Morgan McNeel & Voltaire Boogie into Classic History


Conyers, GA - Classic Company’s Atlanta Summer Finale week was chocked full of big action, but the highlight was the debut of the Open Musical Freestyle Equitation Classic on Saturday evening under the bright lights of the former Olympic arena. Horses, riders, and the masses watching were all tapping toes to the various beats.

Brought to life by Classic Company president Bob Bell, the Musical Freestyle, open to both adults and juniors, gave competitors 3 minutes and 30 seconds to ride over a 12 jump course they’ve created and following their final fence each pair uses the remaining time to “dance” their way into the judges hearts. "I'm always trying to create unique and fun events for our shows, as well as a way to give back to the community. This idea came about after chatting with some of Don Stewart’s junior students who asked me during our fall show if they could add music to an equitation class. Of course the answer was I’m sorry we can’t do that.  Then I gave the question further thought and researched the how to… and the Open Freestyle was created.” Bell said. He took an idea and turned it into a special event to honor one of the judges and longtime friend, Mindy Darst, who has been fighting sarcoma cancer. Bell created a charity classic where each entry fee was matched by Classic Company to provide funding to aid a hospital which specializes in the rarer illnesses. “It was great to do a charity event and have so much support.  I have had several friends that have gone to MD Anderson in Houston for treatment and it’s a wonderful place.  Miracles happened at MD Anderson.  When you look at all the BIG CANCER types and then consider the rare cancer that Mindy has been battling, every little bit of money will help.  The big cancers get big money and the rare cancers seem to get small money, so I was hoping this would help.” Bell stated. Eighteen horse and rider combinations brought their style and rhythm to the arena to support the cause.

Performing before a panel of four distinguished judges; Mindy Darst, Russ Walther, William Sparks and Penny Whaler, rider’s music selections varied from classic Beatles to Lady GaGa and the crowd danced along with it all. Second in the order was Hannah Marco with Friend Request, owned by Thinks Like A Horse, whose slick Dressage movements propelled them into the lead with an overall score of 182-which held until the last pair of the evening. Following a rough start to her day-such as a visit to the emergency room for luckily nothing serious, Morgan McNeel of Tampa, FL partnered with Sarah Ward’s 16 year-old Selle Francais gelding Voltaire rocked the house. “I had help from my friends and I picked a mash up of top hits from 2009. I just wanted it to be a crowd pleaser, with a little something for everyone.” McNeel said. After executing a nearly flawless over fence equitation round, which McNeel admitted to changing her course design just before the event, the duo had both the crowd and judges chair dancing as evidenced by their winning score of 193. “This was awesome!” McNeel said of the classic and added, “It was a lot of fun and a nice balance of jumping with the freestyle.” She also feels it’s easier for her to “show off” while jumping, but having “a beat” playing was a great way to go!

Top Five Placings for the Inaugural Musical Freestyle Charity Classic were:

  • 1st Morgan McNeel with Voltaire for owner Sarah Ward
  • 2nd Hannah Marco with Friend Request for owner Thinks Like A Horse
  • 3rd Lauren Baylor with Rubrico as rider and owner
  • 4th Hasbrouck Donovan with Wagner for owner Donald Stewart
  • 5th Brooke Price with Eisenhower for owner Donald Stewart

Presenting awards with Classic Company head Bob Bell were judge and cancer survivor Mindy Darst along with Robin Stoney of Classic Company. Asked if the Musical will become a regular event Bell said, “Yes, but I think we will save this class for the Summer Classic at Conyers where we can make use of the Olympic grand prix ring.” He teased that waiting until next year will give more adults plenty of time to work on their musical arrangements.  

Looking back to Friday, it was another busy morning with the $5,000 Lucky Sevens Open Welcome Stake at 8AM, where David Jennings and Marcus Aurelius of Shaker Heights, OH bested a field of 27 starters on the Florencio Hernandez layout. Jennings was double clean and had a winning jump off time of 35.812. And in the main hunter ring another 27 competitors vied for top honors in the USHJA National Hunter Classic, but when the scores were tallied it was 14 year-old Geoffrey Hesslink of Shelbourne, VT paired with Cosmic Charley (owned by Casey O’Mara) coming out on top. Later in the afternoon Hesslink and Charley dominated the ASPCA as well.  

Official top results for the USHJA National Classic:

  • 1st Cosmic Charley with Geoffrey Hesslink for owner Casey O’Mara
  • 2nd Status Quo with Clair Kellner for owner Nouveau Hunters, LLC
  • 3rd Reveille with Molly Sewell for owner Porter Allen
  • 4th Snowday with Lindsey Chestnut for owner Triple Creek Farm
  • 5th Summer Solstice with Molly Sewell for owner Sarah K. Payne

As evening rolled around so did the wildly popular and humorous $2500 Trainers Medal class during the equally popular Outback Steakhouse charity dinner and silent auction all to benefit the Hope Clinic of Georgia. For 2010 it was the mother-daughter duo of Casey Hodges and Wendy Arndt Hodges claiming both the check and bragging rights. After completing an elegant ride aboard the Diamond Hill Enterprises, LLC owned Sayo, Casey and four others returned for the judge’s test…racing to the far end of the arena, hand off their mount to a “holder”, then place their foreheads to the top of an orange road cone while completing 8 revolutions around, and finally run (on foot not hooves) back to the in gate. Who says hunter judges don’t have a sense of humor? Casey out spun, out lasted, and out ran the competition to take the big prize.

The new events modeled on the World Cup format with a modified three class section transpiring over the course of the weekend ran again and this week The American Cup (Junior/Amateur Owners) was won by Antonio Sebastian riding Lazy Bone. The Classic Cup (Children’s Adult) was a repeat winner from the debut event last week, Lynn Seithel and partner Rapunzel. “We had over 30 in each section this weekend, making for some exciting competition. This new format has been well received. We’ll be looking to include this at future shows.” Bob Bell said.



Daniel Geitner & Sympa Victorious in $25,000 Outback Steakhouse Grand Prix


Sunday morning was all about showcasing the jumpers with the $25,000 Outback Steakhouse Grand Prix. Starting the first round were 21 horses taking on the lengthy field of jumps created by international course designer Florencio Hernandez. Returning to the limelight was Sympa, the 11 year-old Rhinelander mare owned by Mrs. Charles Bostwick and piloted by Daniel Geitner of Aiken, SC based DFG Stables.

Last week’s victor David Jennings and Marcus Aurelius were lucky 13 in the order of go and the first to successfully clear the fences in a time of 90.509, safely below the allotted 97 seconds. Four rides later it was Geitner and Sympa who ensured a jump off round with their clean time of 93.705. “She [Sympa] was great, she was on her game! It was a long first round and the time seemed a little tight, which I think that got a lot of people in trouble.” Geitner said. The only other to challenge Geitner and Jennings was a young lady from Florida, Jordan Coyne aboard mount Lazaro with a first round clear time of 92.760.

“For the jump off I had the advantage of going last!” quipped Geitner, “Those are two of the quickest horses here on the show grounds and having to jump off against them-whew. David who rides great, won last week, and Lazaro who is about as fast a horse as they come, so I just got lucky and had the right draw.” Having watched his competitors neglect to try an inside option after one of the last roll backs Geitner chose to take a chance, on the last line he noticed Jennings had rode it in 9 strides and decided to “be bold” and drop a stride to get the win. However, Geitner was quick to add praise to his mount Sympa, “She’s really grown up and coming into her own. A solid partner.”  Both Geitner and Sympa will enjoy a little off time before taking back to the show season. “Vacation time for us both.” he concluded.

Top Five final results for the $25,000 Outback Steakhouse Grand Prix were:

  • 1st Sympa with Daniel Geitner for owner Mrs. Charles Bostwick 0 Faults 42.410
  • 2nd Marcus Aurelius with owner-rider David Jennings 0 Faults 44.006
  • 3rd Lazaro with rider-owner Jordan Coyne 18 Faults 66.727
  • 4th Skyland’s Con Chino Z with rider-owner Josh Dolan 4 Faults 92.954
  • 5th Rivano with Ian Silitch for owner Spencer Ranch 4 Faults 93.484

For more information and complete results on the Atlanta Summer Classics visit www.horseshowsonline.com , www.classiccompany.com , or call the office at 843-768-5503.

Photo Credit: Morgan McNeel & Voltaire; Daniel Geitner & Sympa ©Flashpoint Photography




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