperion Farm, Kathy Connelly and Toine Hoefs.
With Lauren and Sagacious leading the way, the Hyperion Farm team is poised for a successful 2009 season.
Hyperion Farm, Inc.
2129 Appaloosa Trail
Wellington, FL 33414
Mobile (516) 810-3944
Fax (561) 792-2684