Equitation Riders Square Off at High Prairie Fall Classic

Lucy Gerhart (Elani Rager, trainer) made the trip from New Mexico to Colorado determined to do well in the Zone 8 Junior Medal Final as well as the other medal finals and classes offered during the High Prairie Fall Classic (Sep 15-18). The high school junior at Bosque School in Albuquerque rode her own Across the Universe ("Cosmo") to the win in the ASPCA Maclay class on Friday and had a solid performance in the Maclay Regionals on Saturday, placing fourth. She went into the USEF Zone 8 Final determined to fix a few small mistakes and keep her horse from getting nervous. That meant keeping her own nerves under control and riding very definite.

“It was really fun to have something more technical than just a regular hunter course,” Lucy commented. “In our first round, I tried to ride as smoothly as possible and just put in a good trip. In the second round, I wanted to show the judge that we meant business so I took the inside turns and did a more direct seven strides from the brush jump to the combination instead of the eight. The toughest part for Cosmo and me was doing the two natural verticals that were next to each other because they were open underneath and near the end of the arena. I thought Cosmo might catch his eye on the end of the ring or on the hay bale jump in the combination and rub it or have a rail there. Luckily, he was great!”

The work-off involved just two contenders – Lucy and Brooke Pettet (Brianna Davis, trainer). The two lined up inside the arena but facing away from the jumps so they couldn’t watch each other's work off. That meant it was hard for them to compare rides and learn from one another’s rounds.

“I knew that I had to have a really solid ride because I was in second place,” said Lucy. “I thought my work-off went really well and I rode exactly what I planned to do. When I found out I won the class I was so excited! It's a great feeling to know that your hard work paid off in a class like this where all the riders were on their game. Everyone in the class rode so well and put in great rounds, so it was really tough competition.”

Lucy notes that Across the Universe is a great partner for her because their personalities really work well together. Cosmo and Lucy compete in the equitation and jumper divisions. This past year they have focused more on the Maclay, USEF Pessoa, Talent Search, and WIHS Equitation classes. Before this year, they competed in either Children's Jumpers or Modified Junior Jumpers. They still do on days when they don't have any other classes. “He is still better as an equitation horse because we don't have the speed to compete with some of the handier jumper horses,” she added.

Brooke Pettet, who was reserve champion in the Zone 8 Junior Medal Final, had quite the show as well. In fact, she claimed top honors in the ASPCA Maclay Regional Final riding Wonderwall.

“I thought my Maclay Final round went really well,” said Brooke. “I kept a good canter and was finding all of the right distances. There was one jump I was a little unsure about and got kind of long to, but we recovered well on the backside and it all worked out.”

During the flat phase, Brooke concentrated on the little details to make her stand out. She appreciated that her horse was really calm so she could focus on the job at hand. “I have had him for three years now and he is the best horse I’ve ever owned. He’s very reliable and will jump from anywhere. I’ve ridden him in many hunter classes and derbies, and I recently took him in the Low Junior/Amateur Owner Jumpers. He can do anything!”

Over in the jumper ring, professional rider Susie Griffis and her mare Udine rode to the win in the $10,000 High Prairie Mini-Prix besting a field of 18 including the previous week’s class winner, Bjorn Ikast. Susie noted with a laugh that she had to give Bjorn and his five amazing horses some competition. “I am thrilled with the win,” Susie said. “I only wish my daughter Haley had beaten me like she did the day before in the $1,500 Junior/Amateur Jumper Classic.”

Course Designer Catalina Cruz made the course tough. The first round featured an inviting track that was also long and challenging with an option to the first in-and-out and a stand-alone triple combination at the top of the hill near the end. In the jump off, Susie stayed on a tight track and risked a fast gallop to the last jump. The moved paid off , thanks to Udine's careful nature. “Udine was ridable and jumping well, so even though I was out of breath for the jump off, she stayed strong,” Susie commented.

While Susie admits to loving to gush about her mare, she is even more happy to talk about her children and their accomplishments. “I was truly proud of Haley winning the Classic on Saturday,” she said. “It's been a dream of mine that the kids soundly kick my butt on a regular basis.”

Kim Little (Mickie Sage, trainer) moved her horse Claire up to the Modified Amateur Jumper division and earned a championship for her efforts. Her third-place finish in the first class of the division offered some key lessons for the newly teamed pair. “The course was really fun and a little bit technical with roll-backs and bending lines," Kim explained. "However, the place where I got tripped up was in a bending line that included a gallop up the hill to a one-stride oxer-vertical combination. I took too much of an inside track and didn’t get straight to the oxer, putting us at a really deep distance so Claire stopped. But thankfully we circled right around and got through it in pretty good time.”

The class Kim and Claire won had its own set of challenges. Avoiding inside turns to build confidence meant being speedy elsewhere on the course was paramount. Adding difficulty was the fact the questions the course asked were deceivingly simple but provided many opportunities to make an easy mistake like not picking a solid track on the many bending lines. “I did try turning in the air through the in-and-out during the jump-off,” Kim said. “I ended up pulling a rail, but fortunately we had a fast enough time to make up for it.”

Jen Wallen and Remember When enjoyed continued success in the hunter ring. Coming off a remarkable week during the High Prairie Fall Preview, the pair earned the reserve championship in the Low Junior/Amateur Owner Hunters and was once again champions in the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Classic. Jen finished the Colorado series as the leading non-professional rider in the LEGIS Hunter Rider Challenge while Laurie Jueneman was the leading professional rider.

Another professional who was rewarded for his efforts this season was Colorado native Michael Dennehy of Bridlewood Farm. Michael won the LEG Maui Trainer Incentive Program and the grand prize trip to Maui for the second year in a row, due to his students earning the most points at shows in the series. “This is such a great program, and we appreciate that Langer Equestrian helps recognize trainers in this way,” he remarked. “I also have to thank my customers. They really are the best!”

With several year-end awards and finals on the books, another great LEG show season concludes at the Colorado Horse Park.

For more information about High Prairie Fall Classic, including complete results, visit http://langershows.com/colorado/show_details.php?show_id=218.

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, while pony riders are gearing up for West Coast Pony Finals at the National Preview Horse Show (Nov 9-13).. Woodside Fall Finale (Sep 29-Oct 2) will conclude the 2011 LEG show season in Northern California, and Verdugo Hills League Preview will run Oct 28-29 at Hansen Dam in Southern California.

Did you enjoy High Prairie Fall Preview? Nominate LEG for a USHJA Member's Choice Award!

Photo: Jennifer Wallen and Remember When are champions in the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Classic Photo: Horse and Ryder Photography