Highlights From The 53rd Washington International Horse Show: October 25-30, 2011

Nick Skelton and Carlo 273

The well-known event in Washington DC gained a huge audience online this year – over 130,000 people tuned into the new live webcast from the Verizon Center. The largest online and in-person crowd was for the $100,000 President’s Cup Grand Prix, a World Cup qualifier. Nick Skelton of Great Britain rode Beverley Widdowson’s Carlo 273 to victory.

Skelton and Carlo 273, a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Contender, were the last to go clear in the opening round of 24 entries over a course designed by Michel Vaillancourt of Aiken, SC. Brianne Goutal and Nice de Prissey were second, while California phenom Lucy Davis rode Nemo 119 to third. Margie Engle and Indigo were fourth to round out the jump-off.

Sarah Tredennick of Denver, CO, rode Vigaro to the win in the $31,000 International Open Jumper Jump-off class. Stanford student Saer Coulter went as a character from the movieAvatar in the $20,000 International Open Jumper Gambler’s Choice Costume class. Although she looked blue, she earned second place behind top rider Todd Minikus dressed as Uncle Sam. Holding her own among the best, Saer earned several more respectable ribbons in the open jumper division.

Saer Coulter as a Na’vi from Avatar

John French won the inaugural High Point West Coast Rider Trophy, and won the Regular Conformation Hunter Stake aboard Laura Wasserman’s Overseas. Wasserman won an Amateur/Owner class on Overseas.

Continuing her indoors hunter dominance, the Small Junior Hunter 16-17 division awarded championship honors to Olivia Esse and Oscany Inc.’s Clooney.

The Charity Challenge

Liliane Stransky and Paulo Santana

By EquestriSol For Step By Step

On Sunday, March 13th, Olympic veteran Margie Engle and Step by Step Foundation’s Liliane Stransky joined forces once again to host the second annual All In For Charity Poker Tournament in Wellington, Florida. Although Santana has won his share of classes on horseback this season, on this particular evening he proved his poker game is also competitive.

For one night the action at the Winter Equestrian Festival shifted from fast paced show jumping in the International Arena to high stakes gaming in the Grand Prix Pavilion,when the place was transformed into a colorful casino. Stransky, the founder of the international children’s charity Step by Step, assembled a strong lineup of lovely ladies to play on her poker team. Top rider and player, Margie Engle, event organizer Kathy Andersen, grand prix veteran Hillary Dobbs, and 15-year-old Daniela Stransky, a seasoned poker player not to be taken lightly, joined her. After donning their orange Polo t-shirts, they sat down at the tables to play their best hands and help raise funds for children in need in Haiti

Sporting Team Brazil’s yellow polos, Santana was joined by Daniel DiPicoli, Adolpho Franco, Cesar Almeiea and Gustavo Amorin at the tables. When the last hand was dealt and all the chips were in, it was Santana who was named the 2011 All In Charity Poker Tournament Champion. He generously donated his winnings to the pot to help with Step by Step’s ongoing efforts on behalf of children in need.

Team Brazil

Others to show their support included Danielle and Jimmy Torano, the newest member of the Step by Step Foundation’s Advisory Board. “It is a real honor to have great riders like Jimmy (Torano) and Margie (Engle) support us,” said Stransky. “It helps us raise awareness and spread the word to equestrian enthusiasts everywhere. As we all know, the horse show community is truly an international one, and our goal with the foundation is global. We want to enhance the lives of underprivileged children worldwide by creating and supporting sustainable health, education, and wellness programs. We do this, literally step by step, donation by donation, rider by rider!”

Artist Josee Nadaue

As the cards were dealt, conversations flowed in a variety of languages including English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese and Italian, with topics ranging from Haiti to horses, poker to ponies. Grand prix rider Hector Florentino, Dutch horse agent Roy Wilten, amateur-owner riders Sarah Ward and Sarah Orberson Taylor, Andrea Amorin and Jennifer Santana were just a few of the familiar faces from the horse world. Some of the toughest competition of the night came from the younger set including Kelsie Britton and twin brothers Spencer and Clayton, who came with their mom Kristin and trainer Peter Pletcher, raising the stakes and upping the ante on seasoned pros.

Another event highlight was when impressionistic artist Josee Nadaue, whose fans include Clint Eastwood and Pierce Bronson, unveiled her larger than life piece created especially for the benefit.

More than $50,000 was raised for Step by Step during this special tournament. For more about this ambitious organization see www.stepbystepfoundation.com.

STEP BY STEP MISSION: To enhance the lives of underprivileged children by creating and supporting, health, nutrition, water, education and other programs that substantially impact the human rights and development of children worldwide, establishing holistic community development programs that can be replicated throughout Haiti, and other impoverished communities around the world. Step by Step Foundation, Inc., is a registered 501 (c) (3) not for profit organization registered in the State of Florida.

Photos by Jack Mancini