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!

Highlights From June 2011 Kentucky Spring Classic Horse Show

Kentucky Springs into Action

From ponies to prix, the Kentucky Spring Classic Horse Shows open the hunter/jumper season at the WEG renowned Kentucky Horse Park. Certainly a beautiful and spacious place to compete, the two weeks boasted over $185,000 in prize money with an evening Hunter Derby, two classes in the Hagyard Challenge Series and two Grand Prix events.

The Rolex stadium’s Sheila B. Johnson arena hosts the highlight events, welcoming some of the top names in the sport including Team Millar of Canada – Ian, Amy and Jonathon, Kent Farrington, Margie Engle, Rebecca Hofmann Conway and Argentina’s Hector Florentino. The USHJA International Hunter Derby twinkled with hunter stars, Jennifer Alfano, Scott Stewart and from the junior ranks, Victoria Colvin, just to mention a few. As well, California’s Hannah Goodson-Cutt ruled the Junior Hunter ring.

This expansive facility invites park and museum visitors, events and several governing bodies year-round. Seeking to continue the tradition of equestrian excellence, the host of the world-renowned Rolex 3-Day Event annually in April will now welcome the once world famous National Horse Show in November.


Photos by Alexandra Pingree and Duncan McFarland

Painting the WEG Picture

By Whitney Campbell and Jackie McFarland

After years of hoping, bidding, planning and building, the Kentucky Horse Park gates officially closed for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, yet the economical and reputable impact the city and state experienced during the 16 days of competition still lingers. Hosted in the United States for the first time, the city and state lived up to its reputation as the acclaimed ‘Horse Capital of the World’ when hosting this international equine event. The 16 days of grueling competition included eight different disciplines of equestrian sport, challenging 632 athletes and 752 horses from 58 countries for their chance of a WEG 2010 Medal. Competition aside, from the extensive Alltech experience, fabulously painted horses, shopping galore to the demonstrations throughout the facility, the amount of attractions available for visitors was abundant.

And for Openers…
The theme of the Opening Ceremonies was based around the athleticism, versatility, spirit, and the partnership between man and horse. Spectators enjoyed demonstrations and performances by racehorses, a Friesian Dressage Drill Team, Saddlebreds and many other equestrian entertainers. The traditional parade of athletes included all 58 competing countries. Midway through the ceremonies, FEI President HRH Princess Haya declared the official Opening of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games by commenting, “For the first time, the World Equestrian Games have crossed an ocean to bring the best of our sport to another continent. We are witnessing a new beginning that will help spread the magic of horse sport and inspire young equestrian athletes to aim for the top.”

Reining in its Second WEG
Before the evening’s Opening Ceremonies, Reining, the only competing discipline that originated in the United States, was underway. Since Reining was added as a discipline at the 2006 World Equestrian Games, it has opened the doors for a broader and more diverse horse culture to participate at the Games. Judged on the athletic ability of a western type horse in a show arena, the format of competition at the games involves two days of Team Competition, a Qualifying Competition, and finally an Individual Final Competition. The team made up of Tim McQuay, Craig Schmersal, Tom McCutcheon and Shawn Flarida along with their talented quarter horses won the Team Gold. There was an unfortunate turn of events in the Individuals for Gold Medal favorite Shawn Flarida when his stirrup broke during one of his movements, resulting his hand touching the saddle and an immediate five point deduction from each judge. However his teammates Tom McCutcheon and Craig Schmersal were still able to clinch the Gold and Silver Medals in Individual Reining.

Enduring Sport
The second day of the Games held the longest continuous competition of all eight disciplines, Endurance. The 100 miles race against the clock through open terrain, trails, roads, and bridges involved five required compulsory stops for veterinarians to check the horses’ fitness and they had to pass in order to continue. The horse and rider duo that not only passes each check but then finish the fastest after the five segments wins the Gold. Out of 100 competitors, only 55 completed the entire race. Those who did finish returned the next day for the Best Conditioned Judging. This discipline separates itself from the rest not only for the longest time spent in the saddle in one ‘sitting’, but because it involves competitors from all realms of horse society. From small town trail riding housewives turned pro, to Sheiks born into the sport, once on horseback they share the same goal and the same passion for their equine partner. Having just given birth to a baby girl seven weeks earlier, French Endurance rider Maria Mercedes Alvarez Ponton on her fabulous horse Nobby defended their title for the Gold.

All the Moves
The fundamental training to many equestrian disciplines, the Dressage competition spanned over four days. According to the FEI Rules, Dressage is “the development of the horse into a happy athlete through harmonious education. As a result, it makes the horse calm, supple, loose and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with his rider”. Beginning with the Team Grand Prix, horse and rider from each team perform the same test, a combination of movements and gaits, designed to demonstrate the level of achievement of those qualities described above. Each team member is scored individually, and then added together for a final score in which the best scores determine medal placing. The Grand Prix Special follows team competition and is the Individual Competition complement to the previous day’s tests. Following the same format, horse and rider are judged and the pair with the highest score wins. The most anticipated and attended event in Dressage is the Grand Prix Freestyle Competition. Each rider designs and choreographs an original test incorporating music using the same movements required in the regular Grand Prix test. Often labeled dancing with hooves, this event shows off individual talents and creativity. In the Individual competition, the successful team of Steffen Peters and Ravel were the first United States Team members to earn a medal, Bronze, in a World Championship in both the Grand Prix Special and Freestyle.

A Combination of Grace and Guts
A true test that challenges a horse’s grace, endurance, precision, and overall athleticism is the Three Day Event, or Eventing, competition. Horse and rider compete in three different phases over three days involving Dressage, Cross Country, and finally Stadium Jumping. Those who score well in the Dressage test and refrain from adding time or faults to their score from cross country or stadium will likely find themselves in medal contention. The Cross Country phase of Eventing is always a crowd pleaser due to the large spectator viewing areas and the intensity of the solid obstacles on the course. This particular day at the Games brought in the most spectators, topping off at 50,818 attendees. After the Stadium phase, the German rider who started off with the lowest Dressage score, Michael Jung managed to add no time or jumping faults to that first day score claiming the Gold Medal, while 2010 Rolex Three Day Event defending champion British rider William Fox-Pitt settled for Silver.

The World’s Highest Jumping Athletes
Show Jumping challenges the horse and rider’s stamina, speed, agility, scope and precision. Over the course of several competitions Monday through Saturday (with Thursday as a day off), the rider finishing with the least number of penalties earned the Gold. Beginning with the Speed Competition, more than 120 horses and riders representing 27 countries competed on courses designed with a variety of Kentucky themes from horse racing and breeding farms to products and culture. The Americans looked promising taking the top two spots after the first day of competition but it was the German’s who took home the overall Team Gold Medal after Wednesday evening’s top 10 Team Final competition. The 30 riders with the lowest scores returned for the Individual Round on Friday.

The exciting week of show jumping culminated with the top four riders, those with the lowest scores from the week, competing on Saturday evening for the Rolex Final Four. Making it to the Final Four from a talented pool of 121 riders is quite an accomplishment and an exhibition of a great partnership with a horse. This was the first year the Games had four riders from four different continents, Philippe Le Jeune of Belgium, Eric Lamaze of Canada, Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil and Abdullah Al Sharbatly of Saudi Arabia. Each rider began their first round on course aboard their own mounts. Given the option to change only one piece of tack, and a maximum of three minutes to acclimate to the new partner, it was time for riders to display true horsemanship as they attempted the same course on each of the other rider’s mounts. Each horse and rider combination went clean in two of the four rounds. However the end result, and the only rider to jump clean all four rounds, was Belgium’s Philippe Le Jeune taking home the Gold Medal. And after five days of competition, the only horse to jump all four rounds of the Final Four clean was Lamaze’s mount Hickstead. The 14-year-old stallion was awarded Best Horse Honors for his amazing efforts.

For the first time
Amongst the multiple sessions of Show Jumping in the outdoor stadium, the Para Dressage, Vaulting and Driving disciplines also competed in outdoor and indoor facilities at the Kentucky Horse Park. The 2010 World Equestrian Games marked the first time riders with physical disabilities had the opportunity to contest their equestrian abilities while competing amongst the world’s best competitors. Participating riders were asked to complete tests involving specific movements typically seen in Dressage and also competed for individual and freestyle medals. Several countries were represented in the final results, but Great Britain and Germany were tops. British rider Sophie Wells on Pinnochio won Gold in the grade IV Individuals and the British Team were also Gold Medal winners. German rider Hannelore Brenner riding Women of the World took the Gold medal in the grade III.

Mounts and Dismounts Required
Performing gymnastics and elements of dance to music while balancing on horse cantering in a circle is certainly high-level gymnastics. In Compulsory, Freestyle and Team Competitions, vaulters are judged and scored on technique, form, difficulty, balance, security as well as consideration of the horse and the performance of designated exercises or movements. In addition, it is the only discipline holding separate competitions for males and females both in Compulsory and Freestyle Vaulting. The US Team of Devon Maitozo, Blake Dahlgren, Mary Garrett, Emily Hogye, Mari Inouye, Rosalind Ross, and Annalise VanVranken along with their horse Palantino lunged by Carolyn Bland won Gold in this event.

Horse and man partnership comes into play in the Combined Driving Event where each driver drives a team of four horses through three separate competitions. Driven Dressage requires the same test for all competitors and like ridden Dressage, is judged on the agility and movement of the horses. The 18-kilometer marathon challenges competitors across country, similar to Eventing’s Cross Country, tests the fitness, judgment, and horsemanship of the driver. The Obstacle-Cone competition is the final phase of competition where the Driver is required to drive his team through twist and bends without incurring faults. Lowest total score again determined the medals and the US Team of Chester Weber, Tucker Johnson, James Fairclough, and their fabulous teams of horse earned a Silver Medal, whereas American Tucker Johnson brought home an Individual Bronze. After driving competitively for a quarter of a century, Johnson is retiring from competition on a great note.

And there’s more…
Those who visited the Kentucky Horse Park on a general admission pass could easily fill the day with exhibits and events covering the park grounds. The trade shows offered high quality equestrian goods from apparel to tack and everything else horse, from artists to vacations.

The Equine Village provided guests the opportunity to meet breed and discipline registries as well as clinicians and other horsemanship organizations. There were daily demonstrations and clinics where several top competitors exhibited their talents and skills to spectators. The Kentucky Experience gave visitors from across the globe and even local guests the chance to see what Kentucky offers, from music, food, art, and recreation to of course the horse. The title sponsor, Alltech, created the Alltech Experience, a sprawling set-up with innovative rooms illustrating all the ways the company approached nutrition, health and performance. And that was just in the front, out back was a beer garden, areas devoted to kids, with animals of all kinds visiting from the Newport Aquarium, painted horses galore, music and more. Plus the permanent structures and exhibits at the park include several museums, a stable of breeds and several association headquarters.

Every aspect of the Kentucky Horse Park, especially hosting the magnanimous WEG is geared toward one purpose: to bring the world the majesty of the horse. Attracting the equestrian world to Lexington was a feat, and not without challenges, but certainly memorable for many. The World Equestrian Games showcased the athletes, both human and horse. The largest sporting event to come to the United States since the 2002 Winter Olympics, the 2010 WEG tallied a total of 507,022 in attendance by the final day. Hats off to the state of Kentucky who hosted an all-encompassing event that truly put the horse on a pedestal.


EquestriSol News: May 18, 2010

We Bring You La Baule
As we cruise into summer there are some big events to set our sights on. We have some fabulous content coming in the newsletter that embraces the best from Blenheim, happenings at the Kentucky Horse Park, and stories from our US riders over in Europe.

We wish we could be everywhere as we are passionate about bringing you the stories of the horses, the riders and the events that satisfy our competitive cravings. We will continue to try.

The first leg of the European Tours has commenced, beginning last week with the CSIO5* in La Baule, France. McLain Ward, Beezie Madden, Lauren Hough. Richard Spooner, Mario Deslauriers and Hilary Dobbs all competed.

About La Baule:
Although the first show was held in 1931, it was not until 1960 that La Baule was granted “official show” status by the FEI. In 2002, La Baule joined the FEI Nations Cup Series. There were three key events the MEYDAN FEI Nations Cup (Friday, May 15th), The Derby Meeting of the Pays de La Loire (Saturday, May 16th) and the Grand Prix Longines of La Baule (Sunday, May 17th). The courses were designed by Frederic Cottier. The United States and France were the favorites in the Nations Cup and both went into the second round with a total of four penalties. Richard Spooner jumped two clean rounds on Cristallo, with his second clear putting the pressure on France. Mario Deslauriers and Urico were also clean, McLain Ward and Sapphire had 4 faults and Hilary Dobbs, fresh off finals from Harvard, scored 9 faults.

After their first rider scored 4 faults the French continued to put in clean rounds. The final results came in with the French winning the Nations Cup by a rail, with the US second. A good beginning to the tour. It gets better…

Before the Derby class, Beezie Madden rode Coral Reef Vio Volo to the top prize in the Prix Groupe Lucien Barriere / Diane Desseigne, Table A with 69 entries in the class.

Twenty ‘couples’ competed in the Derby. (When reading the French press, they referred to a horse and rider as a couple, which we found to be ever so true). A difficult test of hills and water and other Derby details, not one of the riders was able to go clean. Until Americans Richard Spooner and Pako. The couple made history that day as they were the only clear effort and the first Americans to win the coveted title!

The icing on the French pastry for the Americans came on the final day. The stands were packed to watch the fifty couples compete in the Grand Prix. Thirteen went clean, including Mario Deslaurier on the 9-year-old Urico and McLain Ward on Sapphire. Deslauriers had the leading time, clean and fast in 36.95. Until Ward walked in. The pair galloped through the timers clear in 36.00 for the win. First and second place went to the US.

Certainly an auspicious start to the European Tours. Sincere congratulations to all. And a big thank you to Sophie Durieux for the fabulous photos, as well to Sydney Masters-Durieux for delivering.

Stay tuned, June is going to be a big month for newsletters and we are gearing up to keep the stories coming.

Photos © Sophie Durieux

Highlights From The $40,000 Summer Grand Prix On August 22nd, 2009

The weekend of August 22nd, 2009 will be remembered for many years to come in the equestrian world. On Saturday we watched 56 horses start and fourteen jump-off in the last outdoor grand prix of the 2009 season. Plus we simultaneously witnessed the final rounds of the inaugural ASG Software Solutions/USHJA Hunter Derby Finals live from the Kentucky Horse Park online at equestrianlife.com. On Sunday not only did the CPHA Foundation Medal Finals come to an exciting close but the EquSport and Coapexpan Horse Shows along with a handful of fantastic sponsors hosted a fabulous cocktail party that evening. More on all the above and other outstanding stories below, so read on.

Designing a course for a large field requires the track be challenging enough to narrow the jump-off to a handful of horses and riders. Among the 56 entries were competitors at the International level, horses returning from a summer in Europe with this as their first comeback to the show ring as well as riders on young horses and new mounts. Quite a mix for course designer Olaf Petersen Jr. to contend with and successfully so with exactly one quarter of the first round attempts making it to the jump-off.

Sixteen-year-old Paris Sellon on her Orlando LA went fourth and were the first clean. Familiar with Olaf Jr.’s courses after competing at the 2009 NAYJRC in late July, she set the pace with one rail in the jump-off in a time of 49.25. Up against some top West Coast and Mexican riders, she held her lead for several rounds when rails dropped as riders attempted to beat the clock. Sixth to ride in the second round was another young rider who has made her mark several times in the grand prix arena, Laura Teodori on her fabulous Kasoar D’Uxelles. She also had four faults but in 47.70 to take over the lead for a brief moment.

Next in Mexican rider Eduardo Menezes on his Renoir Mercedes Benz were the first double clean setting, the time to beat at 45.38. Another top contender, Susie Hutchison and El Dorado 29’s Cantano, nipped at Menezes heels, double clean in 47.70, which would end up third best. The amazing (and young) Ashlee Bond was clean on all three of her Little Valley Farm entries, her first time back in on Chivas Z garnered her lowest prize, seventh with a rail in 49.10. Her next attempt on GZS Cassira Z ended up fastest of the four-faulters in 45.37 for fourth overall. Menezes returned on his Let’s Go Mercedes Benz, racing around in 46.80 with four for fifth place. And Ashlee Bond finished the class on her outstanding Cadett 7. The pair blazed around in their now internationally known style and stopped the clock clean in 44.73 for the win.

August 29th, 2009 – The $50,000 Grand Prix of Showpark Indoor World Cup Qualifier

Fitting that the end of our summer season and the start of the new Indoor season would include a retirement ceremony for a horse known worldwide – Wild Turkey Farm’s Summer. Discovered, trained and taken to the highest levels by Mandy Porter, this gorgeous gray mare cleared many World Cup level courses and competed in the FEI World Cup Finals. She also sailed effortlessly around many outdoor venues, including wins at Spruce Meadows and the Del Mar National. When trying the mare as a mount for Barb Ellison, both Mandy and owner Barb saw international potential. Barb purchased Summer and allowed Mandy to bring out the best in the horse. After a very successful five-year reign in the show arena, Mandy will hand the reins back to Barb, who will breed the mare to some of her fabulous Wild Turkey Farm stallions in Summer’s second career as a broodmare. Can’t wait to see those babies jump!

Of forty starters in the first World Cup qualifier of the West Coast season, six horses piloted by four riders jumped off. Last to go, Tiwistar and Francie Steinwedell Carvin were two time faults away from making it seven clean. Four faulters rounded out the top eleven and similarly to seventh, twelfth went to a team with one rail and one time fault.

“I built a legitimate course,” explained course designer Leopoldo Palacios. “What the West Coast has done having all the qualifiers indoors is the best for the sport, you can see the improvement in the riders.”

A beautiful course that started with the black and white EquiFit, inc. plank oxer, to a bending six, around a tight right turn to a liverpool vertical, blind corner to the red planks, left turn to a diagonal line down the middle of the arena with a triple combination – one stride to a two stride to three forward strides to the brick wall, another bending line that ended with a square wide oxer, to a triple bar in a tight five to a vertical – oxer combination and finishing in a bend over an airy gate. Suffice to say the most of the jumps came down at one point or another, but the middle line and the tight five were the biggest culprits.

First to go clean was none other than rock star duo Ashlee Bond and Cadett 7, seventh in the ring. She did it again on Little Valley Farm’s GZS Cassira Z later in the class. Ashlee’s coach, Richard Spooner followed suit, clean on Cristallo (Show Jumping Syndications Intl, owner) and on his wife Kaylen’s horse Pako. The other two to join the jump off included Santiago Rickard on his own Jet Star and Keri Potter on her Rockford I. Of course Bond set a blazing pace in the jump off, clean in 33.95. No other rider could catch that time. Two more went clean – Spooner and Pako in 34.30 for second place and Potter with Rockford I in 36.08. Cristallo with one rail in 34.20 ended up fourth. Cassira fifth with a rail in 38.38 and rounding out the top six was Jet Star and Rickard with four in 41.17.

Young Horses

The Showpark All Seasons Classic also crowns a good number of young horses with their first big victories. On Wednesday and Thursday, the Wheeler family sponsored the Sallie B. Wheeler/USEF Hunter Breeding Championships for yearlings, two-year-olds and three-year-olds in hand, while two-year-old, three-year-old and four-year-old hunters competed in the International Hunter Futurity classes.

The 2009 Wild Turkey Farm Young Jumper Championships Western League Finals offers competition for three age divisions, five-year-olds, six-year-olds and seven/eight-year-olds over three days. Exhibitors from northern and southern California, Mexico, Colorado and Arizona gathered to show their young prospects. The Simpsons, Nicki and Will, dominated the five year old division riding Holly Go Lightly (Ilan Ferder, owner) and Carpendale (Kimberly Thomas, owner) respectively. Mexican riders garnered the top spots in both the six-year-old and seven/eight-year-old divisions – John Perez won with his six year old Winalaris La Cantera and was second on Carla (Eduardo Leon, owner). He also battled it out with Mandy Porter for the win in the seven/eight-year-olds, with the blue going to Arezzo (Rolling Oaks West LLC, owner) and a close second to LaMarque (Wild Turkey Farm, owner) in an exciting six horse jump off.

Are these horses potential USHJA Hunter Derby winners? Grand Prix contenders? International horses? Time will tell… We wish all the best to these young horses in their future careers.

The Derby Journals

Jenny & Kosti Karazissis go to Kentucky

Tuesday, August 18th: Kosti
Tuesday morning found us with sand paper eyes and rumpled clothes. Jenny and I were standing under threatening skies and the odor of steaming tarmac in front of the baggage claim at the Cincinnati Airport. We were waiting for Peter and Tonia Looker, the owners of Forbes and Aragon, the horses that Jenny was to ride in the first ever International Hunter Derby Finals held at the ever-expanding Kentucky Horse Park. Peter and Tonia arrived in a large rental car with a cavernous trunk that barely accommodated Jenny’s three forty-five pound bags and my carry on. The one-hour ride to the inside of yet another hotel room was uneventful. A short nap and we were back in the rental car on the way to the Horse Park.

As we left the drab scenery made up of hotels and Waffle Houses that seemed to out number the McDonalds in the multiple strip malls, things began to change dramatically. Suddenly we were seeing miles of perfectly maintained fence lines surrounding beautiful pastures covered with actual Kentucky bluegrass (I don’t care what anybody says, it’s green). Perfectly stacked limestone walls defined the entrances to one stunning farm after another. The Kentucky Horse Park is spectacular. From the logo and vistas to the footing, management, arenas, stadium and stabling. We arrived to find our horses meticulously cared for by Rick Fancher and his Milesaway Farm’s charming and helpful staff. We rode and schooled our horses. Later that afternoon we enjoyed a private tour of the USEF Headquarters by AHSA past-President Alan Balch who happens to be a close friend of the Looker’s. Peter was Alan’s right hand man during the highly successful 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The USEF staff was very gracious and cooperative. It was nice to put a face and location to the people we talk to every now and then.

Wednesday, August 19th: Jenny
On Wednesday I showed my horses in the medium schooling jumpers in preparation for the Derby. Both of them were very good. Aragon felt a little fresh so I galloped him around the cross country course which was something I’ve never done before. Definitely beats longeing, Kentucky truly is horse heaven.

Thursday, August 20th: Jenny
Today I stepped it up a notch and did the high schooling jumpers. I was worried that my horses may be peaking too soon, as they had never jumped better. Kost felt it was due to the outstanding footing and I wholeheartedly agree. Keri Kampsen rode On Top in the Regular Working Hunters on Wednesday and was very competitive. She chose not to finish the division on Thursday. John French, who had been in Europe the week prior, arrived Wednesday and decided to wait to show his mount Rumba on Thursday in the medium schooling jumpers. We were allowed to hack our horses in the Johnson Arena where the Derby Finals would take place from 3:30 – 5:00p.m. This is the same arena where riders from around the world will compete in the 2010 World Equestrian Games.

Friday was the big day – the first round of the finals. 60 horses qualified. To establish the order of go, they took the bottom 30 horses in the national rankings and randomly drew the first half of the class, followed by a random draw of the top 30 horses for the second half of the order. This ensured that someone like Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy, who won an award for the most money won during the qualifying season, would not have to go first. I drew 28th on Aragon and 50th on Forbes. Keri and John both went in the second half of the order. We were given the classic hunter course diagram that night.

Friday, August 21st: Jenny
We were allowed to walk the course prior to the start time of 8:00a.m. It was very inviting and the jumps were absolutely beautiful. I had a couple rubs with Aragon and ended up 27th just out of the top 25. Forbes, On Top, and Rumba all made it to the next round. John and Rumba won the first round. The top 25 start with a clean slate going into Round Two, so Friday evening they had a draw party to determine the order of go. The riders were asked to pick a silver cup that had a number engraved on the bottom, you then got to keep your cup along with various other gifts. I drew 13th which I consider to be a lucky number. Kerry drew 9th and John 14th. Each of the top 25 also received a check for $1,000.

Saturday, August 22nd: Jenny
Round Two was scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. During opening ceremonies the riders paraded around the ring while the announcer spoke briefly about our accomplishments. George Morris, who is responsible for bringing this fabulous derby excitement back to the hunter ring, spoke eloquently to the crowd and thanked the sponsors – title sponsor ASG Software Solutions along with Dietrich Equine Insurance, Walsh Harness and Saddlery, Charles Owen, Dover Saddlery, Essex Classics, The Clothes Horse, Personalized Products and Grand Prix – for making this dream possible. He was also one of the eight judges for the Finals.

 This round was also a classic format but the four sets of judges could give up to 10 bonus points on top of their regular score for style and quality of movement. I had a rail down at one of the five option jumps. In hind sight I wish I had done the lower 3’6” option. I didn’t see Keri go but she said she had some difficulty at the squirrel tail jump. The second you exited the ring the media pulled you aside for an interview so I also missed John’s round but I could hear the crowd go crazy when it was over. His score was 400 including the bonus points!

Not making the top 12 was very disappointing mostly because the handy course looked like so much fun to ride. It had its challenges and caused trouble for some of the riders. Trying to get over my disappointment I sat in the stands to watch the exciting finish with my mom and niece who came all the way to Kentucky to support me. John had a very big lead going into the final round. Jennifer Alfano sitting in 2nd place put the pressure on after taking a very handy track and her horse Jersey Boy jumped brilliantly. Since I’ve competed against John week after week back home I was confident he could handle it. And sure enough he did just what he needed to do to insure the win, taking the title in the first ever USHJA Hunter Derby Finals.

Sunday, August 23rd: Jenny
After unwinding from all the excitement we were able to get four hours sleep before catching an early flight back to San Diego where our barn, Far West Farms, had been competing all week.

Even though I personally would like to have had a better end result, I am so grateful for the opportunity that Peter and Tonia Looker and their horses gave me. It was an honor to both witness and participate in an event of this caliber. I hope to return in years to come.

Thank you, Jenny and Kosti, for taking the time to journal your experience.

The Equestrian Diaries

By Ricky Neal, 2009 Gold Medal Team Member

July 22nd 
Wednesday’s warm-up competition offered us our first chance to school our horses in the newly renovated stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park. The course, set by Olaf Peterson Jr., consisted of eight obstacles. Once in the ring, each competitor was granted 90 seconds to jump as many jumps as they wanted in whichever order they liked best. The majority of my Zone 10 junior team opted for a shortened version of Olaf Jr.’s course which allowed us to school both the open water and the double without fatiguing our horses too much, as we had a long week ahead. Despite the wet weather our team came away from the warm-up competition in top shape, excited for the week to come.

July 23rd
The championships began on Thursday for the Juniors with a one-round competition against the clock. Because Sunday’s winner would be determined by faults only, the emphasis was on clear rounds and only clear rounds. The first Californian in was Samantha Harrison, who set an excellent example for the day with a confident clear round, just under the time allowed. I was the next rider to enter the ring from Zone 10, aboard my Oldenburg gelding Luke Skywalker S. Luke cantered around the ring with great confidence and I was able to steer him around the course without any rails coming down. The rest of my teammates from Zone 10 followed suit, and at the end of the day the scoreboard reflected the hard work each one of us had put in order to qualify for the Junior team; Annie Cook and Gina, the alternates for the team, led the victory gallop, while placings 4th-7th went to me, Alec Lawler, Taylor Siebel, and Samantha Harrison, respectively. With five riders in the top ten, our Zone 10 team quickly became the favorite for Friday’s team competition, and we would not disappoint.

July 24th
Friday’s team competition consisted of nine teams jumping the same course twice, with a jump off to determine the winner in case of a tie. Olaf Jr. set a long, challenging course for the two round competition, but after Thursday’s success, our team felt confident, comfortable, and prepared for the day’s challenges. As Zone 10 drew first in the order of go, our lead off rider, Samantha Harrison, was the first to enter the arena. As she did the day before and as she would continue to do all week, Sam posted a relaxed and effortless clear round, much to the delight of Zone 10’s cheering section, which was to be rivaled only by the hoots and hollers of the adjacent Mexican cheering section. Following Sam’s lead, Taylor Siebel posted another fault free score, giving Zone 10 the only two clear rounds in the class thus far. Next to show was Alec Lawler, who completed the difficult course with a respectable 8 fault round. Already with a definitive lead in the competition with only 8 faults, there was little pressure on me as I walked into the ring as Zone 10’s anchor rider. Luke again cantered around the course with ease and again the jumps stayed up, giving our team a total of 0 faults, being tailed only by Zone 2 with a score of 12.

As anyone can tell you, however, team competitions are often fickle in nature. Although Samantha started the second round with a fault free round, both Alec and Taylor had 12 faults each, and following two clear rounds from Zone 2, we found ourselves in a tie for the lead after three of the four riders had gone. Because Zone 2 had a drop score of 20 in the second round, they needed a clear round from their anchor rider, Kaitlin Cambell, in order to win. As Zone 10’s anchor rider, I knew that my score would mean the difference between gold and silver for our team, but I first had to see how Kaitlin would do. On the way to the in-gate, Kaitlin’s eye caught mine. “Good luck”, I offered, with only the slightest hint of sarcasm. “Yea, no pressure,” she shot back with a smile. Yet despite the lighthearted banter, Kaitlin was all business when she walked into the ring. Some 80 seconds later, Kaitlin crossed the timers to the thunderous applause from Zone 2’s cheering section having completed the course fault free, giving Zone 2 a grand total of 12 faults. As the announcer so thoughtfully summed up the situation as I entered the ring “The pressure is on.” Once in the ring, however, cries of encouragement from Zone 10’s cheering section pierced the stadium and reminded me that I wasn’t completely alone. With my nerves conquered, I began the course with the same confidence and focus which I had had during the first round’s ride. The handsome Luke Skywalker again rose to the occasion and cruised around the course without any problems, leaving all the poles in the cups.

The fun was not yet over, however, as we now had to jump off against Zone 2. Zone 2 started the jump-off, and their first rider posted a quick four fault round. Samantha Harrison, who deserves a nickname for her stone cold consistency throughout the team competition, loped around the shortened course, leaving all the fences up. The next two riders for Zone 2 had eight faults each, allowing Alec and Taylor to finish the day with each posting four fault rounds, giving us a worst case scenario score of 8 and Zone 2 a best case scenario score of 12, meaning that it was not necessary for either Kaitlin or I to jump off. With a total of 8 faults in the jump off, Zone 10’s Junior team won a gold medal for the third year in a row. The hard fought victory left me, Taylor, Sam and Alec hungry for more, and each of us will undoubtedly be back to the championships in years to come.

Ricky Neal is 17 years old and has been riding since age 5.  He trains with Dick Carvin and Susie Schroer at Meadow Grove Farm and currently has three horses – Texas, Larina, and Luke Skywalker S.  Ricky recently won an individual bronze medal as well as a team gold medal at the NAJYRC aboard Luke Skywalker.

Luke is a 9 yo Oldenburg gelding, bought in September of 2008 but not shown until 2009 HITS DC because of an injury.  He qualified behind Larina for YR, so Ricky originally planned to leave him at home, but when he performed well at Spruce Meadows he decided to bring him instead, despite his lesser experience. Good decision!