Her name might be familiar from the show staffing listing in one of the Colorado prize lists. Or maybe it's recognizable because of an interaction with the show office at the Colorado Horse Park. But all that changed during the High Prairie Spring Classic when Meg O'Meara returned to the outdoor show rings at the Horse Park following a decade-long break.
"I was looking at pictures in my house of me riding years ago," said Meg (Kris Nixon, trainer). "I realized that even though I was still around horses while working at shows and for the Colorado Hunter Jumper Association, I missed it. I had a desire and passion for having riding back in my life."
And come back she did, earning the reserve championship in the Low Amateur/Owner Hunters following Remember When and Jennifer Wallen (Michael Dennehy, trainer). Meg said that it took a long time--and some friendly strong-arming by Kris Nixon and Ashley Keeler-Ogden--to get back out into the show ring. She purchased her mount, Santana, from Susie Stroh after leasing him for several months. In fact, it was Susie who approached Meg about buying the 19-year-old campaigner. "Santana is the best and he's just not ready to retire," Meg said. "Susie told me she just wanted him to get out and be happy. I think he's happy to be back in the show ring too!"
The pair had hoped to make their High Prairie Farms showing debut the week earlier but bad weather made showing a more mature horse like Santana a little too risky. Waiting a week gave both Meg and Santana more time to get to know one another. She also noted that her duties in the horse show office prevented her from schooling as she normally would. "I was really nervous on my way to the first jump in our hunter class," she said. "But after we cleared it, the nerves went away and I really had a lot of fun. I can't wait to do it again!"
Meg wasn't the only one returning to the show ring following a hiatus. Daphne Bytnar (Keiri Kaneps, trainer) came back to the equitation and hunter rings after a six-year break to claim the reserve championship to Rachel Boggus (Michael Dennehy, trainer) in both the 18-35 Adult Equitation and the Amateur/Owner Hunter divisions. The self-described "mom-ateur" of six-month-old daughter Laney laughed as she described her journey.
"I had been a once-a-week rider for a long time," Daphne said. "I've just really gotten back into it all in the last two months and I've only had my horse for a month. I fell off on the Tuesday before the show during a schooling ride but was able to rally for the show itself. Falling off takes on a whole new dimension when you're a new mom."
With the encouragement of her husband Jim, Daphne purchased Scenes Of Winter from Jessica Baker. The goal was to get back into the Amateur/Owner Hunters and the Adult Equitation. Having a baby means the routine is different now, though. Where Daphne previously did everything from hauling her horse to the shows to braiding, she now relies on help from others.
"For the first time in my life, I had a groom to help me get ready," she said. "I also have a very reliable horse who will always get me to the other side of the jump. It's very comforting and allows me to have fun without worrying about trying to do everything myself."
Also experiencing a "first" at the Spring Classic was Madison Soffer, who for the first time showed a horse after having only shown ponies. The 13-year-old student from Aspen Country Day School won every class she was entered in including two Pre-Children's Hunter classes on her mom's Dutch Warmblood, Kenwood, and five Pony Hunter classes aboard her large pony Sunday Best.
Trainer Mary Faldasz had nothing but praise for her young rider. "I began working with Madison seven years ago when she rode one of my lesson ponies," Mary said. "We got her first pony, a medium named Lemontree High Tide, a few years back and then we got her large pony, Sunday Best, about two years ago. She's had great success on both including some good ribbons in Wellington this past February."
While Lemontree High Tide has since been leased out, Madison still showed Sunday Best to the championship in the Pony Hunters. The move to the Pre-Children's Hunters on Kenwood is the first step toward the Children's Hunters on a new mount named Indigo Moon.
"In the 25 years I've been a professional, I have not seen so much talent in such a young child," Mary remarked. "Madison can come in cold after a break of four months during the winter and just pick right up where she left off. I have to continually challenge her and move her along. It's fun to work with such an intelligent and talented rider."
Arden McReynolds (Lorilei Cudney, trainer) and Estes Park topped the Children's/Adult Amateur Hunter Classic and was reserve champion in the Children's Equitation 13 & Under. This is Arden's first season in the 3' divisions after having successfully competed in the Pony divisions for the past several years. What so impressed her trainer was how Arden handled some unexpected adversity on the final day of the show.
"Arden did her equitation round on Sunday morning in the Main Hunter Ring. The horse was fresh and stopped at one of the jumps," said Lorilei. "It really shook Arden's confidence because she hadn't had that happen before."
According to Lorilei, Arden began to put the negative experience behind her with a respectable medal round, placing second in the Col. R. I. Reynolds Medal Class, and then really pulled it all together to get two big scores and the win in the $1,000 WIHS Children's/Adult Amateur Hunter Classic. "Arden really showed me that she is maturing as a rider. To go from so low to so high in one day, well, it was extra special for her to win the Classic against all those other riders including adults with way more experience."
In the jumper rings, the story was the $7,500 Spring Classic Mini-Prix, where Bjorn Ikast was the big winner with five of the top six ribbons, four of which were his own entries. He won the class on Braveheart, was second on Omar Shariff, fourth on Colorado (Bovee Limited Liability, owner), fifth on Fly with Me, and sixth on IZ's Viva la Vida. Lauren Bahe claimed the third place ribbon with her ride on Iago Du Quesnoy (Jack Towell, owner).
For those returning to the show ring after a long break or entering for the hundredth time and everyone in between, High Prairie Spring Classic provided the perfect setting. For more information, including complete results, visit http://langershows.com/colorado/show_details.php?show_id=214.
The LEG show season in Colorado resumes September 8-11 with the High Prairie Fall Preview. Meanwhile, the Memorial Day Classic (May 27-30) takes center stage this weekend at LAEC, featuring the Memorial Day Classic Equitation Challenge, Derby Party benefiting After the Finish Line, and more. In Northern California, the Woodside summer circuit will kick off with Woodside Circuit Opener (June 22-26).
Photos: Meg O'Meara makes a triumphant return to the show ring Photo: Horse and Ryder Photography; Horse show dads have it rough! Photo: Horse and Ryder Photography; Arden McReynolds claims the reserve championship in Children's Equitation Photo: Horse and Ryder Photography; Bjorn Ikast dominates the $7,500 Spring Classic Mini-Prix Photo: Horse and Ryder Photography