July 1, 2009, Hampton Falls, New Hampshire -- Commissioned to design the 20th anniversary cover of the Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic program book, equine artist Gretchen Almy is putting the final touches on an oil painting of the nation's top Grand Prix rider, McLain Ward and Goldika 559 - the winners of the 2008 $75,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix. A unique gesture of the Jumper Classic, the original painting will be presented to McLain during this year's Grand Prix ceremonies as part of the award he received for winning last year.
The 2009 program book is being produced for the five-day elite show jumping event held over Labor Day weekend this year, from September 2-6 at the Silver Oak Equestrian Center in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire. Following a tradition started by the show management, the prior year's Grand Prix winning combination has the honors of being portrayed on the glossy cover of the colorful booklet. Portraits of such top riders as Kent Farrington and Margie Engle have been immortalized on the Jumper Classic covers.
There's a new twist on this year's cover, however, with a new look that show jumping fans can watch evolve through social media. Not only does the cover portray the two-time Olympic Gold Medalist in his first victory immediately following the 2008 Olympics - the artist has posted updates of the painting's progress on her Facebook page.
"I'm incredibly excited that this year's cover has a different look and feel," said Almy, who has produced original artworks for four Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic program books. "It portrays McLain and Goldika in the victory gallop instead of taking the jump, as the covers usually do. McLain has seen and approved the work and I've been posting updates on Facebook to allow people insight into the process of creating an original work of art. This is not a traditional commission, it's a specific event showing a famous horse and rider and should be shared with the masses!'
Ward and many of the sport's most notable riders drew crowds last year as they competed for the blue ribbon and prize monies at the Jumper Classic's first event held at its new location in New Hampshire. For the past 19 years, the show was held just north of Boston in the South Hamilton, Massachusetts area.
The full-color booklet contains detailed descriptions on the 2009 event and features profile articles on several of the elite riders whose successful show jumping careers heighten the excitement and sharpen the competition at New England's only AGA-sanctioned Grand Prix, the highest level of the sport with the richest prize money. Through their advertising, sponsors like Hermes of Paris and Porsche Cars North America, Inc. make it possible to produce a souvenir-quality book that is given to VIP ticket holders and sold on the show grounds where thousands of spectators throng to see their favorite athletes and the spectacular horses.
Meeting the winning horse of the 2008 $75,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix was a memorable experience for Almy, who prefers to interact with her equine subjects. "Most of my work is focused on the personality of these talented athletes. It's always a special treat to meet my subjects as I did with Goldika and get a feel for the mare. She seems like such a sweet horse, with a very kind eye, it was nice to see her persona off the field and away from competition," Almy said.
Almy's attention to detail is appreciated. "Just the fact that Gretchen Almy has produced our cover art for four years says something about how much we appreciate her unique talent for capturing that moment when the horse and rider express everything this show is about - athleticism, grace, and power in a colorful and exciting venue," said Melissa Lovasco, President of the Jumper Classic.
Possessing an uncanny feel for the personality of the horse that is reflected in her art, Almy works in oils, graphite pencil, or a digital medium to create highly detailed portraits that her clients treasure. Since her first encounter with a horse at the age of six, Almy has honed her artistic skills with a passion for the equine. Never far from horses, she credits her foundation in riding to trainer Robin Bacon (now Greenwood) whom she rode with at Old Salem Farm in New York as a teenager. She also worked as an assistant groom for Bacon's students, including Grand Prix rider Georgina Bloomberg who was just riding ponies at the time. After her years of intercollegiate riding, Almy's career with horses would land her a two-year stint as a wrangler at a ranch in Wyoming. Traveling south, she assisted event rider Dorothy Trapp at a farm in Kentucky, and later returned to the east coast where she managed a dressage barn. An avid rider to date, she half leases a horse "Stradavarius" in Middleborough that she rides 3 days a week.
Dogs are also a big part of her life, and Almy applies her skills to canine portraiture that captures the essence of each individual. When not working on commissioned pieces, she explores her fascination with large canvas work and abstract expressionism of the equine form.
Almy has a BA in Fine Arts from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia and spent a semester studying art in Florence, Italy. Through her company, Gretchen Almy Designs, located in Middleborough, Massachusetts, she offers portraiture in graphite, oil, digital color renditions, and candid photography. She also has her own unique gift line and online store, an extensive licensing line, and creates product designs for a nationally known greeting card and t-shirt company.
For more information about the Jumper Classic please visit http://www.jumperclassic.com
or call 978.283.7708
Fidelity Investments is one of the world's largest providers of financial services, with custodied assets of $2.8 trillion, including managed assets of over $1.3 trillion as of May 31, 2009. Fidelity offers investment management, retirement planning, brokerage, and human resources and benefits outsourcing services to over 20 million individuals and institutions as well as through 5,000 financial intermediary firms. The firm is the largest mutual fund company in the United States, the No. 1 provider of workplace retirement savings plans, the largest mutual fund supermarket and a leading online brokerage firm. For more information about Fidelity Investments, visit http://www.fidelity.com
Photo Caption: Gretchen Almy with a Quarter Horse named Austin
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/fidelity-jumper-classic-gretchen-almy-07-09.html">Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic Selects Gretchen Almy as the 2009 Official Artist</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com