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UPHA Helen Crabtree Equitation Hall of Fame: David and Kristen Cater

The name Helen Crabtree is synonymous for pioneer…horsemanship…perfection…turnout…success. The fact that her name is the one associated with the UPHA Equitation Hall of Fame award is telling of the caliber of individuals considered for this honor.

This year we recognize a couple for their dedication to the art of equitation. Besides the elements of teaching students and fine-tuning horses for their all-so-important part of a winning combination, our honorees have given and continue to give freely of their time. 

He has coached the World Cup in South Africa; she has now coached World Cup four times, in addition to serving on the UPHA and USEF Equitation Committees, the USEF Saddlebred Committee, the USEF World Cup Committee and the UPHA Governance Committee.

Their road to the Helen Crabtree Equitation Hall of Fame started with humble beginnings but when the fire was ignited, the desire to teach, train and succeed exploded.

He grew up in New York, riding with Jan Lukens, herself the 1959 Good Hands Finals National Champion. Jan’s always proper and always quiet form was certainly passed on to her eager student.

The other half of our award winning team started taking formal riding lessons from Annalisa Hall at the age of 12 and from the very beginning Annalisa instilled in her young student that equitation was the true foundation for successful riders.

“She told me that if I wanted to be a good amateur someday that I needed to learn strength in my form,” said our co-honoree. “One of my favorite sayings still to this day is, ‘Form to Function,’ which was ingrained in us as kids riding with Annalisa.”

In her final year of equitation our honoree moved to Lisa Jensen and Michael Richardson at Cricket Hill Farm and for the first time had her own trimmed horse to show on the national level; a mare named Buck Well Spent. 

During her college years our co-honoree worked weekends and summers at Cricket Hill Farm, where that same young man who previously rode for Jan Lukens joined the crew after she had been there a while.

“I was planning on being a professional in the real world and hoped to make enough money to afford to show a really nice horse as an amateur. Lisa talked me into staying to help her through the Fall the year after I graduated. When Fall came, she asked me to stay another full season. The rest was history,” she said.

The history at Cricket Hill included equitating Royal Crown Cavalier and instructing his teammate, Lindsey Gama, to the UPHA Morgan Challenge Cup Finals and AMHA Saddle Seat Medal Finals, in addition to instructing Spencer Alderman, Kate Alderman, and Brooke Gove to world and national championships.

Besides Jensen, the young instructor was inspired by Lillian Shively, Sarah Byers and Renee Biggins. She became fascinated with the young man who joined their staff Cricket Hill and was proving to be pretty handy with a horse. The two became partners in both life and business. They were married in June of 2006 and opened their own stable in the fall of that year. 

Purchasing a beautiful piece of property in Dunbarton, New Hampshire, they built their own facility and moved in February of 2008. Since then, there has been a number of world’s and national champions in both the equitation and performance divisions in the American Saddlebred, Morgan and Hackney breeds.

Maggie McCool, riding Virtual Viper, was the couple’s first national champion when they went out on their own. Her sister, Clara McCool, was their first world’s champion, riding Highpoint’s Syncopated Rhythm. Molly Codeanne, riding Zagnut, was the team’s first junior national champion and later she became their first senior world’s champion and national champion, this time riding her beloved CH-EQ Chanti’s Prayer.

Joining the above-mentioned equitation standouts with great success of their own at the world and finals levels, as well as in international competition, both in the American Saddlebred and Morgan worlds, have been Kasey Saccocia, Quinn Mercier, Cailin Bridges, Audra Pike, Bella Jette, Grace Biron, Maya Tasch, Emily and Ashley Biron.

In the northeast, Lindsey Gama, Brooke Gove, Quinn Mercier, Maggie McCool, Clara McCool, Molly Codeanne, Kasey Saccocia, Nicole Leone and Abigail Tate all won NEHC Saddle Seat Medal Finals, while the McCool sisters, Bella Jette and Maya Tasch have won the NEHC Walk and Trot Finals. Several of these riders are still young and have much more ahead of them, while there are many others still to come, having gotten their introduction through the farm’s extensive lesson and academy program. Two of their decorated riders have the teaching/training bug just as our honorees did at that age and they are now part of our honorees’ professional team.

“I’ve been with Kristen and David since I was eight and they have shaped me into the person I am today,” said 2016 AMHA Saddle Seat Gold Medal Finals National Champion Kasey Saccocia. “They have always inspired me: their attention to detail and the dedication they put into every rider and horse is unparalleled. Not only that, but they are two of the most humble people I have ever met. They have a desire to always learn more from different trainers and horsemen, and those are traits I admire.

“Now working with them, I try to follow in their footsteps and instill these characteristics in the individuals I am privileged to teach. I hope to someday be half as influential as they are.”

 Our recipients are both USEF large “R” licensed judges in Saddlebred, Hackney, Roadster and Equitation. They work as a team with each individual student and their formula has proven successful. “We teach everyone as a team,” she said. “I do most of the leg work on lesson horses but he helps every step of the way on their show horses.”

“I respect them both so much,” said Hall of Fame Instructor Lillian Shively. “I went there for a clinic early on and I was so impressed. I think they are our future. Not only are they great with children, I loved how they were keeping the adults interested and riding as well.

“To watch him teach opened up a whole new side of him to me. Not only is she a talented teacher, but she’s such a good business person and a real people person. They complement each other so well.

“Watching them makes me know that when I can’t do this anymore, I’m leaving this industry in good shape.”

As Lillian said, our honorees have walked the walk and now it is with great pride that the United Professional Horsemen’s Association inducts David and Kristen Cater into the Helen Crabtree Equitation Hall of Fame.

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