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Northern Pines Farm Rider Earns Victory at Great Lakes Equestrian Festival

Estella Bonnani and Peninsula Emerald Lass at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival. Photo Andrew Ryback Photography.

Williamsburg, MI – Oct. 10, 2021 – Northern Pines Farm and trainer Melissa Hirt of Maple City, Michigan, are no strangers to the victory gallops or winners’ circles at horse shows across the country but winning in your home state is even better. Northern Pines Farm rider Estella Bonnani piloted her horse, Peninsula Emerald Lass, to win the 1.20m individual round during the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) Zone 5/6 Championships held at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival this season.

Bonnani, 13, of Suttons Bay, has ridden with Hirt since she was three years old. Her mount, Peninsula Emerald Lass or “Ember” is an 18-year-old Irish sport horse imported from Ireland. Bonnani leases the horse from Hirt and explained the horse is a wonderful teacher and loves the show ring. The mare has given the young rider confidence in her first year of competing in the jumper ring.

“I love the training program that Melissa [Hirt] has developed. She has found wonderful horses for me to own and lease and has given me the opportunity to ride and show so many amazing horses. I would not be the rider that I am today if I wasn't riding with Northern Pines,” said Bonnani.

In the USHJA Zone Championship competition, Bonnani’s team was fourth overall, incurring only one time fault. Bonnani won the second class and was the fastest four faulter in the Individual Finals, leaving her to finish tenth overall.

During the FEI North American Youth Championship (NAYC), Bonnani competed in the Zone 5 Children’s 1.20m Championship for the USA. Her team finished in sixth overall with Bonnani winning the second team class and collecting third in the farewell class and sixth in the individual class. Her final ranking left her eight overall in the USA for the division.

“The USHJA Championships and the FEI North American Youth Championships were the highlights of my year. It was great to experience being part of a team as well as getting to compete individually,” added Bonnani. “I love competing in Traverse City because of the opportunities for a high-level competition in a beautiful setting so close to home.”

Estella Bonnani and Peninsula Emerald Lass

“The courses were championship-level tracks, harder than the average show courses,” explained Hirt. “We have the opportunity to ride at an equal level of difficulty throughout the winter in our Florida location, which creates the skills for the success Estella [Bonnani] had during the championships. We are very proud of her accomplishments especially on home turf!”

Now just an eighth-grader at St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Middle school, Bonnani has thought about her long-range goals.

Estella Bonnani competed in the USHJA Zone 5 Championships with Peninsula Emerald Lass, owned by Melissa Hirt. Photo Andrew Ryback Photography.

“I have thought a lot about my future and goals in this sport,” concluded Bonnani. “I know that I will always want to have horses in my life, and I hope to compete in high-level competitions [in the future]. I want to have a career in the horse world.”

Northern Pines is a full-service boarding, sales, and training facility with two main locations, one in Maple City, Michigan, and the other in Wellington, Florida. The farm also has a satellite location during the summer show season just down the road from the Flintfields Horse Park. For more information, visit the website at

Traverse City Horse Shows at Flintfields Horse Park is proud to host twelve weeks of FEI and National-level jumper, hunter, and equitation competition, including premier events such as the FEI North American Youth Championship, Major League Show Jumping, and the iconic American Gold Cup. For a complete list of events, visit the website at

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.

For more information on Northern Pines Farm please visit or "Like" them on Facebook. #LoveWhereYouRide

Northern Pines Farm

7347 S. Stachnik Road

Maple City, MI 49664

Northern Pines Farm (South)

14903 Paddock Dr.

Wellington, Florida




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