Conversations With Equestrians: Ali Nilforushan

We all know Ali Nilforushan – he’s been a part of the California equestrian scene for some years and can be a formidable force when defending his views. I caught up with this International rider earlier this year to find out more about his history as well as what’s on the horizon for this professional and his clients.

Dreaming of Horses
Ali has dual US-Iranian citizenship. Born in Tabriz, Iran, he started his riding career at the age of seven. After moving to the US at the age of 12, Ali continued his riding. “All I dreamed about was riding – no, I literally had dreams about horses – I’d close my eyes at night and imagine that I was on a horse galloping, and I knew, it was all I wanted to do.” After playing football and baseball (he excelled in both), Ali knew his passion would always be in equestrian sport.

Later, Ali moved to Holland to train for three years. During his time in Holland, he qualified for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney as the first and only equestrian competitor for Iran. “That was quite an achievement” Ali explained, “I rode a horse that I got for nothing and people had written him off. We qualified for Sydney and made the Finals, which was incredible. Unfortunately, he couldn’t pass the second vet check and was unfit to compete. Even so, it was a thrill first to make the Olympics and then make it to the Finals. It was a huge accomplishment for my career.” Ali completed his pre-Olympic training in France and then spent one season post-Sydney prior to returning to the states to compete in the West Coast League.

Talk About Formidable
There’s a new horse in Ali’s life – his new prospect Formidable (barn name “Able”). After selling both his grand prix horses, Ali purchased the approved 6-year-old, Holsteiner stallion in December 2010 (Sire is For Pleasure, with Cartago on his Dam’s side). Rebecca Lewis of Lewis Circle of Horses, LLC also owns a percentage. As a four-year-old, Able was Champion of Verband in Germany. “He’s the best horse I’ve ever been around, talent-wise. I never imagined I would have a horse this nice,” said Ali of his well-bred prospect.

Able has competed in over 35 classes this year – of those, he’s had a total of three rails. Incredibly wise beyond his years, Able is just learning how to control his big body. “The biggest thing with him is that I have to take my time and let him grow,” Ali explained.

Standing at 17h, his bravery, his jump, and apparently his personality, are all as big as he is. “When you’re walking around, he’s like a trail horse. During warm-up I have to kick him, and the minute you get into the show ring, his barrel doubles in size and you have to sit dead quiet because he becomes a machine!”

Humbled by his Formidable partner, Ali continues. “He’s the real deal. The only thing you have to do is make sure he doesn’t jump you off. He thinks it’s the coolest thing ever to launch you into the air – he really likes to jump hard.”

Steeped in California culture, it is easy to forget that Ali is from another country, speaks three languages – Farsi, Turkish and English – and has family who live in a place that the United States is at times politically at odds with. Settled in San Diego and realizing his equestrian dreams, Ali stays clear of politics. “It’s very important to respect all cultures – I respect all cultures. I’m proud to be Persian – proud of my heritage, but I also respect who and what I’m around now. I leave the politics for politicians – if you’re a good person, it doesn’t really matter where you’re from.”

Short term plans for Able include the 2011 Wild Turkey Farm Young Horse Championships. His long term plan: the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

I inquired about Ali’s plans for his show jumping students. “We have a very good group of riders at the moment. It would be really exciting to see Francie [Snedegar] and Katie [Harris] get on a Nations Cup Team. I would love to get them on a developing riding tour to experience the international scene.” For these two “hungry and talented” competitors, Ali believes their experience in the international arena will refine them as riders and take them to the next level.

He continued explaining how riding and competing in Europe is a completely different experience. “The exciting part about competing internationally is that when you go over [to Europe] and swim in deep waters, you go to a whole different level.” Getting to that next level is every rider’s goal, and seeing progress (big or small) is Ali’s favorite part about this sport. “Watching the horse and rider progress and reach for the next training level,” said Ali, “I’m a believer that results come by a product of good work. I constantly push myself, my riders, and my horses because I was told a long time ago that it isn’t practice that makes perfect, it’s perfect practice that makes perfect.”

With a formidable attitude and a Formidable ride, the future looks phenomenal.

Conversations With Equestrians: Nick Haness

A friend once reminded me to live my dash – she wasn’t referring to running or a type of seasoning, but the actual dash you see between the dates of a person’s birth and their death on their tombstone. It means to live life to the fullest, as that dash represents your entire life. She didn’t mean this in a morbid way, but as a reminder to live your dash with exuberance.

With a tremendous amount of impressive accomplishments at a young age, including a recent second place in the biggest money class for hunters in history, the $500,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix, Nick Haness is undoubtedly living his dash.

Equestrian Aspirations
Coming from a family of five boys, every brother was busy with his own interest. Nick started riding at age five at Coto de Caza, near his home. Gradually he began moving from one lesson to three lessons per week and spent his summer days in the saddle. After juggling soccer and riding for several years, Nick chose his sport. The rest is becoming a solid history.

Nick remembers feeling inspired as a young teenager while watching top riders like John French and Peter Pletcher compete. As his teenage years in the horse world progressed, his achievements further molded his future. One interesting milestone was choosing his first show horse wisely. Soon after he purchased a bay hunter named Carson, he got a Christmas present from his parents – the funds to compete for one week on the winter circuit in Indio, CA. Very excited about this opportunity, Nick didn’t just compete but he earned a Reserve Championship in the Junior Hunters. That very week, a trainer on the circuit inquired about buying Carson for his client. With a tremendous offer on the table, Nick made a mature decision to sell his horse.

His parents offered to give him the money from the sale to further his equestrian pursuits. Again making a decision that was wise beyond his years, Nick set up a small business. With the help of contacts in the industry, Nick would purchase a green horse in Europe, work with it and then sell it.

About this time Nick also began working with Jim Hagman of Elvenstar. Another turning point, Nick refers to that time period fondly. “Jim put me on the map. He gave me a makeover – changed my tie, my huntcoat, got me new boots – and put on the finishing touches that finessed my ride. I had instant success in the equitation ring with his help.” Nick also went to the east coast with Jim, including Devon and Indoors, garnering some valuable miles and making new contacts.

One of his favorite memories was the first time he went to Indoors. “Ever since I was on ponies I knew about the east coast kids, so showing up as the little guy from California that no one had ever heard of was awesome.” This experience mixed with the other teenage turning points sealed the deal for Nick.

“My dreams and years of wanting to go back east and compete all came true at that moment, and I realized it,” Nick explained. “I liked school and did well, but I knew I wanted a career in horses. I loved being a part of the horse show world.” Nick decided to turn professional at age 18.

All Business
Having business savvy from his junior experiences, Nick bravely jumped into not just the professional world but into having his own business by the time he was 20 years old. Not long after he connected with Richard Slocum at a clinic where they jokingly talked about how they should go into business together. Soon after they took their joke seriously.

Covering all his company’s bases was a priority for Nick who is the first to admit the value in having someone older and more experienced around. “I’m fortunate to have Richard as a business partner,” said Nick. “It’s nice to have the security of a knowledgeable and experienced horseman in the barn.” Fortunately for both Richard and Nick, their strengths mix very well. Nick is the show rider while Richard handles the endless details of running a barn from the clients to the horses in training. Both have a knack for teaching and the clients have blossomed from their combined knowledge.

Now with a handful of professional years under his belt, Nick notes the rewards come at many levels. “When a student wins their first Maclay and they feel accomplished in their riding goals, that’s very rewarding for me.”

After a small but costly mistake in Round 1 of the CPHA Medal Finals this year, student Conor Perrin rallied and not only won Round 2 of that Medal Final but won every round of the CPHA Foundation Equitation Championships, 21 & under the following week. “I was proud of Conor. He learned a lot from that experience and we were all rewarded! When you help someone accomplish something they’ve been trying to achieve, it’s a pretty awesome feeling.”

Plans and Pursuing the Dream
Myriad circumstances changed the plans for attending both the $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Final (Lexington, KY) and the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final (Saugerties, NY) in August and September of this year. While competing on Havana at Devon in May, Nick was approached by Scott Stewart about purchasing the horse for his junior rider Victoria Colvin. “So I didn’t go to Kentucky due to the sale. But knowing that Victoria Colvin was seventh overall on Havana in the Derby Finals was just as rewarding as going myself.”

As much as they were looking forward to the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final, a few weeks before the event Nick and his client agreed to wait. “It was a long trip to make when we were uncertain about the weather. We didn’t think it was a good choice for a sensitive horse to go all that way in unpredictable conditions.” Taking it in stride, Nick wasn’t planning to head east for the finals. About a week later, Archie Cox and the Singer family asked Nick if he would ride Cruise at the inaugural Hunter Prix Final in Saugerties. Nick had competed and won on Cruise in a Thermal Hunter Prix and had watched him go numerous times, so he knew the horse and was honored to accept the opportunity. “Jessica is in college at Skidmore, so she was there as well as her parents. They were just happy to be a part of it, they didn’t put any pressure on me.” The no pressure approach paid off, literally. Nick and Cruise represented the west coast well by earning a spot in the top 25, winning Round 3 of the Final (in the pouring rain) and coming in second overall, earning not just a beautiful ribbon but a check for $90,000.

“Just being a part of the first year was a dream come true. Really it was. As a kid I dreamed of experiences like this – great riders, TV, press conference – it was overwhelmingly exciting.”

Nick continued, “All the California riders were rooting for each other. I was proud to represent the west coast in the top four.”

Speaking of the west coast, an impressive seven riders returned in the top 25 and four placed in the top twelve. Reflecting for a moment in the sweetness of the victory, Nick also discussed the agony of defeat. Jenny Karazissis experienced the high of winning Rounds 1 and 2 on Saturday. She was riding beautifully on Sunday as well. When she rounded the corner towards the end of the course, her horse’s pace slowed suddenly and he took a brief trot step. The crowd gasped and scores reflected the pace change. “We were all shocked. It’s amazing in sports how dreams can disappear in a split second. Jenny handled it with poise. She’s such a fabulous rider and a top notch competitor.”

We know that Nick Haness is living his dash. And we congratulate him. Are you living yours?

Upcoming HITS Buzz

Seems the momentum from the 2011 HITS Desert Circuit, which had the largest number of entries since 2007 and a sold-out DC V, helped to propel the spring and summer show series in Saugerties, New York and Culpeper, Virginia to equally healthy seasons. Attendance and entries at both Culpeper and Saugerties are fueled by the interest and excitement from two upcoming mega classes – the second-annual Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix and the first ever Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix – which will make for the richest day in show jumping history on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at HITS-on-the-Hudson.

In fact, qualifiers for these two signature show jumping events are breaking records from Thermal to Ocala and continuing east to Saugerties, with scores of exhibitors entering for their chance to compete for show jumping glory. The Devoucoux Hunter Prix continues to draw juniors, amateurs and professional hunter riders, in huge numbers, which is making for some really exciting updates to the Diamond Mills Rider Rankings as we begin to near the end of the qualifying season on Saturday, September 3, 2011.

The Pfizer Million is a beacon for High-Performance riders all season long, attracting both top national and international riders to each of the five HITS venues. West coast riders represent a strong group within the Top 40 Rider Rankings and many are expected to make the trip east to compete for this year’s coveted crown and first-place $350,000 check!

With the summer show season nearing its conclusion, HITS is ramping up the forces for a spectacular grand finale for Pfizer Million Weekend, which will include a spectacular performance by Motown legends, The Temptations. After that, attention shifts to the 21st Annual Marshall & Sterling National Finals, where the top League Members from around the country will gather to compete for year-end championships in more than 13 divisions.

No rest after that event, as the focus shifts into high gear for the 2012 winter season. All indicators suggest another stellar year for the HITS Desert Circuit.

HITS Desert Horse Park for 2012 Desert Circuit Updates

By all accounts, the 2011 HITS Desert Circuit was the single best season of show jumping since 2007 when the new show grounds in Thermal debuted. Circuit discounts for permanent and tent stabling, coupled with the appeal of four World Cup qualifiers, 16 qualifiers for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, and five Devoucoux Hunter Prix qualifiers for the first-ever Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final, helped to attract large groups of returning customers, as well as scores of new comers. The maturation of the show grounds brings the property to life, with customers seeing first-hand the vision and promise that the HITS Desert Horse Park holds for becoming the top winter show destination in the country. Property updates that added atmosphere and color to the show grounds had an immediate and positive impact on trainers, exhibitors, owners and spectators, alike.

For 2012, HITS management plans to once again expand upon property enhancements with some major renovations that came right from the suggestions of top riders and trainers who have been loyal to the circuit for years. Thousands of new trees and desert-friendly shrubs are taking root. We are building new berms that will create enhanced sightlines and atmosphere. Hunter riders will be happy to see the new row of maturing palm trees going in along the berm facing the airport on the east end of the show grounds.

Three new rows of permanent barns will soon be added to the property behind the vet building to provide additional inventory for exhibitors interested in permanent barn accommodations. Foundation work for that project will be underway this month.

The $200,000 Grand Prix of the Desert returns next year and all Grand Prix, including the four World Cup qualifiers, and all Devoucoux Hunter Prix will once again qualify riders for the Pfizer Million and Diamond Mills Hunter Prix final in September of 2012.

HITS recently held a call with the West Coast Trainer & Rider Committee to discuss additional plans and priorities for the 2012 season. If you have an idea or something to share, please see a member of the Committee, listed below, or email[email protected].

2012 HITS Desert Circuit Trainer & Rider Committee
Tracy Baer, John Bragg, Shelley Campf, Archie Cox, Lori Derosa
Rich Fellers, John French, Joie Gatlin, Karen Healey
Susie Hutchison, Rudy Leone, Guillermo Obligado

Pfizer Million Preview

West coast riders come east for Pfizer Million Weekend; HITS bids to bring Olympic Trials to HITS Desert Horse Park
As the summer show season nears its end, the excitement and anticipation for this year’s Pfizer Million Weekend is gaining momentum. Exhibitors are clamoring to get their qualifying classes in and add to their winnings to ensure their place in the Rider Rankings for both the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix and the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final. After the Desert Circuit it was clear that riders from the west coast were serious about ensuring they’d make the cut for these two monumental events. And with the grand finale weekend just about a month away, west coast riders are making their plans to come east for their chance at show jumping history – the opportunity to compete for $1.5 million in prize money!

The group of High-Performance riders coming east includes a mix of both returning and first time qualifiers with John Pearce, Helen McNaught, Duncan McFarlane, and Saer Coulter, while young phenom Lucy Davis, who took the Desert Circuit by storm when she won the last four Grand Prix at the Thermal including the $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix, presented by Lamborghini of Newport Beach, is making her first trip to Saugerties.

The crop of Hunter riders making their plans to show in Saugerties is equally as impressive with top professional riders John French, Hope Glynn, Nick Haness and Jenny Karazissis each committed to show in the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final. Amateur riders Erin Bland and Avery Hellman, who both train with Ned and Hope Glynn, will also be on the scene, as will Archie Cox with a group of his students.

“I am very excited to be coming to compete in the [Diamond Mills] $500,000 Hunter Prix,” said Cox. “Cruise, owned by Jessica Singer, has already proven himself from coast to coast and I am anxious to add a top placing to his resume.”

Jerry Dougherty of Bokeelia, Florida will set the courses for the Hunter Prix and Olympic Course Designer Steve Stephens of Palmetto, Florida will set the track for the Pfizer Million. Olympic Course Decorator Flora Baptiston of Brazil will bring her magic touch to the courses.

There’s quite a buzz about the weekend throughout both the equestrian and local communities, as VIP tables are selling quickly and ticket sales for Motown legends The Temptations are picking up momentum. Adding to the ceremony of the day will be an appearance by the West Point Equestrian Team and a special 9/11 commemoration ceremony with members from the local fire, police and emergency service workers. Plans are also in the works for a special head-set rental program for round-by-round commentary for both the Hunter Prix and the Pfizer Million.

More exciting news pertaining to live-webcasting and TV coverage along with other plans will be announced soon, so stay tuned. For more information about VIP or general ticket information, please visit

HITS bids to bring Olympic Trials to HITS Desert Horse Park
For the second time in two years, HITS put in a bid to host a USEF selection trial competition at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California. In the summer of 2009, HITS bid to host the USEF Show Jumping Selection Trials for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG). The proposal included unprecedented prize money, $775,000 to be exact, and a commitment to waive the entry fees for all Selection Trials classes for horses competing in every leg of the Trials. This time around, HITS submitted another extraordinary bid proposal to host the USEF Selection Trials for the 2012 Olympic Games and National Championship.

The highlights from the Olympic Trials bid included $200,000 in prize money to be divided among the winners, waived entry fees and complementary accommodations for all exhibitors participating in the trials. News came in early August that the selection committees had met and voted to award the bid to another management company, despite the innovative package prepared by HITS.

When news of the decision came, HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri offered his insights on the vote. “If there’s a bright side to this, we’ve got our bid packet fine tuned! Perhaps more importantly, these Trials will not take place during the Thermal Circuit, so customers can enjoy their regular circuit schedule with us in the Desert and still have the opportunity to travel for the chance to compete on the Olympic Team in Florida at the end of March.”

Struzzieri was pleased to have the opportunity to submit a bid and was pragmatic about the outcome. “I can’t say that I disagree with the decision of the committees, geography has to play a big role in this type of decision. We will continue to stay in this process and hopefully we will be awarded this type of event in the near future.”

In the end, Struzzieri believes, “Our bid had an impact in raising the stakes for the competition. As it turned out the other bid was modified to match what we had offered and include free entries for the riders, so that’s another positive outcome for the exhibitors. Having just completed hosting the East Coast Junior Hunter Finals here in Saugerties, I feel strongly that HITS has a product to offer that will ultimately be the right one for trials of this nature and we’ll keep going after it… for us, our customers and the sport.”

Photos by Flying Horse Photography.

Sponsor Stories

Ponies, private jets, Lamborghinis & little girls (Oh, my!)
When the dust settles in this little desert town, are you in Emerald City? Why yes, Dorothy. Surrounded by glittering ponies, grand prix mounts, both of which change colors and collect colorful ribbons, fancy planes and automobiles and all sorts of horse crazy munchkins (large and small), you certainly aren’t in Kansas.

During Week VI of the 2011 HITS Desert Circuit, HITS partnered with its sponsors to raise the bar, enhance the current winter circuit competitor’s experience, and continue to entice participants to follow the yellow brick road to this small, sunny, albeit salty town of Thermal.

Lamborghinis at HITS Thermal from Lamborghini Newport Beach
Photo by Cheval Photos

Looking Through the Crystal Ball
Whether you are an equestrian, golfer, rider, shopper or dining connoisseur there’s definitely an abundance of world-class course designs, boutiques with sparkly ruby slippers, and restaurants within 30 minutes of the HITS Desert Horse Park. Not to mention the European feel of the facility’s indoor arena and the outdoor Oasis Club, with catered VIP. It’s a place where sponsors can enjoy some desert time plus network and be a part of the equestrian community.

Donny Gath with his family at HITS
Photo by Cheval Photos

This yellow brick road is perfectly paved for car-crazy dads and their horse crazy daughters to come together and relish in the luxury of fast cars, private planes and fancy ponies.

One such dad is Donny Gath, owner of Lamborghini Newport Beach. Sponsors of the biggest money class in California, the $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert, Gath entered this arena because of his 9-year-old, horse-crazy daughter Kendall. Even on school days, this aspiring rider is up at 6am to ride before heading to class by 8:45am. In her second year of competing, Kendall rode in the medium pony division aboard her two ponies at HITS Thermal. Her commitment is paying off – she won a class with 37 entries and earned a Championship. So is her trainer the wicked witch? No, notes the little equestrian, Tracy Baer of Windsong Farm is “really good,” says Kendall. “She pushes me and makes me better.” No witches on the circuit, only fairy godmothers. Right?

The Vision is Clear
For many of the horse show competitors, from young Kendall to world class rider Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, HITS Thermal is not only a horse show but a family affair. It is a home away from home where they can while away the hours enjoying what the desert has to offer. With four little girls, and only one who rides, Thermal is a weekend escape for the Gath family. However, the branding and networking opportunities are clear to business owners like Gath and Lamborghini. For the Beerbaums, Thermal means business, a place to build their string and teach their clients plus have a semblance of family life. For both families, this Emerald City called HITS Thermal is a triple crown – competition, family and business all in one.

Enjoying the outdoors, with gorgeous sports cars adorning the grand prix arena, having lunch with friends while watching top sport horses on a sunny afternoon… There’s no place like HITS.



Conversations With Equestrians: Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum

Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum on Motherhood and Medals 
Life as an international professional rider and trainer is physically and mentally demanding. Once you’ve been #1 in the world, the pressure to keep your name at the top of that list is always at the forefront, meaning you need to stay focused, fresh and keep a solid string of talented horses. So what does this intensely competitive, first-ever #1 ranked female rider in the world, three-time World Cup FEI World Cup Champion think about adding motherhood to the mix?

Markus Beerbaum and Brianne
Photo by Cheval Photos

“I LOVE being a mom!” exclaimed Meredith without hesitation. When out of the saddle Meredith is often seen with 18-month-old Brianne in her arms. Uncharacteristic of a world champion? Apparently not so for this uniquely talented, focused and determined mother.

Since her equestrian goals still include Olympic aspirations, she and partner Markus have a plan and have considered every aspect. Already an extremely successful equestrian power couple, Meredith often mentions how Markus is a key to her success. As rewarding as her career with him at her side has been to date, and apparently continues to be, they now potentially have the ultimate reward, a family.

Becoming a mom may have changed Meredith’s perspective, but it hasn’t slowed her down — she made the German team only weeks after giving birth to Brianne in February 2010, something she hadn’t anticipated. It was “a nice surprise” and a memorable year, as Meredith competed on Checkmate in the German Championships in Munster and then headed to the states to represent Germany at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in October 2010. Her clean ride on Checkmate clenched the Gold Medal for Team Germany.

Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Kismet 50 place 4th in the 2011 $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert, Presented by Lamborghini of Newport Beach. Photo by Cheval Photos.

“I never would’ve dreamt that was possible, it is one of the highlights of my career,” said Meredith about her return to intense competition as a new mother. And the victories continued into the fall season, as she collected a World Cup Qualifier win in Lyon and the Mercedes German Masters in Stuttgart. Alll before Brianne was one.

Thermals Aren’t Needed
Hosting several indoor World Cup Qualifiers as well as outdoor grand prix events each week, the HITS Desert Winter Circuit is a destination for show jumpers from both coasts and around the world. A California native, Meredith came from Germany to spend a warm winter in the Palm Desert. Leaving the chilly winter indoor European competitions behind, Meredith and husband Markus brought baby Brianne, and a few of their up and coming mounts, out to the sunny desert. Shutterfly and Checkmate remained at home, where Meredith would return to compete in the spring.

“I’m really enjoying myself here,” Meredith said of the desert. “It’s great to be with people that I haven’t seen in awhile. I’ve received such a warm welcome and I love the weather!” The desert sunshine and palm trees are a welcome change from the cold, late night indoor winter circuits in Europe. For Meredith, Markus and Brianne, who celebrated her first birthday in February, Thermal offered sunshine and a place to call “home” for the winter. With a reasonable show schedule, they were able to have some “remnants of family life.”

Lancaster at the 2011 HITS Desert Circuit
Photo by Cheval Photos

Horses and Clients
Thermal also proved to be a good circuit for the string of horses they brought over. The good footing, indoor and outdoor grand prix schedule along with the spacious show grounds allowed for horses like Kismet 50, a 10 year old Belgian mare to move up the ranks. “Kismet’s been the second horse in Europe,” said Meredith. “This circuit is her time to step up – she’s been consistent and is a very talented mare. I have a lot of faith in this horse.”

Lancaster is a German bred gelding and another up-and-coming prospect. “We decided to keep him in the outdoor because he’s SO big, (17.2h) and he’s done really well. We are very proud of his performance out there.” The Beerbaums also brought two 8 year olds over, whom Meredith believes to be “the best young horses in the world.”

Joining the Beerbaums in the desert were professional Gaby Salick, also a mother of a young daughter, Eleanor, and students Lucy Davis, Saer Coulter and Christi Israel. Developing these riders into international contenders also influenced the decision to start the season at HITS Thermal. Seems that Lucy, who is college bound in the fall of 2011, may follow in Meredith’s footsteps. An accomplished equestrian when she met up with the Beerbaums in the summer of 2009, the uniquely focused and talented rider has excelled under their tutelage.

Directly after Lucy won four grand prix classes in a row, including the $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert, Meredith was off to Doha, Qatar to compete on the Global Champions Tour. Immediately back in form with Shutterfly, the pair was 3rd in the Grand Prix of Qatar.

The horses and the clients joined the Beerbaums in Europe this summer.

Shutterfly retires at Aachen

Brief Update
Competing in five Global Champion Tour events since spring, Meredith has earned close to 100,000 euros. She recently won the ‘Preis von Europa’ (Prize of Europe) at the prestigious CSIO 5* in Aachen, Germany on her horse of a lifetime Shutterfly. Now 18 years old, the Beerbaums decided that victory would be Shutterfly’s last and held his retirement ceremony in front of 40,000 fans before the jump off of the Grand Prix a few days later. What an amazing experience to win and then retire the world’s best horse at the world’s best show.

Thank you Meredith for your time. We wish you all the best with your continued quests and with your family. And happy retirement to ‘Petey’!


EQSOL: If you weren’t a top equestrian, what would you do?
MMB: We always laugh about how I would have gone into politics – because I attended Princeton – I love politics and I probably would have chosen that field.

EqSol: What horse would you ride if you could ride any?

MMB: Shutterfly – because he’s the best in the world.
EqSol: What’s playing on your iPod right now? 
MMB: Coldplay – I listen to them a lot. I like classical and classic rock – I also have a play list called ‘Brianna’s favorites’ – they are lullabies and songs that Jewel did for babies.EqSol: What’s your favorite movie? 
MMB: Haven’t seen many movies lately; all time favorite – probably Fried Green Tomatoes.EqSol: What is an inspiring quote or mantra that you appreciate? 
MMB: I heard someone say in a clinic once, ‘The beauty of perfection takes time’ – it’s very true. We’re always striving in this sport for perfection and it’s important to understand that it takes time.

Highlights From June 2011 Blenheim Series Wrap up

By Jackie McFarland

We’re now in the middle of the summer season, with plenty o’horse showing remaining and a fabulous fall ahead. June was chock full of fantastic competition from north to south and overseas. See below for a wrap-up of the Blenheim June Series. With an international feel on the International field the show jumping was super. Hunters were hot, with high scores and impressive handy rounds.

Finishing up four weeks right before the 4th of July gave riders, owners trainers, grooms and families a chance to celebrate independence day after four fantastic weeks in San Juan Capistrano. With over $150,000 in prize money including a $30,000 Grand Prix each weekend, Zone 10 Young Rider Selection Trials, a USHJA Hunter Derby, Zone 10 Pony Hunter Finals, Open Jumper Classics, Children’s Pony Hunter Divisions and Green Rider Equitation, the range of classes offered something for every rider, plus Hilltop VIP, Medal Club, Kids Days and two excellent exhibitor parties.

The competition is hot and the weather cool…

NAJYRC Teams Named

After several successful years at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) that played a role in producing a stellar group of young Grand Prix riders, including Karl Cook, Lucy Davis and Ricky Neal, the 2011 Zone 10 Teams consist of the west coast’s next group of solid show jumpers.

Beginning the final qualifying rounds for NAJRYC on Friday and culminating on Sunday morning, points earned were tallied from this and previous shows for the naming of the Zone 10 NAJYRC Young Rider and Junior Teams. Taking on the challenges of Linda Allen’s courses this weekend, the ten top point earners got a taste of the tracks to come later this summer at the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

Zone 10 Young Rider Team 
Faustino – Cayla Richards | Esperanto – Kendall Skreden | San Diego – Danielle Korsh
Hot Pants – Sage Flynn | ALT: Gaja 20 – Jocelyn Neff

Zone 10 Junior Team
Canasucre – Hannah Warde | Corralino – Madison Bradshaw | Ashtin’s Obsession – Killian McGrath
Union Jack – Brittany Albrecq | ALT: Pomme D’Api – Viva Hallinan

Hail the King of Hunters and His Trusty Steed
John French aboard the Holsteiner stallion Crown Affair (owned by Yellow Dog Farm) not only won one of the last qualifiers of the 2010/2011 High Performance Hunter Challenge season during May’s Ranch & Coast Classic but had a repeat performance at one of the first qualifiers for the 2011/2012 season. Thirty couples came to play on the large grass field. The challenging course built by Joe Lombardo meant high scores were few and far between but by the end, eleven of twelve pairs earned scores in the eighties and returned for the Handy Round.

The second round asked riders to pilot their hunters smoothly through an s-shaped line from fences three through five, a hand gallop towards home at fence ten directly to a trot jump at the in-gate. As often seen in the Handy Round, positions shifted as rails and riders fell. The top two horses, the aforementioned Crown Affair and Symon (owned by Alison Baileys) both ridden by one of our nation’s best John French, handled the Handy Round with style and held their positions finishing first and second.

A mix of professionals, amateurs and juniors claimed third through twelfth: Melissa Doddridge was third on Bentley and seventh aboard Delux, Hope Glynn rode Sabrina Hellman’s Woodstock to fourth, Glynn’s client Erin Bland rode her own Weatherly to fifth, Gabbi Langston was sixth on Azlan, unexpected rails down caused Jenny Karazissis and Forbes as well as Devon Gibson with Copperfield to bump down to eight and ninth, Tiffany Sullivan was tenth on her five-year-old Easy Company, a crash through a jump late in the course dropped Gretchen Lof and Shine on Me down to eleventh and Nick Haness was poised to garner a top prize on Catwalk after a gorgeous ride, when a surprise stop at the final trot jump caused a fall and the pair finished twelfth.

It’s a First First for Lane Clarke and Granville’s Casseur De Prix

As expected, course designer Linda Allen built a demanding track for the $30,000 Blenheim Classic Grand Prix presented by the Orange County Register. At the end of the round one, nine entries managed to jump without fault.

Although many seasoned equestrians were part of the mix, it was 25-year-old Australian Lane Clarke aboard Granville’s Casseur de Prix who took home the top prize by delivering the only double clear of the day.

“This is only the fourth grand prix [Granville’s Casseur de Prix] and I have done together so to come out with a win this early in our partnership is pretty amazing,” smiled Clarke. Although he navigated both the first and second round courses without fault, Clarke still recognized many difficulties posed by Allen’s design.

“Linda Allen always builds difficult and unique courses,” commented Clarke. “Track-wise, it was beautiful to look at and made a lot of sense, but it was not easy to ride clean.”

As the second duo of nine to take on the shortened track, Clarke felt the pressure of the seven entrants that were still to follow and chose an alternative path to the final fence on course, a daringly tight inside turn that resulted in a time of 48.07 and the win.

The second place team took a more conservative route. Jumping clean but going just over the 50 second jump-off time allowed, Rusty Stewart aboard the precocious seven-year-old Bristol masterfully negotiated the track but stopped the clock at 50.22 to add one time fault to their otherwise pristine performance.

Finishing third, Francie Steinwedell-Carvin and Taunus were the first to negotiate the shortened track but had a rail midway through the course ending with four faults in a time of 48.67. Steinwedell-Carvin also went clean on Twistar, but the pair struggled in the second round with a run-out, rails and then an unfortunate fall and elimination from the round, placing them ninth.

Late in the jump-off order, the master hunter rider mentioned above, John French, aboard Chawi De Laubry (owned by Mountain Home Stables) was clean as he approached the final fence on course. Riding for the win, French followed the lead of some of his fellow competitors and opted for the inside turn. The crowd groaned as the pair had a disappointing run-out, followed by a rail on the second attempt for an eighth place finish

Ups and Downs

The Blenheim EquiSports June Classics I & II were memorable for multiple reasons. With the usual ups and downs, rising hunter star Samantha Sommers, who was Champion Week I on Iwasaki & Reilly’s Small Kiss, took an unfortunate tumble in the jumper ring last week sending her shoulder into disrepair for a period. Look for an interview with Sam in an upcoming issue. We hear that Joie Gatlin, who also had an unusual dismount in the jumper ring and did a number on her knee, is doing well and will be visiting the show this week. We wish them both a speedy recovery.  On a high note, Iwasaki & Reilly’s Small Affair earned a pair of 95s in the junior hunter ring with Olivia Esse aboard. Olivia wrote a great piece about the Devon Horse Show in the June Series Week One issue.

Internationally Inspired Show Jumping
It was superb to see several countries represented in both the first round and the jump-off of the $30,000 June Classic II Grand Prix – Puerto Rico, Australia, Brazil, the United States and predominantly Mexico. Of the forty horse and rider combinations who came to play, seventeen qualified for the jump-off.

Course Designer Scott Starnes set a track to suit the range of experience in the class, which was a mix of young horses and riders to Olympic level riders. With two combinations, a few scope tests and a tight time allowed, the collective group rose to the occasion. Six couples rode without lowering the height of a jump, but incurred time faults, including American Molly Talla who stopped the clock a mere .008 seconds over the time allowed aboard Camaron Hills Quick Dollar.

“Ideally I want ten to go clean,” commented Starnes before the class commenced. “I didn’t want to over face the young ones yet still challenge the field. I’d rather more go clean than to have the course be too difficult.”

With a large and aggressive group competing in the jump-off, the top ten finishers were all double clean. First to return in the second round was Jaime Azcarraga of Mexico aboard his own Celsius. He set the pace, going clear in 43.98 and held the lead until hometown heroes Susan Hutchison and El Dorado 29’s Cantano galloped in eight entries later with a blazingly fast, clean ride over the shortened track in 41.91. Azcarraga returned on his second mount, Gangster, trying to catch Cantano and steal back the leading spot. With a time of 42.41, he beat his first horse but not Hutchison’s ending the day third and fifth. American Rusty Stewart rode Grey Fox Farm’s Bristol efficiently in 43.75, picking up fourth for their efforts. Then along came Agustin Aguayo aboard his own Pro Star de la Nutrin who delivered a clean performance in 41.33 for the win, bumping Hutchison to second.

Through an interpreter, Aguayo explained that he bought Pro Star de la Nutrin when he was a three-year-old. Now competing as an eight-year-old, this was only their second grand prix; the first was in Jalapa (Mexico). Competing here at Blenheim for the next two weeks, the team will return to Mexico for the Pan Am Trials later this summer.

The thrills and spills kept spectators engaged from beginning to end. Salvador Onate lost both his stirrups halfway through the course and impressively still managed to ride without fault, qualifying for the jump-off on Paldatus. While Francois Esteves was almost jumped off by ET 14 Mercedes Benz in round one, Luis Alejandro Plasencia did part ways with Dante at the final fence of the jump-off.

Internationally speaking, the final placings included two Mexican riders and two American riders in the top four, with Australians Harley Brown and Lane Clarke as well as Puerto Rico representative Mark Watring, who all compete actively in California, in the top twelve. Overall ten of the top twelve ribbons went to international riders.

Another International Heyday
An impressive field of thirty-eight horse and rider combinations representing five countries ventured onto the Blenheim International Field for the $30,000 June Classic III Grand Prix, presented by the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort. Course designer Pierre Jolicoeur set a fair but challenging track, posing questions that kept riders on their toes (and in their heels). After a tough first round, only eight duos managed to ride without fault and earn a ticket to the jump-off. While the second round had several solid attempts, the well-seasoned Olympian Antonio Maurer of Mexico masterfully navigated the shortened track to secure the win aboard Francisco Del Rio’s Callao.

“In the jump-off I was fast, but not crazy fast,” said Maurer following his victory gallop. “I’m working my horse back up and this is only his second grand prix after being off for a year. He was double clear in last week’s grand prix and he won today; I couldn’t be happier.”

In addition to being pleased with his mount, Maurer complimented Jolicouer’s course.

“Pierre built a fair track,” noted Maurer. “There were technical questions and elements of rideability but it was designed very fair and very smart. The time was a bit of a factor for some but the field was actually very balanced.”

As the first to jump clean in round one, Brazilian Francois Esteves christened the shortened track aboard his own E.T. 14 Mercedes Benz, setting the stage for his fellow competitors with a clean ride in a time of 38.11 seconds, ultimately finishing fifth. Maurer galloped onto the grass next and shaved 1.37 seconds off, stopping the clock clean in 36.74, taking the lead. Continuing the double clear rounds, Australian Harley Brown and his talented World Cup horse Cassiato (owned by Oak Park Group, LLC) earned third place honors for their neat and clean 37.42 effort. Salvador Onate of Mexico aboard Paldatus was close to catching Maurer, stopping the clock in 36.94, just two tenths of a second shy of taking over the top spot, and finished in the second position. Jaime Azcarraga and Celsius picked up an unfortunate four faults at the second fence in the second round, finishing seventh.

Next in the order of go was nineteen-year-old Tina DiLandri and Avargo. The only American to advance to the second round, DiLandri laid down a stellar performance, leaving all the rails untouched in 37.55 seconds to earn fourth place in a difficult field.

Although eight riders managed to navigate Jolicoeur’s first round course without fault, many more racked up faults by exceeding the 81-second time allowed, dislodging rails or both. “I tried to build the course so it catered to the rider and was safe for the horse,” said Jolicoeur. “The jumps were not huge but some of the elements were technical and presented decisions. There were many areas on the course where riders could pick up the pace and it was left up to them to do it.”

International Fireworks on the Field

Perfect weather during the start of the Fourth of July weekend greeted the thirty-four horse and rider pairs at the Blenheim International Field for the $30,000 Red, White & Blue Grand Prix. Course designer Anderson Lima of Brazil set a technical track with sixteen efforts as well as a tight time allowed. Six pairs successfully rode without fault in the first round, four going double clear. Mexican rider Salvador Onate aboard Charro balanced speed and precision to secure the victory.

Going twenty-ninth in the order, Onate had the advantage of seeing the track. “When I was walking the course, I thought it would be a difficult run to make a clear round,” Onate said. “I had to focus on the strides, because there were many options. I had the opportunity of watching a couple of riders do it, and then I took my options.”

The second pair to attempt the course, last week’s grand prix winners Antonio Maurer and Callao (owned by Francisco del Rio) were the first fault-free pair, and remained the only clean until Susan Hutchison and El Dorado 29’s Cantano blazed through the course without fault at almost ten seconds under the time allowed. The crowd roared, animated by her tempo and the guarantee of a jump-off.

Lane Clarke and Granville’s Casseur de Prix (owned by Granville Equine), winners of the first grand prix in the Blenheim June Series, received a hearty welcome from the crowd. Though they had no jumping faults and appeared to have a good pace, the pair finished with a heartbreaking time fault when they stopped the clock just three-tenths of a second over the time allowed.

The tight turn to the CardFlex jump, fence six of the first round, was a trouble spot for many of the riders. Fences 11b and 11c of the second combination on the course also caused multiple jumping faults. Regarding Lima’s design, his first in California, Onate commented, “I liked the course a lot. Lima designed a great course, and I hope he comes back next year.”

With a smile Onate added, “This is my first year here and hopefully I can come back, too.”

Antonio Maurer returned on his second of three mounts, Francisco del Rio’s As Hyo Hugo, and turned in a beautiful clean round. Immediately following Maurer, Duncan McFarlane on Simone Coxe’s Mr. Whoopy navigated the course without fault to join the jump-off group.

A dozen entries, beset with refusals, eliminations and jumping faults, went before up-and-coming grand prix rider Tina DiLandri aboard Avargo finished the first round clean. It was DiLandri’s second mount, and they were the twenty-seventh pair to gallop on the field. There were now five duos to return. Salvador Onate and Charro entered the ring as DiLandri exited, turning in a fantastic clear round just under the time allowed and then there were six coming back.

Maurer and Callao returned to the ring and finished with a double clear round in a quick 39.012. Hutchison and Cantano raced around the course, and even managed to kick it up a notch during the long gallop to the final jump. Though they appeared to jump it clear, a rail fell as they landed and the pair ended with four jumping faults.

Duncan McFarlane and Mr. Whoopy attempted the course next, and though they seemed to have the speed to challenge Maurer, they dropped a rail at the penultimate obstacle and finished with four faults.

Maurer piloting As Hyo Hugo followed McFarlane and turned in another double clear performance, but Maurer’s more conservative approach to the track ended with a time of 40.575. Tina DiLandri and Avargo also turned in a double clear round in 40.220 and were sitting in second place as the final couple of Salvador Onate and Charro entered the ring.

The crowd grew silent as Onate and Charro cleared each obstacle, and when the time of 38.774 was announced, the stands erupted – the duo had won the grand prix by less than one second.

Exhibitor Evenings

Blenheim EquiSports and Equ Lifestyle Magazine hosted not-to-be-missed social occasions. Guests enjoyed food and fun while searching for hidden ‘treasures’ at San Juan Capistrano’s Vintage Steakhouse at the Great Train Robbery party. The following week competitors enjoyed an evening at the lovely Arden Cottage at Blenheim Farms. Located only a short stroll or golf cart ride away, it was truly an ideal location for unwinding, appetizing and socializing. The social calendar continues in late July through August with an innovative mix of events from Mardi Gras to Casino Nights and more.

BBQ & Go Horseless
Kids of all sizes had a fun and competitive day During Blenheim June III. On Saturday everyone enjoyed a post Zone 10 Pony Finals BBQ in the afternoon as well as a JustWorld International Horseless Horse Show. What could be better than supporting a great cause while having a great time?

Show Jumping Around the World

By Jennifer Wood

South Africa
During a recent visit to South Africa, I saw the sport of show jumping in a new light and the future looks bright, albeit challenging. I was in the Karkloof region in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, home to the Karkloof Polo Club. Since polo is a popular equestrian sport in the country, and as we all know with polo comes large green grass fields, Karkloof has the ideal setting for our sport. Only six hours southeast of the hot spot of Johannesburg, Karkloof will have clout in years to come. Riders as well are coming along, influenced by the horses they buy and the clinics they host. However South Africans have their own set of equestrian challenges.

Introducing Karkloof
Set amid the rolling green hills and forests the new horse show grounds at the Karkloof Polo Club are an equestrian’s dream.

Founded in 1886, Karkloof is one of the oldest polo clubs in the country. The first dragoons* – British Army regiments – played polo at Karkloof as part of their training. Guy Benson, a prominent horseman in the area, provided a bit of the story. “In the Zulu War period, polo was a pretty strong Army based sport. A lot of officers had to perform on the polo grounds. There were four famous brothers who lived in the Karkloof Mountains called the Shores. They were undefeated. Teams used to come out from England and challenge them and couldn’t beat them.” *from Wikipedia: The word dragoon originally meant mounted infantry, who were trained in horse riding as well as infantry fighting skills.

Benson’s father, Mike, is a well-known local farmer and a key figure at the Karkloof Polo Club, continuing to play an integral role in the club’s vitality. Guy and his wife Jenni have their own warmblood breeding farm just down the road.

“My father’s vision has always been that it’s not just a polo facility, that it should be a multi-discipline equestrian facility,” Guy noted.

In the last 10 years, the Karkloof Polo Club has expanded from one field to four, allowing more space to host a variety of equestrian events. While there is room for improvement and plans for more infrastructure, it’s a solid start for the equestrian facility Benson envisions. Along with the recent addition of show jumping, Karkloof hosts the Spurwing Horse Trials, a three-star event and in 2010 a qualifier for South African eventers for the World Equestrian Games.

Historically, the horse show that included a World Cup qualifier was held at the Royal Agricultural Show in downtown Pietermaritzburg, the capital of the KwaZulu-Natal province. Like many urban horse shows, it has gone by the wayside due to encroaching city buildings and lack of financial support to invest in quality stabling and footing.

Rogan Asken, a rider and trainer from Johannesburg about six hours to the north, stated, “Equestrian sport has become so specialized that we didn’t find the Royal Show facilities good enough. There was a resistance to going back there. Eventually they took out the equestrian section of the Royal Show. This will be the replacement show.”

This was the first time that a World Cup jumping qualifier was coming to Karkloof, but due to unseasonal rain, the high-end class had to be cancelled. The show still hosted jumper classes for pony, junior, amateur and open jumpers, up to 1.40M.

Asken said, “I think it was a year too soon to hold a high level event here. They needed to let the arena mature. If they hadn’t had rain, they would have just gotten away with this arena. The rain kiboshed the arena a bit. But the facility is ideal. There’s loads of space, and normally the weather is really good.”

Outside Influence
The majority of show jumping sport is centered around Johannesburg, which is in the Gauteng Province and northwest of the Karkloof Polo Club. Asken explained, “There’s a massive population there and unbelievably good weather. There are a high number of people with large disposable incomes. In a five kilometer (three mile) radius from us, there are about eight big stable yards ranging from 120 horses down to 40. It’s massive and there are horses everywhere. It’s a bit like North Germany; every time you turn a corner, there’s a horse in a field.”

Asken compared the rise of show jumping in South Africa to that of the United States over the past few decades. “We did a very similar thing to America. We used to ride thoroughbreds off the racetrack. And then the warmblood sport horses have filtered in. The American style suited our style of riding; that forward, galloping riding on hot horses. Now we’re having to learn a little more European style like the Americans, a little more upright, more collection, more training,” he noted. “We’ve got quite a strong American influence because of our equitation system, which was loosely based on the American equitation system. We’ve had Kathy Kusner give clinics twice, we’ve had George Morris three or four times. We’ve had exposure to some very nice American trainers, and their impact when they come to us is enormous and highly valued. It’s a real treat.”

Perception & Participation
From an outsider’s viewpoint, race relations in South Africa is the most discussed topic in the country, and that extends to sports. Black Africans make up approximately 80% of the 50 million people who live there. Asken acknowledged that equestrian sport participants are predominantly white.

“The only downside (to the growth of the sport) is that we’re not attracting enough people of color yet,” he said. “It’s sadly not a high profile sport in the black population. We’d love to have much, much more black participation.”

Along with changing perceptions, equestrians in South Africa must also face other big obstacles, such as African Horse Sickness, extended quarantine times, and the expense of traveling outside of the country. Like riders in the United States, the grand prix level riders feel that they must also travel to Europe to stay at the top.

Asken pointed out, “I think the only way we’ll ever really be featured on the world stage is if we own a base. Southern Africa has got to somehow secure a base in Europe and allow young riders and horses there to get international experience. We’ve got to get in the deep end. There’s no point thinking you can prepare in South Africa for international competition. You see the Americans going over to compete in Europe. If they have to do it, how much more do we have to do it?”

Certainly a beautiful place with loads of opportunity to enjoy the sport, South Africans are embracing the high-end aspect more and more. As the pictures below illustrate, my trip was beyond amazing. It was also fascinating to see the horse world through South African eyes.

Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Nationals 2011

Ducky Days Require More Than Luck

Forty-five years ago an 18-year-old sophomore at Fairleigh Dickerson University, named Bob Cacchione, began IHSA with the help of his professor, Jack Fritz. Since its inception, the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) has expanded from only two competing colleges to now over 375 colleges. Today, IHSA contains 36 regions in eight zones and there are more than 6,000 students that compete in Hunter Seat Equitation.

With the altruistic goal of allowing any college student the chance to ride and compete regardless of their financial position, IHSA essentially cuts out almost all the expense yet still makes competition possible. Regardless of past riding experience, IHSA participants can learn as well as compete in hunt-seat, with classes ranging from walk/trot and Open Equitation divisions to the prestigious Cacchione Cup.

The ultimate goal for the individual as well as a team is to make it to the coveted IHSA Nationals. There is a multi-layered process to achieving that goal. Within each region, schools compete against each other for the high point team position. Also students can compete as individuals for the high point individual position. During the region shows, student and teams accumulate points to compete in the Region Finals. The top three riders at the Region Finals then continue on to the Zone Finals. Then the top two riders at the Zone Finals advance on to IHSA Nationals. The Cacchione Cup is awarded each year to an individual at the IHSA Nationals. Judged as a two-phase class (over fences and flat), the top riders compete in a work-off determined by the judges.

Laura Thompson: A Brief Intro
A recent graduate of Averett University, I am lucky enough to have my own horses yet I also participated in the IDA program at school. IDA is similar to IHSA for the discipline of dressage. I was on the team for three years.

Just like IHSA, the purpose of competing on the IDA team is to make it to the Nationals each year. One of my most memorable college experiences was climbing the IDA ladder and making it to the top. After a successful show season my freshman year, I ended up Region Reserve Champion and made it to the IDA Nationals in Findlay, Ohio. It was both exciting and intense to attend Nationals my first year. All the planets aligned on that Sunday of the Individual Competition and I won!

During my second year at Averett University I became a captain for the IDA team and competed at Upper Training level. Once again, after numerous successful shows, I ended the regular show season as Regional Reserve Champion. Again I was on my way to the 2010 IDA Nationals, this time held in Laurinburg, NC. Competing against the top twelve riders in the nation, I was lucky enough to draw a horse that I was familiar with. Although I ended up third, the experience was just as fantastic as when I won.

Competing at Nationals is an earned honor. As with any rider, I had my ups and downs at some shows, but was able to pull through two years in a row and will always treasure my Intercollegiate National show memories.

IHSA Nationals: Ducks and Don’ts
One of the unique things about the intercollegiate team experience is the horse draw process. Riders do not bring their own horses to compete; rather they draw from a pool of rubber ducks and the horse with the corresponding number on the bottom of the duck is the one they will ride. This is a defining moment for some riders and a big question for others.

Unlike the Intercollegiate Dressage Association which allows their riders a ten minute warm up before entering the show ring, IHSA riders mount their horses and enter the show ring without any warm up. Pre-duck drawing, riders can prepare by watching the horses warm up in the show arena before the show begins for the day. A competing horse list is available with horse’s name, school, height, color, gender, whether spurs are needed and brief notes. No competing student is allowed to ride a horse in the group warm up to ensure that they do not get an advantage of riding their possible mount before their class.

Cacchione Cup 2011: Cohen, Wakeman and Jacobs
With 36 entries, the 2011 Cacchione Cup was the largest in the forty plus year history of the class. The horse draw was a bit crowded; the usual number gathered to duck delegation is nine to sixteen so the Cacchione contenders more than doubled the norm.

Former California equestrian star Shelby Wakeman, one of the numerous successful Karen Healey students, was among this select group. Now a senior at NYU, Wakeman went late in the jumping phase and earned an 86, the top score of the class. After the flat phase, only 0.75 separated the top three riders: Marissa Cohen, a senior from Centenary College, Shelby Wakeman and Rob Jacobs, a senior from St. Andrews. The next morning the three worked-off and Wakeman finished second to Cohen and Jacobs finished third. Wakeman was the most experienced of the three, Cohen had moved up from the Intermediate Level over her college years and Jacobs credits the staff from St. Andrews as his only real trainers, as he did not ride much before attending college. Although each rider illustrated skill, poise and catch-riding capability, Jacobs epitomizes the IHSA way: Learning to ride and achieving the values and rewards of high competitive goals without owning a horse.

The Reserve Champion ribbon Wakeman earned marked the first time a rider from New York University had ever placed as high as second at IHSA Nationals.