By Erica Greathouse
People are usually surprised to learn that twins Dale and Hannah Laplace aren’t identical, because their likeness is uncanny. Although they’re technically fraternal twins, that doesn’t stop people from confusing them almost everywhere they go. “We’re called each other’s names all the time and frequently run into people who will have conversations with us as if they’re talking to the other twin,” Hannah laughs. Both sisters also get a kick out of the reactions they get when they switch show clothing. “We have similar taste, and we like to switch clothes. Sometimes, even people we have known for years get us confused when we do that. We’re very alike, but we definitely have our differences,” Hannah explains. Dale replies jokingly, “We’re different. Hannah is right-handed, and I’m left-handed!” They both laugh, and even the difference in their laughter is indiscernible. All joking aside, although they appear very similar and share many of the same interests, especially when it comes to horses and fashion, the Laplace twins are both unique individuals that share an irreplaceable sisterly bond.
Dale and Hannah have shared a very similar life path, as many twins do. Following high school, they attended Seton Hall University where they were roommates and both majored in Public Relations. Currently, they live in Jersey City in the same apartment building a few floors apart. Although their lives are very similar, they have different jobs. Hannah works as an executive assistant at an architecture and interior design firm in New York City, and Dale works as a real estate publicist. Still, they attend many of the same social gatherings and frequent the same gym. They also have joint custody of their beloved cat, Milly, whom they transport between their respective apartments.
Twinning is an inevitable part of the equation when it comes to the two ladies who have shared almost every experience together since birth. “We’re interested in the same things and are drawn to a lot of the same activities,” Hannah explains. It’s not a rare occurrence for Hannah and Dale to see each other in the middle of a workday or at the gym wearing almost matching outfits. “We accidentally dress the same all the time. We try not to be ‘those twins,’ so there is often a discussion about who should be the one to change clothes. We have to put serious effort into not twinning,” Dale laughs.
The Laplace sisters grew up in upstate New York and have always shared their family’s passion for horses. “Our father, Mike, showed for years, and we started riding before we could walk,” Dale explains. In the Laplace family, horses have been, and will always be, part of the equation of a common bond that has kept the family close-knit. Both Hannah and Dale competed in Leadline and Small Fry events as young girls and continued to move up the ranks as they grew older and gained more experience. “Showing was always an important family activity when we were growing up, but our family also valued academics. There were times when we took breaks from showing to focus on school,” Dale explains.
Although academics were at the forefront during their childhood, the Laplace sisters still showed when time allowed. “We got our first horse that we shared when we were in middle school. Her name is Hot Savannah Baba, and she’s still part of our family today. One of us would show her in the Novice classes and the other would show in 13 and Under,” Dale says. During high school, both sisters got very serious about showing. “I showed Dress In Gold in the all-around events, but I found that my favorites were Horsemanship and Trail,” Dale says. Dale has proven her aptitude and dedication to Trail over the years as she gathered a Congress Championship and multiple top ten placings, two NSBA World Championships, a NSBA Reserve World Championship, and Top Ten finishes at the AQHA World Show. Hannah and her partner at the time, Where The Heart Is, focused more on Showmanship, Horsemanship, and Western Pleasure. “I’ve always loved Showmanship, and it has been one of my strongest classes,” Hannah says. Hannah has gathered Top Ten placings at the Congress, AQHA World Show, and a Reserve Year End High Point title in Showmanship.
At times, the twins have also shown against each other, and they have demonstrated that even the closest sisterly bond can turn into a rivalry in the show arena. “We both fight to be the first one at the cone if there isn’t a predetermined working order in the pattern classes. It’s funny because other exhibitors usually stay out of our way and let us fight it out. We also try to stay away from each other during rail work,” Hannah laughs. One story from the past that stands out in Dale’s mind is the time that Hannah made the finals at the Congress in Horsemanship and she did not. “I was very serious about Horsemanship at that time, and the fact that she made the finals and I didn’t made me a bit envious,” Dale says. “She was so surprised that I actually made the finals and she didn’t. I think she’s still bitter about that,” Hannah says with a laugh. Although there is the occasional bout of sibling rivalry, all in all, Dale and Hannah are each other’s biggest fans, and one of their favorite parts of showing together is watching the other succeed.
The twins have been training with Clint Ainsworth for five years, and they have developed a strong bond. “They’re both very good students and seasoned competitors. They’re both dedicated to striving for excellence in every event,” Clint says. He has learned that Dale and Hannah are very similar in many ways, but they have different learning styles and he has adapted his teaching style to match. “Dale is analytical and every ride needs to have a plan that she can follow and execute. Hannah is a little bit more into putting the pieces together on her own and going with the flow,” Clint says. While both sisters are seasoned riders, Clint would describe Dale as the more aggressive rider and Hannah as a softer rider. “Sometimes, I have to tell Dale to dial it back and Hannah to dial it up,” he laughs. Clint is quick to credit the twins with their ability to be light-hearted and laugh at their mistakes, as well as being able to celebrate their wins together. “They have been doing this for a long time, and they have learned to take the good rides with the not-so-good rides, learn from them and move forward. They’re also team players. We have a close-knit group of amateurs, and they’re definitely an asset to our barn community,” he says.
One of the common loves that Clint and the twins share is their affection for their homebred gelding, Dress To Be Invited, who they affectionately call “Jasper.” The 13-year-old gelding has been in the family since birth and has quite a history with the entire Laplace family. Jasper’s dam is the twin’s first show mare, Hot Savannah Baba, and he has been shown by everyone in the family at some point in his life. “He started showing with Hannah when he was five, and then we both took a break for a few years while we were starting our careers,” Dale explains.
At that time, their father, Mike, showed Jasper in Select Horsemanship and Trail, and their mother, Linda, showed him in the adult Walk/Trot riding events and Novice Showmanship. When Dale came back to the show pen, Jasper was the only show horse the family owned at the time, and she eagerly took the reins. Dale and Jasper had major success until Jasper had a health scare two years ago when they discovered he had EPM. “We didn’t know if he would ever be able to show again. We made sure to do everything we could for him, including physical therapy and a year of complete rest,” Dale says. Clint’s concern for Jasper’s health was another commonality they shared. “Jasper is a very important horse to me. I’ve had a lot of success with him in Senior Trail, and he’s definitely one of my favorites. It was a very hard thing to process when he was diagnosed with such a severe case of EPM. At one point, we were hoping that he would just have the quality of life to be a pasture pet, but he had other plans,” Ainsworth says. Not only did Jasper return to good health, he exceeded everyone’s expectations when he made his return to the show pen just one year after his diagnosis. Within three weeks, Dale was able to qualify Jasper for the AQHA World Show in Amateur Trail, and they went on to place in the Top Ten at the Congress that same year. Since then, he continues to get stronger at each horse show and, this year, he’s on a new adventure with Hannah in the saddle.
When Hannah returned to the show pen after building her career, she had some unfortunate luck with a couple horses and it was decided that it was her turn to show Jasper. This year, she’s showing Jasper in Showmanship and Horsemanship and has stepped out of her comfort zone and into the Trail arena. “We used to refer to Dale as the ‘Trail girl’ and Hannah the ‘Showmanship girl,’ because Hannah didn’t do Trail and her favorite event was Showmanship. However, we have shaken things up this year,” Clint laughs. Although Hannah might not be a self-proclaimed “Trail junky,” she has shown that she and Jasper are a force to be reckoned with by gathering top placings at many major shows this year, along with qualifying for the World Show in Amateur Showmanship and Horsemanship.
When the twins are asked to whom Jasper belongs, they each claim him as their own. Although Dale is qualified for Amateur Trail at the World Show, she concedes that Jasper is more Hannah’s horse these days. “He has been my horse for years, but I guess that I will let Hannah say he is hers right now,” Dale jokes. Clint refers to Jasper as “the comeback kid” and is grateful that he has been able to return to the show arena after such a severe setback. “We have definitely brought him back slow, because we were not sure if he would be able to hold up, but he continues to show us that he is up to the challenge at each horse show. Most recently, at the Big A, he was able to change leads in Horsemanship for the first time since he dealt with the neurological issues that come along with EPM. We never thought that would happen, and he just continues to surprise us,” Clint says.
In addition to Jasper, the Laplace family has some upcoming stars that are being developed by Nick and Carmen Mayabb. Currently, they’re campaigning Dale’s 4-year-old mare, Xtremeleyhotvalentine, also known as Martha, in both Junior and Amateur Trail. Martha is qualified for the 2019 AQHA World Show in Junior Trail. “The Mayabbs do such an incredible job with the young horses,” Dale says. Clint agrees and says, “Nick and Carmen are so easy to ride behind, and they put a wonderful foundation on the young horses. I’m very appreciative of our relationship with them.” The Mayabbs also train the Laplace’s 3-year-old gelding, Duane Johnson, and their 2-year-old filly, Roxanne, who are both by The Rock and out of Jasper’s full sister. “We have a small breeding program, and we really like to bring along our babies and show horses that we have bred,” Dale says.
This year, with the focus on Jasper and his comeback with both Hannah and Dale, Clint has big hopes for the major shows this fall. “My hope is that Hannah will be very successful in Novice Trail at the NSBA World Show and Congress,” he says. Additionally, he has high hopes for the sister duo and Jasper at the AQHA World Show, where Dale will show Jasper in the Amateur Trail and Hannah will show him in Amateur Showmanship and Horsemanship. “For the Laplace family, showing is a family affair and it’s an honor to share this journey with them. Having such seasoned clients that know the ropes and are dedicated to achieving success makes my job as a trainer fun,” he says. The Laplace twins have a lot of irons in the fire when it comes to planning for the future, however, this year, they’re so grateful to be celebrating their trusty partner, Jasper, and relishing in the fact that “the comeback kid” is making dreams come true once again and they get to enjoy him together.Click here to read the complete article