Dreams Come True at High Prairie Fall Preview

Jen Wallen (Michael Dennehy, trainer) had a horse show that most of us only dream of during the High Prairie Farms Fall Preview (Sep 8-11) at the Colorado Horse Park. The amateur rider from Parker was section champion in the Low Amateur Owner Hunters, won the Junior/Amateur Owner Hunter Classic, and topped a class of 17 to take the prize in the $2,500 USJHA National Hunter Classic. She did all of this aboard her hunter, Remember When. As if that weren’t enough, she also tied for the championship in the Adult Amateur Jumper section riding Ambassador (Gracie Gibbs, owner).

She had a hard time deciding which of her many accomplishments meant the most to her. “I guess if I had to pick it would be my jumper rounds,” Jen said. “I haven’t jumped that high in probably 15 years! I am just so lucky to have the opportunity to ride such a nice horse who gives me a lot of confidence.”

The “nice horse” Jen referred to belongs to her summertime nanny. Gracie Gibbs is off to college and Ambassador is now for sale, and Jen jumped at the chance to lease and show him in the meantime. Even though doing so took her out of her comfort zone, Jen joked that she had so much fun, she thought of converting to a jumper rider.

Were she to do so, however, her presence would be missed in the hunter rings. Riding Remember When, known as Scooter around the barn, Jen had some outstanding rounds during the week even though she wasn’t sure her horse would be ready to show.

At another show in August, Scooter was injured when the horse in the stall next to him broke down the wall between the two and Scooter ended up with an eight inch gash in his shoulder. The drive down the mountain to Littleton Equine Center in the middle of the night was rough and no one really knew the extent of the damage or how long healing would take. Winning the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Challenge at the Fall Preview was all the more sweet because it was Scooter’s first time back in the show ring after his injury.

“Imagine getting a call at midnight telling you to get to the show grounds because your horse is hurt,” Jen recalled. “It was really upsetting. He ended up with 20 to 25 stitches and we weren’t sure when he’d be able to show again. This was the first year I tried doing these bigger, more important hunter classes so I was nervous. He’s such a great horse; I really didn’t have anything to worry about, even with the injury.”

Still, there were some dicey moments during the Fall Preview, like when the pair crashed through a jump during the handy hunter class in the Low Junior-Amateur Owner Hunter section on Saturday. That event, which Jen describes as “an amateur miss,” instantly brought back memories of a much worse show ring crash 10 years ago and it rattled her significantly. “I was really proud of myself for being able to come back after we crashed that jump.”

In addition to the stress of bringing Scooter back from his injury, September is a difficult month for Jen anyway. It is the month in which both her parents died several years apart. Talking about whom she described as “the perfect horse show parents,” Jen explained her horse’s name. “I got Scooter two years ago when I was riding at another barn. A customer had imported him but then decided she no longer wanted to do the hunters. He came from a stellar breeding line and had a pedigreed show name. But I wanted to honor my parents, especially my dad who had recently passed. Remember When just seemed like the right name and it stuck.”

The busy mother of a five-year-old son named Brady will be back at it for the High Prairie Fall Classic (Sep 15-18) as she hopes to defend her position as the leading non-professional in the $1,000 LEGIS Hunter Rider Challenge. Having done well in the USHJA National Hunter Classics back during the spring LEG shows and now having won the first of two Classics during the Fall series, Jen is in very good shape to earn the $500 cash bonus and LEGIS  jacket awarded to the top non-professional. “I told Michael (Dennehy) not to pinch me because if this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up,” she added with a smile.

Of course there were other big stories during the High Prairie Fall Preview including another uncommon occurrence for Colorado Horse Park regular Bjorn Ikast. He stormed the $5,000 High Prairie Mini-Prix by taking first, third, fourth and fifth in the class aboard Omar Shariff (Bjorn Ikast, owner), Amore (Bovee Limited Liability, owner), Colorado (Bovee Limited Liability, owner) and IZ’s Viva la Vida (Bjorn Ikast, owner), respectively. The only one to break up Bjorn’s clean sweep of the top five places was his student Ceinwen Muma who took second place riding Bjorn’s horse, Fly with Me.

Bjorn complimented the Jack Robson designed course and noted it was quite inviting. “It’s nice to come back after some time off and start up again under such friendly circumstances. Our horses just loved it!” Bjorn said. “I was able to pick up a nice rhythm with Omar Shariff and that was all we needed. With high sunshine and temperatures in the 70s, what more could we ask for?”

Bjorn will be back with the same set of horses during the High Prairie Fall Classic. He hopes to bring a few more along for the ride including some younger horses he’s looking to test. He also will be on hand to coach daughter Isabel, who during the Fall Preview won the $500 1.0M Jumper Stake riding her father’s horse, Anchor Man. “It was great seeing my daughter have such success,” Bjorn said. “It just made everything so nice.”

With the ASPCA Maclay Regional Championships and USEF Zone 8 Junior and Adult Regional Finals coming up at the High Prairie Fall Classic, equitation riders are getting ready to kick it into high gear. At the Fall Preview, Brooke Pettet (Brianna Davis, trainer) won the ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship class, Natalia DeVencenty (Laurie Jueneman, trainer) had some blues in the Pony Equitation, and Nicole Lyvere (Cindy Cruciotti, trainer) had some wins of her own in the Equitation 18-35.

The 2011 LEG Colorado show season will wrap up with the High Prairie Fall Classic (Sep 15-18), while Woodside Fall Finale (Sep 29-Oct 2) will conclude the season in Northern California. However, there is still much to look forward to in Southern California. Pony riders are gearing up for West Coast Pony Finals at the National Preview Horse Show (Nov 9-13). Meanwhile, the medal final season is officially under way, and Gold Coast 7 (Oct. 20-23) will host the 2011 CPHA Horsemanship and CPHA Child/Adult Regional Finals. The L.A. International Jumping Festival (Sept. 21-25) will host the USEF/ Platinum Performance Show Jumping Talent Search Finals-West, USEF Regional Adult Equitation Finals, and Regional Hunter Seat Medal Finals, as well as the L.A. International Grand Prix World Cup Qualifier. Be sure to get your favorite seats by reserving them early through www.horseticket.com or 818-840-9066. Platinum and Gold Box Seats come with a snack box.

For more information about High Prairie Fall Preview, including complete results, please visit http://langershows.com/colorado/show_details.php?show_id=217.