While Woodge Fulton is crushing it overseas this spring, training and competing in Germany with her five-star mount Captain Jack whilst on the waitlist for Badminton, her eventing family at Full Moon Farm is enjoying their own international adventures.
Last month seven riders from the Carroll County, Maryland eventing facility, plus three other U.S. riders, contested an international horse trial at La Finca Centro Ecuestre in Costa Rica. But this was no regular FEI star-level event — rather, the competition was entirely Novice level and below!
The connection: Leonor Muñoz Ortiz, whose parents Gilda Ortiz and Jose Antonio Muñoz own La Finca Centro Ecuestre. The family has been involved in the equestrian world for 30 years now, beginning in the States; while their father worked in the Costa Rican Embassy in D.C., Leonor and her brothers were members of the Seneca Valley Pony Club in Maryland. Leonor, now 33 years old, progressed in her riding and has since competed through the former FEI one-star level, finishing well at CCI1* events including Bromont in Canada and the Midsouth Three-Day in Kentucky.
Throughout her journey, Leonor and her family have remained committed to being ambassadors for the sport. “We committed fully to bringing all that knowledge and horsemanship back to Costa Rica,” Leonor says. “We developed eventing in Costa Rica in 2011.”
They have been running Horse Trials at La Finca for nine years now, brining in USEA and FEI course designers, judges and technical delegates as officials. Leonor has also maintained her Maryland connections.
“I spent 2015 training in the U.S. with Buck Davidson and met Woodge Fulton,” she says. “Quickly we became good friends. Our families (including daughter Grace, mother Karen and father Stephen) hit it off immediately. We bought a super nice horse from the Fultons, and upon my return to Costa Rica we brought Karen down to teach a riding clinic, Grace a horsemanship clinic and Stephen a shoeing clinic!”
“We went to Kentucky to cheer Woodge on for her first four-star and then took a group of students to their 1/4* event at Full Moon in 2016 and 2018,” Leonor says.
Full Moon Farm riders have, in turn, participated in “exchanges” at La Finca. For this year’s event, Ana Schravesande (USA) served as judge and her granddaughter Tatum Doyal came to ride, along with seven riders from Full Moon Farm: Stephen Fulton, Payton Myers, Alise Shotwell, Samantha Gilley, Samantha Schwartz, Carla Lindsay, and Virgina Burns.
“We also had a rider from Seattle, Samantha Hollow-Bist,” Leonor says. “Sam came to Costa Rica for three months to learn Spanish and and contacted us because she saw our cross country field on the way to the beach. She couldn’t believe there was eventing in Costa Rica and after checking out our Facebook couldn’t believe we had had top clinicians here like Laine Ashker and Buck Davidson.”
Also participating were four riders from Guatemala: Carlos Hernandez, Maria Fernanda Herrera, Camila Chacon and Alexia Salazar. “I had trained in Guatemala in 2010 when I was doing the jumpers and made very good friends,” Leonor says. “They are known for being fierce competitors and I was keen on having different countries, cultures and styles of riding at the show that we could all learn from one another.”
From Costa Rica, there were participants from two barns. Representing La Finca in San Jose: Rebeca Escalante, Gaby Villalta, Sofia Muñiz, Daniela Muñiz, Juliana Antillon, Isabela Salom, Daniela Jenkins, Ana Lucia Jenkins, Oisin O’Cleirigh, Margareth O’Cleirigh, Javiera Gutierrez and Monserrat Guitart. Representing Costa Rican Equestrian Vacations, located north in the province of Guanacaste: Molly Niederberger, Robin Berger, Cody Qualls, Catalina Qualls, Joie Chuntz, Edie De Graff, Noa De Graff and Lynn Odermatt.
The event was a truly international affair. “I’ve been lucky enough to meet great people from all over the world through horses and dreamt of hosting an International Horse Trial on shared horses,” Leonor says. “Representing Costa Rica we had everything from Costa Rican to Dutch, to French, to Irish to Argentinian. It was really great having all the countries come together. We had riders from ages 9 to 60, Starter level to Novice riders, green 4-year-old horses to 2o+ year old school masters. Everyone was game!”
Riders flew or drove in on Thursday and met at the barn on Friday morning to test their catch-ride horses and make sure everyone had a suitable match, followed by a barbecue at noon, with every La Finca family bringing a dish to share and a barn dad handling the grill.
In the afternoon, Leonor gave a lecture on what to expect and made sure everyone understood the pillars for the show: horsemanship first, sportsmanship second, and third of all fun. They went over rules for the show, the different type of awards we would give out: Best Presented Team at Jogs, Best Conditioned Horse in each division, Best Score in each division, Grand Overall Champion, Best Show and Tell. “I made sure everyone understood that the whole competition would be in pairs and that it was very important they worked as a team,” she says.
Later they had in-barns with an FEI vet. Horses had to be presented by both riders assigned to that horse.
She recaps the competition itself. “Saturday morning we started with jogs — we had a very fancy panel of judges ready to see the trot. I was surprised at how professional everyone looked and at that moment realized the big accomplished I had achieved of pulling off this show. It was in fact a show case of what future team and FEI competitions will be for them.
“We had dressage in the morning, showjumping on grass in the afternoon and then everyone went out to walk their cross country courses. We met back at 6 p.m. for the Show and Tell. Each pair had two minutes to do a small presentation on their horse. They could talk about anything they liked related to their horse: age, breed, color, traits, fun facts, how they met, how much they loved them, etc. I was really touched about how seriously everyone took the activity and how much love they put into their presentation. It seems like they were really into the whole vibe of the show. We then celebrated with a pizza party.
“Sunday we had a blast cross country. We then had awards, including a fancy silver ribbon for everyone who completed the event and then left for a half day trip to the beach.”
By all accounts, the event was a massive success — both in the saddle and beyond. Leonor concludes: “Great friends were made, great riding was seen, we managed to bring our friends from different parts of the world together and our dream of having a fun safe top quality event in our own barn was achieved!”
View a full photo gallery from the event here. Also, we’ve got an update on what Woodge has been up to overseas coming your way tomorrow, so be sure to check back!