Highlights From The 2011 National Horse Show

Travel back to the east coast for some continued west coast wins. From fourteen-year-old Pilar Flournoy to John French and Small Affair, the well-earned victories made the trip east worthwhile. We’ll let the words and lens of Jennifer Wood Media below provide some more east coast highlights from two top capital shows.

Other east coast feats include solid placings to some of the west coast equitation elite in the USEF Hunter Seat Equitation Medal Finals – including 3rd Alison Fithian (Benson Carroll and Stacia Madden), 7th Alexa Anthony (Cara Anthony and Andre Dignelli) and 8th Morgan Geller (Jim Hagman, Katie Gardner and Don Stewart).

John French and Small Affair
Photo by Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

The 2011 National Horse Show made its mark in Lexington, Kentucky and Richard Spooner galloped away with the big win in the $250,000 Alltech Grand Prix. Leading a jump off of five riders, he masterfully maneuvered a fault free ride on Cristallo that no one could beat. Olivia Esse ended her junior career with impressive results, including Champion on and Reserve in the Small Junior Hunters and Grand Junior Hunter Champion on Illusion. A grand exit from her junior years to her college years. Of course we would love to mention all who showed their moxie on the east coast but we can’t possibly include everyone. Helmets off to all for a job well done.

The Wild, Wild West

Heading north from Guadalajara, the 2011 Las Vegas National in early November was a hit with both exhibitors and spectators. Each year the excitement builds and the event gains momentum. Exciting evenings of competition mixed with the PCHA Adult Medal Finals and a successful NAL Sunday meant there was truly a highlight event for everyone. More on Vegas and all its trimmings below.

The Sacramento International was a sellout and as a result all involved saw some solid show jumping. Congratulations go out to all the winners, especially the little but mighty stallion, Flexible with Rich Fellers. They galloped on from that victory to the Los Angeles National Horse Show to clinch the win once again. Chalk that up to a double whammy for that indomitable duo.

To round out the west coast wrap up, the LA National also crowned some other top riders, including Sophie Simpson who took the win in the Onondarka Medal Finals and Demi Stiegler completing a solid end to her junior years with another medal win, this time the WCE Jr/Am Medal Finals.

EquestriSol News: November 29, 2011

Happily living in both California and Kentucky, we have a wide range of cool projects in development. We are pleased to announce some of our latest releases from ads to web. Nighthorse Farms went through several changes in 2011, including a new ad campaign and a facelift to their web site. The Facebook feed in their new News section allows them to keep a fresh web site while updating their Facebook page. Something to consider if your web site needs an update but your latest news is on your Facebook page. We are happy to help implement some fresh new innovations to your current site…

Lauren Hester had a fabulous finish to the 2011 season, including a Grand Prix win at Sacramento earlier this month. Her new web site at Hester Equestrian is live.

We’ve already started work for Blenheim EquiSports 2012, from Holiday Gift Certificates to new season sensations, so keep an eye out. Before 2012 kicks in with a big bang we will be releasing several more web sites that are underway.

We are looking forward to a stellar 2012, as we enter into some new strategic partnerships, develop new ways to do what we do best and enjoy the journey. What can we do for you?

Highlights From The Capital Challenge Horse Show October 2011

It’s a long trip east for those who set their sights on competing indoors in the fall. Each season the riders from the left coast have a chance to shine in this competitive setting. Of course many top horses and riders share the glory, but the west coast is not second to the east and often steps into the limelight as illustrated below.

The Capital Challenge Horse Show: October 1-9, 2011

On the opening Equitation Weekend presented by Bigeq.com, Morgan Geller and Fabricio topped the North American Flat Equitation Championship, were champions in the 16-year-old Equitation, and second in the North American Equitation Championship. Geller trains with Katie Gardner and Jim Hagman of Elvenstar. Conor Perrin was fourth, Alicia Gasser fifth, Olivia Esse sixth and Demi Stiegler ninth in the North American Equitation Championships. Alison Fithian and Julia Nagler both earned wins in their respective equitation divisions.

Pilar Flournoy, 14, from Topanga, CA, made her first trip east a worthwhile one, as she laid down two solid rounds to win the Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Children’s Medal Finals. Flournoy, who trains with Huntover, has that keen ability to stay focused under pressure. She also won the CPHA Foundation Eq Championships earlier this year. Destry Spielberg finished fourth and Alexandra Ladove seventh.

Kristi Siam

Yet another Californian to dominate the Show Place Arena was Adrienne Dixon. Dixon, of Hillsborough, California, piloted Conor Perrin’s Nat King Cole to top honors in the North American Amateur Equitation Championships. Solid in the irons for many years, Dixon now rides with Hunterbrook.

Third time at Capital Challenge was a charm for Kristi Siam of Chatsworth, CA and her horse Krosus. She was third in the North American Amateur Equitation Championships. And after a three-round battle with Mahala Rummel, Siam came away with the win in the ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals. She trains with Karen Healey Stables.

On the Hunt to Win
Heidi Kane of Newport Beach, CA, rode Sin City to the championship in the Amateur-Owner 36 & Over Hunter 3’3” division. She trains with her daughter Nicole Kane. Jenny Karazissis competed on Sin City in the $15,000 WCHR Professional Challenge earning eighth. With the hopes of just simply having a good round, Chelsea Samuels traveled from her home in La Canada, CA with trainer Archie Cox to compete in the 18-35 Adult Amateur Hunter division. She had several ‘good’ rounds on her 11-year-old Brandenburg gelding Brooklyn, taking the championship.

In her final junior year, Olivia Esse of Pasadena, CA, swept the championships in the Junior Hunter 16-17 divisions. Training with Makoto Farm, she rode Clooney, a seven-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Carpaccio, for Oscany Inc. to the championship in the Small Junior 16-17 Hunters. On Small Affair, owned by Iwasaki & Reilly, she was champion in the Large Junior 16-17 Hunters and earned the EMO Junior Trip of the Show. They were also named the High Point Junior Hunter 16-17 sponsored by The Clothes Horse.

Heidi Kane and Sin City (left); Olivia Esse and Small Affair

Proficient Pros 
Canadian-born now Rancho Santa Fe, CA resident Christa Endicott rode Come Monday, an eight-year-old Holsteiner mare owned by Davlyn Farms, to the tri-color in the First Year Green Hunters Section B. The pair was also fifth in the $15,000 WCHR Professional Challenge class.

Another Canadian-born California resident Tara Metzner won the $5,000 WCHR Emerging Pro Challenge. She had the enviable task of competing on Destry Spielberg’s Rumba, the winner of the inaugural USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals. Also champion in the 3’6” Performance Hunter Division, this was Metzner’s inaugural year competing at the Capital Challenge. Actually west coast emerging pros picked up second through fourth as well as sixth in the WCHR Emerging Pro Challenge. Jamie Taylor rode Erin Bland’s Weatherly to second, Hope Glynn picked up fourth on Helen McEvoy’s Chance of Flurries and Teddi Jo Mellancamp was sixth on Woodvale Inc’s Brooklyn.

Patricia Griffith and Tara Metzner (left); John French

No stranger to winning on either coast, John French picked up the championship in the Future Hunter 6 & over division on Gail Morey’s new hunter, Safe Haven and on Iwasaki & Reilly’s Small Celebration in the Future Hunter, Mare Division. He went on to claim the $15,000 WCHR Professional Challenge class for the second year in a row on Iwasaki & Reilly’s Small Affair. The win was bittersweet for French who choked up when he admitted that the ride might be his last on this talented hunter. Continuing his winning rides, French was the picture of consistency in the WCHR Professional Finals and again took the top prize. Jenny Karazissis was sixth in this prestigious class.

Interview: John French after the WCHR Pro Challenge
Interview: John French after the WCHR Professional Finals win

Jenny Karazissis, Scott Stewart, John French, Liza Boyd, Kelley Farmer and Hunt Tosh

Industry Innovators L.A. Pomeroy

From a Notion to a Name With Publicist Extraordinaire L.A. Pomeroy

As one of the equestrian world’s most talented and passionate publicists, L.A. Pomeroy can single-handedly skyrocket an under-recognized individual and safely, as well as successfully, launch them into recognition. Outspoken yet complimentary, Lisa Ann (L.A. to the world) took the time to talk to us about how she came to this place.

On her birthday, no less, we discussed her humble beginnings and the journey that made her into the professional woman she is today. “You couldn’t catch me in a more philosophical or reminiscent mood!” she exclaims.

Horse Crazy
Like many who jump head first into the horse world, “It is possible to be a horse crazy little girl and to grow up and work in the industry,” L.A. explained with a passionate tone.

The journey began when L.A. hosted her own Breyer horse races and ‘covered’ the results on spiral-bound notepaper with two of her closest grade school friends. Through her father’s encouragement, she published a newsletter for her 4-H group at age 10. A writer from the start, her beginnings paved the path toward a significant career in the field of equestrian journalism.

L.A.’s father was a journalist during WWII, and would bring home the New York Daily News every day to follow the horse racing scores. After finishing the paper, L.A. would read the very same lines and stories. “While following the Daily News, I was able to follow the society and sports journalists’ alliterative, colorful styles, and horse racing news, from Canonero II to Secretariat.”

Growing up in a time where it was unusual for women to compete equally with men, L.A. developed an even deeper fascination with equestrian sport when she realized the even playing field.

“For a woman, equestrian sport is one of the only sports where men and women compete on the same level. You really can’t be a woman and not want to follow that. It’s the most level playing field a woman can ask for.”

Throughout her equestrian evolution she always relished being an all-around horsewoman. She competed in several different disciplines, including dressage and reining. “To this day I hold fast to the reason I took dressage. I still believe it is the best building block to any riding style.”

Laughingly she describes how she was training in dressage at age 9, before many others could even pronounce the word. To give an idea of when that was, on this day of her birth she quoted a French Proverb during our interview, “‘The 40s are the old age of youth – the 50s are the youth of old age.'”

In June, L.A. earned the honor of an American Horse Publications 2010 Editorial and Graphics Award in the category of best Freelance Writer Equestrian-related Journalism (print). The article that landed her this accomplishment was a moving piece published about Tracy Kujawa, the owner of Angel Heart Farm, an Arabian facility that provides therapeutic care to children facing cancer and other life-threatening diagnoses. As a three-time cancer survivor herself, the thought of starting a therapeutic farm came to Tracy in a dream.

“[In the dream] she was teaching riding lessons to bare-headed children. She had this clear picture in her head and knew this is what she was supposed to be doing,” L.A. recounted. “Compared to what I do, she is absolutely heroic.” And so L.A. brought her story to the horse world. The award was icing on the cake, not only for the reward of recognition, but also the expanded exposure it brought for Angel Heart Farm, including securing a $5,000 grant to help continue its programs.

An ‘A’ List
Some of L.A.’s past and current clients include the 1996 Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, Arenus/Sore No-More, EquiSearch.com, Holistic Horse Media, Horses in Art, Modern Arabian, NRHA The Reiner, Northeast Reining Horse Association, Reeves International/Breyer, Today’s Equestrian and the U.S. Equestrian Team.

Two years ago she accepted a Media Liaison position with the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). Aside from the obvious promotional tasks with the organization, she suggested nominating IHSA executive director, Bob Cacchione, for the 2010 USEF/Equus Humanitarian Award as well as the 10th annual Pfizer/AHP Equine Industry Vision Award (EIVA). Relying on her grant-writing experience as a development director, she crafted proposals that led to Cacchione, and the association he developed, earning both awards this year. Her notion led to honoring his name.

Being on a first-name basis with riders whom she idolized growing up marks right up there as among the most memorable experiences of her career.

L.A.’s talents were put to work as J. Michael Plumb’s personal voice for the Belvoir Publication’s monthly magazine, Mike Plumb’s Horse Journal, now called Horse Journal.

“I would drive to Mike’s facility north of Boston, he’d usually be finishing a ride or a lesson so I’d hang out, watch that, and then when he was done he’d dismount and I’d join him in the tack room and he’d philosophize about training or whatever the specific topic was. I’d take the notes, then go back to my desk and craft his advice column.

Being the ‘voice’ for one of the best athletes in the equestrian world was a highlight.

“Mike is still one of the very few American athletes, of any sport, to have represented his country in multiple (eight) Olympic Games and he is the first rider ever inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. So to be the mouthpiece for the greatest eventing rider of our generation was tremendous.”

Some moments she calls “full circles,” where she began as a young, horse-crazy girl and now years later, is at the same place as a professional journalist.

“When I was a little girl, my folks would take the drive into Manhattan to the National Horse Show. Years later I was on the press team promoting the National, and it was a beautiful full circle.”

When asked what else she would like to accomplish during her career, she laughingly sighed and said, “It would be nice to be able to own a horse.” Other than this remark, she said her career to date, and it is far from over, has been a fulfilling journey.

Heroes like L.A. are the behind-the-scene storytellers who give our industry and the people in it well-deserved recognition. She has a true dedication for the sport, the horses and the people who love them as she does. Coming full circle repeatedly in a lifetime is a passionate person’s dream come true. L.A. is living that dream. We had a notion that her name deserved recognition.

Thank you L.A. for speaking to us on your celebratory day, so we could in turn celebrate you!

Unbridled Passion

By Lauren Fisher For Jennifer Wood Media Inc.

Show Jumping’s Newest Book Illustrates A Matter of the Heart
McLain and Sapphire, Beezie and Authentic, Ian and Big Ben… These are just a few of the great partnerships in show jumping history that are detailed in Jeff Papows’ new book,Unbridled Passion – Show Jumping’s Greatest Horses and Riders. Released by Acanthus Publishing, Unbridled Passion made its formal debut during the Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic, September 14th – 18th. The book documents the incredible relationships between some of North America’s most renowned horses and riders, telling the life-changing stories of their sacrifices for the love of the sport. Through the wonderful highs and heartbreaking lows both in and out of the ring, Papows gives readers an inside look at what it takes to be on top in the competitive world of show jumping.

Telling many stories never heard until now,Unbridled Passion gives complete insider views and behind the scenes accounts of some of the sport’s most poignant moments. The book features the awe-inspiring stories of 22 horse and rider combinations, with a foreword by legendary U.S. Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe George Morris, and beautiful photography by Gretchen Almy, Tony DeCosta, and Bob Langrish.

The book’s author, Jeff Papows, is well known in the industry. A “tenacious” equestrian in his own right, Papows has personally been inspired by these athletes and their amazing equine partners. He has been a true ambassador for the sport of show jumping and has helped give the sport the recognition it deserves. As Papows so eloquently described it, the book was “a matter of the heart, born of the need to illustrate how truly special the sport of show jumping is.”

In addition to his successful equestrian career, Papows is known in the world of show jumping for his involvement with the Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic. Papows explained his desire to participate in the sport, stating, “I got involved because of my love of horses first and foremost, and it went on from there. Later I wanted to give back and contribute to the sport, so I became the Chairman of the Jumper Classic, and found other ways to sponsor the understanding of the sport.”

He recalled when the idea first to write the book first came to him. “During the meet and greet panel at the Fidelity Investments Grand Prix every year I saw how thirsty for information the young riders were with respect to their idols, like McLain Ward and Margie Engle, and further how enthused the riders were interacting with them.”

When deciding whom to feature in the book, Papows declared, “The Who was easy. I simply selected the biggest North American contemporary stars then got the idea to add three high level amateur riders as well.”

Papows had his work cut out for him at the beginning, facing the challenge of getting in touch with not only the riders but also the owners, trainers, grooms and many other people that make up the support system of a top equestrian partnership. The sport of show jumping involves a lot of traveling and horses and riders are never in one place for long. The hard work quickly paid off as he saw the overwhelming enthusiasm that the participants showed for his project.

“The travel schedules of the Olympians and the logistics of dealing with people at any point in multiple times zones and continents made it challenging,” Papows noted. “Beyond that the biggest challenge was taking care to be sure that the fresh and real inside stories, not previously exposed, were told in each instance.”

“The easiest part of writing the book was staying on schedule, once started,” Papows added. “Because of the enthusiasm of riders, support givers, owners, Geroge Morris and everybody involved, information flowed like it was coming from fire hoses. People really wanted these horses’ stories told!”

The ups and downs of competitive show jumping made the sport the perfect subject for Papows’ book. The biggest surprise to the author as the book progressed became the pure reality of the stories.

“The content ended up being better than fiction!” Papows expressed. “Case by case the drama, heart break, and inspiration in real life was more incredible than even I with all my friendships with the riders understood.”

The riders themselves are grateful to Papows for sharing the stories of their most treasured horses with the world. Many riders expressed their appreciation personally.

McLain Ward, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, said it succinctly. “There is nobody in the sport who I trust more than Jeff Papows to tell Sapphire’s real story.”

Grand Prix Show Jumper Debbie Stephens is featured in the book with Cosequin’s CEO. Stephens acknowledged, “Unbridled Passion has shown what no other book has been able to capture, the opening of hearts for everyone to see, the real story between horse and rider.”

Grand Prix rider Kent Farrington and Up Chiqui are featured as well. Farrington explained, “Jeff has captured the real story of Show Jumping. It goes beyond all the victories and the frustrations. Jeff tells what the sport is truly about – having a special bond with a horse.”

An inspiration to many in the sport, nine-time Olympian Ian Millar summed it up perfectly with his praise for Papows, “Jeff is both rider, friend, and perhaps one of the sport’s most articulate voices – he tells our stories beautifully.”

More details and online ordering available at: www.unbridledpassion.net

Spruce Meadows Masters

By Jennifer Wood

Lamaze Lights Up the Masters and Three Frenchmen Sweep the Nation
It was the Eric Lamaze Masters, much to the delight of the tens of thousands of fans at the Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament. Lamaze won three classes during the week plus was the only entry to go double clear to help Team Canada win the silver medal in the BMO Nations Cup. Lamaze and his superstar stallion Hickstead brought the crowd to their feet when they performed the double clear dance, once again the only couple to do so, to win the CN $1 Million Grand Prix.

Nations Night
The Saturday highlight was the BMO Nations Cup. The French three-man team, anchored by veteran Roger-Yves Bost and Ideal de la Loge, truly rode to the occasion with a win for their country. With the European Championships the following week, France sent three less experienced riders or riders with younger horses along with Bost to represent them at the Masters. When one horse couldn’t compete, they had to go with just three and therefore having no drop score. French Chef d’Equipe Thierry Pomel said, “Our hopes were not high, but the team is very strong with good horses. Since the beginning of the competition, we believed we could do something, and today you see the result.”

Lamaze helped Canada to the silver medal along with veterans Ian Millar and Jonathan Asselin. Nations Cup newbie Tiffany Foster made her first team appearance and couldn’t contain her excitement. “I was a little nervous. I just tried to pretend it was a normal course. My horse is so nice. I knew Ian and Eric were coming after me, so that was nice padding,” explained the exuberant Foster. “I was happy that I didn’t make a huge mistake!”

Third place went to the Swiss team, while a disappointing performance from the Americans left them in last place.

CN $1 Million
The best riders of the week had to qualify to compete in the CN $1 Million Grand Prix. Seemingly in top form, Lamaze and Hickstead looked poised to bring home the top prize. The Olympic gold medalists did not disappoint as they bounded through the difficult course with barely a rub in front of a record crowd of 89,632 fans.”[Hickstead] came into this tour in fantastic shape. From the first day he jumped very well,” Lamaze said.Two rookies jumped up to second and third places in the grand prix. Neils Bruynseels of Belgium rode Nasa to second place. “I gave everything, my horse gave everything. She was fantastic today,” he said.In his first CSIO 5* competition nineteen-year-old Martin Fuchs (son of show jumper Thomas Fuchs and nephew to Markus Fuchs) rode Principal S to third place after he was the first to go clear in the opening round.”Today with the first round clear, I was going crazy,” he remarked. “The crowd here is much better than in Europe, but don’t tell the Europeans. It’s a special day, one of the best in my life.”Course designer Leopoldo Palacios commented, “I’m proud to be here with this new generation.”This was the second win for Lamaze and Hickstead in one of the biggest classes in the world, the CN $1 Million. Along with the two victories, the pair has placed in the top five of this prestigious class for the past five years. Lamaze summed it up by commenting, “To win here and win this grand prix, it’s one we have all dreamed of winning. For me it’s just as exciting as the first time, if not more. When you have a great horse, you want to have this title attached to his name. The money is great, but it’s more than that. He’s the best horse in the world.”Almost certainly Olympic bound, look for these superstars in London next year.

Conversations With Equestrians: Traci Barmen, Carleton Brooks, and Balmoral

By Erna Adelson

The relatively recent marriage of Traci Barmen and Carleton Brooks was a celebration of passion on many levels, but most certainly on the equestrian front.

After two years of cultivating their business on the west-side of LA, (so idyllic is the area that I was delayed in getting to the farm by a Volvo commercial being filmed in the neighborhood), the couple will now also run a training facility as an expansion of Balmoral Farm about 15 miles up the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, an equally iconic location but with a slightly different feel. They look forward to adding names, both equine and equestrian, to their roster. With the added space, Traci and Carleton, or CB as he is affectionately known, also look forward to adding more diversity to their program and the opportunity to expand their barn to include bringing along younger horses – Carleton’s specialty.

The new site will allow the couple and the business to accommodate a wide variety of clientele. Both locations are full service, from pony hunters to adults, Barmen and Brooks work together to craft the ideal program for each person they teach. Each location has unique advantages as well; nestled in the heart of Brentwood, adjacent to Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, Sullivan Canyon is private and membership based, fostering an intimate community of equestrians close enough to the city that riding can be more easily worked into a packed schedule. “Most of our kids are serious students and can’t miss too much school,” Traci explains. During the summer, though, it is not uncommon to see girls hacking around bareback on their ponies after a day of lessons in equitation and horsemanship. In addition to Barmen and Brooks, Courtney Miller and Octavio Godinez are essential players on the Balmoral team.

“Courtney does everything from riding and teaching to horse show planning and beyond,” says Traci. CB adds that Courtney has helped bring along horses and riders in her own right. Octavio oversees the day-to-day care of the horses at home and on the road.

The Malibu location, which overlooks the ocean, boasts grass turnouts, and more latitude to train different types of horses and students. “It will really be ours. Ours and our clients,” says Brooks. “With more space and ring time, we’ll be able to create programs that can unlock the potential in a horse and rider.

“This should be very exciting to anyone who is familiar with the careers of Brooks and Barmen. That this duo will be able to bring out potential in a horse or a team of horse and rider is somewhat of an understatement. Brooks has a track record of bringing out the best in talented and often miscalculated horses. Not just a trainer but a partner, he serves as a channel for the potential in a horse by allowing them to do what they do best. A true horseman, he has been known to ride for hours just at the walk to build trust. But most importantly, Brooks looks to the horse as a guide for the best ride and the best result.
In addition, Carleton brings his years of experience as a judge, clinician, and consultant to his evaluation of each team he works with. With Traci’s extensive teaching background as well as a keen ability to match horses and riders, the two make a formidable team. Since they paired up, they are pleased with the results for all of their clients, which they speak equally fondly about. “Our goals are to produce successful riders and horses, to educate, to feel like we can have a little part in shaping great young ladies (and gentlemen!) by instilling confidence and independence, and to have fun,” says Traci. “We’re always looking to add riders who are serious about showing to the roster, but welcome anyone with an open mind who is willing to learn.” On the show circuit, look for Balmoral Farm at a variety of California venues, including Thermal, Blenheim, Del Mar, Menlo and LAEC as well as on the east coast for the Indoor circuit.
They make the move into the new location after spending much of August on the road. Recently back from judging the prestigious USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals in Lexington, Kentucky, CB is especially ecstatic about the new locale. After several years judging other horses and riders, he is looking to return to riding and showing himself. Partners in business and in life, the couple spends a lot of time together. Post the interview, CB chivalrously sends Traci off to meet with friends in Los Angeles, and he and his canine shadow, Hannah, hold down the fort for the night.

Highlights From North American Junior/ Young Riders Championships 2011

Jenni-Martin McAllister was one of a handful of Zone 10 trainers who ventured to Lexington for the North American Junior/Young Riders Championships this year. After a little coaxing she agreed to write about the experience.

Greetings of Grass and Horse Heaven

Landing in Lexington, KY is an experience in itself. Acres of green pastures and expansive barns greet you as you slowly descend. Driving from the airport to the Kentucky Horse Park (KHP) confirms that this is horse heaven. KHP is an ideal place to host a championship competition, with 1200 acres, multiple arenas and fantastic footing. A competitor couldn’t ask for more, other than maybe a little California weather – cooler and a lot less humid.

As a former competitor at the Young Rider Championships, I return many years later in a different position, as a coach. I remember the excitement I felt, and the amazing amount of effort and hard work that went in to qualifying just to be there. To qualify and compete here is an honor. This is the only FEI championship competition held in North America for young riders and is a great stepping stone for young talent to gain valuable experience, before true international and team competition.

Day One
New this year, competitors at NAJYRC could not also participate in the horse show going on at the park. When the championship begins, there is no show jumping so we just school our horses and watch some of the dressage. Another nice aspect of this event is the opportunity for the young riders to have exposure to other disciplines. We took a tour of the KHP grounds. It truly is an incredible place, with miles of Kentucky blue grass, impressive cross country jumps from Rolex, plus great exhibits of art and horse history. I learn some very interesting facts about the evolution of the horse in the permanent exhibit. There is a lot to absorb here, even for experienced horsemen. The Alltech indoor arena is amazing. Again I have to say that it seems an ideal place for The National Horse Show coming here for the first time in November.

It’s a tradition to decorate a team golf cart, and to finish the first day, after the opening ceremony, there is a golf cart parade that ends at Spy Coast Farm with a small party. Team camaraderie begins as the girls, parents and trainers meet and enjoy dinner on the first night.

Day Two
The second day starts with the jog and a warm up class. All eight of our Zone 10 riders jog and warm up without trouble. Our Junior team this year, Brittany Albreqc, Hannah Ward, Madison Bradshaw, and Kilian McGrath, is the most inexperienced team we’ve sent in a few years. But all are talented and well-mounted.

Our Young Rider team, Danielle Korsh, Kendall Skreden, Sage Flynn, and Cayla Richards are more experienced and act as guides to our younger group. Each one with the exception of Sage has been here before.

We sneak in some time to tour a few farms and end up on a fantastic country road. We drive by farm after farm that have giant gorgeous green pastures with horses grazing and playing. The barns are magnificent and the architecture blends nicely with the land.

Day Three
Our first competition day starts with a speed class. The Junior Team is scored as a timed first round; basically the fastest with the least amount of jumping faults is the winner. However, each day’s faults are carried through to the individual final, without time being a factor. So a clear round today is important. All the girls ride well. Brittany, and Kilian come home with 4 faults, and Madison and Hannah are both clear. Hannah puts in a very solid round. Canasucre literally jumps out of her shoes, to take an early lead, but in the end two others are faster and she settles for 3rd place.

In the Young Rider division the class is scored as faults converted, so any knock down is 4 seconds added to your time. At the end of the class the winner receives a score of zero. Everyone else’s time is cut in 1/2 and the difference between that score and zero is converted to faults (it can be confusing, just like the World Cup Final). They carry that score through each round to make up an individual final score.

Cayla is our best Young Rider – she has a beautiful round adding no faults. She holds the lead for a while but in the end settles for 2nd place. Kendall also puts in a fabulous round and ends up in 10th place. Danielle has an unexpected spook and a drive-by at fence 3 but still does not touch a rail and ends with just her time score. Sage is the most nervous, lowering two jumps but still managing a good enough time to stay in the middle of the pack.

The courses are inviting, and the height not as daunting, since they are riding a speed format, but the next day will bring more technical questions, water with no rail, a tight time allowed, and of course all the nerves of riding for your team.

Day Four
Team competition day starts at 7am in an attempt to beat the heat. Junior Teams ride first. First for our team is Kilian and my heart goes out to her as I see her struggle with her nerves; she puts in an uncharacteristic round and ends with 16 faults. Madison is next; she rides well and brings home a clear round. Brittany also rides well but two small mistakes leave her with a score of 8.

Hannah is last to challenge, and she is ready. She rides flawlessly and produces a clear round. We make it to round two.

The top six teams come back for round two. Kilian pulls it together and rides a respectable round with just a foot in the water and a light rail; she comes home with 8 faults. Madison continues her strong riding and has an unlucky rail for 4 faults. Brittany stays consistent, but is a little slower this time and brings home 9 faults. Hannah rides well, but a few small mistakes and maybe her shoe pull from the first day catch up with her – 12 faults is her final score.

The Junior team handles the pressure of the championships and riding for a team well, considering this is their first time. They end a very respectable sixth.

Zone 2 and 4 are very strong and end the day with a jump-off for Gold and Silver and in the end it is Zone 4 that is victorious.

Next is the Young Rider Team Competition. Cayla is first to go, a small mistake at the fourth jump and a touch too slow leaves her with 4 + 1 time. Next, Danielle rides a beautiful clear round but again just over the time for 1 fault. Sage, our least experienced rider, shows her nerves in this round. She struggles in the first half but then pulls it together, and completes the round with 16 faults. Kendall is last and she doesn’t disappoint. She turns in a respectable 4 fault score. We enter the 2nd round with 10 faults, sitting third.

Cayla starts Round 3 off well and turns in a score of 4 faults. Danielle is consistent, clear over the jumps but with 1 time fault. Sage pulls it together and rides like we all know she can, and gives the team a clear round! Last is Kendal who rides a nice round but lowers two fences for 8 faults. Our team total is 15 faults.

It comes down to the last riders for Zones 2 and 4 again. The Zone 4 rider produces a clear round and leaves them with an amazing 8 fault total, and the gold medal. A lot is riding on the shoulders of the last rider from Zone 2. A clear round would cause a tie and force a jump-off, 4 faults and they would finish with silver. She succumbs to the pressure, a difficult but important lesson of a championship like this, and turns in 8 faults making their final total 16 faults.

Zone 10 wins Silver!

Day Five
Saturday is the farewell competition. Anyone who does not advance to the final will ride. Our only rider is Kilian. The weather is a bit crazy today, very hot and humid. Her horse is struggling with the heat and is not going as well as usual. She puts in a very respectable 4 fault round to end her first experience here.

As the day progresses thunder and lightning approach. We decide to hide out in the new USHJA building. We go on a tour of the small museum that is full of team memorabilia and it takes us back to our roots. We enjoy the fabulous thunderstorm from the safety of the building, and end the day with dinner downtown at a quaint restaurant well known in Lexington, a La Lucie.

Final Day
Sunday morning comes early, again with a 7am start (even after all these years of competing, I still don’t like early mornings!) The Individual Competition concludes today.

We start again with the Junior riders. Today’s course is the most challenging thus far and the time is tight, with not many places on course to breathe. Brittany is first to go and leads us off. A good ride, but a couple of small mistakes, and she leaves the ring with 8 faults + 1 time. Hannah jumps a nice round and brings home 4 faults but catches one on the clock for a total of 5. She finishes with a total of 17, which ends up being one fault too many to advance to the final round.

Madison jumps last and rides well. She lowers the height of two fences though for an 8 fault score. She makes the final 15. In the final round she stays consistent and brings in a score of 8 for a 15th place finish, which is really great for her first year at NAJYRC.

For our Young Rider Final the course is the most difficult yet, now set at 1.50M and technical. You can feel the tension in the air as each score counts toward a medal. Sage is our first Zone 10 rider to go. She succumbs to the pressure, one more of the lessons of this competition. With two rails down and a miscommunication with her horse Hot Pants that leads to a refusal, she finishes with 12 plus time.

Kendall is next and she keeps her cool. She jumps a super round with one time fault. Danielle stays consistent and rides a careful, deliberate round; she leaves all the rails in place and comes home with just 3 time faults.

Cayla looks to be our hope for a medal. She rides beautifully all the way to the triple combination. She comes in with too much, hurries to the triple and jumps in too deep. She has to pull out of the triple and restart. Nerves appear to overtake her usually cool demeanor and she hurries back to jump through again with the same result. Unfortunately she is eliminated.

And the Final Round
The final round is upon us. The course is shortened but the track is large and the time very tight. It doesn’t look possible for us to medal. Sage starts us off, and she puts it all together. She rides a fantastic clear round to end with a positive experience. Kendall is next – she stays focused and jumps a clear round as well. She finishes as one of the few to jump double clear on the final day. Danielle follows with another clear round over the jumps just off the pace and adds 1 fault to her score.

We sit on the edge of our seats for the remaining riders. The pressure proves too much and rails are dropping. With each rider, our girls are moving up. In the end the two leaders prove to be strong and although they each drop a rail they have enough of a lead to stay on top.

Danielle’s consistency earns her the bronze medal. Her horse San Diego is the only one not to touch a rail all week.

Kendall’s persistence pays off and she slips into 4th place respectively. Sage ends in a respectable 11th place.

Goodbye Blue Grass
As we head to the airport, we go on one last driving tour. This time we take in the sights of Claiborne Farm and the famous Keeneland Race Track. There are no races here at the moment, but you can feel the energy in a place like this. Kentucky is a special place for horses and those of us who love them. Our trip ends here, but we feel certain that with the goals of our riders and all that Lexington has to offer, we will be back. And we can’t wait!

Was HITS a Hit?

Stories from Horse Shows in the Sun
Through my work with EquestriSol I had the privilege of interviewing a number of riders, sponsors and vendors during the 2011 HITS Desert Winter Circuit. Most would agree that with all the improvements, the world-class competition, the hunter prix classes and the World Cup qualifiers, the 20th anniversary year in the desert was definitely one for the books.

Horse show grounds and facilities can be vastly different; however, ask any rider/trainer and they’ll tell you that there are a few key elements that truly make a good horse show.

For riders like Hap Hansen who has competed at HITS Horse Shows since the circuit’s inception, the shows close proximity to his southern California home is one but not the only aspect that draws him and his clients out to the desert. A man of few words, when he spoke, I listened. ‘Why Thermal?’ was one of my questions.

“There’s lots of room and great footing. I’ve noticed improvements but there is also a more international feel this year. It’s fun to have Meredith here.”

He sums it up by saying, “They (HITS Show Management) know how to put on a horse show.”

A key element riders and trainers consider when attending a horse show, is the course designer. Hap rated them as “up and down.” One week in the $25,000 Grand Prix Hap, John Perez and John Pearce all had spills at the same jump. Certainly a surprising turn of events.

If you’ve read EquestriSol’s series “Conversation with Course Designers”, all of them seek to challenge while being careful to not overwhelm horse or rider. That said the course designers had their work cut out for them – often the class had 50 or more horses with a wide span of experience. It was not uncommon to have the group narrowed down to eight riders or less in a jump off.

For Brazil’s Eduardo Menezes, who jokingly disclosed his mantra for life, while sitting next to Olaf Peterson, as being “Live everyday like it’s the most important or the last because who knows what course designer will be there to kill you.” Kidding aside, Eduardo agreed that the facilities, amenities and most importantly, the footing were all excellent.

With big money classes, a tough course is always on the menu. And like any menu, what tastes great to some is not so delicious for others. Eighteen year old Lucy Davis and her two mounts Hannah and Nemo 119 got their fill of goodies, conquering two weeks worth of course designers’ challenges with four grand prix wins.

I caught up with Lucy after her second victory of four, the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix on Hannah during Week V of the circuit. Lucy excelled in field of 57 riders, including topping trainer and well-known international rider Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum,. “I was confident about my ride, but was still in disbelief from last night [winning the $50,000 Strongid CSI-W Grand Prix aboard Nemo 119]! Today was the cherry on top!”

Davis proved her ability to achieve the ultimate, winning two more grand prix classes, including the $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert again on Nemo 119. Qualified for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix scheduled for September 11 in Saugerties, NY, will the young star be in attendance?

Crossing over to the hunter ring, seems the newly added hunter prix classes, qualifiers for the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final in Saugerties, NY in September, drew both competitors and crowds alike, week after week.

Some would question if a 3’3″ hunter competition with a $500,000 finals is good for the sport. With the response and anticipation of the upcoming HITS weekend this fall, the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix combined with the Pfizer Million, it appears the answer is yes. The competition arena is clothed in many ways, and ultimately the best in the sport will prevail.

John French certainly knows a good horse show, having won all over the world in both the hunter and jumper arenas, both indoors and outdoor. French, who owns Waldenbrook Farm, surmised, “HITS has done a great job on improvements. The footing is good, nice job on maintenance and keeping the ground soft. We’ve had excellent weather this year and more people are coming back.” Waldenbrook clients were happy and staying longer than they initially planned.

As explained in this issue’s “Conversation with Equestrians”, for trainers Hope and Ned Glynn of Sonoma Valley Stables (SVS), the circuit proved to be a hit. Hope landed two blue ribbons in the 3’3″ Hunter Prix classes.

“I am thrilled to have an opportunity to compete for the biggest purse of prize money in hunter history. We have all really enjoyed the hunter prix classes at Thermal,” added Hope.

Top hunter riders, professional, amateur and junior alike, have the opportunity to attend several special shows with a focus on hunters this year. The first is the USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals, now in its third year, at the Kentucky Horse Park in August. Continuing the trek east, the Hampton Classic is an excellent choice for exhibiting and enjoying the east coast. Next to HITS Saugerties for the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final in upstate New York, which not only includes a big grand prix but a Temptations concert. And then the indoor season begins, the Capital Challenge in Washington, DC offers a list of prestigious hunter classes, the fall continues with Harrisburg, Washington and this year Lexington. But that’s another story.

Pleasing your public is essential when running a business. Was HITS a hit? The answer is in the desert oasis.