By Jean DePlacido
---- — Olivia Bingham, a 13-year-old from Topsfield, capped an outstanding equestrian season with another top performance on the biggest stage in the world.
Bingham was invited to the Grand National and World Championship in Oklahoma City, where she competed against riders from 48 states and three countries. She placed third overall in a field of 15 competitors in the national qualifying event for the Hunter Pleasure Junior Exhibitor 12 and Under class.
Having had to overcome severe medical programs since birth, Bingham’s placement allowed her to participate in the combined Hunter Pleasure Junior Exhibitor 13U World Championship, where she once again took third in a very talented field of 19 competitors last month.
“Olivia had a great time; it was really something to witness,” said her father Shep. “Her trainer Chris Cassenti of Chrislar Farms (in Rowley) was in tears after Livi took third in the national qualifier. For all the difficulties she has, Livi excels on a horse.”
The Oklahoma City show is considered to be the Olympics of Morgan horse shows. It capped an outstanding show circuit for Bingham, who was born with organ reversal and polysplenia that has caused a number of serious medical issues for her, including delayed speech and language development.
Once she gets on a horse, however, those difficulties melt away. Bingham has been riding since she was four, starting at Windrush Farm before moving on to Chrislar.
Judges, said her parents, are impressed with her poise and beautiful seat on the horse. Bingham has great presence, sitting very straight and becoming one with the graceful Morgan.
In Oklahoma, Bingham rode MEM’s Virtual Insanity, nicknamed Victor.
“A lot of the barns train for Oklahoma all year long, but Chrislar Farms does different things,” said Olivia’s mother, Gerri-Ann. “She went for a trail ride for fun the day we got back home. Some of the other barns bring lots of help to the big shows, but Chrislar is not like that. They want the riders to be hands-on and do everything themselves. They have to braid their horse’s tail and mane, feed them, and muck the stalls.
“We had box seats (in Oklahoma City), and it was amazing to watch Livi know just where to go to get the judges’ attention. When you are in a big field like that, you need to be noticed. Livi instinctively knows what to do in the ring.”
Competing has done wonders for Bingham’s self esteem. She had several big finishes on the A Show Circuit, including winning both the Greater Boston Charity Horse Show in Topsfield over Memorial Day and the Maine Morgan Hose Show in Deerfield, N.H. July 4th. She was Reserve Champion in Hunter Pleasure Junior Exhibitor 13-U class at the Massachusetts Morgan Horse Show at the Springfield Coliseum. which is the third-largest Morgan show in the country.