A Very Special WEF Hunter Roundup: Legally Blind Lissa Bachner Prevails in Week 10

Lissa Bachner and Meridian Prevail in Triple Crown Blankets Adult Amateur Hunter Middle Section A In Spite of Unique Personal Challenge

Lissa Bachner and her entry, Meridian, overcame the odds and captured the championship title in week ten’s Triple Crown Blankets Adult Amateur Hunter Middle Section A division. Despite being legally blind, Bachman piloted her mount to a first, first, first, and second over fences in addition to a third in the under saddle.

The 44-year-old rider of Wellington, FL, has a condition called uveitis that caused her to lose her left eye when she was 25, and her vision entirely after surgeries on her right eye in 2001.  In total, Bachner has had over 100 surgical procedures, but the Wellington rider hasn’t let any of this stop her. After six months of complete blindness following her initial procedures, a new medication available only in Italy allowed Bachner to gain back limited vision, and to finally be able to return to the hunter ring.

Lissa Bachen and Meridian. Photo by Sportfot Photography

“Don’t you know? I’m that blind rider,” said Bachner, who has maintained an enlightening sense of humor, with a laugh. “I have about four percent vision in my right eye, and my left eye is fake, so I always need people to stand around and tell me things like where to turn, etc. I am riding with Rachel Kennedy again, and she is my trainer of a lifetime. She is my dream team, and everyone at her barn has been so helpful. I am so glad that I get to do this, and I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of her program and to have such a special horse to get me around the ring.”

Meridian is an eight-year-old Oldenburg gelding and has proven himself as an exemplary “seeing-eye dog” for Bachner for over three years now. Week ten at the Winter Equestrian Festival marked the pair’s first championship win in Wellington after a blue-ribbon filled 2017.

“It’s like one day he woke up and said, ‘Yes, I get it, you can’t see, and I’m not a baby anymore, so let me help you.’” said Bachner. “He keeps his rhythm, and he doesn’t mind if I’m leaning on his neck or his tail. He does his job, and I am so lucky! This is such a great division to compete in. We are all so supportive of each other, and it’s the perfect team.”

Lissa Bachner and Meridian in their presentation with groom Waldo Canterero. Photo by Sportfot Photography

Mimi Moulton and Trip To Paris, owned by Privet Farm, LLC, took reserve honors with a first in the under saddle, along with three seconds and a third over fences.

Tim Goguen Pilots Publisher to Triple Crown Nutrition Green Hunter 3’ Championship

Tim Goguen got his week underway aboard Publisher, owned by Paula Polk Lillard, with a championship win in the Triple Crown Nutrition Green Hunter 3’ division. The pair rose to the top with an 84, two 85s, and an outstanding 90 from the judges, which resulted in three firsts and a second over fences. The duo additionally took fourth place on the flat.

Tim Goguen and Publisher. Photo by Sportfot Photography

“I am really happy with him this week,” said Goguen of the six-year-old Warmblood gelding. “He has continued to get better and better throughout our time here at [the Winter Equestrian Festival], and this week I felt like he was right on it.”

The duo competed together in the Pre-Green Hunter 3 & 4 year old division last year at WEF, and the professional, from Wellington, FL, expressed his admiration of the young horse’s growth since their last time here.

“He is a really good horse,” said Goguen. “He is finally coming around a little bit. It can be hard sometimes when it takes them a little bit to find themselves, but he has really grown into himself.”

Goguen hopes to show Publisher at WEF over the next few weeks until they move back to Kentucky, where the professional’s farm is, at the end of April. He added that aside from a few Kentucky shows, the pair will hopefully make an appearance at this upcoming year’s Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championship and the Capital Challenge Horse Show in early October.

Kelly Goguen and Publisher. Photo by Sportfot Photography

Moore Park captured reserve honors, with Christopher Payne in the irons, after taking a second place ribbon in the under saddle and a first, second, second, and third over fences.

Taylor Harris Insurance Services Children’s Medal 14 & Under Goes to Kyla Sullivan and Ella Davison

Kyla Sullivan and Cleopatra, owned by Maggie McAlary, kicked off Saturday’s competition in ring six with a first round score of 85, the highest scoring first round of both sections of the Taylor Harris Insurance Services Children’s Medal 14 & Under. The class underwent a California split, and all 39 entries were run and tested together. Sullivan shared the blue with Ella Davison aboard California, owned by Meghan McDonald, who captured first place in section B with a first round score of 83.

Both returned to the ring for their second round as two of eight total competitors – the top four from each section – to test for the blue ribbon, and prevailed.

“These classes are very easy for her,” said Sullivan of her nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse mount. “She has a big step and is very brave. I was very happy with my test today because I have been having a bit of an issue with trot jumps lately, but I thought that it went very well.”

Kyla Sullivan and Cleopatra. Photo by Sportfot Photography

The eighth grader commutes from Wallingford, CT, to compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival and added that she has been training with Heritage Farm for two months, where she has continued to work on her trot jump technique, staying straight, and lead changes after fences.

Today’s test featured three oxers, a trot jump on a bend to another oxer, and a halt. It was the perfect challenge for the duo, and Cleopatra carried the 13-year-old to top honors, with Davison pulling off a repeat blue-ribbon performance aboard California.

Second place in section A went to Gigi Moynihan and Golden Dream, an entry of Christy Moynihan, and third went to Alexandra Kozel aboard Stallone.

Section B’s red ribbon went to Zayna Rizvi and Azlan, owned by Peacock Ridge, LLC, and Vincent Desiderio took third aboard Memphis, owned by Tranquillity Farm.

Emma Vandenhouten and Spiderman Top Rosenbaum PLLC Large Pony Hunters

The last day of week ten at the Winter Equestrian Festival featured an exciting win for Emma Vandenhouten and her own entry, Spiderman, who earned the championship in the Rosenbaum PLLC Large Pony Hunter division. The pair secured the title with a sixth on the flat and a first, first, and seventh over fences.

Emma Vanderhouten and Spiderman. Photo by Sportfot Photography

“This win means a lot to me,” said Vandenhouten. “I thank my family for always being so supportive.”

The junior rider first began her journey to the top with Spiderman in the Large Children’s Pony Hunter division over a year ago, and the duo has continued to progress.

When asked about her history with the 11-year-old Welsh Pony Cross, Vandenhouten said, “When we moved up to the [Large Pony Hunter division], it definitely took us a little bit to get going, but we have done well. I have been mainly focusing on keeping him straight in the lines and in-and-outs and not letting him swap. He jumps his heart out, and he loves his food!”

The nine-year-old from Plantation, FL, aspires to continue on to win at the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Pony Finals this year, where she won the Buttons N’ Bows Sportsmanship Trophy in 2017.

Caroline Signorino and Riveting, owned by Signorino Family Farm, LLC, took reserve honors with an eighth-place finish in the under saddle and a first, second, fourth, and seventh over fences.

Emma Vanderhouten and Spiderman in their awards presentation ceremony. Photo by Sportfot Photography