Brookside Equestrian Park (Elk Grove, CA) opened its doors to riders and trainers from the northern half of the state to participate in the Nor Cal Medal Finals Show (Oct 9-13). Grassy berms and tall shady trees lined the arenas that hosted the four finals offered by the Northern California Hunter Jumper Association. Exhibitors came with their sights set on tri-color victory sashes after working diligently throughout the year to qualify for the medal finals.
Sight in and of itself was paramount for amateur rider Michele Tobin (Joey Pedroni Stables, trainer). “After losing most of my vision in my left eye in May of 2013, my family and my trainers, Joey Pedroni and Debbi Sereni, were very supportive in my decision to continue riding,” Michele said. However, Michele did more than simply continue riding, she racked up numerous wins in the equitation and medals aboard Deutsche Mark (Joey Pedroni, owner), qualifying for the Cloverleaf Medal Final as well as the Nor Cal Senior Medal Final. “I’m so thankful to them for helping me adjust and giving me the confidence to compete in the finals this year.”
Michele’s struggle with her vision was surely not evident during her rounds in the Nor Cal Senior Final. Winning both the first and second rounds and laying down a flawless work-off, she proved that her sight was set on the win, regardless of her diagnosis. Also placing in the top of the final were Tonya Johnston (Ned Glynn, trainer) in second, Lily Swift (Denize Borges, trainer) in third, and Soleil Teubner (Nicole Carroll, trainer) in fourth.
While Michele’s victory in the Senior Medal Final was virtually a clean sweep, the Junior Medal Final turned out to be far less predictable, proving that all bets are off in a work-off. Jayme Omand (Kelly Van Vleck, trainer) entered the ring in the fourth spot after the two rounds, which meant she tested first out of the four riders called back for the work-off. “I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. I just tried to stay calm and give it my all,” recalled Jayme. Since the judges required the four riders to face away from the arena during the test, it is likely the final results were a bit surprising to all of them, especially Jayme, who emerged the champion. Jayme was joined in the work off by Robert Sean Leckie (Richard Widger, trainer), who placed second, Mikala Cryder (Denise Parker, trainer), who finished third, and Emma Waldfogel (Ned Glynn, trainer), who was fourth.
Course designer Ben Chisholm (Oakville, WA) was thrilled to see the success with which his courses were ridden. “I paid close attention on Saturday to how the riders interpreted the courses, and though there were some great trips, I noticed that many of them were not using the corners to their full advantage,” Ben recalled. “So on Sunday I made sure to draw courses that forced the riders into the corners, yet implored them to maintain a forward pace to the fences with correct position, rather than just simply giving them odd distances. My aim was to test the riders, not the horses. Designing these courses was fun. I know these arenas well and have spent a lot of time on this property, so I really tried to give the riders a fun yet challenging weekend where they could not only use their prior knowledge but maybe take away something new from the experience as a whole.”
Ben chose the same approach in the second hunter arena, where the Nor Cal 3’ Medal Final and Pony Medal Finals were held. With 27 entries, the Nor Cal 3’ Medal Final was the largest of the four finals. Placing second in the first round and winning the second, junior rider Patty Gill (Patty Ball, trainer) tested last in the work-off. The pressure was on for Patty, given that she was reserve champion in last year’s final. Thankfully, Patty feels comfortable at Brookside as it is where she won her first medal final in 2010. Using her medal final experience, Patty sustained her lead in the work-off and prevailed. “The work off consisted of a rollback, a trot fence into a line and a halt. We got to stay outside of the ring and talk to our trainers about it. I got kind of long to the first fence, but other than that, I felt like I rode it well. I was thrilled to win! I really wanted to win because I was reserve champion last year.”
Perhaps another element that made the win exciting is that Patty’s partnership with her horse, Elton, is a new one. “Elton and I have only been together for two months. He was wonderful and gave me everything I asked of him.” Alexandra Hirt (Hilary Johnson, trainer) placed second in the class, while Emily Mills (Deborah Stone, trainer) was third and Michelle Morsey (Nicole Bloom, trainer) was fourth.
The Nor Cal Pony Medal Final was the last to be awarded on Sunday afternoon. Camille Shelton (Nicole Bloom, trainer) topped the field of twelve ponies in round one, but then placed fourth in the second round. It was anyone’s best guess how the work-off would pan out, but given her recent success, Shelton’s chances were good. Winning the Acorn Classic the week prior, Camille and her pony Mercury were familiar with walking in the ring under pressure. The experience paid off for Camille and Mercury when their work-off round determined the win for the pair, capping off a very successful two week run. Camille was followed by Hayley Jacquin (Beverly Jovais, trainer) in second, Zoe Joaqin (Meredith Herman, trainer) in third, and Emilie Bell (Aimee Hanson, trainer) in fourth.
Returning to the place that it called home for many successful years, the Nor Cal Finals Show saw rave reviews. The picturesque setting provided the perfect fall location to host the show and its medal finals. With nightly parties, an on-site bar and restaurant, and remarkable hospitality offered to all exhibitors, trainers, and parents in attendance, many were happy with Brookside as the location for this year’s show.
Horse showing continues in Southern California with Gold Coast 7 (Oct 17-20) at LAEC and Verdugo Hills League Preview (Oct 25 – 26) at Hansen Dam. The year-end fun is just getting started, with many finals and Pony Palooza to look forward to at National Preview (Oct 30 - Nov 3) and the Los Angeles National Horse Show (Nov 6 – 10), so get your entries in!
For more information about the Nor Cal Medal Finals Horse Show or any LEG show, visit the LEG website.