Big money goes bicoastal: HITS announces all-new high-performance show jumping league and Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix

by Lindsay Yandon

Canadian Olympian Jill Henselwood takes one of two mounts to the top in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix at HITS Thermal this winter. © Flying Horse Photography

After its announcement in 2009, the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York soon became a stop on the road to equestrian stardom. For HITS, the buck didn’t stop there. Based on the success of the Pfizer Million on the East Coast, HITS Horse Shows looked west and joined forces with West Coast show organizers Dale Harvey, Larry Langer and Robert Ridland to form the Thermal Million Grand Prix League, which will culminate with a $1 million Grand Prix at the conclusion of the 2013 HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal, California.

Fifteen West Coast competitions will comprise the all-new high-performance show jumping league and welcome the best of the best on the West Coast to vie for a piece of $1 million. The League will include the entire 2013 HITS Desert Circuit, as well as select weeks of the Blenheim Summer and Fall shows, Sacramento International Horse Show, Del Mar Fall Festival, Los Angeles International Jumping Festival and Los Angeles National Horse Show.

“This is something we’ve been looking to do for a while and the timing is perfect for the West Coast to have a signature show jumping event to call its own,” said Tom Struzzieri, HITS President & CEO. “This past season in Thermal was a true tipping point. The atmosphere was phenomenal and the contribution from the West Coast in our sport is as strong as it’s ever been.”

Crowds gather to watch the $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix, presented by Lamborghini Newport Beach – the richest grand prix of the 2012 HITS Desert Circuit. © Flying Horse Photography

Specific qualifying, including nine World Cup weeks will be available at the following participating West Coast horse shows from August to March:
Blenheim Summer Classic II: August 14-19
Showpark Summer Classic: August 22-26
Showpark Summer Tournament: August 29 – September 2
Blenheim Fall Tournament: September 12-16
LA International Jumping Fest: September 19-23
Sacramento International World Cup Week: October 2-7
Del Mar Fall Festival II: October 24-28
National Preview: October 31 – November 4
LA National: November 6-11
The Las Vegas National: November 13-18
2013 HITS Desert Circuit: January – March

Rich Fellers rides to victory in the $30,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at HITS Thermal this winter. © Flying Horse Photography

With Rich Fellers recent World Cup victory as evidence, West Coast competition is preparing horses and riders alike to excel in global arenas. “Thermal has really become a great platform to push from,” said Canadian Olympian and HITS Thermal regular Jill Henselwood. “Many riders like Rich Fellers are using those shows to propel them to the World Cup and more.”

Modeled after the qualifying procedures of the Pfizer Million, money won in League grand prix will be calculated by individual rider/horse combination with the rider’s top money winning horse determining the rider’s final ranking. Each rider must also compete in at least one grand prix at four HITS Desert Circuit shows prior to the week of the Thermal Million. The top 40 riders in the Thermal Million Grand Prix Rider Rankings will qualify. In addition, five additional riders may be chosen as Manager Picks. Two Wild Card slots will be awarded – one to the winner of a Wild Card Grand Prix during the 2013 Desert Circuit and one to the top performing grand prix rider at the six-week HITS Arizona Winter Circuit.

“There is an electricity of excitement happening west of the Mississippi,” added Struzzieri. “This League and second $1 million Grand Prix will present yet another product that should ignite a spark in American show jumping.”

Ridland’s recent appointment to U.S. Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe gave equestrians in West Coast circles yet another reason to celebrate. Seeing the potential for growth in the sport both on the West Coast and beyond, Ridland sees nothing but positives in this new collaboration.

“No question, this should be a big boost for the sport on the West Coast and nationwide as well,” said Ridland.

As Spring and Summer show jumping gets underway, the Thermal Million Grand Prix League should soon climb to the top of “to-do” lists for high-performance riders across North America. A breath of fresh air for show jumping, the League hopes to add another claim to fame for the sport’s top athletes.

Complete specifications and qualifying criteria for the Thermal Million Grand Prix League have been released and are available at

HITS Desert Horse Park for 2012 Desert Circuit Updates

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conversations With Equestrians: Hope Glynn

Hope and Hunters Head East
We had a chance to speak with professional Hope Glynn, who owns Sonoma Valley Stables (SVS) with her husband Ned in northern California. Once they realized there was an opportunity to compete for a large purse on hunters, the hunter clan at SVS made it a goal to participate.

They’ve qualified three riders for the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final and plan to head east for a series of shows, including the Hampton Classic and Saugerties for HITS on the Hudson with the much anticipated finals on the weekend. The parents are thrilled, not only with the prize money offered, but with all the pomp and circumstance of the entire event. The collective group feels that even if you don’t make the Top 20, you can still have a great experience both on and off the horse – awesome prize money, a new venue, great competition, the east coast, an adventure to the Big Apple, the Pfizer Million – that and more await the northern California competitors and their families.

Hope Glynn and Woodstock
Photo by Gail Morey

EqSol: Tell us about your plans for the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final this coming September in Saugerties? You’re qualified on Woodstock, but you have the option to select another mount.
 My highest placing horse was Woodstock and I’m definitely planning on riding him in the Finals. For me, he’s one of my most consistent mounts and I know him very well. I feel very confident riding him in the class. He will also have done the International Hunter Derby Finals in Lexington with me, so I’ll have had that experience under my belt. It will be good preparation for us.

EqSol: Describe Woodstock for us…
 His barn name is Woody – he came from Brandy Hollway in Kansas. He also competes in the Low A/O Hunters with Amateur rider Olivia Hellman. He has a lot of personality, he’s a horse that is easy to like – he jumps great every time you bring him out, he’s easy to work with at home and if he has a fault it would be that he may jump and try too hard, which is a good problem to have as a rider. He’s consistently one of the best jumpers I’ve ever ridden, which is really important when you’re doing a big class like these prestigious hunter finals.

EqSol: You and two of your students, Avery Hellman and Erin Bland, are making the trip to Saugerties. Can you tell us more about them?
 Both riders are 19 years old and they are very excited about the competing at the hunter prix finals. This is the highlight of their riding careers.

Avery Hellman is riding her 7-year-old Westphalian gelding Rococco. He was the Circuit Champion in the 2nd years at HITS (Thermal). Avery rides on her high school equestrian team. She’s also a very good student and doesn’t miss school. She rides on the weekends and during show season, she typically leaves school Friday, gets to the show and heads into the show ring. She’s been training at Sonoma Valley Stables for nine years. She’s actually more excited to do these finals than indoors.

Erin Bland lives in Carlsbad, CA and trains with Liza Applebaum at home and does the A-Shows with us. Her mount for the finals is Weatherly, an 8-year-old WB gelding. This is her first year competing as an Amateur — she and Weatherly competed in the A/O Hunters and were Reserve Circuit Champions at Thermal and she was also Champion at Del Mar National this past May. As for academics, she currently attends Mira Costa College and she’d like to transfer to Sonoma State this next school year, so she can ride and attend college. Erin is extremely excited about the Finals, mainly because she feels like it’s a class where amateurs, juniors and professionals can compete at an equal level. To her, it’s more than just a hunter class back east – it’s an event!

Shelley Campf and Hope Glynn
Photo by Gail Morey

EqSol: Tell us about SVS “Team” coming east…
 I have a fantastic group of horses that I get to ride and the clients are excited to watch them go. We have about 25 people coming to support SVS at the Hunter Prix Finals; between CA barn mates and family on east coast – people are excited to come. Like any big money class, this final draws a significant amount of attention. Honestly, no matter how well they do, they just want to see how the horses go. For us, it’s difficult to get people to travel down south, but because of the prestige of the class, the beautiful and exciting venue, they are traveling from CA to the east coast JUST to watch. As a barn, to have three competing is truly an honor.

EqSol: Since the pressure will be on at these finals, how do you help your clients handle it?
 With our riders, we really feel that positive reinforcement and hard work are key ingredients to their success. Most of these kids are extremely critical of themselves, so we try to teach and maintain a holistic picture: the goal is not “I want to win this hunter prix” – we all aim to win, it’s why we compete, but it’s not just about winning. It’s about what each student wants to achieve as a rider and as a horseman.

EqSol: You had to qualify your horses at HITS Thermal – how did you find the circuit this year?
 Classes were big and quality was good. The facility has developed into a premier place to be on the west coast during the winter circuit. I was particularly pleased with the footing. Footing, in both the show and warm up rings, is paramount to me above everything else. I also like HITS because there is so much space to ride your horses. A lot of barns have great show rings but not good warm up areas. At HITS they have great practice rings available all day.

Since we spend a lot of time in the hunter rings, we also really enjoyed the improvements they made to the Hunter Berm and the hospitality tent. It provided another area for people to watch and enjoy it.

Avery Glynn (center) with Hope (right) and Avery’s grandmother Priscilla Hobday (left)
Photo by Gail Morey

EqSol: It’s been a good year for SVS. Can you share some of your personal highlights, aside from the success?
 I truly LOVE horses and I LOVE being around them, so I’m lucky that they are in my life everyday. Even when I’m old and retired, I will still have horses because being around them brings me happiness.

There was one afternoon when Avery rode up with her pony to watch one of high-performance classes I was in. After our final jump, I heard her clapping on the rail screaming “Go Mommy! Go Mommy!” – that takes the cake for me – when you hear your daughter clapping and cheering you on, it doesn’t matter what happened in the class.

She even told me to keep my eyes up and my heels down as I came out of that class at Thermal.

EqSol: Mantra for life?
 Integrity sums it up in one word. Living with integrity is the utmost important thing to me in how I run my business and how I live my life.

  Thank you Hope for your time and your insights – we wish you and your students the best of luck in your upcoming east coast adventures!

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.

Industry Innovators: Kompeet

Kompeet with Kenneth
After eight years with CWD, Kenneth Vinther has taken a leap of faith. The well-connected, experienced salesman and horseman started 2011 by launching a new distribution company, Innordic USA. No longer dealing in leather, Kenneth is now supplementing the horse world with products that are already taking Europe by storm. One of the revolutionary supplements is a natural energy product, Kompeet. Kenneth has already seen impressive results in a variety of horses in several disciplines since he recently introduced Kompeet here in the United States.

Knowing the proof is in the documented changes, he shared some of these success stories. With notable excitement in his voice, Kenneth further explained the reasons he chose this new route.

EqSol: So how did this career change come about?
KV: My good friend and old trainer Johnny Hansen has all of his horses on Kompeet and he put me in touch with the company. I’ve been talking with them since last summer and it evolved from there.

EqSol: What’s the product that changed your life and apparently can changes the lives of countless horses…
KV: The one product that inspired me is this new nutritional product for horses, Kompeet. The way it works is very interesting. It is an energy supplement that is derived from fat, not sugar. I’ll explain.

A horse’s digestive system can only physically breakdown so much fat, due to acids in the stomach. Horses are foraging animals, built to eat grass in a pasture all day. Due to this they have a naturally slow digestive system. Most injuries and stress in horses are due to lactic acid, lack of strength which all goes back to a lack of sufficient energy in their diet.

A European engineer developed a way to blend four types of digestive fat into a water-soluble vegetable fat. This provides a pure source of fat for both energy and weight gain. The key is due to the water solubility the horse will get 100% benefit. This is a huge benefit for high performance horses as well as hard to keep horses. This type of energy is called cold energy and it doesn’t have the highs and lows of energy derived from sugar.

EqSol: Don’t high-energy feeds provide this source of fat? Or what about other supplements?
KV: That’s just it – they don’t. It is not in any high-energy feeds. Yes the feeds have fat but it isn’t water-soluble. That is the simple but important key to how it works.

Kompeet can easily be combined with other supplements. It is 100% pure vegetable fat, derived to increase energy; it has no added vitamins & minerals.

There is no competing product available on the market that can do what Kompeet does for horses.

EqSol: You have testimonials. Tell us about these stories.
KV: Besides the great results from Europe, I’ve tried the product with several horses here. All different horses, different levels and different experience – all saw results in a month.

I tested it on a 17 y.o., 17h Holsteiner dressage horse. He required a ton of feed just to keep his energy up, especially when he was competing. Another test was with a warmblood mare competing in the 1.50m division. They had tried everything to keep weight and muscle on this mare without success. And the third was a young warmblood that also wouldn’t keep weight on and was low energy, lethargic.

From day one these three horses all had the highest amount recommended of 14 ounces per day. You can feed less but more than 14 ounces has no higher effect. After two to four weeks the results were phenomenal. ALL the horses improved. They look and feel great. The dressage horse is doing better than ever, plus his feed has been reduced by 1/3. The mare is not only more buff, with increased weight and muscle but she is less marish and more energetic about her job. And the young horse developed more muscles and his performance improved dramatically at the shows there after.

These results stem directly from the right amount of energy and balance in the muscle. Pure energy.

EqSol: And that is just on those few cases. Do you see more potential?
KV: The potential is incredible, from the retired horse that needs to keep weight on to the high-level performance horses in all disciplines. It acts fast. You can control the amount you feed. For example you can maintain and then during a competition you can bump it up. There are no side effects or negative aspects.

EqSol: How do you find out more and where can you purchase?
KV: It will be available through my company, Innordic USA; I am the only US distributor. I’m now working on having it more readily available through some exclusive retailers as well as through veterinarians. For example Kompeet is now available at Beval’s at WEF and Rolling Meadows in Thermal. I also had a booth at AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners). The response from the veterinarians was huge; a light went on they saw the potential right away.

Other innovative products coming to the United States through Innordic USA include organic products for hooves, an Omega 3 Fish Oil as well as an organic treatment for riding arenas which eliminates the need of watering for up to 15 months. All products are scientifically based and engineered for the Equestrian world.

Thank you Kenneth for giving us the new supplement scoop. Congratulations on your business venture. Seems certain many will soon be seeking to Kompeet with Kenneth.