11/7/2011 - Just a few short weeks from now, while most of us are piling on extra layers and finishing up our Christmas shopping, four trainers will have the opportunity to lounge on the beaches of Maui, courtesy of Langer Equestrian Group’s Maui Trainer Incentive. LEG awards a week stay in Maui to the professionals whose students earn the most points at the Woodside, Colorado, and Verdugo Hills series, as well as a fourth prize for the professional member of the winning team in the Memorial Day Equitation Challenge. In addition, each of the top five trainers at Verdugo Hills, Woodside, and Colorado earn a bonus check.
Larry Langer, President and CEO of LEG, started the Trainer Incentive eight years ago to reward professionals for the hard work they put into the sport. Most trainers rarely get the chance to take a vacation, and when they do they are rarely extravagant. “One of the main reasons I set up the Maui Trainer Incentive was because most awards and prize money go to the owners and their family members, and even though trainers get paid from their clients, they rarely get the credit they deserve for often working long hours every day of the week," Larry explained.
"Another thing I wanted to do with this program was to keep it going for many years," he added. "Trainers sometimes get their students and horses up to a peak and have a very good year, putting them in contention for the week in Maui. Other years are rebuilding years, and it is important to let trainers know that the award will still be there when they regroup and get up on top again. It is extremely gratifying to see the look on a trainer's face when they see they are in the top five and know that a cash award and a trip to Maui is on the line for them and they can count on it being given out. The thanks I get from the trainers does my heart good."
The first trip for the 2011 show season was awarded in May, thanks to a top notch performance by Tommi Clark and her teammates, Devon Manze (junior) and Belle Calkin (amateur) in the Memorial Day Classic Equitation Challenge. This was a competition between teams made up of a professional, a junior, and an amateur rider jumping for the highest combined score. In addition to Tommi winning a week's stay in Maui as the professional member of the team, Devon and Belle took home beach bikes. Since Tommi is unable to go, she gave her trip to fellow professional Joe Thorpe, who coached the team.
Also in Southern California, the Verdugo Hills series at Hansen Dam was the last of the awards to be determined. Deirdra Davis finished the year on top with 230 points, with Sheri Moser hot on her trail with 226.
Deirdra can't wait to go on a relaxing vacation in Maui with her boyfriend. "I'm super excited," she commented. "With all the horse shows I go to, this will help me redeem myself on the boyfriend/girlfriend quality time. I think it's a great program and will always support it. I would go to the shows anyway, but it's a nice incentive for sure. It's a nice way for LEG to give back to the trainers who are here early and stay all day long. The customers get their awards, so it's nice for the trainers to have something."
Deirdra nearly won twice before, and the third time was the charm. "Going into the last show, my clients were worried because we lost two years in a row. So we looked at what they needed to do to keep me in the lead. We realized we needed jumper points, so I said Morgan should do some jumpers, not necessarily to win, but to get some experience and work on fundamentals. He went in and rode the class like it was an equitation round. It was kind of a win-win; not only did it help us win the trip, but we won one of the classes and got some good experience."
In Northern California, Diane Yeager was in the lead for much of the season until Toni McIntosh passed her at Woodside Fall Finale. "We didn't know we were in the running for it until we went to the last show," Toni shared. "The clients were really cute about it. They always do their best, but once we knew we had a chance of winning the trip they really took it upon themselves to do extra well to give it the best shot for us. It made the show really fun, and it was a lovely surprise when we found out we won the trip. At the end of the day, we trainers put a lot of time and effort into the industry and bring a lot of business to the shows, and there aren't many other awards like the Maui trip."
For Toni, this award was about more than the trip; it had some unexpected benefits as well. "For us it's been a real team effort," she added. "It's not just Colin and me; we have great assistants and everyone works hard as a team, and I'm super proud that we achieved this award together. We work as a team anyway, but I saw the team camaraderie and the teamwork when everyone pulled together to make it happen. It wasn't just Colin and me winning, it was the whole team. Any team prize like that is really good for the sport, I feel."
Diane Yeager was second and will receive a bonus check. "It's a nice added bonus for going to shows I like taking my clients to anyway," she commented. "It's one of the few treats that is just for the trainers to reward us for our 12-15 hour work days at the shows."
In Colorado, Michael Dennehy has been in the top five several times, and he won the trip this year for the third time. He ended the season with 346 points, while his father, Wilson, was right behind him with 320.5. “This is such a great program, and we appreciate that Langer Equestrian helps recognize trainers in this way,” he remarked. “The trainers work really hard and are often overlooked, so it's nice to get something back. It's really fabulous. I also have to thank my customers. They really are the best!”
Those trainers who missed out on the trip will have the opportunity to try again next year, and the new show season is just a few short months away.
More information about the Maui Trainer Incentive, including final standings, visit the LEG Programs/Awards website.
There are two exciting shows left in the LEG season. Pony riders are gearing up for West Coast Pony Finals at the National Preview Horse Show (Nov 9-13), followed by the LA National, which will feature the prestigious Onondarka Medal Finals, WCE Junior-Amateur Medal Finals, and the $50,000 Grand Prix of Los Angeles (a World Cup Qualifier), run on the new footing Rudy Leone has installed just in time for the final two shows at LA Equestrian Center.
Photos: Mark Purcell enjoys the sun in Hawaii LEG Up News file photo; Tommi Clark and her team win the Memorial Day Equitation Challenge Photo: Flying Horse Photography