TALES FROM THE TRAILS
The spring of 2015 was an exciting time in young Hannah Bentz’s life; a time of endings and beginnings. On May 19, she graduated from Spanish River High School. That weekend, she was at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, where she had planned to enter her horse, Rosie, in the Palm Beach County Horseman’s Association show. But plans don’t always work out.
The 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare somehow scratched her cornea Saturday morning while they were warming up. Hannah rode her, and she seemed fine, but by the time she dismounted, Rosie was holding her right eye closed. “I called the vet immediately,” Hannah recalled. “She checked the eye with a strip, and the scratch showed up bright green. It was a pretty big scratch.”
The vet prescribed eye drops, and they rigged up a fly mask with a dark patch over that eye to protect it from the sun and everything else. The eye would be fine in a few days. Hannah canceled her plans to show Rosie, but wasn’t overly depressed. She had other things to keep her occupied.
“It was been a busy week,” she said. “I just got my driver’s license the day after graduation. Being finished with high school feels great. Now I can focus on preparing for college. I’m looking forward to the future. It’s all very exciting.”
And although Hannah, who turned 18 in July, is now heading off to the College of Charleston in South Carolina, she’ll be leaving Rosie behind. “I’ve had her four years. She’s a little quirky, which I really like. She’s not a push-button horse. You never stop learning on her; she never stops teaching me,” Hannah said. “She’s a talented horse with a great jump, but you have to ride her correctly or she won’t perform.”
Hannah is not selling Rosie or leasing her. Instead, she is lending Rosie to her cousin, 13-year-old Shira Hadar. As a matter of fact, it was Shira who was supposed to show Rosie at the PBCHA show that weekend in the 2-foot-6 hunter and equitation classes. Hannah was just there to school and coach her.
“I could never afford to bring a horse along to college,” Hannah said. “It’s way too expensive. This way, Shira will be able to learn and progress the way I did. The two make a great pair.”
Hannah has been riding for 10 years, five of those with the Wall Street Farm Interscholastic Equestrian Association team.
“Riding with the team was great,” Hannah said. “Even though I was fortunate to have my own horse to practice on, it gave me the chance to learn how to ride a lot of different kinds of horses. That’s how you can improve a lot, by working with as many different horses as you can. That’s how you get to be a truly educated rider. Shira is going to learn a lot from Rosie and really grow as a rider. I know she’ll do a great job taking care of her.”
Hannah plans to participate in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. Her college has a very good team.
“Last year, they had a Cacchione Cup winner, and their team was fifth overall in the U.S.,” Hannah noted. “I’ve already met the coach and some of the riders. They’re all so nice. I really enjoy being part of a riding team.”
Hannah has a lot of experience showing and riding with a team. This past spring, she rode with the Wall Street Farm team in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association finals. She made it to the semifinals in the flat class.
Looking ahead, she is both a little sad and a little excited. She is sad to leave all she knows behind, but excited to be away at college. But at least she’ll still be riding. “I’m looking forward to seeing Shira and Rosie grow together,” she said. “She’s a natural, though she won’t say it.”
Shira recently started at Wellington High School, where she has signed up for the equine veterinary program. She has been riding for only two years and is also a member of the IEA.
“I wasn’t into horses at all,” Shira recalled. “Then I went to a horse show to watch Hannah ride, and it looked like so much fun. That’s when I decided to give it a try. I really enjoy taking lessons.”
“She does all the work herself,” Hannah chimed in. “Not just the riding. Mucking stalls, cleaning tack, grooming, bathing — all of it. And she has moved up pretty quickly. She ended up sixth in the novice team over fences class at the IEA Nationals.”
“I love jumping,” Shira said. “The highest I’ve gone so far is 3 feet. The hardest thing for me is keeping my heels down and being on the correct diagonal. One day I hope to own my own horse. That’s what I’ve wanted ever since I started riding. And being able to keep Rosie for Hannah… having a cousin willing to share her wonderful horse… ”
Shira’s face said as much as her eyes welled up with tears.
“Don’t cry,” Hannah said, hugging her. “I’m thankful you’ll be taking such good care of her.”