Shanon Baker is no stranger to taking her horses to the upper levels in the sport of eventing, and the horseman who’s based in Hollis, N.H. for half of the year, spends the remaining part in Aiken getting her horses ready for the season. Baker competed this past weekend at the PSJ Aiken Winter Festival at Highfields Event Center.
The eventer spent the majority of December refining her dressage skills, and working on her stadium jumping by competing in jumper shows.
Lansdowne, a 7-year-old off the track Thoroughbred, who had competed at Suffolk Downs, is known around the barn as Landis, was doing Tadpole last January, continues to evolve as an event horse, and as Baker moves him up the levels, she’s seen a great amount of progress.
“Lansdowne was doing preliminary by the end of the year, and it was because we had months of great foundation,” said Baker, who brought the gelding out at preliminary level at the Ocala Horse Properties Winter Horse Trials at the Florida Horse Park, Jan. 5-6.
Baker rides with fellow eventer Doug Payne during the winter, and the horseman is in the process of getting Lansdowne socialized after the Thoroughbred spent his past vocation in a completely different environment.
“I got him as a coming 4-year-old off the racetrack,” said Baker. “He was crazy. I had to let him down for a while, and let him find himself a bit because he was so fit.”
However, the equine athlete was not only well conditioned, but was in the process of expanding his horizons literally and figuratively.
“When I bought him, he was 16.1, and now he’s 16.3,” said Baker. “He had this huge growth spurt in his fifth year, so we lost all kinds of time because he was completely uncoordinated. He was always growing, and then he finally turned six. We started him at tadpole and got him to prelim by the end of the year. That’s where we’re picking up, and it’s pretty much all because of Aiken.”
Aiken is ideal for Baker for a number of reasons because it enables the eventer to ride with her trainer, is the perfect environment for intense training, has the ideal climate that’s conducive to getting a horse fit, and a high concentration of events.
“Aiken provides me with such a huge advantage,” said Baker. “We come down early in November, the horses are mostly on break, and then having the opportunity to ride without frozen ground, without snow, and to keep going so I’ll be ready to start the season early. It means everything to the horses.”
This weekend Baker will have an opportunity to put all of that work from the past few months to the test as she’ll have three rides at the Rocking Horse Stables Horse Trials, Lansdowne, Ballingowan Zeal and Bangarang.
“I love Aiken, and the only reason we chose to go to Florida is that I have a horse that I have to bring down there,” said Baker. “It worked out that on the weekend the horse needed to go, Rocking Horse was running, so instead of missing a weekend of competing, I’m taking him with me.”
A triumvirate of 19-year-olds are still part of Baker’s deep barn, the venerable Black Sox Shiraz or Snoopy as he’s better known, Beringer and Johnny B Good. Baker’s niece Kaitlyn Schmitt, who brought Crayola her roan pony to Aiken, gets the chance to ride the veteran campaigners.
“They’re all working,” said Baker. “They get ridden every day. They’re going to take different people out, and they’ll probably be doing novice and training. They’re going to do some jumper shows, but they’re enjoying their much easier lifestyle.”