Rancho Santa Fe’s Henry Reif, 15, recently had a strong showing at the American Saddlebred Association of Arizona’s Carousel Charity Horse Show in Scottsdale, Ariz. With horse A Lasting Legacy, Henry was named Junior Exhibitor Five Gaited Champion and Grand Champion; Regal’s Promoter and Henry won the Roadster Pony Grand Champion and Open Champion; and Brady and Henry won the Five-Gaited Pleasure Reserve Championship.
Henry, a sophomore at High Bluff Academy in Carmel Valley, began riding horses when he was younger but picked it up again more seriously about three years ago.
“I always liked horses and animals in general and when I went to a new school, none of the sports provided really worked with my medical condition,” said Henry, who has hemophilia. “I decided to go back to riding and started off really slow.”
Henry moved from a small barn that specialized in Peruvian Pasos to Rockridge Farm in Rancho Santa Fe, a barn run by Bill and Debbie Tomin which specializes in American Saddlebreds.
The American Saddlebred is known as the peacock of the horse world, a more “showy and fancy” high-stepping horse. The horse is shown in a saddleseat English saddle or in elegant driving events.
“They have a chess piece look,” Henry said. “They’re beautiful animals.”
Henry was reluctant at first because he wasn’t very familiar with the breed but after his first ride with a Saddlebred he was hooked. He now trains at Rockridge three times a week for about two hours a session with head trainer Bill and “awesome” assistant trainer Whitney Anderson.
Debbie Tomin said in addition to the physical skills gained from the challenge of learning to ride a horse, Henry found an added benefit in the trust and relationships that he built with each horse he rode.
“We have watched him gain confidence along with his skills over the years with the horses and his commitment to be one of the country’s top juvenile riders,” Debbie Tomin said. “His ability to follow directions and execute them with his horses has distinguished him as a quietly confident young man.”
In competition, American Saddlebreds walk, trot and canter, and are judged on performance, quality, manners and overall presence.
“It’s a little bit of a dance with the horse,” Henry said. “You have to figure out how to please the horse and ask nicely with the reins.”
A Lasting Legacy, whom Henry calls “Legs” for short, is a stronger horse and a step up from riding Brady.
“He’s a really great horse and he has a lot of power,” said Henry of Legs.
For his hackney roadster pony, Regal’s Promoter or “Mr. P,” Henry drives in a cart and in competition is judged on speed while maintaining the horse’s form.
As the event is steeped in tradition, riders wear snap-brim hats and long-tailed coats—Henry enjoys designing the look he wears, with efforts made to match the colors of his horses.
The win at Carousel Charity Horse Show was a great way to kick off his first competition of the season—Henry expects to be showing about once a month and he is hoping to build on his success from last year.
Last fall in only his second year of competing, Henry had a great showing at the World Grand Championship in Lexington, Kentucky- he was named the Reserve World Champion in Five Gaited Pleasure with Brady and was third in the world in Junior Exhibitor Roadster Pony with Regal’s Promoter.
“For (Rockridge) to have brought me to this point, it’s honestly kind of surreal for me to register the fact that I’m second in the world in something,” Henry said. “I’m really hoping to go to World Championships again on Legs. That’s my goal, to bring him to enough shows and return to Worlds.”