Andrea Litz (Sandrine Seifert, trainer) may have been out of the saddle for ten years, but she’s back at it now. In fact, Andrea came back with a vengeance when she cinched the win in the 3’ CPHA Child-Adult Medal Final at Gold Coast October (Oct 16-19). “I grew up riding at Foxfield with Sandrine,” Andrea explained. “My parents could never buy me a horse and I could only ride about once a week. I took about ten years off after college to attend graduate school back East and to start a career in restoration architecture. When my husband and I moved back to California last fall, I got back into riding and couldn’t get enough of it.”
Medal final judge John Xanthopoulos was pleased with what he saw in Andrea’s riding. “In the CPHA Child-Adult Medal, I noticed that the winner demonstrated the balance of the rider in the American forward seat and the harmony between the rider and the horse,” he commented. “On a scale of one to ten with ten being the highest level of competition, I would have given this medal final a seven to eight. Langer Equestrian Group did a phenomenal job in picking one of the best course designers. The course challenged the riders, but it was not one of those courses that borders to impossible. If they knew what they were doing, they shined. If you had the correct balance and harmony it showed, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Megan Rawlins, a FEI Level II course designer, traveled all the way from Canada to design the courses for both of the CPHA Medal Finals. The course in the CPHA Child-Adult Medal Final offered plenty of opportunities for riders to show off their skills. “I wanted to give riders the chance to shine and be brilliant,” shared Megan, which was an excellent goal to have, considering that was what John was hoping to see. “I incorporated different types of lines, which allowed riders to either collect or extend in the line. Also, in the first round there was a skinny box, which demonstrates if riders are really riding the turns. I also varied the amount of ground line to prepare riders for the bigger medal finals. In general, I just wanted to give riders a chance to shine and show off their ability to ride and to be handy.”
Andrea did just that aboard Brilliant Disguise (Sandrine Seifert, owner). She showed off her ability to be handy and ride a challenging course, placing fourth in the first round and second in the second round with scores of 82.5 and 84.5, respectively. “The courses were technical, but there was a flow to them,” she commented. “You could ride them a lot of different ways. In the first round, we added in two places after I felt how our distance was coming in. The skinny box was really good for riders and horses because you have to have your horse between your hand and your leg. The second day, my horse’s pace was right on point and our distances and turns all worked out.”
The work off further offered riders a chance to demonstrate their equitation skills. Andrea, Julia Lackey (Heatherly Davis, trainer), Willow Daniels (Julie Conner-Daniels, trainer) and Caroline Bersch (Joe Thorpe, trainer) all took their chance to show they deserved the title. The test included a halt, a trot jump, and a variety of challenging turns and approaches.
Seventeen-year-old Willow Daniels (Julie Conner-Daniels, trainer) was in the lead as they came into the work off. “I was trying not to think about being in the lead,” she recalled. “I was thinking about having a good ride and being consistent. I didn’t want to be particularly flashy, but just have a nice round. We took all the inside turns. In fact, taking the inside turns helps me focus more.”
After executing a near flawless work-off, Willow’s horse spooked in the corner, sending the pair into third place. “As we were coming to last fence, two kids and their dog went running by the arena,” she recalled. “I still have another year as a junior to do the medals. I’ll be doing the LAHJA/LA Saddlery Junior Medal Final and LEGIS 3’ Child-Adult Medal Final in a couple weeks. Having my mom as my trainer has helped me feel less pressure because she understands when it’s my fault and when it’s not.”
For Andrea’s part, she just wanted to lay down a solid round. “I just planned to create a good track and have fun,” she said. “Brilliant Disguise is actually one of Sandrine’s horses that I’ve been riding while my horse is laid up. We just recently moved up the 3’ level and qualified for this medal final. I’ve been riding five days a week, trying to keep both of us in shape. I really love the equitation because if you are a good and effective rider and you can focus and put it all together, usually the judges will reward you.” Andrea and Brilliant Disguise will also be competing in the LEGIS League 3’ Medal Final at LA Season Finale (Nov 13-16).
For fourth-grader Alexandra Farfaras (Becky Abeita, trainer), winning the 2’6’’ CPHA Horsemanship Medal Final on her own large pony, Burberry, was quite the accomplishment. “I’ve only been riding for about three years,” shared nine-year old Alexandra. “This was my first medal final win. I’ve been riding Burberry for only about six months.”
The pair took a clean sweep, topping both rounds of competitions with scores of 81 and 83. “My plan was to not chip any jumps and maintain a good pace throughout the whole course,” she recalled. “We do the jumpers also, so we have a lot of practice doing rollbacks. My trainer makes us practice a lot of challenging courses at home. I think the course was a lot of fun. The trot jump was the most challenging aspect for us.”
Although medal final nerves can often be a big factor, especially going into the second round in first place, Alexandra managed her nerves and showed how she could really shine. “Coming into the second round, I felt like I had a lot of pressure, but I put that all behind me and just tried to ride my best,” remembered Alexandra. “We sometimes get the horse stride and sometimes pony strides. I was one of the only riders on a pony, so I just tried to make it all smooth and make it all work out.”
Then it was time for the work off, and the judges had their work cut out for them with some talented riders in the ring. “In the work off it comes down to technique,” John shared. “The turn, the planning, and the execution all make a difference. It can even be a small difference.”
It came down to four riders: Alexandra, McKenzie Boyd (Christine Trstensky, trainer), Rachel Cassar (Jeni Brown, trainer), and Ava Curtin (Becky Abeita, trainer). The first work off included several fences including a trot fence, then halting on the short side of the arena. The riders then had to counter-canter to fence 8 and trot across the diagonal demonstrating a lengthening of stride. Alexandra missed the counter-canter, but nailed the rest of the work off.
In fact, Alexandra and McKenzie were so closely matched the judges decided to work them off again, calling for a rollback and a canter down the centerline in addition to cantering two fences. This time, Alexandra pulled off all the elements and the tri-color was hers. “The first work-off was harder because we had to pick up the counter canter and halt,” explained Alexandra. “The second test was simpler. I feel very proud that we did it because I wanted to prove that Burberry was a champion.” The pair will be back in action at the LEGIS Cornerstone Medal Final at LA Season Finale.
Judge John described Alexandra and Burberry as being extremely in sync. “There was a mind-meld!” he exclaimed. “It was one mind and one body. Sometimes a human and animal click and they are one physical presence. It was great.”
In accordance with the name of this medal, CPHA Horsemanship, John explained that horsemanship was what he was looking for. “The difference is the horsemanship,” he added. “It’s the riding to the fence and the follow through. It’s not just looking pretty, but it is being effective. Looking pretty can only take you so far, and then comes horsemanship.”
Hard work and determination paid off for Alexandra. “I ride every day of the week,” she revealed. “I finish my homework and my mom takes me to the barn. I just love riding and that’s my main focus.”
Stay tuned for more coverage of Gold Coast October, including results from the $1,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby, the Gold Coast Series Championship Photo Essay, and LEG Trainer Incentive winners.
Up next in Southern California, the Verdugo Hills League Preview (Oct 24-25). Show season wraps up with the LA Season Finale (Nov 13-16), so watch for coverage of the LEGIS League Finals and LAHJA Medal Finals, and more. It’s also your last chance to get any year-end points for LAHJA or SFHJA at an LEG Show.