The American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA) thought outside the box—and inside the show ring—for the July 8 ASHA Triple Crown Challenge class, a fundraiser that brought 10 saddle seat equitation legends together in a single competition and raised $62,220 at the recent Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show in Lexington, Ky.
The 10 riders were all winners of the prestigious Saddle Seat Equitation Triple Crown (the Good Hands Finals, United Professional Horsemen’s Association Challenge Cup, and USEF Saddle Seat Medal), which has only been captured a dozen times. The class also benefited the ASHA’s Marketing Fund: riders asked their friends, family, and fans to make tax-deductible donations, and the rider who raised the most received the title of Crowd Favorite.
Kate Harvey Codeanne—the 1987 Saddle Seat Triple Crown winner who still competes American Saddlebreds in the five-gaited division—won the performance class aboard Elisabeth Goth’s three-gaited mare WGC Lady Mandolin. Faye Wuesthofen, the 2009 Triple Crown winner, took home the Crowd Favorite award after raising $17,375 to edge out Catherine McNeese ($17,225).
“The funds raised from the class will help us in our breed-promotion endeavors, and part of the proceeds from the class also went back to the Lexington Junior League, which is a charitable foundation,” said ASHA media and marketing manager Michelle Krentz. And there was another benefit: when riders promoted the fundraiser to their friends, the sport gained new exposure.
“We got so many donations from people who have probably never seen an American Saddlebred before, which was really fulfilling,” said Krentz. “Not only were they giving to the association, but they were also being made aware of their friends’ passion, which helps promote awareness of our breed.”
The class was a crowd-pleaser, with plenty of good storylines. Rider Jessie Wuesthofen brought 15-year-old CH Brookhill’s King of Kool out of retirement for the class; they had won eight World’s Championship junior exhibitor show pleasure titles together. Macey Miles came into the class fresh off her 2016 Triple Crown victory. Others, like 1982 winner Jama Hedden, hadn’t ridden in a number of years as they pursued university, career, and family life.
Another win for equestrian sport: those former riders look likely to return, says Krentz.
“They’re all very successful in their professional careers,” Krentz said, “but that made some of them put the whole horse thing on hold. But now that they’ve all gotten back in because of this event, I think they all want to keep riding. They were reminded of how much they love it.”
Class champion Codeanne, now an attorney who works for the federal government and lives in Connecticut, says she’s been fortunate to keep riding and showing after her equitation career. She’s also enjoyed equitation vicariously through her daughter Molly, 18, a fourth-generation rider. But the Triple Crown Challenge class was nostalgic for Codeanne, who came into the ring wearing the same saddle seat show suit that she wore during her 1987 Triple Crown campaign.
“When I tried it on, it was close to fitting, so I took it to my tailor, and he was able to make it work,” Codeanne said of the suit. “I was just praying the entire time that it wouldn’t fall apart, to be honest with you, with the stitching being that old! It was in my attic in my stash of memorabilia and things I could never get rid of. I was amazed of the condition of it when I opened up the bag in the first time in probably 30 years. It was still ready to go.”
Codeanne rode at LM Turner Stables and Cater Stables in New Hampshire and Premier Stables in Kentucky to prepare for the Triple Crown Challenge. “I’ve been riding my whole life, but I did step it up quite a bit to get prepared for this class. I felt like I was harking back to my younger days when I rode every day, and that was a lot of fun.
“Lady Mandolin is just a fabulous mare,” she added. “She’s just a beautiful example of the American Saddlebred breed. I want to say thank you to Elisabeth Goth; she was so gracious to let me ride her beautiful mare.”
The competitors faced an unexpected challenge when 2010 Triple Crown winner Nick Maupin unexpectedly took his feet from his stirrups and posted the trot without them during the class’s last pass down the ring’s long side, throwing down the gauntlet to the other riders. But Codeanne aced the challenge and ended up with the tricolor.
“It was nice to see some familiar faces from the past, and it was just a really enjoyable event. When they decided to have it benefit the ASHA, I was all for it,” said Codeanne, who also serves on the ASHA Charter Club Council. “I’m very excited to try and help our breed in any way that I can. The more creative we can be with these ideas for fundraising classes, the better, because they have the potential to get people involved and excited.”
“We wanted to make it a fair playing field for everyone, so we decided to make it a performance class instead of an equitation class,” Krentz said of the class. “I was overjoyed with the caliber of horses that were in the class, and I think it was exciting not only for the people involved in the class, but also for the crowd. As a performance class, it was judged on who had the best horse but, as in any equestrian sport, even if you have a great horse, you have to show it really well. Everyone rode really hard and got great rail placement. They were all going for the tricolor.”
The ASHA used Crowdrise, the non-profit component of Go Fund Me, to raise funds about six months ago. Riders picked up the challenge to be Crowd Favorite, pushing the fundraiser through their social media and email contacts. “We really started to get big contributions in the last week or two and during the class,” Krentz said. “Catherine McNeese and Faye Wuesthofen were the top two, and they kept trading the fundraising lead throughout the class.”
The online fundraiser ended as soon as the three judges in the ring turned their scoring cards in, with performance winner Codeanne and Crowd Favorite Wuesthofen announced minutes later.
The ASHA has found success with similar fundraisers recently, said media and marketing manager Krentz. “The first big fundraiser we came up with was a trainers’ equitation class, and that was a riot,” she said. “We had trainers of all ages doing equitation patterns and trying to sit up straight and have perfect form, which was entertaining!”
That was such a success that they expanded the idea to nine horse shows across the country.
“That showed me that if you can find a niche kind of event that will really get the crowd involved and get people interested, you will have success and raise money,” said Krentz.
“I really wanted to come up with something fun that put a spotlight on our horses and our fabulous riders,” she added. “I had so much fun talking to the riders the last six months. We all had a great time, and it was great to see the fraternity of all those riders. Even the people who didn’t know each other before the class became great friends, and I loved that. “
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