You can’t go for long in the Mid-Atlantic without encountering an off-track Thoroughbred who spent time in the care of Ann Merryman and Holly Robinson. The veteran Maryland trainers crafted a strong network with a steady pipeline filtering retirees into solid second careers with devoted owners.
One case is Weekend in Paris. It’s a story definitely not written on the racetrack; there are no Cliffs Notes required for her brief – and fruitless – career. Foaled in Kentucky on March 27, 2004, she was bred by Mike Rogers and Ted Mudge. The daughter of multiple Grade 1 winner Wild Rush and the Geiger Counter mare Lively Encounter failed to meet her reserve as a short yearling at the Keeneland January sale in 2005.
With Robinson training, Weekend in Paris made all four of her starts for Mudge – two each in 2006 and 2007 – and never finished better than sixth. She retired with $800 earned.
Slow but sound, the chestnut earned a spot in the hearts of Robinson and Merryman with Merryman eventually turning her over to her cousins, the Stettinius family. Weekend in Paris settled seamlessly into her new role as Pony Club partner, foxhunter, occasional show horse and all-around general mount for sisters Reilly and Suzanne Stettinius.
“She became the number-one horse at our farm,” Suzanne said. “She’s a very sensitive little horse, but she’s the easiest horse in the world once you get to know her. We had her for eight or nine years, and Reilly went to the Pony Club Championships on her for show jumping. Reilly did everything on her all through high school.”
When Reilly went to college, Weekend in Paris was sold to the Caban family in Jarrettsville, Md.
“She was just too nice a horse to not be doing anything,” Suzanne said. When the Cabans decided to shop for another mount for their daughter Sophia, they reached out to Erika Taylor.
“I rode with them, so I got on her a lot and loved her,” Taylor said, “They kept saying, ‘You can buy her from us.’ She was fine, but she just wasn’t clicking with them. But I had five horses at that time and did NOT need another one. Then one day they called and said, ‘We know you love her. Come get her.’ ”
Taylor did. She took Weekend in Paris to her parents’ place in Street, Md. Their property is literally a hack through the woods from the 400-acre farm owned by Taylor and husband Tanner Crowl. They sold their dairy cows in 2020 but have not yet fully converted the barn, so Taylor leaves her horses with her parents until the summer grass comes in on her farm. Since vanning isn’t necessary, it’s an easy switch when the time comes.
An amateur jockey, Taylor has ridden in several FEGENTRI World Cup of Nations races over the past several years. She grew up in Pony Club and has known Suzanne Stettinius since both were young and competing in local hunter/jumper shows. When Weekend in Paris arrived in 2018, instructor Karen Zinkhan urged Taylor to take the mare to hunt night at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg, Pa., that fall.
Taylor was beyond skeptical; she hadn’t been in a show ring since age 15. But Zinkhan persisted.
“No way are we going to win,” Taylor told her coach.
“These people had these big, beautiful warmbloods, huge Thoroughbreds who looked like warmbloods, and Paris was this tiny little thing,” Taylor said of the field-hunter class for riders aged 35 and under. “I was so sure it was not going to work, and I was a complete nightmare to be around the whole time. I was the first rider to go, and there were 50-some horses. She was spectacular, and we won. It was awesome.”
“Hunt night was the greatest thing ever to watch,” Suzanne said. “It was so cool to see Erika bring her back around.”
Weekend in Paris stayed busy. Taylor’s mom, Karen Taylor, lost her hunter last winter, so she’s been hunting and trail riding the mare. Both Taylors ride out with Mt. Carmel Hounds.
“She loves a job,” Taylor said of Weekend in Paris.
Taylor now helps Merryman at her Pimlico barn, and they laugh about the first time the trainer saw Taylor aboard her former trainee on a day out with the Elkridge-Harford Hounds several years ago.
“It was pretty horrible,” Taylor said. “Paris was being a typical mare, leaping through the air. There were all these gadgets on her, but I was just her rider that day. And I was like, ‘I don’t think any of this is working.’ ” Merryman was annoyed by what she saw, and the memory stayed with her.
“Ann had been keeping track of Paris, so she was just furious, she thought it was my fault,” Taylor said. “But then when I reconnected with Ann, she saw how things had progressed and that there had been some underlying issues with Paris. So, it’s funny that she was so mad when she saw me that day, but now she loves that I have her. Ann asks about her all the time.”
Taylor hasn’t ruled out a return appearance at hunt night. Now 18, Weekend in Paris still looks the part of ladies’ show hunter, and it’s a discipline the mare clearly enjoys.
“She’s good at jumpers but really prefers the hunters,” Taylor said. “She’s beautiful, and she really floats across the ground.”
The pair had a scare this winter when a tiny nick on her hock morphed into a bone infection requiring a two-week stay at a veterinary clinic. Had Taylor not been vigilant, it would have been easy to overlook such a small blemish. Thankfully, Weekend in Paris quickly returned to complete health.
One thing hasn’t changed a bit. Wherever Taylor goes and whatever she does, people know Weekend in Paris.
“Everyone follows her,” Suzanne said. “If something pops up on Facebook, people make sure they share it with me and Reilly. It’s pretty cute.”
Chances are you’ll see Weekend in Paris at a horse show near you.
“Every local show I’ve taken her to, she normally cleans up,” Taylor said. “And she’s not an everyday fancy warmblood hunter. But she’s been really good to me.”