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  • Writer's pictureM4E

Northern Pines Farm Program Leads to Success at Prestigious Devon Horse Show

Northern Pines rider Paige Matthies earned the R.W. "Ronnie" Mutch Equitation Championship at the Devon Horse Show.

Maple City, MI – June 5, 2019 – Northern Pines Farm and trainer Melissa Hirt of Maple City, Michigan, clearly demonstrated the benefits of their training program as rider Paige Matthies rode her way to the R.W. “Ronnie” Mutch Equitation Championship Award at the prestigious Devon Horse Show.  The award is presented to the rider accumulating the most points in the equitation division throughout the week. The team can now check this off the list of the goals set for this horse and rider team to accomplish in their last year of showing in the junior divisions.

For Hirt, the plan started years ago when she created the stepping-stones for not just Matthies, but all the young riders at Northern Pines Farm. Her training program includes versatility and opportunities to not only ride different horses but to be hands on in the barn to really get to know the animals. Hirt is a very hands-on trainer, who pays close attention to the needs and health of the horses. She is usually the last person in the barn each night, making sure the horses have been cared for and put away properly to insure peak performance the next day.  

Hirt manages the program from the beginning by choosing the right mounts for each rider’s level of ability. Depending on the rider’s strengths and weaknesses, Hirt finds the horse that will offer the best learning experience for the pair, often creating champion partnerships along the way.  She also breeds and raises young horses and offers opportunities to her riders to bring along a young horse while keeping a watchful eye on the progress.

Paige Matthies and Conto Blue at the Devon Horse Show. Photo The Book LLC

“They can learn a lot from working with the young horses,” said Hirt. “When they have to teach them how to stand to be brushed and tacked up, then teach them how to walk, trot and canter, they learn and appreciate the steps in riding a more experienced show horse. Riders learn the most back in the barn and develop the bond with their animals that then helps them in the show ring. They need to know everything about the horse they are riding from how he eats his hay and when he takes a nap to whether or not he likes dogs, golf carts and water jumps.”

In addition to the learning, Hirt manages the health and fitness of the horses including show schedules, breaks and regular veterinary care.  Their training schedule has to be planned to prevent injuries and lameness while keeping them fit enough to compete. The show schedule can be long with summers spent in Traverse City, Michigan right in their back yard, and winters at their second farm in Wellington, Florida, so breaks are a must. Looking at the end game, whether it’s medal finals, young riders championships or Devon for example, the schedule is set so horses and riders get the right amount of rest and training to peak at those times.

Trainer Melissa Hirt knows her horses and has their well-being in mind at all times. Photo M4E

“I’m the one paying attention to the horses, I’m the one checking their legs, I’m the one watching them at the ring, I know those horses like the back of my hand,” added Hirt. 

Hirt is also not afraid to ask for help, believing the more eyes the better. She enlists the help of others such as trainer Nancy Whitehead of Chicago for the jumpers and Ken and Emily Smith of Ashland Farms in Lexington, Kentucky for the equitation. They become the icing on the cake and can make suggestions to make the horses perform even better in the ring. 

With their team and program in place, riders such as Matthies become able to rise to the occasion for the win.  Matthies rode two horses, Blurred Lines and Conto Blue owned by Barbara Smith, for the victories in the equitation division while also earning the reserve championship in the Junior Jumpers aboard her Climbus, owned by Smith. 

Other riders at Northern Pines Farm won top ribbons in Kentucky the previous week. Michael Murphey and Vida De Roca werereserve champion in the Young Hunters, Mackenzie Snider and Rochidee earned several blue ribbons in the Schooling Jumpers, Eloise Chick and Bewitched won the Children's Pony under saddle as well as one of the over fences. Kate Doner and Babados earned ribbons in nearly every class they entered, not bad for not showing most of the winter! Matthies won the WIHS overall on Blurred Lines, was second in the USET on Conto Blue and won the Junior Jumper Classic as well as the championship in the Junior Jumper division on Dirkie Z. Aristea Santoro was fifth in her first USET, 2nd in the Jumper Seat Medal, 5th in the USEF Medal on My Pride Z. 

Kelsey Cost poses with her winning team.

When the team is on the road, Kelsey Cost keeps the home base busy with lessons, camps and local horse shows. The Northern Pines program offers something for every level of rider and plenty of opportunities to advance and be involved. 

The team plans to spend the summer at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival right in their backyard in Traverse City, Michigan. The farm is also sponsoring the inaugural Dudley B. Smith Equitation Championship on Saturday July 27, 2019 to honor the equestrian patron and late husband of Barbara Smith.  Prize donations and sponsorships for the event are still available.

“He was committed to the community and a huge supporter of our sport,” said Hirt of Dudley Smith III. “It’s an honor to celebrate his memory with this event.”

For more information on the event, visit the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival website

To contact Melissa Hirt at Northern Pines Farm for lessons, training, showing or sales, call 231-920-5212.

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About Northern Pines Farm

Melissa Hirt is a native of suburban Chicago and moved to Leelanau County in 1995, completing construction of her Northern Pines equine dream in 2000. Today, Melissa's students are winning numerous top honors at the zone, regional, and national levels through her experienced training and remarkable skill of matching riders and horses to create impressive teams. Northern Pines Farm boasts 32 stalls with spacious heated viewing room, large indoor and outdoor arenas and 15 paddocks set in the beautiful countryside of Maple City, Michigan. Amenities include Theraplate and treadmill along with a roomy wash stall with heat lamp. The farm has a location next to the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival show facility in Traverse City.

Northern Pines Farm 7347 S. Stachnik Road Maple City, MI 49664

Traverse City Location Next to Great Lakes Equestrian Festival Northern Pines Farm (South) 14903 Paddock Dr. Wellington, Florida 231-228-5550 231-228-5551 Photos may only be used in relation to this release.  


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