At last year’s Capital Challenge Horse Show, Mr. Manhattan made headlines as he topped the $25,000 North American Green Hunter 3’-3’3” Championship with Daniel Geitner of Aiken South Carolina, aboard. This year, Geitner and the seven-year-old German Sporthorse gelding owned by Martin Schlaeppi of High Point, North Carolina, continued their winning ways by earning the Connaway & Associates Equine Insurance Services High Point American-Bred Horse Award at Capital Challenge. Mr. Manhattan and Geitner scored an 89 in an over fences class in the 3’-3’3” Green Hunter Section A Division to capture the honor.
Geitner, who is friends with the horse’s trainers, John and Kitty Barker of Middleburg, Virginia, first got the ride on Mr. Manhattan a year and a half ago and said the gelding was wonderful from the start. “He’s brave, scopey, and careful,” said Geitner. “He has all of it, and it’s pretty cool that he’s American-bred and that my friend, Emil [Spadone], bred him.”
Mr. Manhattan, who was bred and produced by Emil Spadone’s Redfield Breeding in Ocala, Florida, is sired by Maximus, another Redfield Breeding homebred, out of Philippa, a Danish Warmblood mare that formerly campaigned in the jumpers with McLain Ward before turning to the hunter derbies with Louise Serio.
“I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to sponsor the High Point American-Bred Horse Award for the third year at Capital Challenge,” said Connaway & Associates President Laura Connaway of Little Rock, Arkansas. “Congratulations to Mr. Manhattan and Daniel Geitner on their success as well as to Martin Schlaeppi, and John and Kitty Barker and Emil Spadone who have done a fabulous job producing the horse. As a breeder myself, I recognize the time and effort it takes to breed and produce successful horses and it’s my hope that we can continue to celebrate North American homebreds and the people that have contributed to their achievements.”
For Spadone, breeding horses for the hunter ring is unique in that the horse needs to have a number of characteristics. “With a lot of European [horses purchased for the hunter ring], there used to be a misconception that hunters were just jumpers that weren’t good enough, but that’s not really true,” he shared. “We want scope, we want beautiful types, and we need them to jump in great style and be good movers. Especially nowadays with the derbies, we need scope.”
As Spadone hoped, Mr. Manhattan impressed from an early age, quickly showing he possessed all of the qualities needed to be a winning hunter horse. “We had a pretty good feeling about him,” said Spadone. “He was beautiful when he was born, he was a good mover, and his brain was good. I remember the first time we jumped him under saddle over a cross rail, he really exploded over it and I thought, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ Of course, you hope [these qualities stick], but he was easy. He did everything—he had a natural lead change and he didn’t spook. I just loved him.”
Schlaeppi, who has trained with the Barkers for years, purchased Mr. Manhattan as a coming four-year-old and credits their training program with furthering the gelding’s career. “[John and Kitty Barker] do a great job preparing young horses, and they really focus on making the right match [between horse and rider],” he explained. “They matched Daniel [Geitner] and Mr. Manhattan and the two of them really do a nice job. If you see them go, you can see how spectacular they can be. It takes your breath away.”
It wasn’t until Schlaeppi purchased Mr. Manhattan and his half-brother Memphis Blue from Redfield Breeding and stepped out of the show ring himself that he took note of how special American-bred horses can be. “Having nice horses that can show in the professional divisions and do well has invigorated me to stay involved with horses,” he said. “It’s great for [the equestrian community] to have American-bred horses, and I think what Emil is doing is spectacular. I really hope this American-bred focus will [continue] because it’s the right thing for this sport in this country.
“Next time I go to buy, I will look for American-bred horses!” Schlaeppi concluded with a laugh.
Geitner and Schlaeppi have high hopes for Mr. Manhattan and they think he has what it takes to continue performing in the most prominent hunter classes in the country, including the scope that Spadone breeds for in quality hunters. “[He’s the kind of horse] where I can just sit and steer,” remarked Geitner. “He also has great range at the jumps—he can leave from far away or close and still make it look like a beautiful jump, and I think that will parlay well into the next couple of years [as he begins to] jump bigger jumps.
“We’ll start in the 3’6” Green Hunter Division next year, and I see derbies in the future for him,” continued Geitner. “It’s fun to have a horse [that allows me] to shoot for ‘indoors’ and the Devon Horse Show.”
The Connaway & Associates Equine Insurance Services High Point American-Bred Horse award was presented to Emil Spadone in a special ceremony on Friday, October 8, 2021, just before the popular WCHR Professional Finals competition.