The CPHA Child/Adult and CPHA Horsemanship Medal Finals offer regional finals in both Northern California and Southern California, the Northern taking place at the Woodside Fall Finale (Sep. 30-Oct. 3) and the Southern at Gold Coast 7 (Oct. 21-24). This gives riders a chance to ride in the final without having to travel long distances. Because of the locations and the approachable courses, these are often the first medal final experience for many riders, and for a few lucky riders, the first medal final win.
"They're designed to be a 'grass roots' final to encourage riders who are just starting to ride in medals," explained CPHA President Paul Bennett. "The CPHA regional medal finals give riders something to work toward at the end of the year, and they'll hopefully step up later to the bigger finals." With fences set at 3', The CPHA Child/Adult is an approachable medal for many riders, although it provides enough challenge to keep them on their toes.
This year's Southern California winner, eleven-year-old Nina Vogel (Farwest Farms, trainer), was particularly excited because this was her third medal final win in a row, having also won the LAHJA Horsemanship and the San Fernando Hunter Jumper Association 12-and-Under Medal. With two calm and cool performances, she won both rounds in the CPHA Child/Adult Medal Final.
"I was thrilled," Nina stated. "I worked hard over the summer, and it is very satisfying to know that hard work can pay off."
"She listens and follows the plan," coach Cassandra Karazissis added.
Nina has been riding her horse, Dutch Star, for just a short time, but he has carried several other riders to medal final wins. "He knows his job and executes what I ask him to do very well," she said, "which allows me to focus on myself more—my position and plan for the course. At shows, he is super cooperative and helps me as much as he can, so we make a great team!"
Nina spends some of her time out of the barn playing the piano, singing, and participating in debates. However, riding is definitely her favorite. "Even though I love these activities, nothing compares to riding for me. Being with the horses, working toward a goal, and getting the reward are what I feel the most passionate about."
The reserve championship went to 15-year-old Alexandra Murray (Cha Cha Jago, trainer), a sophomore at Marlborough High School. She placed third in the first round but had a rough trip the second day and came in tenth. However, her combined score was enough to get her into the work off, where she moved up to second place. In addition to the hard work she has put in to prepare, Alexandra credits her success, in part, to her horse Amadeus. "I thought 'Otto' was amazing throughout our whole performance and placing. In the first round he was fluid and forward and helped me execute the course well. The second round was not as consistent, but we had some great fences. I am proud of placing second because it shows how hard my horse, my trainers, and I have worked the past months."
In Northern California, the CPHA Child/Adult Medal was the first final for fourteen-year-old Katie Mahler (Jan Pearce, trainer) with her new horse, Top Class. After a few mistakes that put her sixth in the first round, Katie went to the top of the class in the second round and put in a well-executed work off to claim the championship.
"The first day we had a few mistakes, but I was very happy with how I rode the second day," Katie reported. "I was hoping I would make work off. When I did, I knew it was 'do or die' time. I thought our work off was really good minus a slightly deep distance. It was one of the longest work offs I have done or seen before. Honestly, even today, it still has not hit me that I won the final, even though it is the biggest accomplishment Top Class and I have had this year."
While Katie spends a lot of time in the saddle, she finds time to help with events for her leadership class at school. "Both riding and leadership teach you about responsibility," she explained. "Both involve taking charge of what you need to do to prepare, whether it's a school event for freshmen or taking care of your horse. Leadership has taught me to work with others, take orders, and take care of myself as a person. I incorporate my leadership knowledge into riding by working with my riding friends to learn courses, help each other out, and be responsible for my horse, riding, and showing."
Seventeen-year-old Daryn Tinsley (Jan Pearce, trainer), a junior at Menlo-Atherton High School, was third in the first round but moved up to reserve champion when all was said and done. "It was my first medal final, so I was super happy," she commented.
The CPHA Horsemanship is a 2'6" medal final with courses that are slightly simpler than the Child/Adult--no combinations are allowed. In Northern California, Amanda Rael (Kelly Maddox, trainer) started the final by placing seventh in the first round. However, she came back the second day to win the second round and the champion title. "One thing I have learned is that you don't need the fanciest hunter, handiest equitation horse, or fastest jumper to win," she remarked. "You need to believe in yourself, and in your horse and what you can do. You need to be able and willing to work hard and be determined, even if that means blood, sweat, and tears, and maybe even a bruise or some dirt down your pants."
Her trainer, Kelly added, "Amanda worked daily without irons and was determined to do her best. It is a significant win for her, because she worked incredibly hard and her hard work paid off."
Nikola Barnes (Kelly Van Vleck, trainer) also had some nerves to shake off after the first round, where she placed fifth. However, she did just that, and after placing third in the second round, she made it into the work off and won the title of reserve champion on her horse, Miracle Mike. "It felt really good," Nikola said of her accomplishment. Although she rode in some pony finals last year, this was her first on a horse. "I was worried when I got a pretty average score in the first round, but it made me want it all the more. I didn't ride as skittishly the second day, and it went much better."
"Our goal for Nikola this year has been to compete in the Onondarka, so the CPHA Horsemanship was a good stepping stone for that," Kelly explained. "She's jumping at the 3' level, but everyone gets nervous whenever you put the word 'final' in the class name. It was good for her to get the experience of a final with the smaller jumps, but it was a little longer and more technical than the typical 2'6" course. Nikola was a little nervous the first day, but she rode fabulously the second day."
In Southern California, 14-year-old Erin Rylie Clark (Rainbow Canyon Ranch, trainers) put in two consistent rounds and garnered her own first medal final win in the CPHA Horsemanship. "I have been working very hard all year for this. I showed in this final last year and fell off. I really wanted to overcome my nerves of medal classes all together, and I thought that doing this final again would help with just getting around the course. After the first round, I felt pretty comfortable with my second place position and pretty confident that I would at least make the work off if I had a decent second round. My nerves were gone for the work off, because reaching that was my main goal. From there I just stopped worrying."
Erin was assisted in her win by Empire, a horse she leases from Mary Gatti. "I am so grateful I am lucky enough to have an amazing horse that teaches and brings me to the next levels in my riding career. Empire definitely helped me through both rounds and the work off of the finals because he is so cooperative for me."
Besides her passion for horses, Erin recently discovered that she likes editing video footage, and she enjoys making videos of rides for herself and her barn mates. Although this is a fun pastime, it also offers her an opportunity to improve her riding.
"I often review my lessons and shows several times and listen to the trainer's comments to figure out what I did wrong," she explained. "I like to stop the videos and pinpoint the exact place where I made the mistake, and it helps a lot because I can remember it for my next lesson."
Whether from Northern or Southern California, the riders agree: The CPHA Child/Adult and Horsemanship Medal Finals are fun and non-intimidating way to get experience before moving on to the bigger finals.
For more information about the California Professional Horsemen's Association, visit www.cpha.org.
There are just a few more shows left in the Langer Equestrian Group show season, but there is plenty of jumping excitement packed into those shows, including more medal finals. New classes have been added to the Verdugo Hills League Preview Oct. 29-30, and the series finale runs November 6-7. At the LAEC, the National Preview, featuring the LAHJA/L.A. Saddlery Junior and Senior Medal Finals, LAHJA Pony Finals and West Coast Pony Finals, is Nov. 10-14. The L.A. National Nov. 17-21 features the Onondarka and WCE Junior/Amateur Medal Finals and the $50,000 Grand Prix of Los Angeles.
Photos: Nina Vogel wins her third medal final in a row Photo: Flying Horse Photography
Katie Mahler wins her first medal final with her new horse Photo: Sheri Scott
Amanda Rael makes a comeback to win the Northern California CPHA Horsemanship Photo: Sheri Scott
Erin Rylie Clark shows how consistency counts in the Southern California CPHA Horsemanship Photo: Flying Horse Photography