2003 Overall Winner1st Rip Gauthier Amateur Hunter Classic - 2003
It was a feel good day – everyone was happy and lighthearted! The order of the day was celebratory – from the weather that dawned beautiful and bright, things unfolded as they had been envisioned.

The notion of hosting a hunter classic came to Rip many years ago over a beer (maybe two!) with Robert Meilsoe and Bob Carey. However it was only in the last few years that Rip stated giving serious thought to the idea and began manicuring the front field with it in mind. Sadly time denied him the ability to see it to fruition but he died with the promise that it would go forward.

Initially to be called the Someday Farm Tailgate Classic, encompassing a social and charitable element along the lines of Polo for Heart, it seemed appropriate to rename it in memory of Rip. I selected Headwaters Healthcare Foundation as the beneficiary for two main reasons. Firstly, it is our area hospital and provided Rip with outstanding care in the latter stages of his illness. Secondly, it is the hospital to which we equestrians are shipped, should we have the misfortune of an accident at Palgrave. Amongst their many stated needs was a chemotherapy benefit to the tune of approximately $10,000.00 thanks to your generosity and support. Thank you to the individuals, families and corporations who supported the day financially through sponsorship (many of you wish to be anonymous so I’ll leave it at that!) – we could not have done it without you.

The event was about participating and giving. It started with David Ballard who, when walking the terrain with Rip, Brian and I last year, painted the picture from which we would work. Giving us an idea of how he would build a course using the natural contours of the property, the challenge, then, was to build the jumps, find sponsors and orchestrate the mechanics. One of the biggest question marks in organizing the day was whether people would step up to the plate, given that it was not for points. In a sport that is all too often serious and self-serving it was refreshing and reassuring to see the unbridled enthusiasm of everyone present. From a planning point of view the response I received was enthusiastic, heartwarming and indeed a tribute to Rip.

I mentioned that one of the goals was to encompass a social element – well how about those picnics! Whether it was Paddy Ann & co.’s winning “pink everything”, Mary Skey’s unparalleled culinary feast. Greg & Irene Aziz’s sunflower elegance, the Gatsby Group with their hanging chandelier or the Simms harvest display – my only regret was that as the “olders” rode in the afternoon, I didn’t get to really sample it all appropriately! Esteemed judges Lorna Guthrie, Sandi Ballard and Marsi Vince had the most difficult task of the day – thank you for sampling your was to decisions! Thank you to everyone who rose to the fun of the day and simply reclined under the trees on the driveway for an after lunch siesta (that would have been a certain Morgan Firestone I believe!)

In essence it all came together as it had been envisioned – a day of camaraderie and competition for the love of the sport and support of the community. The only real surprise of the day came at the conclusion of the morning class when the Eglinton and Caledon Hunt, resplendent in all of their opening- meet finery, jumped the coop at the edge of the field and gathered in tribute to Rip. I am not often at a loss for words but I know that I was not alone in being quite overwhelmed by the tableau they presented.

Where does one begin to say thank you? Standing next to J.T. on the balcony, the morning of September 13th, overlooking the entire course, I was transported back in time to the day I had stood there with Rip, imagining how it might be. I don’t think we disappointed him – he would have been so proud of how his farm looked and how well it lent itself to the day.

Thank you to Kim Kirton and Jill Irving. The Eglinton & Caledon Hunt, Lawrence Ayliffe, The Burdette Gallery, The Harrington Family and Sue and Mike Vito for helping us to build banks, walls, hedges, log piles, doghouses and gates.

Thank you to E.M.G. who supported us with a full course of hunter jumps to complete the track and also for the numbers to put on our backs.

The icing on the cake was provided courtesy of Dr. Cormack and Jack Braithwaite of Tralee who further dressed our course with beautiful vintage carriages and wagons, positioned at different vantage points for our three pairs of judges.

Thank you to Tyler J. Puddy – international horn sounder who enriched our presence with his crystal clear bursts of sound.

Thank you David for build such a wonderful course that was simultaneously challenging, inviting and fun! The horse jumped well and relished the opportunity of picking up a gallop in an open field. The riders rose to the spirit of the day and could be seen grinning from ear to ear as they navigated the course.

Thank you to John Weir for the idea of pairing judges together. Torchy Miller and Sally Sainsbury, our senior pros, earned the premier spot in the Robert Young roof seat Brake and did a stellar job of setting the standard. Marilyn and Bob Carey, our amateurs, looked the part (the Stetson was perfect Bob!) and so enjoyed the day that we might see them with their cards sooner than later! Our young pros, Erynn Ballard and Lauren Hayes completed the panel of judges and proved, I might add, to be beyond alcoholic bribery (unlike their older counterparts!). To all of you I extend my most sincere thanks for giving of your time and expertise and promise that next year we’ll find both proper judging cards and vintage parasols to give you some shade!

To Helen Dillon who, with help from Cathy Aker, manned the in-gate a very special thanks for returning from Quebec to be part of the day. Helen was Someday’s very first customer and had a very special place in Rip’s heart, as evidently he did in hers. To J.T. who had the best seat in the house, thank you for keeping it all on track and for being the communication hub!

Thank you to Deb and Jennifer at Running Fox for sponsoring the champion coolers – they were beautiful and I know will be treasured by both Muffie and Andrea.

Thank you Brian and Cathy Aker for sponsoring the beautiful perpetual trophy in Rip’s name.

Thank you to everyone who rallied with items for the silent auction – you really are a force!

Thank you Vickie Wild for giving us a printed image. Thank you to Lynn and Tammy for coming from Vancouver and for the inspiration of Horses for Headwaters.

On a personal level it was a day of many emotions for me and for most of the farm family. I debated whether to ride but in my heart knew there was only one answer that would have been acceptable to Rip. When I stepped up on Tennyson he seemed to know what needed to be done so we rode for our biggest fan.

Many people commented throughout the day that Rip’s presence could be felt all around and indeed I do believe that he was with us. Thank you to Brian and the entire Someday staff for your support and enthusiasm. Thank you to my girls – Kelly and Jennifer for just being. Thanks to all of you for supporting this inaugural classic – you are a wonderful community of people with whom I am proud to be enjoined. And most especially, thank you Rip.

Willa Gauthier

2003 Rip Gauthier Classic Results

The Eglinton & Caledon Hunt

The Tailgate Picnic