Ashley Bond Tops in Grand Prix-Rich Fellers Rules Welcome Stake
The much-anticipated LA National Horse Show (Nov. 17-21) gave riders the opportunity to end the season on an exciting note, with the $50,000 Grand Prix of Los Angeles, the WCE and Onondarka Medal Finals, the $5,000 Pre-Green Hunter Championship, and more. It also gave riders who do not normally ride inside the chance to ride in the Equidome when the rain caused some fast thinking and schedule juggling on the part of show management.
Ashley Bond Tops in Grand Prix-Rich Fellers Rules Welcome Stake
"While the rain caused us to be creative, our staff acted quickly to move the highest priority classes into the Equidome," explained Michael Roy Curtis. "We tarped the warm-up arena so the grand prix riders would have a place to warm up, and the other classes warmed up at one end of the Equidome. The riders adapted well, and we were able to put on a great show on Saturday night."
Twenty-two horse and rider combinations tackled Olaf Petersen Jr.'s course in Saturday night's $50,000 Grand Prix of Los Angeles, a World Cup qualifier. Of those, it was the ninth horse, Cadett 7 (Little Valley Farms, owner), ridden by Ashlee Bond, that was the first to go clear in the time allowed. While some riders struggled with the time allowed, Ashlee took an inside track after fence seven that left little room for error at fence eight. However, she cleared it, along with the plank that followed. Her bold, yet careful, riding made neat work of the course, and she was one of the fastest riders in the first round. When she crossed the finish in well under the time allowed, the crowd went wild.
While being ninth to go and knowing no one has gone clear might put pressure on some riders, this was not the case with Ashlee. "I try not to think about what others are doing. I just went in there and thought, 'I have to go clean.' It was tough, but that just pushed me to try harder."
It was beginning to look as though Ashlee had the win in the bag until Richard Spooner trotted through the gate aboard Cristallo. Next to last in the order of go, the Master of Faster lived up to his name and blew through the course in plenty of time and left every rail in place. A jump off was assured, and Harley Brown very nearly joined Richard and Ashlee when he piloted Cassiato to a clear round, but he crossed the timer just .35 of a second too late and settled for third place.
When it came time for the jump off, Ashlee went in to win and once again jumped fast and clear, leaving a time for Richard to beat of 40.97 seconds. He set a blistering pace and just when it looked as though he would take the win, he dropped two rails near the end of the course and the win was Ashlee's.
"I was very happy with my horse," Richard commented. "He performed admirably. I wasn't able to get the win this time, but I'm happy for Ashlee. She's a friend and sometime student, so it's nice to see her be successful."
"Richard is my mentor," Ashlee explained. "We walk the course together and travel together a lot. It was great to win, and a good way to finish the year."
"Since the grand prix was a World Cup Qualifer, the idea was not to have a maximum quantity of riders in the jump off but to build the course to the class specifications," explained Olaf Petersen, Jr. "This year's final will be really big and difficult for everyone. The time allowed is definitely a factor in this class. This way, we raise the level of sport, but it is also so the qualified riders don’t see such a big difference from the qualifications to the actual final. The level of competition in the Grand Prix of Los Angeles was really good, and we saw an exciting class."
The Thursday night $30,000 Welcome Stake was practically a repeat of the mad dash of the same class held during the LA International in September. Rich Fellers ruled that competition, and he did it again at the LA National. This time he led off the 35 horse field aboard Flexible (Harry and Molly Chapman, owners), and he never looked back. "You're always going to be at a disadvantage when you go first in any speed competition," Rich explained. "Luckily, I know Flexible really well; I know his limitations, strengths and weaknesses. I made a plan that I thought would be competitive and stuck with it, and it worked. He was very easy to ride, and right from the get-go, everything came up sweet."
With a lightning-fast pace, the pair screamed around the course and looked unbeatable. Others tried and failed. Richard Spooner and his new mount, Billy Bianca (Molly Ohrstrom, owner), nearly caught him, but a rail added four seconds to their time. When Rich returned aboard McGuiness he again hit his characteristic no holds barred gallop as he crossed the start line, but he wasn’t able to beat his time posted with Flexible. However, the Oregon based rider claimed the top two spots. "That's about as good as it gets," Rich said of his sweep. "I'm very proud. I love those horses. I've had them since they were young, and they're like good friends, so it makes me proud when they do so well."
Lindsay Ramar (Mariano Alario, trainer) was also very proud of her Dance and Jump when they won the PCHA $5,000 Junior-Amateur Owner Jumper Championship and the $5,000 Junior-Amateur Owner Jumper Classic. In the classic, just three of the eleven horses made the jump off, Lindsay and Katie Harris (Kelly Van Vleck, trainer) with her two horses, Parrandero and Urvine.
"I knew I had to go out there and go for it, but leave all the jumps in place," Lindsay recalled. "This is the last show of the season for me, so I figured it was now or never."
Langer Equestrian Group, USHJA Zone 10, and Pacific Equestrians honored jumpers from ponies to grand prix at the Celebrate Jumpers banquet on Friday night sponsored by O.H. Kruse Grain & Milling. Numerous awards were given out throughout the night, including the first-ever Pacific Equestrians Lifetime Honoree, which was awarded to Linda Allen for her lifetime of outstanding service to the sport. Another first-time award was the Pacific Equestrian Visionary Award, given to those who have shown great vision in the industry. USHJA President Bill Moroney and Show Jumping Unplugged founders Paul and Tammy Peterson were honored with the inaugural award. Paul and Tammy were particularly touched by their surprise honor.
Theo Boris (Karen Healey, trainer), who won the WCE earlier in the evening, was honored at the dinner as well. The West Coast Equestrians Junior-Amateur Medal Final was one of the highlights of the weekend, and this jumper style competition had a field of 42 top junior and amateur riders. After two challenging rounds, the top fifteen returned for the third and final round, which was judged over a jump-off course where both riding style and time were critical factors.
Theo showed up to win, attacking each round with confidence. His combined score of 88 put him at the top of the leader board going into the final round, and a 92 clinched the victory. Alicia Gasser (Jenny Karazissis, trainer) rode well in all three rounds and earned the reserve championship.
"That was really fun," Theo repeated again and again after the class. "I didn't expect the course to be as big and technical as it was. Everything was there tonight for me to have a good round, and my horse, W.C. Swing (Carol Bird, owner), was great."
Alicia shared the sentiment. "I was really excited about riding in this class, and I really liked the jump off format. I liked how the rails count against you, because it makes the class more exciting."
At the other end of spectrum, the Onondarka Medal Final showcases the west’s top twelve and under riders. Because of the rain the final was consolidated to one day and run in the indoor Equidome. The riders handled it well and the top 15 riders showed their stamina by putting in strong rides through three rounds and the work off all in one day.
Alexandra LaDove (John French, trainer) was on top going into the work off. "Sophie Simpson was quite good, so I knew Alex was going to have to nail it to win," John explained. "The other riders went straight to the first jump like a typical hunter course and then hand galloped around to fence two. I told her to turn right from the gate and approach the first fence on the left lead, which put her at a slight angle so she could have an inside track for the hand gallop to the second fence."
Alexandra's stellar execution in taking her horse Littlewood through the course resulted in a score of 86 for a final winning score of 173.5. "She rides as a twelve-year-old, so this was her last chance at the Onondarka. It was her goal this year, and she really focused on it. You never know how that will work out, if that focus will put too much pressure on them, but she did great."
Sophie Simpson (Will Simpson, trainer) placed seventh in the first round, and she improved her performance over the remaining rounds and claimed the reserve champion title.
Besides the medal finals, the equitation championships provided additional excitement for riders of all ages. In the 18 and over class, several top-notch riders vied for top prize. Adrienne Dixon (Benson Carroll, trainer) was hard on Karrie Rufer's (Diane Yeager, trainer) heels going into the work off. Both riders put in confident and accurate tests, but Karrie maintained her lead and earned the championship.
"It was really tough," Karrie commented. "The competition in adult equitation is getting really stiff. It was right down to the wire with Adrienne, but the work off was a really good test for me. There was some pressure, but I almost do better under pressure."
In the 15-17 Equitation Championship, Alicia Gasser was champion aboard Palmar (King Equestrian, owner), followed by Zoie Nagelhout (Archie Cox, trainer) in reserve with Piper (Sylvia O'Connor, owner). Savannah Dukes (Robin Stiegler, owner) rode RSVP (LLC High Point Farms, owner) to the win in the 14 and Under championship, and Sydney Callaway (Lori De Rosa, trainer) took the reserve champion title with Cassius (Callaway Stables LLC, owner).
In the hunter rings, one of the highlights of the whole year was the $5,000 Pre-green Hunter Championship. "It's a pretty big deal to make this final," explained John French, after winning the class with Stay Tuned (Polly Sweeney, owner). "It was held on a day when the juniors and amateurs were there, so there was a big crowd and the hunters were showcased. It was nice that everyone could see the young horses that are coming up."
Polly Sweeney keeps Stay Tuned at her barn and does most of the daily work with the gelding, doing primarily flat work, a few cavaletti, and low fences. John took over riding duties at the National Preview and the LA National, and Stay Tuned qualified for the $5,000 Pre-Green Championship by winning just two of the classes in the section.
"He's a really friendly, pet-type horse and perfect for an amateur," Polly said, "but watching John show him is like owning a Stradivarius violin and watching the maestro play it. When they announced his score of 94 in the championship, I just about came out of my chair. I even dropped my glasses and broke them, because I couldn't believe it. I was just so thrilled. It was amazing." Polly plans to let John continue to show her horse next year, and then she will take her turn with him.
The LA National traditionally concludes the show season in the west with a myriad of champions, and this year was no exception. From Onondarka riders to grand prix riders, champions emerge at all levels, and it is a great way to end the year.
For more information about Langer Equestrian Group and all the shows, visit the website at www.langershows.com.
Photos: Ashlee Bond and Cadett 7 take the lead in the grand prix Photo: Flying Horse Photography; Fellers and Flexible were uncatchable in the $30,000 Welcome Stake Photo: Flying Horse Photography; Jenni Martin-McAllister presents the Visionary award to Paul and Tammy Peterson Photo: Flying Horse Photography; Theo Boris leads the WCE Photo: Flying Horse Photography and John French takes Stay Tuned to the top of the $5,000 Pre-green Championship Photo: Flying Horse Photography.