Was HITS a Hit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 2011 HITS Desert Circuit

By Selena Frederick and Jackie McFarland

In what seemed a newfound rhythm for the HITS Desert Circuit, the winter circuit sailed relatively smoothly for six straight weeks. With increased entries and a positive response from many of the competitors we approached, we asked what was the formula for success this year? Challenging course designers, well maintained footing, improvements and additions to the VIP areas, big money classes, and of course the grand prix highlights from fantastic afternoons to fabulous evening events.

Beautiful sunsets and cool breezes welcomed the four World Cup Qualifiers in the intimate indoor arena. Actually for a majority of the six weeks the California desert weather was pretty perfect. To top it off, during the final week the facility sparkled with Lamborghinis, Rolls Royces and even a pristine private jet parked on site.

John French and Chawi de Laubry

The west coast circuit drew a slew of legendary grand prix riders from near and far, including Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Hap Hansen, Eduardo Menezes, John Pearce, Rich Fellers, Jill Henselwood, Charlie Jayne, John French, Susan Hutchison, John Perez, Gabriella Salick, Kate Levy…

And that is just a short list. Stars of the circuit Rich Fellers and Lucy Davis each earned four grand prix wins, simply amazing. These two athletes and their horse mates, mind you they each won on different mounts, were fast, clean and cool as ice.

The hunter rings were bustling as well. West coast greats such as John French, Hope Glynn, Nick Haness, Chance Arakelian, Jenny Karazissis and John Bragg were vying for the various championships and derby wins. The ever-versatile John French, who won his usual lion’s share in this arena, also suited up for several outdoor grand prix events. French was seen ‘speaking’ both hunter and jumper on the same day, literally running from the jump off to the hunter derby, garnering top ribbons if not wins in both places. The calm, cool and collected French commented, “It’s an adrenaline rush with the jumpers and everything is so fast; I’m not used to being so hyper.”

Hansen and Michaels-Beerbaum
discuss the course

Quite a few competitors, sponsors and spectators noted the family-friendly aspect of the area. Lamborghini of Newport Beach’s Director Donny Gath brought his entire family. As is often seen when outside sponsorship comes on board, Gath’s company became a sponsor after his 9-year-old daughter Kendal started competing at HITS two years ago, so it is both business and pleasure. Grand prix princess and high-school senior Lucy Davis mentioned that her family can easily come out from Los Angeles and watch her compete as well as enjoy the desert treasures. “My dad can golf in the morning, and then come and watch me ride in the evenings.” Internationally acclaimed rider Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, also Davis’ trainer, expressed how nice it was for her to spend time in a family friendly environment. She explained, “In Europe the cold indoor circuits typically have late class times making it not very baby or family friendly. It’s also good to be back in California, and see people I haven’t seen in years.” Baby Brianna Beerbaum celebrated her first birthday in California with Mom (Meredith) and mount Lancaster winning the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix. Great day to celebrate.

Of course there were ups and downs. One particular grand prix Sunday took its toll on some top riders. Beginning the circuit with wins, Canadian John Pearce, as well as riding legend Hap Hansen, and the daring John Perez all took a spill at the same fence (#7). Unfortunately Pearce went on the injured list for the remainder of the circuit, whereas Hansen and Perez were able to walk away.

The close to the circuit $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert was nothing short of poetic. After 53 riders attempted Olaf Peterson’s technical and big and wide course of jumps, five riders remained in the running for the $200,000 in prize money. The 90-degree southern California sun apparently didn’t faze the riders or the Sunday afternoon crowd. Cheers were rampant at the end of Lucy Davis and Nemo 119’s clear

Lucy Davis and Nemo 119

jump off round, on a streak after winning three grand prix events in a row, as she crossed the timers in the lead.

The class was far from over with two riders left. next in the ring was speed demon Rich Fellers, aboard the amazing Flexible. And following that pair was Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum aboard the talented Kismet 50. The crowd gasped in disbelief as Rich and Flexible took the inside turn to the wide oxer heading down the last line and a rail fell. When the final pair of Beerbaum and Kismet 50 heading towards the first tall pink and white vertical – down went the top rail and Davis had clinched the win. It was a day to remember for competitor and spectator alike.

As Davis said in her interview with HITS after her victory, “I could never believe this in a million years. I was so happy to just win one Grand Prix and I kept thinking that there was no way that this could ever happen. Some of the best riders in the world were competing here today and to come out on top is just surreal.” (Read more in the HITS press release)

International riders, sizeable prize money, classy cars, big jumps, fans galore and increased attendance makes for sporty splendor indeed. Congratulations to all and good luck at HITS Saugerties in their fall finales for both hunters and jumpers.

Photos by Cheval Photos

Conversations With Equestrians: Lucy Davis

Look Out for Lucy
Committed, focused, intelligent and competitive, Lucy Davis is a trainer’s dream. Both natural and exceptional, the young equestrian exemplifies talent. And furthermore, she is soft spoken, kind and zen-like. A senior in high school, Lucy competes in the Big Eq and in the Big Jumpers. She not only rides in both indoor and outdoor grand prix classes, she does it a certain sense of experience that comes with natural talent. She’s won at the highest level offered for junior jumper riders, including Indoors and Young Riders, but also ribbons against professionals.

Lucy is also lucky. She not only has supportive parents – her mom ranks way up there on the horse showmom meter – but one of her best friends, Patrick, lives at home in the barn.

We interviewed her on the eve of the ASPCA Maclay Regionals in September. Since our chat just over a month ago, she has placed 7th and 12th in two $50,000 World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix classes. Back East at Indoors she was 4th in the USEF Medal Finals at Harrisburg.

Lucy Davis and Enrico, Best Pony Rider
2005 Menlo Charity HS © JumpShot
EqSol: Your start with horses?
 My grandfather works in horse racing so my mom grew up around it. When she moved to Los Angeles she started riding at Sullivan Canyon – we now live there. I’ve been riding in the Canyon since I could walk, pretty much. Just for fun but I was always around it. I started taking lessons when I was five, with Chacha Levinson.EqSol: Your firsts… First blue ribbon?
 At the Santa Barbara National when I was six. I won a flat class on my pony, Biscuits ‘N Gravy.

EqSol: First time on a jumper?
 I rode in the pony jumpers when I was about 10 or 11. But when I moved to Archie (Cox), my mom wanted me to stick with hunters and eq. I was about thirteen when I got my first jumper with Archie, Mister Mind.

EqSol: First Grand Prix?
 It was at a fall show in Del Mar a couple of years ago. I rode True Love. I think it went well, I don’t remember. [In fact it was the $25,000 CA Horsetrader Grand Prix at the 2008 Del Mar Fall Festival, and she was second behind Stefanie Saperstein] 

EqSol: And with all this Grand Prix show jumping, you are still competing in the Big Eq?
 Yes, I have a bad birthday – late October – so this is my last year for most of the medal finals. I hope to qualify tonight for the ASPCA (she did, placing 15th) and also competed in the WIHS Eq Finals (this past week) and USEF Medal Final (she was 4th).

EqSol: You have worked extensively with two trainers and recently made a change. Some history?
 I’ve ridden with Archie since I was 12 years old, when I was ready to show more and move to horses from ponies. And I still love it after six years. Archie has an intense work ethic – he is the hardest worker I know. When I was ready to focus on the high level jumpers, I started riding with Dick Carvin. That was about three years ago.

I ride every day at home. We keep my equitation horse Patrick and some of my old hunters at our small barn in Sullivan Canyon. It’s a little horse neighborhood where most of the houses have barns and we use the community arenas and riding areas. I did take lessons at Middle Ranch (where Archie and Dick both have their home operations) on weekends when I wasn’t showing.

News flash: Since our interview in September, Lucy’s jumpers moved to Sandstone in Thousand Oaks, CA where she will be working with Gaby Salick and Markus Beerbaum. Post competing in the ASPCA Maclay Finals in Syracuse, NY in early November her next show jumping competition will be in Buenos Aires the following week!

EqSol: Dick told me you were one of the most focused individuals he has ever met. Your thoughts on that?
 That’s a great compliment. I am the kind of person that gets something in my head and can focus on it intensely. I guess I am lucky to have that ability but it does work against me sometimes.

EqSol: You’ve excelled in each discipline – under Archie’s tutelage you’ve earned championships in hunters on both coasts and top medal final placings in equitation, then with Dick as your coach Young Rider victories, Grand Prix starts and last year Europe…
 I was lucky to get the chance to go to Frankfort for the European Young Masters League last December. Each of the medalists at Young Riders got a wild card spot to compete with the top 30 European riders. I was the only one that could go.

EqSol: And didn’t you win?
 [smile] I did. I got lucky. I also got to tag along with Meredith Michaels Beerbaum and established a friendship. That led to this past summer’s adventure.

EqSol: Tell us more about summer 2010.
 I spent about a month in Germany showing with Markus and Meredith Beerbaum. It was the best summer of my life so far. I learned so much, not only about technical riding skills but also on the ground about being a horseman. What tack to use, preparing the horse for the class… it was a very focused and knowledgeable environment.

I made a lot of great friends. Stefanie Saperstein and Navona Gallegos were both there and another American from Alabama who is now a working student, Christy. There was a guy from Kuwait and a group of working students from Finland, so all together it was about 10 of us.

Competing in Europe has such a great feel. The shows have so many spectators, and not just horse people. One show the entire town came to watch, it was a big event. Equestrians are treated like pro athletes over there. I competed in three shows and it was an awesome experience all the way around. It all came together at my last show, especially with my younger horse Hannah.

EqSol: Your favorite spot in Europe?
 Madrid by far. I will live in Spain sometime in this lifetime.

EqSol: Your favorite equestrians?
 Meredith of course. The French rider Penelope Leprevost. And Laura Kraut, she’s also a really nice person.

EqSol: Now that you’ve had international experience, if there was a horse you could ride who would it be?
 It would probably be this fabulous horse I saw in Frankfurt ridden by Marco Kutcher, Cornet Obelinsky. A big white horse that floats over the jumps, it is just amazing to watch. And I think everyone would like a chance to ride Shutterfly. It’s probably true that only one person can ride him, but it would be fun to try. He’s 17 years old and just did the Grand Prix at Aachen. He loves his job and is definitely still in the game. Meredith and Marcus take excellent care of the horses.

Lucy Davis and Nemo 119
2010 $35,000 Blenheim Spring
Classic II Grand Prix © JumpShot
EqSol: And your jumpers?
 Hannah is nine-year-old mare. We bought her about a year ago and we’ve both been working on getting comfortable at the bigger heights. We’ve both blossomed and she’s really coming along. I was happy with her last night [in the World Cup Qualifier]. We had two down, but nothing disastrous – just little things we can work on. She’s been confident at the bigger jumps and I’m really proud of her. Nemo 119 is a more rambunctious and feisty type. I’ve only had him since January; he is more experienced in the bigger classes than I am. Really a sweet horse at the barn but he gives me a hard time in the ring. He really makes me work for it. He’s a character, to say the least.EqSol: What are your college plans? Horses?
 I graduate this year in June. I set really lofty personal goals, and I did that with college too. I don’t want to jinx anything so I’m hesitant to say where. It is so competitive these days, the counselors at school say that 80% of people who apply to the best schools are fully qualified, but only 6-9% get in.So it’s a crapshoot. Once I do go I’ll probably be on the five-year plan. I’m a perpetual learner. And yes, I’d love to ride while in college.EqSol: Your riding goals? Career goals?
 I want to start doing better at the Grand Prix level. I definitely need experience in small indoor rings with big jumps. It’s pretty hard actually. I’ve jumped a big course but when you put them in a tight space there’s not a lot of room for error.My dream is every aspiring rider’s dream – to go to the Olympics. And also to compete at Aachen. I went to watch this summer, it was an amazing event.I don’t think I have the patience to be a trainer. I will have to see after college. I think if I were to choose it would be film director or writer but I do want to see how far I can go with riding. If I am at a place where it is realistic to keep going and do well at some of the highest levels I will pursue it. Riding is my passion. As of now riding is a big priority. But I will go to college.

EqSol: We find that behind most superb young riders is an awesome parent or two. Tell us about yours.
 [smiling] My mom is definitely awesome and my dad loves it too. He comes to a lot of the horse shows but stays low key. My younger brother Clay (almost 15) is an all-around sports guy and has been coming to the shows for ten years, not necessarily happily. As much as he feigns he hates it, he’s really a softie and very supportive. My mom is totally committed, I think she has spent at least three birthdays at Harrisburg. That says a lot. She is not just there for me, but she is really curious about how it all works and always eager to learn. At the same time she stays behind the scenes, she is never overbearing. I really admire that about her. She has my old hunter Gallatea and takes lessons for fun.

Lucy Davis and Patrick
2009 Del Mar National © Rick Osteen
EqSol: And finally, who is your best friend that lives in the barn?
 We’ve had Patrick since he was five and now he’s eight. He’s lived at our house since the beginning and we’ve established a good relationship. He is one of the sweetest horses I have ever met. Whether you’ve had a good day or a bad day, you can go into his stall and cuddle. Patrick is a great friend.What an exciting time for you – ending your junior career and finishing high school. Already into the grand prix show jumping chapter of your riding and then college… We wish you all the best and look forward to hearing about your future successes!

Conversations With Equestrians: Stefanie Saperstein

Intro By Jackie McFarland, Story By Stephanie Saperstein

Stefanie Saperstein
A name we haven’t heard lately on the west coast is that of Stefanie Saperstein. The rising young star went overseas mid-year to soak up some serious European exposure. She is fully ensconced there, not only as a rider but a student as well.

Before she left on this incredible adventure, Stefanie sent us this exclusive, endearing piece about riding in a World Cup Qualifying class like the ones you’ll be watching this season. Enjoy the ride as she takes you along with her that night – it will bring tears to your eyes…

World Cup Qualifier – November 2009
I barely slept the night before. Fear and excitement kept me awake.

That night was a World Cup Qualifier, one of the few that Quanto and I had ever done, and considering it was one of the last of the year I knew it was going to be a challenge.

I got on Quanto to stretch him out before the class and I couldn’t help but think about what the little boy had done for me and how I owed him the same. He brought me to a level of competition that I had dreamt of my whole life, but never thought could be possible. That night I needed to forget about everything else and fight for him, as he always fights for me.

The night of competition I put on my show jacket and started to polish my boots as I listened to music and cleared my mind. I heard the announcement that the course was ready for walking and ran to give Quanto one last hug and kiss before heading to the ring.

I walked the course a few times on my own and then met up with Meredith [Michaels-Beerbaum] and Richard [Padilla] to discuss my plan. Meredith emphasized parts of the course that I needed to focus on, walking with me to tall verticals that seemed to tower over both of us.

As the class started, I stood behind the bleachers going over my plan in my head reminding myself that it doesn’t matter how different it is from the other riders’.

My sister Alexis inched towards me. The last time she saw me ride was over two years ago, so having her there further encouraged me. I took a quick picture with her, as we both smiled at my grandmother who was in the same box as my mom. I remember closing my eyes and being so thankful for the support that I have; the people and animals that will continue to love me no matter what happened that night.

When I was twelve rounds out, I caught sight of Guma (our fabulous groom) with Quanto and walked over to them. I asked Guma about how Quanto was and he gave me the same response as always, “He is ready to win.” I giggled and responded, “I hope I am ready to win” and as Guma helped me on he assured me that I was.

The warm up felt surreal and I was called up to the ring in what felt like seconds. I stood outside of the ring and retold Meredith my plan and she wished me good luck. I asked Richard if he thought I could do it and he replied, “Of course, it doesn’t matter how it looks, just get it done.” This is what he always says to me before going into the ring. For some reason knowing that I don’t have to “look good” is always so encouraging. As I was about to head in the ring Richard continued to ask; “Do you know how I know you are going to do great?” I asked him “How?” He simply smiled and told me to listen. And with that I entered the ring. As I trotted in I heard the Bob Sinclair song “Love Generation” which Richard knows is not only one of my favorite songs, but the one that reminds me the most of competing in Europe during the summers.

As the ring went silent and I picked up the canter, I had a smile on my face, and I knew that Quanto could feel it. We feed off of each other’s confidence as we ride around the course. I added in the first line to keep Quanto’s shape, which carried over to the rest of the round. I kept reminding myself of the time allowed, trying to stay tight through the turns while keeping a forward rhythm. There was a tight five to a tall plank bending to a triple bar- oxer double, and Quanto jumped so powerfully over the triple bar that I tapped him on the shoulder with my stick to help him get over the next oxer.

Everything was coming up so fast, but I never felt nervous, I felt as though I was watching myself the entire time. I steadied Quanto up for the skinny, a fence that we often struggle with and he jumped it with ease, allowing me to shape out the following lines. Each fence kept Quanto’s attention as he jumped over them and refused to touch a rail. I was one with him and it was unbelievably powerful. I was galloping to the final line and had to set Quanto up, as it was a careful triple combination and he was already moving at such a fast pace.

He came back to me so easily; it was shocking, and he jumped through it as well as any of the top horses out there. I continued moving to the final oxer in five strides and soared over the last fence, an instant that could easily have been eternity. The fact that I hadn’t had a fence down didn’t go through my mind until I heard the ‘victory’ music play after going through the timers. The feeling I had at that moment is almost impossible to explain.

I fell onto Quanto’s neck knowing that it was only the second time we had gone clear in a qualifier. As I left the ring my whole body was shaking. I looked over at Richard, I thought I was going to cry. He held back his emotions as he reminded me to go to the stewards to weigh Quanto’s boots.

A few tears escaped my eyes as my mother and sister ran to congratulate me on going clear, Meredith and Richard brought us all back to earth as they called me over to discuss my jump-off. Quanto and I had one more job left, and we couldn’t forget that. I knew that the other people that had gone clear were Nicole Simpson, Will Simpson, Richard Spooner and Rich Fellers, four of the riders that I admire most in the world. Just being in a jump off with these riders felt unreal to me, but I still wanted to give it a go.

My plan for the jump-off was to make a few inside turns and to gallop to the last fence. As I cantered into the ring I refused to think about the time that I had to catch or what I would have to do to win, all I wanted was to give Quanto the ride that he deserved. We ended up going clear again but were not as fast as Richard or Will, two riders with abilities that are awe-inspiring to me.

I saw Guma being congratulated by other grooms and I helped him put Quanto’s fourth place ribbon on. I remember Guma telling me that I was his winner for the night and that I am “with the big guys now.” I didn’t even know what to say, so I just gave him a big hug and thanked him, reminding him that none of this would be possible without him.

During the awards presentation and the victory gallop Quanto was having the time of his life. I turned him around while the flag was raised, because the excitement seemed to overwhelm him. When I was facing the people in the bleachers I made eye contact with a young girl who told me that Quanto was her favorite horse, and then her mother continued to say, “I will see you in the Olympics.” At that moment I felt that my work and the help that I had been so blessed to receive were all coming together.

Soon after, I was congratulated by my family, tackled by my sister and then whisked off to the autograph table. As I sat down, I remembered when I was younger and would ask for the autographs of some of the riders sitting next to me, and I couldn’t believe that I was actually there myself.

I signed a girl’s shoes and a boy’s shirt, but what meant the most to me was seeing my sister in the line gleaming with a poster in her hands. As she walked through the line she was telling everyone that I was her sister, and as I signed her poster she leaned over the table and told me, “I am so proud to be your big sister.”

I got up and gave her the biggest hug I could and saw my family over her shoulders. My mother was talking up a storm with everyone, but my grandmother was standing there silently staring at me with tears flowing out of her eyes.

As the autograph line ended I got up and walked straight to my grandmother, I held her in my arms as she told me in Swedish about how happy she was to be alive here with me. I kissed her over and over again, then wished her goodbye as I had to drive back to school for class on Monday.

Highlights From Spring 2010 Del Mar

This time last year we were singing the praises of the 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup in Las Vegas, proud of the super competition and offering congratulations to Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, McLain Ward and Rich Fellers.

What a difference a year makes! This year we congratulate Meredith and Markus on their new daughter Brianne, now over 11 weeks old. We wish McLain could have a re-ride in this year’s World Cup. And we congratulate Rich (as well as Harry and Mollie Chapman) on his top twelve World Cup finish and his double grand prix victory at the Del Mar National earlier this month.

The beautiful grass grand prix field at Showpark set the stage for two main events this week at the Ranch & Coast Tournament. On Friday afternoon, the hunters were the stars as they competed in the $10,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby and on Saturday afternoon, the jumpers took the spotlight in the $50,000 Grand Prix of California presented by Mary’s Tack & Feed.

Hail to the Hunters
In the open hunter divisions, tri-colors went to Truman (Mary Sweeney, owner) ridden by John French in the Green Conformation Hunters, and to Ashley Pryde’s Victory Road in the First Year Green Hunters also with John French in the irons. Iwasaki & Reilly’s Small Affair dominated the Second Year Green Hunters again with John French aboard. Exupery (Stephen Borders, owner) with Keri Kampsen riding earned the Regular Working Hunter championship, and in the Regular Conformation John Bragg rode Cunningham (Mary Slouka, owner), to the championship. 

Thirty-eight horses hunted around the Derby course designed by Scott Starnes, which included three 4’ options and a diagonal line across the field with two verticals and two oxers. The early part of the line rode easy in five strides then continued to flow in four strides and finished with three strides. As always, the course took its toll on a few, a spooky cut-out wall leading into the combination at fence eight stopped a handful in their tracks and others had hard rubs or a rail in the diagonal line. But for the top twelve of the day, the scores were in the eighties and even nineties. Watching those rounds flow around the course was hunter poetry in motion.
[Read full Blenheim EquiSports press release with results]

The post derby Tango Party at the San Diego Polo Club complete with Argentinean Asado, Tango demonstrations and fundraising fun was another fabulous affair. See our photo gallery for the social details. Cha cha cha!

Photo © CapturedMomentPhoto.com

Chef Leopoldo
As Leopoldo Palacios explained to us last season, course designers are like chefs. They take all the ingredients including height, distance, scope, time allowed, the materials, positions of the jumps, shadows, terrain plus a dash of this or that – and analyze those who will be tasting this creation, the riders, to bake the perfect grand prix course. Ideally a varied group of horses and riders will return with a clean plate and jump off for a second round of Chef Leopoldo’s course creation.

The afternoon event opened with a polo demonstration provided by four riders from the San Diego Polo Club. With a fabulous location just across the street from the Del Mar Horse Park, the polo season begins this month.

Fifty-one horse and rider combinations went for the win in the $50,000 Grand Prix of California presented by Mary’s Tack and Feed on a cool Saturday afternoon. The early rider got the prize, as Canadian John Pearce galloped on the field third in the order and was the first to ride clean on his 14-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding, Chianto. Next clean in the first round was New Zealand rider Guy Thomas and 13-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Carino. Riding seventh in the class, Thomas navigated the course smoothly and accurately. A handful tried to master the course without success until two talented and gutsy young women, Lucy Davis on Old Oak Farm’s Nemo 119 and Ashlee Bond on Little Valley Farm’s GZS Cassir Z, went sixteenth and seventeenth in the order and clean.

Of the thirty-four horses remaining, including Gold Medalist Will Simpson on Archie Bunker (Linda Smith, owner), Rich Fellers on the famous Flexible (Harry and Mollie Chapman, owners), Susie Hutchison aboard El Dorado 29’s Cantano, Joie Gatlin riding Camaron Hills Quick Dollar, and other well-known competitors, only the final entry in the ring went clean, S.F. Shakira and Michael Endicott. Happy to have him join the elusive four, the crowd burst into an exuberant cheer as he completed the course.
[Read full Blenheim EquiSports press release with results]

Photo © CapturedMomentPhoto.com

Media Mentions
Blenheim’ is honored to have their own tab on PhelpsSports.com alongside all the show jumping news from around the world. If you’re not a member of Phelps, now is the time.

Join Blenheim on Facebook and get connected with the latest updates, announcements and news. If you’re a tweeter follow Blenheim on Twitter.  A great place to follow the horse show scene, during Ranch & Coast we posted the details of the main events as they were happening.

EquestriSol News: April 20, 2010

2010 FEI World Cup Finals Commentary
Competitive riders have many goals and overcome numerous obstacles, literally and psychologically, to achieve these goals. When a name is synonymous with the best of the best, having won Olympic Gold Medals, international titles and countless Grand Prix events, that individual has clearly earned recognition and deserves respect.

That is how we see McLain Ward. Granted he and his father have a tainted past, but as McLain points out that was over a decade ago and he has had a completely clean record ever since. He expects extra scrutiny and often has to endure it. However he continues to be at the top of his game, winning on numerous horses, of course the most famous to date is the fabulous Sapphire.

We all know full well this could’ve been their World Cup victory year. They came so incredibly close last year in Vegas against Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly, an awesome competition until the very end. After Friday’s class McLain and Sapphire were on the path to potentially claim the title this year.

Then hypersensitivity happened. Seems sadly unjust to those of us who were routing from afar. Takes the wind out of the competition sails. From what we’ve read, what is sad and disheartening for thousands of us who support and participate in equestrian sport was an absolute nightmare for McLain and his team.

A mare who has proven time and time again to be a winner, has no history of unsoundness, whom had just won top placings in the first two rounds of the FEI World Cup Final, continues to jog sound and clearly is a competitor – why at this stage in her career could she test as hypersensitive to the point of elimination for her own safety? It may be ‘protocol’ but is it logical?

What makes this decision the right one? Why do these individuals get absolute power to eliminate with no appeal or recourse? How is that clean sport? It seems to put too much power in the hands of a few. It certainly presents a serious issue for the future of the sport. When does hypersensitivity make sense in a seasoned horse?

So many unanswered questions.

We congratulate Marcus Ehning, who is a tremendous talent and impeccable rider. Congratulations also go to US riders Mario Deslauriers, Richard Spooner and Rich Fellers, all in the top twelve. We only wish they and all the other competitors would’ve competed against McLain.

Here are several links to find out more:
– PhelpsSports.com – includes an exclusive interview with McLain and a conversation with Rodrigo Pessoa & Jimmy Torano (must be a member to read)
– The Chronicle of the Horse
– USEF – look for World Cup releases
– We Support McLain Ward and Sapphire – Facebook group
– McLain and Sapphire – Facebook group


EquestriSol News: March 20, 2010


Although we only made it to Thermal for one weekend this year, and late at that as we fought through four hours of LA traffic, we were present to witness John French and Crown Affair win the $10,000 COTH/USHJA International Hunter Derby during Week III. Check out the video here. Waldenbrook Farm had a very successful circuit, as you will see by their multi-page ad run in development.

We would also like to congratulate Joie Gatlin and Camaron Hills Quick Dollar not only for their $50,000 HITS CSI-W Grand Prix win during Week V, but for their consistency throughout the World Cup qualifying season. Joie and Keri Potter are currently second and third to Rich Fellers in points – will they be the three West Coast riders heading to Geneva in april?

And welcome…

Although many of you have heard the news, we are excited for new parents Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Markus Beerbaum on the arrival of Brianne Victoria Beerbaum. Just over a month old, Brianne was born February 27, 2010, in Bremen, Germany. She weighed 7 lb. 9 oz (3.43 kilos) and was 20.5 inches long (52 cm). Meredith writes, “The three of us are healthy and happy and very excited about the future.”

Don’t miss out!

Newsletters abound this season, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to follow along or better yet be a part. We are going greener with our print editions, look for them at select Blenheim EquiSports shows. And we are gaining ground with our e-news edition, consistently adding new recipients.

Delving into the world of social media and the latest in web development, with our clients and sport in mind we are working on some interesting projects that will unfold this year. Contact us with your marketing goals – we have solutions.

If you’re on Facebook, view past articles, suggest topics and future interviews, and become an EquestriSol fan.

Weekends Well Spent

By Jackie Freundlich McFarland

Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum Clinic
Each year as the holidays approach, competition is on the back burner and clinics abound. We cover two in this newsletter, but we know there were also well-attended George Morris clinics up and down the west coast. For those who wrapped up the year learning from some of the world’s best, we commend you.

As mentioned in this issue’s A Stable Story, El Campeon Farms is an ideal setting for equines and equestrians, which holds true for the Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum clinic hosted by Oak Grove Stud on November 20-22, 2009. Combine fabulous southern California weather, great footing, focused riders, devoted auditors, delicious food with Michaels-Beerbaum and the results are remarkable.

We spoke with several riders who participated at varying heights and observed Sunday’s session. Riding at the 1.20m level, Michael Whang excelled tremendously. Encouraged by his trainer Duncan McIntosh, this was Whang’s first clinic. Kenneth Vinther decided he and his young horse Cagney, who participated in the 1.30m level, couldn’t miss the chance to learn from one of the best riders in the world. Recent winner of the USHJA’s EAP National Training Session and top junior rider Ricky Neal also discussed the challenges he faced during the clinic that ultimately taught him more than the aspects that went smoothly.

Day 1: Friday Focuses on Flatwork
Michael Whang explains, “The theory of forward, back and sideways to explain the specifics of flatwork helped me feel how the horse reacts to the aids, how to become one with the horse.”

“She worked a lot on simplifying the flat work, so whether moving up or collecting, the horse reacts readily from the leg,” commented Kenneth Vinther.

Day 2: Saturday Solidifies Style
Riders maneuvered several gymnastic exercises from a single trot fence to trot in-canter out combinations to four oxers each with one stride in between. Vinther loves how these exercises teach the rider balance and rhythm, and the horse to think and learn from mistakes without the rider’s interference. With Meredith on the ground, it was a tremendous learning experience.

Day 3: Sunday Seals the Deal
The format on Sunday was a culmination of flatwork on Friday and gymnastics work on Saturday, where both horse and rider learned about preparing for what was to come on this final day. Everyone warmed up solo on the flat. Meredith set one jump in the arena for warm-up and instructed each rider to tell her how they wanted to warm up the horse, from type of jump to height to what approach and when they were ready to go. Sometimes the rider was asked about their choices, other times they were advised to alter their warm-up.

With Cagney, Vinther decided to use trot poles in front of the warm-up jump to achieve a lighter more balanced horse without pulling. Since the young jumper can get heavy, when a strong rebalancing was needed, it was encouraged as long as there was a softening. The results were nothing short of amazing; the horse is bursting with talent. He jumped around the 1.30m course beautifully. Vinther admits that he has the perfect training situation at home. His wife Karen is a dressage trainer, so when he is on the road for CWD the horse is well schooled on the flat.

During the three day event, Vinther learned by both on and off the horse and took home some valuable reminders. “I learned from riding in the clinic, but also from watching the other riders while listening. I was reminded to ‘listen’ to my horse, to not just go through the paces. I have been lazy about correcting his ‘playing around’, but Meredith reminded me to stay focused and be disciplined.”

Whang was pleased with the connection he established with his horse on the flat on the final day. “My warm up on Sunday directly correlated to what I learned on Friday. My horse reacted to it well, he was calm and in my hands, accepting every aid, including my seat.” However the butterflies in his stomach were fluttering at full force when he went to perform in front of his peers and clinician in the arena. The 1.20-1.25m course was higher than he had ever ridden on this horse. After a relatively smooth warm-up his ride began and his nerves were replaced with a keen sense of focus. After he finished a flawless round, Meredith simply said, “There is not much to say about that ride. Excellent. Good riding, good training.”

California-born, now German citizen, Michaels-Beerbaum is a solid example of focus, determination and keen competitiveness. She’s proven her methods are successful through her success aboard numerous mounts, most notably the super-talented Shutterfly. For those who participated and those who watched, it was not only a weekend well spent, but potentially the chance of a lifetime.