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May 17, 2012

It's Decision Time In The Breeder's Bridge Contest

After a full day of riding at John Madden Sales, I found myself on an evening flight out of Syracuse headed to California to try one of the last finalists in the Breeder's Bridge to High Performance contest. The plan was to arrive late Sunday evening to try Welcome BF at Branscomb Farm early Monday morning, then hop a flight back Monday afternoon, so I could be ready to ride at home on Tuesday.

It was a good plan in theory, until a delayed flight messed with my plans.

Luckily, I was able to swap flights and still made it to California in time to catch a couple of hours of sleep before heading to Branscomb Farm the next morning. At Branscomb Farm I was happy to be riding outside in the sunshine, something I hadn’t seen much of since coming back to Cazenovia from Florida.

K.C. Branscomb, the breeder and farm owner, explained to me that Welcome BF had had a few days off, as the farm was at a show prior to my arrival. I hopped on Welcome, and she had a fresh feel—not intimidating, just very ready to get to work.

Welcome BF warmed up nicely and felt very correct through her flatwork. Her regular rider, Daniel Zilla, has given her a strong foundation.

When I started to jump Welcome BF, it was clear that she was used to a slightly different ride to the fences than I gave. She was quick to figure out what I wanted, though, and seemed like she was one that learns quickly. Welcome had plenty of scope over the fences and felt powerful off the ground, giving a good jump.

Her hind end was super careful, and I gave her a decent test over some solidly sized fences. She felt like she could be ready for the 6-year-old young jumper classes with just a little more mileage.

Watch Callie ride Welcome BF...

While at Branscomb Farm, I also had the opportunity to see some of their other developing horses, including Velvet, a half-sister to Welcome BF. I was impressed by the quality of all the horses being bred and developed at Branscomb Farm. All the horses they offered, from equitation horses to junior jumpers to grand prix prospects, were well bred and well developed, on par with what you could see in Europe.

After a hurried drive to the airport, I was headed back to Cazenovia, luckily without delays on the trip home. I had a week at home to spend riding and training. I spent Monday morning riding in Cazenovia and then drove to Long Island where I took the ferry across to spend the night and be ready to see Charmed SCF early Tuesday morning.

Charmed SCF was bred by Sporting Chance Farm and is owned by Nicole Orens. Nicole Orens’ family farm in the Hamptons was a great set-up for a personal farm. I arrived extra early to try and beat the rain that was headed our way.

Charmed SCF, 5, is a great example of a Judgement ISF offspring, in my opinion. She was very sweet in the cross-ties and clearly good around Nicole’s family, including her 2-year-old daughter. I hopped right on Charmed, and she felt eager to work but very relaxed. Although on the smaller side, under 16 hands, she had a good size of step and felt powerful. I actually have an affinity for the smaller mares. Wrigley, my top ride, is similar in build.

I was able to jump Charmed around a nice course that showcased her bravery. There was no hesitation to any of the fences, even to the liverpool. She was very easy to the jumps and, especially for 5, was quite uncomplicated. Although she will clearly be a successful jumper as she develops, she also gave me the sense that she could go out and be successful in the hunter derbies with her form, bravery and rideability. Her front end was very correct, and her hind end over the fences was quite careful.

Watch Callie jump Charmed SCF...

We put a few of the jumps up to a solid 3’6” for her, which felt very easy. Since she was only 5, I didn’t want to push too hard, so I didn’t feel the need to go up much further, but I have no doubt the jump is there.

After finishing up with Charmed, I drove straight to Old Salem Farm (N.Y.) where the John Madden Sales trailer had just arrived with our horses to be unloaded and ridden. John, Beezie and I will spend some time this week, between showing, reviewing my notes and all the video footage of the three horses I tried previously, and these two. Hopefully we will come to our final decision by early next week!

www.JohnMaddenSales.com