The Horse Chronicle

The Horse Chronicle

Devon, Pennsylvania—May 31

As Carleton Brooks led his Only Always charge out of the Dixon Oval, Nick Haness draped the Devon blue-lined cooler over his left hand and with his right laid a congratulatory hand on Brooks’ back. The two Californians, who rode over 2,500 miles to the Devon Horse Show, did it: they won a green conformation championship.

“What an exceptional animal this Only Always horse is,” said Haness, of Temecula, Calif. “What makes him more exceptional is the team behind him. I was very lucky that Carleton chose me to be the rider of this horse. We got together at the very end of the year last and we were aiming to be champions in Devon. This moment gives me goosebumps.

Brooks, from Los Angeles, discovered the unregistered 10-year-old gelding while scrolling through videos with his wife Traci Brooks. The Brooks run Balmoral, a top hunter barn in California, and USHJA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Carleton is known for his modeling prowess.

Nick Haness (left) and Carleton Brooks rode all the way from California to win the green conformation championship with Only Always. Photos

“Traci and I were looking for videos and we saw something,” he said. “I went, ‘Oh, he’s a great horse. He’s smart and he’s very well balanced. He was in Europe. We bought him without seeing him except for the video.

And with Carleton taking on modeling duties, he asked Haness if he would take on riding duties.

“Nick is probably at the top of his game,” Carleton said. “He’s very smart in his way of thinking as a horse and he’s very patient with whoever just wants to do it. He is an amazing pilot and great communication.

The admiration is mutual for Haness, who cherishes the Brooks’ ability to really see the positive ramifications of teamwork.

“We’re both professionals from California with our own businesses, and it was truly a treat to be on something so special, on a horse like this, because horses like this don’t come not that often,” Haness said. “He is a very special horse. He is handsome. He is elegant. He’s a good jumper. And it’s been a great journey to be able to work together and collaborate, me as a rider and Carleton [as] all behind the scenes and training this horse at home and bringing him into the ring and presenting him the way he does. It turned out beautifully, and it’s a testament to Balmoral and their care. Traci and Carleton do an exceptional job with that, so for me it’s a blessing and a privilege to be able to get on the horse and do what I love to do and get in the ring and shine.

Although Haness is due to return home on a red-eye flight on Wednesday morning, he still has goosebumps despite the 90+ degree weather.

Nick Haness popped Only Always up.

“It kind of bloomed this year and came out in the winter really strong and blew people away from the start,” Haness said. “He was champion every time he was shown. So we really wanted to bring it to Devon. Today, this moment is something that we have really worked together all this time with this horse.

“I think more than anything, it’s a long way to go for us,” he added. “I think it’s very important that the west coast comes and shows what we have, which is really good horses, especially at this horse show. Going all this way, of course, is a trek. For me, I left my business in California. I have 28 horses to show tomorrow morning in California. … [But] the Devon Horse Show is an iconic horse show that most people dream of being here to compete in, to be champion here.

The gelding coincidentally came with the name Carleton and is now called “CJ” for Carleton Junior in the barn. Does Carleton Senior feel worthy of the moniker?

“Oh, he topped it,” Brooks said.

Holly Orlando guided Alder to Green Conformation Reserve Hunter Championship honors.

Stewart makes the day memorable

You’d be hard-pressed to find an honor or distinction that Scott Stewart didn’t deserve. And on Tuesday, the 2022 Devon Horse Show followed suit like many before it, with Stewart entering with a breathtaking horse to win a Devon Championship. This year’s breathtaking horses are Nottingham and Ever After, who won the 3’9″ and 3’6″ green championships respectively.

Without fail, Stewart points his horses at just the right time for this show.

“We did Kentucky two weeks ago, just to do a front show here,” he said. “So I try to do a bit before a big show and not so much the week before. None of these horses really jump a lot at home, so they’re pretty fresh.

Scott Stewart and Nottingham took the honors in the 3’9″ Green Division.

Nottingham’s Betsee Parker won the Championship in the Green Division 3’9″ ahead of Jimmy Torano and Laskano. And Bikoff Equestrian LLC’s Ever After good day on Monday earned her the tricolor in the greens by 3’6″ at the above Hunt Tosh and Corragio. Both horses were bought by Stewart. But what’s his secret? How does he sort through the millions of videos to find the next Devon champion?

“Some horses want to do it naturally, but it’s difficult,” he said. “It’s not that the jumpers aren’t, but it’s hard to make it look so easy and feel like you’re letting them go, and you have to guide them. In jumpers you can hold them and give them confidence. Here you have to let them learn on their own. It’s really just repetition and just giving them confidence and doing that with young horses to relax them.

Jimmy Torano and Laskano earned Reserve Championship honors in the 3’9″ Green Division.

And while it was a good day at work for the Flemington, New Jersey pro, Tuesday night will bring honor Stewart has never earned before. Once the day of the show is over, he will travel to the Merion Cricket Club to be recognized for his contribution to the sport by being inducted into the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame.

“It’s an incredible honour, even though I tell them I’m way too young,” he said. “I’m truly honored to be inducted tonight, that’s for sure.

“[Fellow inductees] John [French] and Tom [Wright] are also friends of mine – this is probably the first time that so many actively involved people have been inducted,” he added. “It’s amazing that your peers give you that.”

Scott Stewart guided Ever After to the top of the 3’6″ Green Division.

Important links: Devon Horse Show website / Running order and results / The complete program of courses and exhibitions / Live broadcast / All Chronicle coverage

The Chronicle will be on hand all week to bring you great photos, daily reports and more. Don’t forget to pick up copies of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine. Junior weekend coverage will be found in the June 13 and 20 issue, and senior week coverage will be in the June 27 issue.

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