To state the obvious, 2020 has been a year like no other.
As a group that has always been talented in the pivoting department, Team Knollwood was quick to adjust to the changes that just kept on coming. And of course, we had a good time doing it.
The stories make the year, and here are our 10 favorite Knollwood stories of the year that was.
Now known as Dear Sweet Leon, this wonderful fellow arrived to Knollwood just before ‘Safer at Home’ started in March. Officially known as Keep the Change, Sir, Leon has quickly become a favorite of, well, everyone.
He made his academy debut at Glen Valley and was a perfect angel. Ever since, he’s been an academy rock star, never turning back an ear while taking care of all different levels of riders. At home, he taught his first pattern camps, and has even become a cantering teacher.
If you don’t yet believe in unicorns, come meet Leon.
9. Academy Evolution
So, we had some time off from teaching lessons. We decided to use it wisely and strategize how we could be better coming out of our forced sabbatical.
We looked at EVERTHING. Curriculum, horses, progression of riders, scheduling, retention, …you name it, we dissected it.
From the meeting of many minds, we came up with new, introductory programs that have been selling out from the start. New riders to Knollwood now start in a Mini-Camp, Welcome to Knollwood intro session, or Summer Riding School to get a taste of our lesson program. Following their intro, riders who wish to continue enroll in our new monthly enrollment program.
The new intro programs are paying off already as we’re seeing faster progress in our riders riding in private lessons, more involvement with the new riders, and we’re having a ton of fun with our new friends!
8. Camp 2020
Yes, we had a few bumps. We rescheduled the first few weeks of camp while we developed safety protocols. With the help of an unbelievable group of super helpers, custom handwashing stations designed and built by Mr. Berget, and the best lesson horses in the world, we held sold-out camp sessions for Tiny Tots, new riders, and pattern camps for our academy stars.
Things may have looked a little different with masks, distancing, and endless sanitizing, but the spirit was the same. Great thanks to Brenda, Erika, and Parker for keeping it all so fun for the kids!
And great thanks to Teresa and her staff at Soul Fire Art Studio for making craft day pandemic friendly!
7. Facebook Live
So, this was actually a fun part of the craziness. Customers couldn’t be at the barn, so we brought the horses to them thanks to Facebook. Our Saturday afternoon cocktail hours were the most popular. We hosted conversations with the lesson horses, blowing bubbles with the lesson horses, derby day with the lesson horses, school horse Olympics with Knollwood staff as helpers, and the most popular Facebook event, the Ask Scott Anything broadcast.
We had an absolute blast reconnecting with customers online, answering questions, and letting riders get up close and personal with their favorite lesson horses via FB.
Horseshow geeks like us also got to watch show horses work in the big outdoor ring.
The little yellow and white kitten saved us during the shutdown.
We had wanted a yellow cat for a while, and his timing couldn’t have been better. Richmond entertained those of us ‘essential workers’ at the barn and kept our spirits up. Instructors missed teaching so much that they attempted to teach the kitten to ride. Let’s just say that his talents and attention span are, well, limited.
The horses loved him, and the internet loved the #dailydoseofrichmond.
Then came the adventure. Our adventurous friend Richmond was looking pretty punky, so Knollwood Kid (they stay kids to us forever) and small animal vet Rachel took a look at him, and determined that another living creature had invaded Richmond’s neck. She took him to the clinic, cleaned out the maggot, and returned him to the barn.
THEN, he scratched it open, removed the stitches himself, and generally made a mess of Rachel’s hard work. As a result of his handiwork, Richmond was humiliated for weeks, wearing a sock around his neck to keep him from exploring his wound any further while receiving daily treatments and antibiotics.
He’s remained relatively safe since then, but we truly believe he’s used up a few lives already.
5. Outdoor Shows
COVID may have forced us to cancel our spring in-barn show, but we refused to let it cancel all the fun of our home shows.
Team Knollwood got together again and worked out all the logistics to move the two day show to our outdoor rings. Our walk trot and canter riders showed in the BIG outdoor ring on Saturday, and our walk trot riders showed in the small outdoor ring on Sunday.
Parent involvement was unbelievable, as they redesigned a touch free concession stand and raffle in the great outdoors. We simply cannot say enough about our super helpers who redesigned the whole ‘behind the scenes’ process of the show.
The horses? They loved it.
We enjoyed the extra space, fresh air, and relaxed atmosphere so much that we’re now planning on holding all of our in-barn shows in the great outdoors.
Officially known as Garden of Roses, this beautiful gelding was originally purchased as a fancy lesson horse or a lease horse, or really whatever he wanted to be.
He’s made a name for himself in many ways this past year. With her great horsemanship skills, Korinne helped him make his academy debut a success.
Richie teamed with Willis this season in the new Single Bit division started by the forward thinking Monarch Horse Show group. This division gives a horse the chance to show in a snaffle for any number of reasons, and Willis has benefitted by being shown in BIG arenas by a seasoned junior exhibitor while being worked by professionals.
Willis matured so much this season that he won the National Championship in the Single Bit division at the Monarch Finals. Both Richie and Willis learned a lot from each other this season!
This is the Cinderella story of the season. You might want to get the Kleenex out now.
The Duerr family rescued a yearling Saddlebred from a kill pen a couple of years ago. After some initial vet work and some training near home, they decided to send him to Knollwood to see what Riddle wanted to be.
It turns out that Riddle wants to be a rock star.
Payton showed him for the first time at Futurity, and won the Open English Pleasure qualifier in their show ring debut.
Riddle went to the Royal, and made his big time debut as a trimmed equitation horse. He and horsewoman Payton were a sight in Kansas City.
Great thanks to the Duerr family for their generosity and faith in taking a chance on this wonderful horse who had somehow fallen through the cracks.
2. Show Ring Excellence
This year was different.
Show after show cancelled early in the year, so the academy riders didn’t get to show until some forward-thinking trainers decided to hold a show at Glen Valley in late June. Our show horses traveled to Missouri to show at Bridlespur, and didn’t get to show locally until Summerfun.
Each show seemed to mean a lot more, and Team Knollwood was ready. With extra time spent with Scott, Carol and Lin, the show horses were extra sparkly, and the lesson horses were ready to go.
Summerfun was glorious, thanks to Vicky and her team saving it, and the fall shows went on as normally as possible.
Our academy riders were stars, with plenty of lessons learned along the way. We loved watching Leon fit into the band of academy horse stars, and our riders kept getting better and better.
Our show riders made huge progress as well in this most unusual season.
Richie and Sophie finished 2020 as the National Champs of the UPHA Challenge Cup Final for riders 13 and under after being named Reserve World Champions in Louisville in August.
Heather and Sammy finished Reserve National Champion of the UPHA Challenge Cup for riders 14-17, as well as Top 10 in both the Good Hands and Medal Finals.
Finn and Leila finished third in the Good Hands Final, and were top 10 in both the Medal and Challenge Cup Finals.
Laney and Aaron finished in the Top 10 of the Saddle and Bridle Medallion Final for riders 14-17, and Laney made fantastic progress through the season with her new horse.
Payton, riding as a 12 year old, finished 3rd in the National Championship of Pleasure Equitation, 3rd in the Senior division of the Pleasure Equitation Medallion because she won the Junior division last year, and finished in the top 10 of the National Championship of Equitation for riders 13 and under as well as UPHA Junior Pleasure Equitation Challenge Cup.
Allison returned to the equitation world with Ava, and won the Good Hands National Final for adult riders. Equitation never leaves you.
Margit and Charlie quickly became a team in their inaugural season, trotting and racking their way down rails around the Midwest.
1. TEAM Knollwood
What a year it’s been.
Through it all, our friends have been there with us. Show horse owners who couldn’t even visit their horses paid their bills in advance, academy riders walked the bridle path to see their horse friends, customers donated to the lesson horse unemployment fund at Merton Feed, while others made masks and plushies and donated the proceeds.
Lesson riders had a car parade past the farm so we could see them even if it was very briefly, and dedicated ‘essential workers’ kept the lesson horses groomed and in touch with people through it all.
We could not have possibly made it through the insanity and unpredictability without all of our friends.
We are ever so grateful, and are looking forward to a more peaceful 2021.