Michael Leon Proves Unbeatable at Gold Coast 7

Michael Leon and Copado have dominated the $1,000 USHJA National Hunter Derbies at the Gold Coast Series all season. Photo: Flying Horse Photography
Michael Leon and Copado have dominated the $1,000 USHJA National Hunter Derbies at the Gold Coast Series all season. Photo: Flying Horse Photography

October 24, 2013 - Michael Leon brought home the $5,000 LEGIS Hunter Rider Bonus after earning his fifth Gold Coast derby win with Copado (Piñon West LLC, owner) at Gold Coast 7 (Oct 17-20). The win was all the sweeter as Michael swept the top three ribbons in the $1,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby aboard Copado, Cullen (Piñon West LLC, owner), and Freedom (Anna Sophia Lotman,owner), respectively.

“After I won my first derby with Copado at the beginning of the year, I set a goal to keep the wins going and try my hardest to win the $5,000 LEGIS Hunter Rider Bonus. It’s been exciting for me to try and compete for the bonus at each derby,” Michael explained. “Annette Peterfy, Copado’s owner, has been incredibly supportive and made sure Copado could go to every derby. I’m grateful to her and also to Langer Equestrian Group and LEGIS for sponsoring this bonus for the riders. I could not be happier to have achieved my goal.”

At Gold Coast 7, Michael started the class off with a bang on Freedom with a score of 90. His next two rounds were just a few points behind as Cullen and Copado scored 88 and 86, respectively. “Freedom is greener and he’s still learning the turns and faster tracks, so the handy classes are a little harder for him,” Michael commented. “Copado, being a seasoned jumper, truly excels in the handy rounds.”

This proved exactly the case as Copado earned a 92 for his handy round and Freedom took a look at the first fence, a large coop. “Freedom was great, but he just got a little spooky at the coop because he hadn’t seen it before and it was in the light.” With two rubs in Cullen’s round, Copado rose to the top of the leader board yet again. All three horses also won multiple championships at the show and multiple Gold Coast Series championships as well.

Michael had nothing but praise for Copado, who has performed consistently at every show. “Copado is a total pleaser and will jump from any angle or distance. He never has a bad day and has such an easy-going, fantastic personality. He’s just been a great ride and I’m really fortunate to have him,” Michael gushed. Copado will finish out the year trying for the LEGIS Hunter Rider Bonus for the LA “A” Show Series at the National Preview Horse Show (Oct 30-Nov 3) and Los Angeles National Horse Show (Nov 6-10). “Next year, we’ll probably do more of the USHJA International Hunter Derbies and he’ll do more of the amateur owner hunters with Annette,” Michael said.

As for his plans for the $5,000, Michael hopes to give back to his barn. “Maybe we’ll see a new golf cart around! I’m not sure yet,” Michael shared. “I have so much support from my barn, and that support is definitely one of the keys to my success. We’re like a family and everyone is always there for each other.”

Equitation riders had some excitement in their ring as well, as Gold Coast 7 hosted the CPHA Horsemanship and the CPHA Child-Adult Medal Final (Los Angeles Region). In the CPHA Child-Adult Medal Finals, junior rider Sarah Peterson (Courtney Cochran, trainer) won out on her Unscripted. “I wasn’t really expecting to win at all,” Sarah noted. “In the first round, I scored a 72 and placed seventh so I was really surprised and happy just to make the work off.” Sarah improved on her first round and scored the highest score in the second round with an 82, which sent her into the work off in second place. “The work off included two rollbacks and we had to halt and back after the second one and then trot a fence,” Sarah recalled. “I felt comfortable with the work off and after I went I started to feel like maybe I could win.”

Sarah Peterson pulls out a surprise victory in the CPHA Child-Adult Medal Final. Photo: Flying Horse Photography
Sarah Peterson pulls out a surprise victory in the CPHA Child-Adult Medal Final. Photo: Flying Horse Photography

Sarah’s beautiful riding did earn her the win. Allie Fudge (Elvenstar Farms, trainer) placed second, Caroline Bersch (Joe Thorpe, trainer) placed third, and Mara Chemerinsky (Marci Mosconi, trainer) was fourth. Sarah is working on her partnership with Unscripted, which she just bought three months ago. “This is our fourth show together and I feel like we’re starting to come together as a team,” Sarah said. She and Unscripted are off to a good start as the pair also won the LAHJA/LA Saddlery Junior Medal Class and the Pessoa/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Classes.

Though she was in Los Angeles for the weekend, Sarah usually spends the weekends in Santa Barbara. “I live in Santa Barbara, but I attend Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in La Canada,” Sarah explained. “So I stay in Los Angeles for the school week and then I go home on the weekends to ride.” Thirteen-year-old Sarah plans to continue doing the 3’3” and 3’6” medals next year.

In the CPHA Horsemanship Finals, twelve-year-old Abrielle Reed (Huntover, trainer) worked through her nerves—and the fact that she was riding a pony against a class full of horses—to earn the win. “I’m usually pretty nervous for medal finals, and this was no exception,” Abrielle remembered. “Each course was pretty nerve-wracking, but I got over my nerves by the end of each course.”

Abrielle and her Key West shone against all the riders on horses and had the highest score in the first round, but had a few less-than-perfect distances in the second. “Several riders who didn’t have great scores on the first day came back and rode really well in the second round. I was glad I made the work off, but once I was in the ring, I started freaking out a little,” Abrielle admitted. “It’s like having a test that you study and study for and then when you take the test, you can’t remember anything. I kept going over the numbers for the fences, but I got lost in the work off when they read it the first time.”

Thankfully, Abrielle got the work off down by the second read through and executed it flawlessly. Isabelle Garcia (Linda Cooper, trainer) placed second, Julia Stone (Courtney Cochran, trainer) was third, and Grace Ewell (Cha Cha Jago, trainer) placed fourth. “I’m very excited for this win,” Abrielle said. “Hopefully next year I’ll move up to a horse and maybe do some of the bigger medals.”

Abrielle and Key West have been together for a few years, but when she first got her the pony was quite a surprise. “At the time, I was trying a bunch of ponies. This one pony I tried didn’t quite work out, and one of my trainers, Heather Chatham, asked me to help load the pony back on to the trailer,” Abrielle elaborated. “I opened the trailer and inside there was a pony with a big bow. I thought, ‘Oh, this must be for someone else.’ But then Heather told me that she was mine! I was pretty shocked, especially since I’d never ridden her, but it worked out well. We have a good bond now and she’s a well behaved, easy going pony.”

In the jumper arena, Kathryn Burdett-Griffiths demonstrated the determination and resiliency that all riders know is necessary in the sport. Kat took a tough fall off of Ledinos (Sunset Farms, owner) in her first class of the day. “I’m usually very comfortable on Ledinos, but occasionally he can jump super carefully like he did today,” Kat explained. “I was completely off and we couldn’t get in sync. After the fall, I was mentally shaken up but I just decided to leave it behind and move on to the next ride.”

Kat got back in the saddle and came back to win the championship in the 1.20M Jumpers with Wow Van Het Lindehof (Sunset Farms, owner), AKA Mini. “Mini is more quirky than Ledinos, but she has been quite consistent lately. I just had to have confidence that I would get back in sync, which I did,” Kat shared.

Her perseverance proved to be an excellent example for her students. Taking a cue from Kat, Emma Krenzke didn’t let a fall stop her from coming back and winning the championship in the ‘B’ Restricted Child-Adult aboard Tres Chic (Lacy Greene, owner). Emma and two other girls from the University of Southern California’s Equestrian Team, which Kat coaches, gained valuable horse show experience at Gold Coast 7. “Our first Intercollegiate Horse Show Association show is the first weekend in November, so some of the girls wanted to get some horse show practice,” Kat elaborated. “I think it’s definitely helpful for them to get some of the show nerves out before the first show.”

Kat plans to focus on coaching the team while finding time for Ledinos and Mini. “I’ve had Ledinos for seven years and it was really an uncharacteristic day for him. I’d like start to do some of the smaller grands prix with him and keep showing Mini and having fun with her.”

There were many more memories from the Gold Coast Series this year. Keep an eye out for our photo essay on the LEGIS Gold Coast Series winners. The Gold Coast series has wrapped up for the year, but there’s plenty of excitement coming up! LAEC will host the National Preview Horse Show (Oct 30-Nov 4), Los Angeles National Horse Show (Nov 6-10), and LA Season Finale (Nov 14-17) to close out the horse show season in Los Angeles.

For more information about Gold Coast 7, including complete results and series champions, visit the LEG website.




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