Langer Equestrian Group’s LEGISequine.com Gold Coast Series continued with Gold Coast 2 (Apr 6-8). Families and young riders enjoyed being with their horses and getting into the Easter spirit over the weekend, adding a festive air to the show. Saturday featured the exciting $1,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, which was another nail biter at the very end.
Ashley Brien (Mark Purcell, trainer), one of only three junior riders in the class, got the attention of the judges on her Manhattan, taking all six higher option fences and receiving a total score of 87. Ashley explained, “Since Manhattan (Manny) and I have been competing at the 3’6” level since 2011, we’ve always taken the higher options. Some of the higher options in this Hunter Derby required some more difficult bends, but Manny is such a versatile horse that I knew we would be fine taking them.”
Tommi Clark, trainer of Griffith Park Farms at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, rode three horses, putting in an especially beautiful round on her new horse Kampari. It was Kampari’s first Hunter Derby, and they took five options and received a total score of 87, tying with Ashley. After the first hunter round, the judges placed Ashley first and Tommi second. With equal scores going into the handy hunter round and many other riders with good scores, the ride for the ribbons was still up for grabs.
Over half of the scores in the second round were in the 80s or 90s, so there was no room for error. In particular, Michael Leon on First & Goal (Stage Left Farm LLC., owner) impressed the judges and the crowd with his incredibly handy course. Having placed fifth in the first round, Michael picked up a gallop right at the gate and took on the higher and more difficult starting fence. After the opening bending line, Michael was one of the only riders to take a tight inside track to the single oxer. He also took two of the higher options at steep angles, jumping across them rather than taking them straight on. When he completed the final trot jump successfully, the crowd burst into hearty applause. The judges felt similarly, awarding him with a score of 92 for the second round. His combined score of 174 easily put him in the lead at that point in the order.
Michael held onto that lead until there were only two left to see. Tommi Clark rode a beautiful round on Kampari, taking tight rollbacks and also jumping across one of the fences. The judges scored her an 86 in the second round. Her total score for both rounds was 173, just one point short of Michael’s score, putting her into second place.
Riding last, Ashley Brien needed a score of at least 88 to win. “It definitely boosted my confidence to be able to go last and watch the way everyone else rode the handy round," Ashley commented. "However, returning to the ring in first always generates some pressure because everyone is watching and probably hoping you make a mistake. I just tried to get rid of all that anxiety by focusing on the course and the basics. I knew that I wanted to take all of the higher options and make the round fairly handy with inside turns." Though Michael and Tommi rode very handy rounds, Ashley didn’t want to changer her plan just to get more points. She said, “Going in, I was confident in my strategy and I felt that I would ride the jumps the best by following my original plan.”
Ashley handled the pressure easily, riding another beautiful, solid round and taking all of the higher fence options. Her score was 93 for the second round, giving her a final score of 180, vaulting her to the top of the leader board. Ashley was gratified by the win, saying, “It was definitely very meaningful because it’s my last year as a junior rider and it feels great to accomplish this with Manny because we’ve worked so hard together.”
Ashley hopes to do well at the USEF Junior Hunter Finals this year and earn some year-end awards in the Junior Hunters. Currently a senior at Marlborough High School, Ashley was accepted to Duke University and plans to ride on their equestrian team and compete in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association for Duke in the fall.
Like Ashley, many other young riders happily elected to spend their Easter weekend showing. In the jumper arena, fourteen-year-old Jacob Dailey (Judy Nielson, trainer), rode Lex Parker (Michaela Dailey, owner) to the reserve champion title in the 1.10M Jumpers and champion in the 1.15M Jumpers. Jacob and his barn mates of Aspen Hill Farm came all the way from Nevada to show at Gold Coast. "We usually come to two Gold Coast shows a year, and I enjoy the nice atmosphere at LAEC," Jacob commented.
Jacob’s family has been with Judy Nielson for ten years and Jacob has been riding with her since he was seven years old. It was Jacob’s first show on Lex, though his sister has owned and showed him for four years. "Lex is considered the family horse.” Jacob explained. “He is incredibly honest. In one of the courses, he tripped and nearly fell in front of the jump, but he still managed to leap up and jump it clean. Lex is super fun and I love riding him. I’m thankful that my sister shares him with me.”
Competing in the lower jumper classes as well as hunter and medal classes on her horse O’Leary’s Diamond Lace was thirteen year old Kira Stevenson (Heidi Misrahy, trainer). Kira was excited to be at LAEC and remarked, “It doesn’t really matter to me that it’s Easter, I just really love showing.” Kira was reserve champion in both the 0.85M Jumpers and the 0.95M Jumpers. Kira just started doing jumpers this year and hopes to move up to Low Children’s Jumpers by the end of the year. She also competed in hunter and medal classes, placing fourth in the Onondarka Medal. Kira’s love of riding was fostered early on by her father, who is also a jumper rider. Kira explained, “My dad started teaching me to ride when I was four.”
Though she hasn't been showing at LAEC very long, Kira was appreciative of the newly expanded East Ring. "It helps that the ring is bigger, giving me more time to do lead changes or speed up or slow down in the middle of a course. I feel like it is just the perfect size for a show ring and I enjoy showing in it."
Many trainers were thrilled with the expansion of the East Ring that LEG and LAEC undertook. “For a premier arena it was just not long enough,” commented LEG’s CEO Larry Langer. “I really appreciate the fact that George Chatigny, LAEC’s General Manager, was willing to do the project, and it was important enough to me that I was willing to have LEG participate in the expansion cost. The larger ring will just make our hunter/jumper shows better.”
In the lower hunter classes, Samantha Vaughan (Randy Cano, trainer) did very well on her Snow’s Eclipse (AKA Shine). Their success was particularly rewarding to Samantha, as Shine has been a project horse for her over the past year. Samantha explained, “Because Shine was off the track and his previous owner used to do jumpers with him, in the beginning he was really fast and just didn’t want to do any of the hunter stuff. He also had a problem with crashing through fences, so he was definitely a big, big project.” This weekend, he was exceptional in the show ring and he and Samantha were champion in ‘B’ Long Stirrup and did well in equitation as well.
Samantha herself had to make an adjustment when she switched from competing in barrel racing to hunters about a year and a half ago. Samantha said, “I always rode English when I got a chance and really liked it, but I never had a horse that did it.” Though she mostly rides English now, Samantha still loves to ride Western. Her mom is also a rider and uses Samantha’s old barrel racing horse as a trail horse. Samantha explained that she was first put on a horse when she was nine months old and has been hooked ever since. She competes in the Interscholastic Equestrian League for La Reina High School.
Samantha's barn, Randy Cano Training Stables, got into the Easter spirit on Sunday, bringing an adorable bunny to the barn. "I brought the bunny for the kids and to add to the fun of the show," explained Randy's assistant trainer Ben Banuelos.
Family oriented barn Edelweiss Farms also got in on the Easter fun. A few of the barn mothers worked together to create fun Easter baskets for the children that they displayed at the barn, as well as setting up an Easter egg hunt for the kids. Courtney Valdez (Heatherly Davis, trainer), barn mother and rider at Edelweiss Farms, brought three of her horses to Gold Coast 2, and she was proud and excited that all three had an excellent show. It was one of Nonchalant's first shows, and with Chelsea James riding, they won two ‘B’ Low Pre-Green Hunters classes. Callalily was champion in the 1.05M Jumpers with Courtney’s trainer, Heatherly Davis, aboard. Courtney herself rode Nip/Tuck to ribbons in the 0.80M Jumpers and 0.85M Jumpers. When asked what her plans for Easter were, Courtney laughed and gestured to the barn and said, “These are my plans!”
There is a class for everyone at Gold Coast, and Courtney’s daughter, five-year-old Cassie Valdez, rode at the same time as her mom. While Courtney competed in the jumper arena, Cassie competed in Walk-Trot Equitation on Reason to Smile (Heatherly Davis, owner). Cassie placed second in Opportunity Walk/Trot Equitation
Over Poles, plus several other ribbons in the section. Courtney explained that as soon as Cassie could sit up, she had her on a horse. Cassie said, "I really like to ride, and I had fun competing in the show."
Courtney and Cassie’s other barn mates, Jessica Sanders and Lexi Carson, both eleven years old, also rode successfully over the weekend. Jessica rode in jumper and equitation classes and was reserve champion in ‘B’ Short Stirrup. Though Jessica competes in both jumpers and equitation, she admitted that she likes jumpers better because she and her horse, Just Between Us (Justin), both like to go fast. Justin is a large pony that she has owned for about a year. In that year they have developed a loving connection, and Justin whinnies whenever he sees Jessica. Jessica attends St. Patrick School.
Lexi Carson on Lonestar (Heatherly Davis, owner) was co-champion of ‘B’ Short Stirrup and reserve champion in Pony Equitation. Lexi has been riding Lonestar for two years and has been leasing him for about a year. Before she enters the arena, Lexi explained that she tells the course to herself “thousands of times so I can remember it” and listens to music to relax. Usually, she will listen to music from Cavalia, which she finds soothing.
Many different families and friends enjoyed Easter together at the Gold Coast show, creating their own Easter celebration filled with the love of horses and showing.
For more information on Gold Coast 2, including a prize list and complete results, visit the LEG website.
The next LEG show at the LAEC will be the Gold Coast Series Show ‘3’ (May 18-20). Also in Southern California, the Verdugo Hills series of shows at Hansen Dam Equestrian Center will continue May 12-13. In Northern California, the Woodside show season will get under way with the Woodside Spring Preview (Apr 26-29), Colorado jumping fans look forward to the High Prairie Spring Preview (May 10-13).
Photos: Ashley Brien got the attention of the judges on her Manhattan; Kira Stevenson has a great day at Gold Coast 2; Courtney Valdez and Nip/Tuck earn ribbons in the jumper ring. Photos: Flying Horse Photography