Splendid Spring

From Blenheim Spring to royal weddings to Rolex events running simultaneously, equestrian sport excelled this season. Grand prix praise, high performance hunting and jumping, Americans in Germany and in Kentucky competing for high stakes, third-world charitable efforts, the Simpsons and more inside this edition of our e-news.

The super spring season continues in California at the Del Mar Horsepark in May with the Ranch & Coast Classic, offering the $50,000 Grand Prix of California and another $10,000 USHJA High Performance Hunter Challenge. Socially splendid, Friday includes a repeat of last year’s outstanding exhibitor Tango Party and the kids can play and bounce at Kids Day on Grand Prix Day, Saturday May 14th.

More spring happenings on the east coast include the 2011 IHSA Nationals and two weeks of Kentucky Spring at the fabulous Kentucky Horse Park. Plus the historic Devon Horse Show & Fair welcomes top horses and riders from around the country late in May.

Santana Stables is seeking an “A” level show jumping rider, with American citizenship and fluent in Portuguese, to join their team. To learn more, visit the Santana site and click News.
The Spring Series is the beginning of a nine-month season of sensational shows in southern California. Blenheim EquiSports produces over twenty events highlighting every division from short stirrup and green rider to high performance hunter and show jumping challenges.

With a full calendar of classes, the three week series featured $130,000 in Grand Prix prize money, $40,000 in 1.35m Jumper Classics and a $10,000 USHJA High Performance Hunter Challenge.

What a great way to kick-off spring with three weeks of excellent events. From the competitors, owners, trainers, grooms, braiders, shippers to everyone on staff, Blenheim is truly grateful to all who contribute to the success of our horse shows.

Twelve horse and rider teams raced against the clock in the $20,000 1.35M Jumper Classic jump-off on Saturday afternoon April 2nd. And on Sunday three Californian show jumping veterans and one Aussie battled it out in $40,000 Orange County Register Grand Prix.

Richard Jeffery tested the 47 entrants, both amateurs and professionals alike, with his challenging track including multiple combinations, a water element with a rail as well as a skinny jump in the $20,000 1.35m Jumper Classic.

While a dozen horses managed to secure a place in the jump-off, it was Canada’s Carla Diewert and her mount Vaquero who secured the win by laying down the fastest of six double-clear rounds in 35.92. Second place went to Francie Steinwedell-Carvin aboard Twistar (owned by Prentiss Partners) who stopped the clock just over a half a second slower (36.45), just missing the top time. Riding Utopia La Cantera, John Perez cruised around the shortened track in 37.79 to round out the top three.

Twenty-seven horse and rider participated in the $40,000 Orange County Register Grand Prix on Sunday of Week One. Designed with the larger purse in mind, the Richard Jeffery course proved challenging as only four riders piloted their mounts without fault. First to go Lane Clarke aboard Granville’s Casseur De Prix (owned by Granville Equine) and fourth in the ring, Hansen and Archie Bunker were fault-free. Not until the twenty-third pair negotiated the first round course, Hutchison and Cantano (owned by El Dorado 29), and then a few horses later, the clever nine-year-old Bristol (owned by Grey Fox Farms) with Rusty Stewart in the irons, made it four clean.

With the disadvantage of being the first duo to take the shortened track, Clarke and Granville’s Casseur De Prix needed a quick time and a clean ride to put the pressure on the three pursuing competitors, who were all solid veterans of the sport. Clarke lowered the height of one fence midway through to pick up four faults, a time of 35.60 and the third place ribbon. Hap Hansen and the athletic Archie Bunker (owned by Linda Smith) set the second round stage by laying down a double-clear performance in 39.72. But Susie Hutchison and Cantano were hot on their heels and effortlessly flew around the shortened track in 34.95. Stewart and his young partner Bristol also lowered the height of one fence midway through the second round, crossing the timers in 37.71 seconds for a fourth place finish.

This week fifty entries galloped onto the grass for the Friday’s 1.35M Jumper Classic. Canadian course designer Peter Holmes built a welcoming track, challenging enough but not overly technical. Although rails and refusals occurred on course, fifteen pairs negotiated the course without fault. Clean rides were sporadic initially until the thirty-second horse on course galloped in. Joie Gatlin and Odyssey, a pair that often is seen blazing around a jump-off, started a streak of seven clean rounds in a row.

Setting the pace early on, Saree Gordon aboard Tomboy Farm’s Olana were the first team to return. They cruised around clean in 44.21, holding the top spot for several horses, but ultimately finishing third. Speed demons Gatlin and Odyssey, took the lead by shaving off just under a second, stopping the clock at 43.37. With two rides in the second round, Canadian Brian Morton mastered his plan by the time he galloped in on Spitfire. Edging out Gatlin, Morton managed to cross the timers in 42.32 for the win, pushing Gatlin to the second place position.

A large field of forty-seven horse and rider combinations competed in the $40,000 Spring Classic II Grand Prix at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park on a cool April afternoon. Course Designer Holmes tested riders technically with distance as well as time-allowed challenges, causing an abundance of jumping and time faults across the board. Despite the difficulties, ten riders managed clean, workmanlike rides around the first round track.

While 19-year-old Saer Coulter and her partner Springtime (owned by Copernicus Stables) appeared unbeatable with their blazingly fast ride over the shortened track, veteran Susan Hutchison and her partner Cantano delivered an exciting performance to edge out Coulter for their second grand prix win in two weeks.

“I’ve never gone that fast before, so it’s nice to know [my horse and I] have the ability,” exclaimed Coulter. “I was confident with my jump-off ride but I knew if anybody was going to go quicker, it would be Susie.”

Indeed feeling the pressure from Coulter’s double-clear, 41.39 performance, Hutchison masterfully piloted Cantano around the shortened track in 40.20 seconds, shaving over a second off the young rider’s time.

“When Saer did the eight strides from the vertical to the oxer, that cinched it for me,” commented Hutchison. “I knew the eight had to be done for the win and luckily [Cantano] was right there with me.”

It was a good Friday for junior rider Morgan Geller as she topped an impressive field of 44 entries in the $10,000 USHJA International High Performance Hunter Challenge during week three of the Blenheim Spring Series. And the junior rider reign did not end there. On Saturday, hotshot high school senior Lucy Davis fired around the jump-offs, claiming the top prizes in both the $10,000 1.35m Jumper Classic and the $50,000 Royal Champion Grand Prix.

With a very inviting first round for the High Performance Hunters, course designer Scott Starnes offered several options for riders to illustrate style, manner and flow. The thirteen who returned for the Handy Round all scored in the eighties or above. Amongst a group of eleven riders (John French rode three of the thirteen horses) four junior riders made the cut, Destry Spielberg and Rumba, Whitney Downs on Coffeetalk, Samantha Sommers aboard Small Kiss and Morgan Geller riding Fabricio. The Handy Round included a tall white coop as fence one, a very tidy turn to an oxer at fence two, a jump out of the field at fence five and back in again as fence nine plus a hand gallop to the final jump. Rails, refusals and circles ensued for quite a few including 2010 Champions Parker and Katie Gardner, who had won the first round. Of those who mastered the handy aspect, Geller and her mount Fabricio earned scores in the nineties plus bonus and handy points for the win.

Saturday was stellar weather-wise and otherwise at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park. Olaf Petersen, Jr. designed some of his trademark courses, technically challenging with a tight time allowed. Thirty-three horse and rider combinations galloped on to the International Field for the $10,000 1.35m Jumper Classic with seven going fault-free. Lucy Davis riding Old Oak Farm’s Hannah turned in the fastest double-clean ride in 34.04 for the win, just ahead of barn mate Saer Coulter on Asgard 17 (owned by Copernicus Stables) with 34.94. Also close but not close enough were veterans Mandy Porter on Pacifica Riding Club’s Eastwood and Susie Hutchison on SIG International’s Sig Feng Shui who stopped the clock at 35.20 and 35.38 respectively finishing third and fourth.

Thirty more horse and rider couples competed for prizes in the late afternoon $50,000 Royal Champion Grand Prix. Again course designer Olaf Petersen, Jr. asked multiple questions and gave a precious amount of time to answer them. One tenth of those who attempted were clean – Canadian Samantha Buirs on Total Touch, American Lucy Davis on Nemo 119 and Australian Harley Brown on Angelli.

Second to go in round one and returning first in the twisty eight fence shortened course, Buirs rode Total Touch without touching a rail. Her turns were tight and she galloped where she could, truly setting the pace at 50.92 for the other two competitors. “I wanted to go clean and give Lucy something to run for,” the young Canadian explained.

And run she did, as Davis and Nemo 119 had a very forward pace and even with a bit of a slip in the final rollback turn, crossed the timers in 49.44. “I watched Sam go. She was very fast. I felt I had been a bit slow early on so I picked up the pace. Then I couldn’t get him back so I had to leave one out,” said Davis of her ride. Both girls agreed the course was thoughtful, technical and certainly challenging.

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