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October 25, 2012

Brennan Breaks Out At Washington

Tom Brennan won all three of the stakes classes he contested today, and Helen Dillon presented him and Lynn Elen Rice's Purple Heart with the Shenandoah Challenge trophy. Photo by Mollie Bailey.

Washington, D.C.—Oct. 25

In the tackroom at Winter Hill Farm, there’s a shadowbox with a picture of Tony Workman winning the regular working hunter stakes at Washington International Horse Show in 1999 aboard Tracey Weinberg's San Siro. Hopefully that wall’s not too crowded, because after yesterday there's going to be three more photos to hang up.

Young professional Tom Brennan topped all three stakes classes he entered at Washington this year, riding Gramercy Park to the first year green and green conformation classes and Purple Heart to win the regular conformation edition in Washington, D.C.

Not bad for a 30-year-old rider who never competed at a major horse show until college.

But once he got there, he didn’t dally. As captain of Stonehill College’s (Mass.) Intercollegiate Horse Show Association squad, he led his team to the national championship in 2003 by winning the intermediate over fences class.

Workman met up with Brennan via his massage therapist, who did a clinic at his school. At the time Workman was looking for someone to help get horses ready, not show or ride seriously. But when he started giving Brennan more horses to hack and school, he liked what he saw. Brennan started with an occasional horse in the show ring, and when Workman broke his shoulder six years ago, Brennan started going full force in the ring.

It’s been a breakout year for Brennan, thanks in no small part to Lynn Ellen Rice’s two winners from Washington, which earned her the leading hunter owner of the show award.

When Workman and Brennan saw Gramercy Park in Culpeper, Va., as a pre-green horse last year, they called Rice, who was on vacation, and told her to get on a plane immediately. (She flew down and bought the horse the next day.) That’s paid off this year, as he started the season by winning the Gulf Coast Winter Classics (Miss.) series award and championships at every other show save one. He finished as reserve champion in both the first year green and green conformation divisions at Washington.

Brennan, Charles Town, W.Va., has brought Purple Heart along since his pre-green days as well. That horse now splits his time between the professional and the amateur-owner or adult amateur hunter rings. Most recently he and Rice won an EMO Trip of the Show award with Rice on a 90 at Capital Challenge (Md.).  

For Workman, Brennan’s lack of experience as a junior was hardly a detriment. He values Brennan’s unpretentious and easygoing attitude, and the fact that he’s worked his way up to standing center ring at the Verizon Center. 

“Tom’s well educated—he could have done anything,” said Workman. “He learned fast because he works hard and watches a lot. He doesn’t miss a school.”

That extends to outside the ring, too. Brennan chairs the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association’s young professionals committee and was just named to the USHJA’s new hunter working group. He’s most excited about the younger equestrians getting involved in governance of the sport.

“It isn’t the old boys club of yesterday, and [the USHJA] has been great about opening their doors to a lot of people,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re someone who goes to shows every week or not. There’s a place for you. It’s great to see how many people have approached me and asked how to get involved.”

But it's not all work for Brennan. After his last class at Washington he stayed for the afternoon to help school Purple Heart and Rice, who went home to Purcellville, Va., with red and yellow ribbons. But the next morning he and his wife, Tracy White-Brennan, flew to Orlando, Fla., to spend a long weekend at Disney World.

Check out photos from the $20,000 Gambler's Choice Costume Class.

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