Mentors of Eventing: Bonamarte and Hall Focus On Future Generations

Brad Hall sits atop a catch horse, Smells Like Lilacs, whom he competed at Roebke’s Run June H.T. With him are two members of his team, Elizabeth and Emma Fettig, and fellow coach Cindy Bonamarte. Not pictured is fourth team member Lisa Borgia. All four riders placed first in their divisions. Photo by Pat Schmidt.

Coaches Brad Hall and Cindy Bonamarte are an eventing legacy. For the past 13 years, Brad and Cindy have paired their talents to build strong teams that have topped eventing leaderboards. They brought a strong group to Roebke’s Run H.T. in Hector, Minnesota, earlier this month, one of their favorite venues ever since the Schweiss family opened the Area IV course.

Their coaching territories are unique in that Brad lives in Galena, Illinois, while Cindy lives in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where she teaches from her Geneva Equestrian. Both locations are about a six-hour drive from Roebke’s Run.

“This is in essence students teaching students,” Brad says. Cindy adds, “We’ve built very strong and numerous teams. At any given time we have 15 to 20 students on the leaderboards during any given year in various divisions.”

For Roebke’s Run June H.T., their team consisted of Lisa Borgia in the CIC*, Emma Fettig in Preliminary Rider and Elizabeth Fettig in Novice Rider; Brad also competed in Open Novice. All captured first places in their respective divisions.

Cindy has been riding all her life and still competes. Lotties Wisdom, her young off-track Thoroughbred in its first year of competition, won Fox River Valley and placed fourth in the nation in her fifth event last year at AECs.

Brad is another lifelong rider who has been eventing for more than 25 years. Most of his successes are with students and their horses. Cindy was one of his first students,  now followed by her daughter Madison.

Madison and Cindy are developing young kids and bringing them to event teams prior to ushering them to Brad’s tutelage.

“I get to see them when they are ready, so it’s my students teaching their students and we all end up working together to keep doing better,” Brad explains. “We produce very high quality event horses from various places, whether we raise them, obtain them from other breeders or get them from the track,” adds Cindy.

They’ve sent a rider to the AECs every year for the past 15 years and are expecting to three or four compete at this year’s championships in Tryon, NC.

“I’m a clinician, so I go and do clinics all over the United States from California to Wisconsin, Texas and Florida. You have some that come once or twice a year and then some who come once or twice a week,” says Brad.

Brade rode at Roebke’s Run when asked to compete on a catch ride, Smelled Like Lilacs, for Blue Side Bottom owner and teammate Brynna Jovanovich. It was the first time he had ridden the horse and together they managed to capture first place in the Open Novice category

“I’m her instructor and had seen the horse, but had not ridden it,” Brad says. “Smelled Like Lilacs did not like me, but we came to a fair agreement.”

“The Schweisses are the best people on earth,” Brad says. “Even when it doesn’t always fit into our schedule I would love to do anything to support what Mike, and Julie and Brook are doing. It’s a high quality course, well thought-out. It runs so nicely with Otter Creek in Wisconsin as a supplement. It’s nice to see two events work together so well.

“The efforts that have been made to ask all the questions that you see throughout the country have been made here. Certainly the Schweisses do an amazing job of keeping up with it all. I think every event has to battle some form of Mother Nature. A personal thank you from us to anybody who helped here.”

Cindy agrees. “They put in a maximum effort for everything. As far as the course and design, Roebke’s Run flows nicely, and they ask appropriate questions for the levels, which is very important. The people here are just amazing; they are friendly, they’re helpful. That includes the supporting staff on four-wheelers bringing ice and water around to the volunteers sitting through the weather. A big shoutout goes to the volunteers; you couldn’t do this without them.”

She notes that Roebke’s Run is a much-needed venue because Area IV doesn’t have enough venues, and reminds that it’s very important to support venues to keep them doing what they do.