The 2020 edition of the Nutrena® Young Horse Show Finals presented by Spy Coast Farm welcomed a record 130 entries to Tryon International Equestrian Center and Resort (TIEC) November 5-8, 2020, showcasing the future of American-bred sport horses, ranging from yearlings to five years old. From in-hand and liberty classes to jump-chute, under saddle and over fences competition, the young equine athletes were evaluated over four days in a safe and educational environment intended to support and promote American sport horse breeders across many breeds and disciplines. Read below to hear from competitors and participants as well as view candid photos below.
Jean Yves Tola, the organizer of the Young Horse Show (YHS) Series, was thrilled with the “largest turn out so far” of the series’ tenth year of competition since inception. Despite a no-spectators mandate due to COVID-19 and strong safety measure in place, the enthusiasm for young sport horses remained unaffected, he reported.
“It was a great way to end our 10 year anniversary season,” he recapped. “The overall quality [of entries] keeps climbing every year, making this competition noteworthy. The live stream addition this year was fantastic, too, as it allowed us to reach an audience beyond the United States. We had buyers, breeders, and owners tuning in from around the world. We’re very much looking forward to 2021!”
Photo by TIEC.
Lisa Lourie, the owner of Spy Coast Farm and presenting sponsor of the event, has been a major supporter and sponsor of the YHS Series over the years, bringing many of her up-and-coming horses to participate annually. Lourie’s string had a very successful week, securing top placings across under saddle, jumping and jump chute divisions. On Saturday, Lourie was “one, two, and three over the jumps, which was really exciting!” she shared.
Lourie has watched the YHS Series grow and develop over the years, and shared that she’s most happy about how “the quality of the breeding and the quality of the horses has improved so drastically.
“We’ve been doing this for ten years now, and there’s really no comparison from year one to year ten. These horses are on par with anything you’d see over in Europe. The judges and breeders there will tell you the same thing,” she emphasized. “It’s very exciting, especially during the time of COVID. Right now, you can’t go over to Europe to look at horses, so you have to shop at home. We had more than two thousand viewers from all over, even Europe. They were announcing the pedigrees, giving scores, and critiques on the live stream. That was a great step forward for the series, and Tryon really made that happen.”
Lourie emphasized that competing at TIEC can be incredibly impactful for young horses who have yet to gain mileage off the farm or in a show environment:
“The young ones remember everything, so if it’s a positive experience, which I really believe it was, it’s a really great thing for the young horse. The horses benefit from trailering, being at the facility, and being around other horses. I had some horses here who hadn’t been off of the farm yet, and lots of other people did, too. The stalls and the layout are great. It was quiet because we weren’t there in the middle of another show,” Lourie explained. “Everybody was so appreciative of the Indoor Complex as well. There again, the horses are under lights and they’re indoors, many for the first time. So, you’re bringing them calmly and safely into that situation, and the jump chute was set up really well. I have to say, the handlers in the jump chute did an incredible job. They took their time, and that’s what two and three-year-olds need. You can’t rush them.”
Photo by TIEC.
Lourie is dedicated to and deeply involved with the growth of American-bred sporthorses, and appreciates that the YHS Series has become “a really nice networking place now, too” as it has grown in size and competitiveness:
“I think a lot of sales talk was going on. There was a lot of marketing and deals in the making there. The goal that we initially set out for was education, both for breeders and the horses. The horses get educated in the jump chute, going out to a new facility, and so on. The owners get educated by watching everybody else’s horses, what the quality level is, and who they’re breeding to. That really is the goal. It’s not so much to win, but you do want to do well, because it’s also a measure of how well your training program is doing.
“I hope that people who saw this online take this as an opportunity to call the farms, owners and breeders if they’re interested. Most of those horses are for sale,” Lourie concluded.
Photo by TIEC.
Ciaran Thompson, a rider at Spy Coast Farm, has been working closely with Spy Coast Farm’s young horses and was thrilled to be at the venue for the YHS Finals:
“It was fantastic to come here and get to see all of the horses show. We had five three-year-olds from Spy Coast Farm and six four-year-olds. We had one four-year-old stallion that ended up winning the four-year-old class under saddle, in both the flat and jumping. It was a great weekend! Everything was as good as it could be for the horses. All of the horses got much better as the show progressed. The opportunities for them to gain experience here is unbelievable.”
Thompson believes that young horses can greatly benefit from participating in the YHS Finals at TIEC, especially “from the experience they gain being here, competing in the qualifier, and just being in the big show environment without the pressure of a big full-on show,” he elaborated.
“They can learn to cope with that environment. My three-year-olds that were there doing the jump chute are under saddle, so I was able to ride them around the show. It gave them a nice and easy experience at big showgrounds with no pressure at all. The venue itself and the jump chute in the indoor was just an amazing thing for them to see,” he emphasized. “It’s a great place to bring them so they can gain that mileage and confidence in themselves for when they move onto the next level.”
Photo by TIEC.
Sara McCormick of Orchid Hill Farm was a first-time competitor in the YHS Finals, adding the Finals to her competition calendar after a friend’s recommendation. McCormick brought her stallion, “Jimmy” [Orchard Hill’s Finer By Far], who is a third-generation foal for her. She was excited to experience the YHS Series as she’d “never actually done anything like the Young Horse Show.”
“I wanted to bring him out into a different venue than he’s been in before. He actually showed on the line last year for the Young Pony Hunter Breeding in the USEF stuff. Last year, he won Best Young Pony at Devon, and was first at Upperville. I had plans to get him out this year, but because of COVID, Devon and Upperville were cancelled. I decided to bring him home and then bred him to five mares. One of my friends was coming to this, so I said, ‘Okay, let’s take him!’ It’s been a lot of fun. I hope to bring a few more next year and see how it goes. It’s something for the young horses to do, and a new venue for them.”
McCormick noted that being able to connect with her friends and fellow breeders she knows online, but has never met in person, was a highlight for her:
“I loved meeting and seeing so many people who I know on social media, but haven’t put two eyes on. We met a lot of different people who were interested in the stallion and interested in what we’re doing, too. Everyone was really nice. Breeders benefit [from the Young Horse Show] because people get to see horses bred in the U.S. and the quality of the horses bred here in a more European setting. They can really view the animals and their different styles.”
McCormick was impressed after her first-time look at the venue, emphasizing that it was “above and beyond. Tryon as a venue is outstanding. Whoever designed it spent a lot of time working on the detail, even the tiny ones,” McCormick concluded.
Photo by TIEC.
Kimmy Risser, an owner, trainer, and rider, brought nine horses to compete in the YHS Finals. The seasoned YHS Series competitor was thrilled with her string of horses after their successful week:
“I finished out the year as the third highest breeder for the USHBA Breeder Rankings. Some of the ones I brought were bred horses, and some were owner horses. My program is raising young horses, so that’s what we do. I had a two-year-old who was second in the Qualifier and the Finals, and a yearling who won the class. I had a four-year-old who won the class and was third in the Finals. We’ve had a really good week and the horses are happy!
“It’s a really great facility to hand-walk and get them out to see different places, too, so they’re not stuck in their stalls. I’ve been doing this series for eight years, so I’ve seen it grow,” Risser recounted. “We love it, and we love having it at Tryon. I’m based out of Kentucky, so it’s not too far of a drive. The staff is amazing and they give a lot of leeway for young horse green moments. We had quite a day yesterday! We had five horses show within an hour and a half under saddle, and they were really nice about us taking the time that we needed. I think all of the horses leave better than they came.”
Ahead of the YHS Finals, Risser prepares each horse a little bit differently depending on their needs, she explained. “Some of our under saddle horses are in full training already, so nothing really changes for them. We start taking them off property maybe a little bit more if they haven’t been showing. For the two-year-olds and some of the three-year-olds who are under saddle that live outside, they start coming in about a month in advance for grooming, handling, and getting used to being in a stall away from their friends. We do a jump chute clinic in October to get them ready for the jump chute stuff that’s here.
“This is probably one of our biggest shows for our young horses,” Risser acknowledged. “We definitely make it a priority to make sure our horses are ready to be here, and comfortable and happy with the environment. It’s a big show facility, but without the crazy show environment that you would get on a normal show week. We’re all like-minded people here. We all raise these horses. It’s a very welcoming and understanding environment. At the Young Horse Show, you never worry if one is a little naughty. Nobody’s going to judge you or anything like that!”
Risser appreciated the use of the TIEC Indoor Complex for the Jump Chute classes as “it helps them focus better, which is obviously very helpful for the young ones,” she noted.
“I love how big and open the rings are. There are plenty of places for us to ride our horses so it’s not always in the show ring. As far as getting them out, it’s nice that we’re not on a bunch of asphalt. There are plenty of places to walk. The jumps are really inviting, and they’re not too scary. It’s always really nice! We love the cabins, too,” Risser emphasized. “We never want to leave the showgrounds.”