After dominating the Junior Hunter ranks in 2019, Stella Styslinger’s Cassanto was honored once again when he was awarded the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame Trainers Choice Award for Junior Hunter of the Year.
Maggie Hill on Cassanto. Photo by Cameron Green Media.
With Maggie Hill aboard, the 13-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Canto–Stefania) earned accolades throughout the country and amassed a collection of impressive championships seldom seen, let alone during one show season. The pair are trained by Jack Towell and Liza Boyd of Finally Farm in Camden, South Carolina.
Cassanto and Hill received the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) 3’6″ Large Junior Hunter, 16-17, Championship and the Grand Junior Hunter, 16-17, Championship. On the way to the nation’s top honors, they earned tricolors from the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit in Florida to the Devon Horse Show (Pennsylvania), the USEF Junior Hunter Finals and the culminating East Coast fall indoor shows. There, they earned championships and grand championships at the Capital Challenge (Maryland), the Pennsylvania National, the Washington (D.C.) International and the National (Kentucky) horse shows.
By virtue of their astounding show season, Cassanto was named The Chronicle of the Horse magazine’s 2019 Overall Horse of the Year and Show Hunter of the Year. As the Overall Horse of the Year, Cassanto’s achievements were recognized by the magazine as the best of all English sport horses in the country, including the Olympic Games disciplines of show jumping, eventing and dressage.
“It’s such an honor for Cassanto to receive the Show Hunter Hall of Fame award,” said Hill. “The fact that it’s voted on by trainers and riders whom I respect and look up to makes it so special. He’s an amazing horse and deserves everything he’s been given. It’s a big honor and a testament to Jack Towell and Liza Boyd’s training. They’ve done everything right with him.”
Photo by Cameron Green Media.
Hill, 17, of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, described Cassanto as “a little bit different” than the typical Junior Hunter. “He’s a little opinionated sometimes,” she said with a smile. “I think some people think Junior Hunters need to be perfect all of the time, but I respect Cassanto for the horse he is. He’s achieved so much and taught me so much about patience, grit, determination and learning how to succeed. I love him for that.”
The Show Hunter Hall of Fame’s Annual Awards and induction ceremony are typically held during the Devon Horse Show in May, with the SHHOF recognizing the accomplishments of one rider, one owner and seven horses as Trainers Choice honorees. However, this year’s awards will now be presented on June 1, 2021, at The Merion Cricket Club in Haverford, Pennsylvania, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing requirements.
“This is a huge honor, and the horses who have won this are phenomenal and talented and at the top of the sport,” said Boyd. “He deserved it. I’m really sad that there won’t be an awards ceremony at Devon to share that moment with the Hill family, because I can see my dad sitting at the table and telling stories. Maggie would look so cute and humble, with her love for the horse so obvious. We will look forward to next year’s ceremony, and it will be a good reason to celebrate when this COVID-19 pandemic is behind us.”