By Lauren R. Giannini
Portraits by Isabel J. Kurek
Katherine Newman was born to ride. She grew up foxhunting and showing, a wonderful and effective equestrian education, and there’s no denying that she’s very successful in the show ring. It’s all about the horses: Katherine loves all of them, but several remain especially close to her heart as wonderful memories after they move on to a new owner.
One good example is Costa Sur, Katherine’s ride for 2007 FEI North American Junior & Young Riders Championships when she competed on the combined Zone 1/3 team from the New England/Mid-Atlantic states in Junior Show Jumping. She was 17; Costa Sur was a stallion with a mind of his own. They jumped nearly fault-free through five grueling rounds until the very last fence of the final round when they toppled one rail and added a time fault for a total of 5 faults — a runaway victory, considering that a 17-fault round finished second.
“The win with Costa Sur was really special because it took me a while to figure him out, but also because I hadn’t won anything significant in the jumpers until then,” Katherine said. “I went to NAJYRC without any expectations, as it was my first time going, which I think is part of why it went so well. Sugar [Costa Sur] was a really special horse. He wasn’t easy for me when I first got him — it took me an entire year to figure him out — but we had finally clicked and I had so much confidence in him. Sugar tried as hard as he could for me that week. So that win will always stand out for me. To top it off, I won the Baretta “Style” Award too, which was unexpected and meant just as much to me as the gold medal.”
Another significant competition during Katherine’s junior career was the 2008 Washington International Horse Show Equitation Finals. “It was a goal of mine to win a final, and it was my last year as a junior, and I didn’t have a horse until three days before the competition,” Katherine said. “It was a bit stressful, but I was really lucky to end up with an amazing horse, Class Action, who was still green then, but really talented. Between my parents, Susie Schoelkopf, Jen Alfano and Karen Healey all helping me for the final, and Jeffrey Welles, who helped find me the horse, I obviously had a great support system and everything just came together.”
Throughout her career, Katherine has trained with some of the best, including Laura Kraut, Todd Minikus, Jennifer Alfano, Havens Schatt and Mike Henaghan, but her parents were her first instructors. Kathy and Gerry had tons of knowledge and practical experience to share with their talented child.
Kathy was George Morris’ first official student after starting his business and she showed under his tutelage in hunters and jumpers for several years before moving to Virginia, where she trained with hunter-jumper legend Rodney Jenkins and eventing genius Jim Wofford. She turned professional at 21 and focused her training on hunters, jumpers and equitation. Kathy has judged for many years and maintains her “R” US Equestrian licenses in Hunter Breeding, Hunters and Hunt/Jumping Seat Equitation. In 2013, she was inducted into the Virginia Horse Shows Association Hall of Fame.
Gerry was a professional steeplechase jockey for 20 years. In his native Ireland, he finished twice as runner-up to the champion. He first raced in the U.S. in 1981 and moved here permanently in 1985. After tying the knot with Kathy, they launched their partnership and opened Allwyn Court. Gerry earned six consecutive Leading Rider titles (1986–1992) from the Virginia Steeplechase Association and retired from racing in June 1993.
The Newmans have recorded many big wins. “I think one of the best was Katherine’s Grand Championship with Pony Dot Com at Devon in 2001 when she was 11,” Kathy said. “Going into Katherine’s last class, everybody was ringside watching. They won five of the six classes and placed second in the last one. We all remember that to this day. At Young Riders, Katherine was just amazing when she won individual gold. Another great memory was when she won the Virginia Horse Show Association’s Medal Finals. When she won the WIHS Equitation Finals with Class Action, he was only 6 at the time — it was amazing that she pulled that one off.”
Katherine is really good. After all, she learned her craft galloping and jumping in the open fields — an advanced degree that prepared her for anything she might encounter in a ring.
Born in 1990, she earned her first blue ribbon in her very first walk-trot class. Katherine rode and showed for her parents and also catch-rode on the AA circuit. She loved foxhunting, and Allwyn Court Farm in Upperville, Virginia, placed them in the heart of the very prestigious Piedmont Foxhounds where Gerry was a professional whipper-in.
In 2005, they moved Allwyn Court to Wellington, Florida. Every year or so, they plan their schedule to spend a couple months in Virginia for Upperville, a favorite show — Kathy was its president for 10 years — and the Loudoun Benefit Horse Show. They enjoy staying with their longtime friend and supporter Mimi Abel Smith at her Middleburg farm.
Katherine, 27, turned professional eight years ago. She’s the primary show rider. Kathy continues to ride and train, although she hasn’t competed in several years. Gerry stopped riding about 10 years ago when old jump-race injuries caught up with him. They work as a team every day.
“A lot of people ask me what it’s like working with my parents,” Katherine said. “There are times when it’s great and when it’s difficult, but it works because the three of us have very much the same ideas on how we want to train and care for the horses. Usually, our goals are very close. We don’t really think of it as our business. It’s just our life. My parents don’t want to do anything else and I don’t want to do anything else. We love what we do and we love the horses. That’s why it works so well. It’s always about the horses. It can be stressful, but when it goes well, it’s great.”
Learning to cope with the sale of a pony or horse is an ongoing challenge that began early in Katherine’s childhood. “It took me a long time to get used to the idea,” she said. “Even as a junior, most of the horses I had that were winning would get sold fairly quickly. As long as you know going into it that that’s what’s going to happen — I think that helps me to deal with it, but I do get attached. I do this because I love the horses. I walk into it knowing that I’m not going to have this horse forever. I don’t get to keep it, but at least I get to develop it, and that can be really fun and challenging.”
Two years ago, the Newmans bought Dandelion, a 15.3hand mare, in England on a hot tip from a longtime eventing and foxhunting friend, who moved there after she married a British eventer. Ann Hardaway Taylor keeps her eyes open for horses that might appeal to the Newmans.
Dandelion is proving to be very special and not simply because she wins. “I did the Green Incentive Championship with Dandelion and she was Reserve Champion and High Score Mare,” Katherine said. “When she gets sold, that’s going to be difficult. As balanced as I may sound, I think there are definitely going to be tears when that happens. She’s a special horse. Very few horses have the combination of traits that she does. She’s a Dutch Warmblood by Heartbreaker — one of the sweetest horses I’ve had in a long time. She’s very people-oriented, loves attention and she has a really good brain. She’s brave and careful, not spooky at all.”
Dandelion was for sale as a jumper, but the Newmans bought her as a hunter prospect because that’s how she likes to go. Dandelion has done some national derbies, but not the international hunter derby — yet. Kathy said, “If Dandelion gets sold, we’re all going to be heartbroken. But if we still have her, we’ll aim her toward the big hunter derbies.”
They would all love to have some derby horses and they’re looking for a few to add to their barn.
“I’d really love to do the International Hunter Derby Finals and I’ve done some grand prix before, but I’d love to do some higher levels if I have the horse for it,” Katherine said. “That would be 1.60m 4- or 5-star grand prix and the Derby Finals — the top two things I would love to do.”
The Newmans certainly know how to pick a good horse and bring it to peak performance, and the sky’s the limit for Katherine as a rider.
For more information, visit Allwyncourt.com
Photos by Isabel J. Kurek