Heritage Farm: Beyond the Ingate with Finley Baras
In this behind-the-scenes series from Heritage Farm, we’re introducing you to the program’s horses and riders in a whole new way. Get to know our group beyond what you’ve seen ringside, accolades and all:
Finley Baras and Spring Fling at the Hampton Classic. Photo by KIND Media.
Ponies: So Charming, Spring Fling, Bit of Blue
2022 Highlights: Best Junior Rider on a Pony at the 2022 Hampton Classic; won the Small Green Pony Hunter Under Saddle at 2022 USEF Pony Finals (Spring Fling)
For 11-year-old Finley Baras, riding is a family passion. Not only do both she and her sister Logan both ride at Heritage Farm, but the sisters' mother and grandmother also have histories in the saddle.
Finley's mother Lia first enrolled her daughters in riding lessons when Finley was in Kindergarten, and after riding locally in Bedford, NY, she made her Heritage Farm debut a year ago during the indoor championship season, where they reunited with a familiar face.
"[Heritage Farm trainer] Molly Sullivan was at our old barn with us," Finley said. "We knew Heritage had such great training, and [my family] thought it would be a really great place for us to go to keep getting better. I love it here so much."
It's been a breakout year for Finley, considered an up-and-coming rider in the pony division. With Spring Fling, Finley won the Small Green Pony Hunter Under Saddle at 2022 USEF Pony Finals. Their Regular Small Pony Hunter Reserve Championship at the Hampton Classic also got Finley recognized as Best Junior Rider on a Pony at the prestigious show.
"[Spring Fling] was so good [at the Hampton Classic]. She really liked the grass!" Finley exclaimed. "It was really special [to be named Best Junior Rider]. I’ve never gotten something like that before. It was really exciting, because there were a lot of good riders there." Spring Fling is affectionately known in the barn as "D-O-G," because at one point, the pony was more of a pet than a horse show competitor. The Baras family acquired the now 7-year-old pony when she was 4, and her former owners let her wander inside their home, a bit like a dog. "She's been so good, and it's been really fun to see her grow up," Finley said.
Finley Baras and So Charming. Photo by SEL Photography.
The veteran of the string is 10-year-old small pony So Charming (nicknamed "Ringo" for having hair "like a rockstar"), who jumped the Regular Small Pony Hunter division at Pony Finals. They grey gelding will compete alongside Spring Fling in the Smalls throughout the indoor season at Capital Challenge and the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS).
"I want to be really consistent," Finley said. "Since I went last year, I don’t have those first-year nerves, and I'm excited to show two ponies."
The importance of preparation is a pillar of the Heritage Farm program, and Finley identified that as a lesson she is most grateful to be learning early on.
"I’m so thankful for how much Heritage and Dottie [Barnwell-Areson], Patricia [Griffith] and Molly help me get prepared for big shows. It really helps me and makes me a lot more confident," Finley said. "Patricia is always working on stuff that will help you [in a variety of situations]—[like] getting down a line that’s long, riding a deeper distance, and collecting [on the flat]. We prepare for everything: For indoors, we'll jump a lot of jumps with fill and spookier things so that we know how to ride them."
Finley Baras and Spring Fling win at USEF Pony Finals.
"Patricia is such an amazing teacher and truly knows how to prepare the kids. Dottie [Barnwell-Areson] and Molly and Caroline [Passarelli] are all fantastic and add so much to the experience, and just being able to watch Andre teach the older kids allows my girls to know what to expect in the future," Lia said. "We are also so grateful for our amazing groom Carlos, who keeps all of our ponies happy and looking amazing."
Finley is excited to add a new Small Green to her string, as she is getting to know the 7-year-old gelding, Bit of Blue. A favorite for her is also the Pony Hunt Teams, having taken a win in the special event at Devon alongside teammates Luca and Ella Endzweig. She will participate in the event at WIHS in October and debut a new most timely costume theme: Charlie Brown and the Great Big Pumpkin.
"If the horse show doesn’t go well, you can always look forward to hunt teams," Finley said. "I'm ready to do well and have fun."Go Beyond the Ingate with other members of Heritage Farm: