At home March was coming in like a lion as our show horses remained in the heat of competition in Wellington, Florida. With the winter snowfall grounding flights, Ketcham trainer Ken Whelihan flew home to greet the farms newest boarders and horses. By Tuesday night Ken had rejoined Hayley in Florida for a final week of classes at the Winter Equestrian Festival.

 The festival offers twelve weeks of showing ending in April. For several reasons Ketcham’s 2009 winter tour was planned to come to an end after week nine in early March. Ken explains, “There is life after Florida. The WEF shows serve as the first trimester of our season. It is tempting to use up the horses right out of the gate. There are so many carrots dangled by show management in the form of prize money, hunter derbies and medal finals. We have to keep the horse’s best interest in mind. Our plan was to start with a week of schooling and lower level classes in January. That was followed by three weeks of showing at levels ranging from young jumper classes to working hunter classes to amateur jumper classics. After testing our stock and riders for three weeks we took a planned week off. Running and jumping was replaced by trail rides and light flat work. After setting the refresh buttons on our horses we contested two more weeks before packing up to head home. The horses returned sound and healthy with a great deal of experience to call on for the future. They will see pastures for several weeks supplemented by the farms treadmill and walker. It is by design that we chose to be the first major show barn home. It gives us an opportunity to focus on the local riders and on the horses who are just starting their season in April. “
The winter shows in Wellington are the equestrians equivalent to Marine Corps basic training. WEF is unique in the depth of talent both equine and equestrian. It is impossible to walk from the stalls to the ring without passing Olympic medalists, World Cup Finals winners, and World Championship veterans. The smart student watches and absorbs while in Florida. Course designers come from every corner of the globe to offer up their tests. The volume of horses, the international talent and the complexity of the classes challenge and inspire. Any ribbon in Florida is a win.
Winning came early and often as Hayley made the difficult move from the adult jumper ranks into the amateur jumper division. The jumps can be up to four feet three inches in height and usually set wide and square. Unforgiving combinations set right off a corner were the norm. Hayley rode to ribbons in this division aboard both “For Life’s Memory RD” and “T’Niralda”. Hayley advanced her riding by focusing on her style and form in both the Ariat medal classes and in the 3’3” hunter division. Hayley rode Cabardino to top four finishes on several occasions in the Ariat. She became comfortable with being called back for ride offs. In the interest of becoming a well rounded horseman Hayley handled 90% of the showing duties aboard her five year old “Ketcham’s Cortino”. She piloted the eye catching grey to clear round after clear round in the level 3 jumpers(3’6”). Cortino returns north much older and wiser thanks to Hayley’s competent efforts. New to showing so many horses at such varied levels of experience, Hayley gutted her way through the roller coaster ride that is the path of veteran riders. We are very proud of her efforts and results.
Ken’s wife, Vicki, joined the southern showing on several weekends. Vicki developed a bond almost immediately with Hayley’s seasoned jumper “Athena”. Vicki rode to prizes in five classes including twice placing in $10,000. adult classics.
In addition to enjoying coaching Hayley and Vicki, Ken kept busy with numerous rides on Ketcham horses and several from Augustine Walch. Ken enjoyed the opportunity to show the well known working horse, Cabardino, in the four foot hunters. Cabardino put in consistently good trips earning ribbons every week including “hunter week”. “Hunter week” is an annual event at WEF when the hunters take over the vast international ring for their classes. It takes a brave and scopey horse to hunt around out there. Cabardino, as always, showed himself up to the test. Other Charlot farms horses shown by Ken were frequent ribbon winners in the young jumper classes. These were “Futi’s Sunflower, Julio W and Viva’s Don Juan W”. Ken’s favorite ride is always aboard Ketcham’s “Quintessential”. It was not all roses and glory for the relatively new pair. “I came to Florida with Quin this year to gain miles in the ring as a team. I have endless optimism for Quin’s future. We took our lumps in the 1.40 meter and even in the 1.30 meter at first. By the last two weeks of Florida I felt we turned a corner in our development. A simpatico developed for the first time for us during competition. I am eager to continue with her this season after her break.”
March and April transition us into the shows of the Spring and Summer culminating at the Hampton Classic at the end of August. We have designed a show plan focused on well run shows with good footing and quality courses. We may drive past a few show grounds in an effort to compete where the conditions are best for the horses. We are available to riders in the NJ, NY and PA area with many of our shows being within close proximity to Ketcham at Cream Ridge. Our next major competition will be April 15 at hunter farms in Princeton, NJ.