In the Santa Fe Summer Series’ second annual $1,000 Professional Equitation Class, Michael Tokaruk of Tokaruk Show Stables in Tennessee took home the blue ribbon, thanks to his textbook correct equitation skills in a field of seven competitive entries Thursday evening. As the professionals battled it out in the New Mexico heat, they had to reach back into their equitation skillset from past junior riding careers. Skip Bailey’s course tested the professionals with a bounce, trot jump, hand gallop, and lots of options to demonstrate savvy turns. As the flat class commenced, there were joked remarks about “sitting up for the first time in years” and “I forgot how painful this was!” The judge challenged the professionals by asking them to perform the sitting trot into a counter canter, lengthening of stride at the trot, and several sitting trots.
Photo by Mary Neiberg
Tokaruk delivered an expertly smooth ride aboard Vulkano’s Boy, earning the pair a score of 87 over fences. He took every inside turning option, glided across the bounce, and boasted a bold hand gallop. “When I was a junior, I did the equitation division, went to Finals and took it quite seriously. I’m a product of it. It’s fun as a professional to do this type of class. Today I tried to sit up, which isn’t as easy as it used to be. The judges drilled us for sure—I’m just glad they let us keep our stirrups!” said the professional, who is competing at HIPICO Santa Fe for the first time.
Tokaruk is an advocate for equitation and understands the importance of learning this style of riding, “The goal is to promote good riding, good fundamentals, good position, and hopefully those skills will be carried to the hunter or jumper rings—hopefully, I was a good example of that today! Equitation gives you the basics of proper position and teaches you to ride courses that way. I try not to teach students to be stiff or to artificially pose. I want them to be natural and have ‘feel’ and do things with their position as a rider that make their horses jump better. Hopefully the form follows function!”
Photo by Mary Neiberg
Tokaruk was presented with a bucket of Senior by Triple Crown, which “Piano” proceeded to knock over and then munch on during the awards presentation! The professional profusely thanked Triple Crown Feed for sponsoring, “It’s wonderful that Triple Crown sponsored the class. They make some great feed. I’m very grateful that they are here supporting the show and supporting us trainers who are trying to equitate out there.” Triple Crown Feed representative Mandi Wilkins was just excited about the sponsorship of the class, “We chose to sponsor this class because it’s fun and inspires great competition. Triple Crown is an elite feed, this is an elite sport, and these are elite athletes. We want to feed them to the best of their ability, so they can go on and do what they were meant to do!”
A special thanks to Triple Crown Feed for sponsoring this class and congratulations to Michael Tokaruk on his victory, who proved that he ‘practices what he preaches’ in the equitation arena!
Photo by Jerry Mohme Photography