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Fiyero and Elizabeth Boyd Win Big at the 12th AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular

February 29, 2008 – Wellington, FL – It was superstition, sibling support, music and a great horse that guided Elizabeth Boyd and Fiyero to the top place under a record crowd at the 12th annual AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular on Saturday night, February 23rd at the CN Winter Equestrian Festival. She managed that same feat for the very first Classic 12 years earlier.

“It’s very different. I feel like this time I really won. I am a better horsewoman now. Back then I hopped on and went into the ring, rode and then ran off with my friends. It means a lot more now. I understand the hard work, the preparation, the time and am extremely appreciative of the owners.”

The 11-year-old, 16.1H, chestnut gelding, which is owned by Molly Gardner, Charlotte, NC, impressed the audience with his consistency in both rounds. Fiyero took over the lead in the first round with a score of 89.75 ahead of Angelo with Tim Goguen in the irons (89.083) and Kirsten Coe on Genuine (88.666). The scores in the second round combined with their first round kept the leader the same but Angelo and Genuine played musical chairs (Fiyero-89/178.750, Genuine-89.833/178.499, Angelo-87.666/176.749).


While some may think that Fiyero’s win came from pure talent of both horse and rider. Boyd, Camden, SC, credits James Taylor; her friend, competitor and second place finisher Kirsten Coe’s lucky bridle; her brother Hardin (Towell) and a fabulous horse for that ultimate victory.

When the 28-year-old left the barn at 5:45 that morning headed to the horse show it was a James Taylor song that was playing and when she was entering the ring it was perfect timing as well. Taylor was on again.

“It really inspired me. I just felt that we were going to do this. I know that sounds creepy, a little nerdy but it really gave me that extra oomph.”

Kirsten Coe, who used to ride Fiyero, also timed things perfectly by giving Elizabeth the bridle she used to ride Fiyero with. “At about an hour before the class this magic bridle showed up for the horse that she didn’t tell us about when we bought him. It was very nice and I have to say it was a very appropriate combination for the horse.”

Even though Kirsten was second she was just as pleased knowing she’d done the right thing. “Everyone was giving me a hard time earlier for giving the bridle to Liza and all I could hear in the back of my mind was my mom telling me, you young professionals have to stick together.”

For Liza while both the song and the bridle were instantaneous inspirations and Boyd admits to being “a little bit superstitious,” another factor in her victory was all about her brother.

“I have to really thank Hardin because he has been so supportive and through this whole week he has been my backbone. Hardin prepared the horse for me.

Hardin was amazing. He’s a great brother.”

Add to that the talented Fiyero and for Liza it was a sure thing. “He just has the best brain, nothing fazes him. He’s very quiet and always tries.”


To see Tim Goguen, Wellington, FL, among the top three was no surprise since he was the defending champion. In 2007, he earned the top honors on Safari but this year the defending rider/horse combination had a late lead change on a corner right near the ingate forcing Goguen to circle.

Goguen was proud of Angelo, an 8-year-old, brown, 15.2 1/2 H, gelding Warmblood, who is owned by Katie Dinan. “That’s a fun horse for 4’. He’s a little horse but that kind of gallop for him is right up his alley. It’s a nice horse to ride. He went beautifully in both rounds. Earlier that day he was hand walked and then showed that night. He is really easy as far as getting to the ring; he’s all business – that part of him makes him a really special horse. ”

Coe, Toluca, CA, had earned a bye into the class by winning the 2007 World Championship Hunter Rider Pro Challenge at the Capital Challenge Horse Show in October of 2007. She chose the Second Year Green mount Genuine, an eight-year-old, 15.3H, bay, gelding for the honors. The horse is owned by Laura King Kaplan and is a new ride for Kirsten.

“This is only my second time showing him,” she explained. Kirsten couldn’t gush enough about her mount noting, “What a dream. He’s not fazed. He’s not spooky. He puts out an effort every time. He’s a wonderful horse.”

Just as those words were oozing out of her mouth Liza piped in, “We are really lucky to be able to ride these horses.” Both Kirsten and Tim nodded in agreement.

By the end of the conversation Liza and Kirsten were finishing each other’s sentences as they chimed in agreement about what a great honor this was just to be in the class never mind finish first and second. Yet it always came back to their horses. “You are only as good as your horse. We are so lucky!” they chimed.


The setting was new for the crowd. Seats replaced grass in most areas surrounding the arena and allowed for more spectators to enjoy the action. The Hunter Classic has become an event not to miss. The grass footing in the arena of years passed was replaced by all-weather footing, which this year proved to be a welcome change because the many downpours which took place throughout the week never dampened the footing or the event.

Also, the new lighting was so good that photographers did not need flash and for the first time a host of photographers were there capturing the action. The TV lighting also eliminated the shadows, which in the past has created a spooky course for both horses and riders.

Commentator and AHJF President Geoff Teall was pleased. “I thought it was a really good class. It’s interesting that it had all professionals in the second round. I’m not saying it was better or worse – just different. It gave a different flavor to the whole thing, which I thought was great. The margin was so small from 1st through 12th. It was highly competitive. The new improved footing and lighting made a big difference. Each year it is getting more and more horse friendly. This year it made a big leap forward. I think it will encourage people who have hesitated to do the class to take the plunge now. “

Course designer Patrick Rodes took the new footing into consideration when designing the course since horses go differently on the all-weather footing than they do on the grass. “Tonight’s course is pretty straightforward. My goal for this is to have a bunch of nice rounds. The marquis jump with the palm trees is a spectacular jump and that’s last in the second round.”

The riders were pleased with the new setup and the course. “The ring was much better. It was very well lit and was not spooky like last year. There were vast improvements in the arena this year. The courses were wonderful and quite appropriate. There were choices to go inside, what lead to start off on and they were great courses for a class like this. You were on a good lick the whole entire course.”

“It was really a galloping course. If you stayed with it, it flowed,” added Goguen.


The AHJF was formed in 1992 to further the development of the equestrian sport of show hunter rider and show jumping competition by providing a national office to organize, coordinate and support hunter rider and show jumping equestrian competition. Other programs of the AHJF include the World Championship Hunter Rider Awards, AHJF Educational Programs, the AHJF BSA Inc. 401k and Profit Sharing Plan and the AHJF Junior Hunter Challenge.

Since its inception in 1997, the AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular has been a highlight event for hunter horses and riders, who put great effort into being one of the lucky competitors to qualify. Champion and reserve champion riders, who are current members of the AHJF, qualify throughout the week in the various hunter divisions to compete in this prestigious two-round competition under the lights. This year a total of $42,800 (through 12th place) was awarded with $12,000 guaranteed to the winner.

Six judges were paired in teams of two and positioned in three places around the arena. Twenty-nine horses competed in the first round and the top eight came back for a second round. The height of the fences varied from 3’6” to 4’.

Mr. & Mrs. S. Craig Lindner along with Mr. & Mrs. Jeremy Jacobs chaired the “In the Pink Party!” which took place in the International Club. The annual dinner party overlooking the main arena is one of the AHJF's major fundraisers. The tent - filled with sponsors who have purchased tables - buzzes with conversation while in the seats and on the hillside around the arena friends, family and newcomers enjoy watching the nation’s top hunters.

“The tent was spectacular,” noted AHJF Executive Director Michele Perla. “Kim Tudor did an amazing job as social director for the AHJF. The food was fantastic, the service was impeccable and we sold a record 75 tables.”

In addition to the prize money, the winner received a saddle donated by CM Hadfield’s Saddlery; The Dark Continent” trophy, courtesy of Jim Green; a custom jacket sponsored by Whipstick Farm; and a cooler donated by Grazing Fields Farm. The top 12 riders received leather halters and leather shanks. Additionally, the winning trainer, Jack Towell, received a check for $1,000. The grooms of the 1st through 4th place winners received a check sponsored by Archie Cox/Brookway Stables. All competitors were in contention for the “Strapless Challenge,” with a trophy and check going to anyone winning the class four times.

Boyd also won the “Let’s Dance Trophy,” which was established by the AHJF in 2005 in honor of friend and horseman Eugene R. Mische for his support of the AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular.

The riders also were appreciative of the AHJF, which was and continues to be the inspiration behind the Hunter Classic. “The AHJF staff has done a wonderful job bringing this along,” commented Boyd. “It is amazing the way the hunter sport is growing thanks to the AHJF.”

Michele Perla had those she wanted to thank as well. “A huge thanks from all of us at the AHJF to the entire staff of Equestrian Sport Production, LLC. What the AHJF is able to accomplish during this special hunter week is unique to the Sport—a true showcase of the rated hunter divisions. The week is the circuit focus for anyone involved with the rated hunters. It is competitive with a true spotlight on qualifying for the Saturday night class. Nowhere else is there such a competitive focus. A specific thank you goes to Mark Bellissimo, Michael Morrissey and David Burton, Jr. for their commitment to the sport through their continued support of this event.”

The AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular is the culmination of a week filled with hunters and special honors are presented throughout the week. High Score awards were given out as well. Sandy Ferrell got the High Score of 91 on Bolero in the Pro division; Clara Lindner and Hush topped the Amateur-Owners with 89 and Samantha Schaefer was not only the Leading Hunter Rider but rode Perfectionist to the highest score of 93. Grand Champion Junior honors went to Bellingnam Bay, ridden by Emma Lipman. Salvador Martines, groom of Hush ridden and owned by Clara Lindner received the Mark R. Gregory Memorial Trophy for Excellence as the best conditioned horse in the first round.

In 2008 the AHJF also hosts the Legacy Cup (May 8-17 in Lexington, KY) and the WCHR Professional Finals (October 3 in Upper Marlboro, MD).

For information about the Hunter Classic, the AHJF or its programs, contact the AHJF at PO Box 369, West Boylston, MA 01583-0369, call 508-835-8813, fax 508-835-6125, email ahjf@earthlink.net or visit their web site at http://www.ahjf.org.

PHOTO: Elizabeth Boyd and Fiyero win the 2008 AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular on February 23, at the CN Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL. ©Diana De Rosa Photo


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