Surprise Victories and Personal Bests Rule the Day at Portuguese Bend National Horse Show

Ransome Rombauer enjoys her storybook ending of the PCHA Horsemanship Final. Photo: Captured Moment Photography
Ransome Rombauer enjoys her storybook ending of the PCHA Horsemanship Final. Photo: Captured Moment Photography

9/17/2013 - It was a weekend of personal accomplishments, surprise wins, and come-from-behind victories at Portuguese Bend National Horse Show (Sep 6-8), a benefit show for the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles.

The PCHA Horsemanship Final played out like a Disney movie, the kind where the underdog makes an unbelievable comeback to win. Ransome Rombauer (Daniel Ighani and Bill Cooney, trainers) had a shaky first round that landed her in the middle of the 44-entry field. "I was really nervous for Round 1,” Ransome recounted. “Gaston (Katherine Civian, owner) is a new horse for me. I knew he was a great horse, but I still needed more time to get to know him. I ended up with a combined score of 77 for Round 1 after taking a really long one at jump 4. I was very disappointed in myself and felt pretty defeated that night. I had a long talk with my mom, and she reminded me that I had nothing to lose the next morning for Round 2. I went back in feeling very calm and focused.”

Ransome settled down and rode well in the second round, and her combined score was enough to get her into the third round. Thirteen riders returned, and Ransome was sitting eleventh. She nailed the course and soon found herself going into the work-off in fifth place. "I was really nervous because I was the first one to go,” Ransome recalled. “Usually it's difficult for me to visualize the order of the jumps, but I didn't have time to think about it; I just had to go and do it. Everything happened so fast after the third round, and I didn't really have the time to truly think about the fact that I had moved up from the middle of the pack to the final five. I think I still had in my mind that winning wasn't possible."

However, Ransome’s textbook work off, including an extremely well executed hand gallop and turn on the forehand, earned her a score of 90, and the other riders couldn’t catch her. "I felt pretty good about my work-off. I thought maybe it was possible to move up to third place, but I wasn't sure. I thought Gemma Geist had a great work-off, and she had been riding consistently well all weekend. When the placings were announced and I realized I had won, I started crying because I couldn't believe it. I was so emotional and so surprised. I still cannot believe I was able to come up from a first round score of 77 and end up as the winner."

Ransome has been riding in medal finals for some time, and although she has come from behind to finish high in the ribbons before, this was her first win. “My goal before the show was to make top ten,” she said. “I am very proud of Gaston. In the short time we have been riding together, he has been a great partner and I think he is going to be a great equitation horse for me; he knows all the tricks. This was my last year for the PCHA before I age out. It means a lot to me to be competing with my peers and to be showing at such a great show. I love the atmosphere and I love competing alongside of all my friends and having my parents there to support me. I can't wait to come back for the ghost ride next year."

Ransome recently turned 15 and started at the Sonoma Academy as a freshman, where she rides on the school’s new equestrian team. She is headed to the Maclay Regional Final this weekend, followed by her second attempt at the USEF/Platinum Performance Show Jumping Talent Search Final at LA International Jumping Festival (Sep 18-22), where she will be getting her bronze medal for winning five of the qualifying classes.

Tonya Johnston keeps her head in the game to win the PCHA Adult Medal Final. Photo: Captured Moment Photography
Tonya Johnston keeps her head in the game to win the PCHA Adult Medal Final. Photo: Captured Moment Photography

Tonya Johnston (Kelly Van Vleck, trainer) was very happy to meet her long-term goal of winning the PCHA Adult Medal Final. “I have won other medal finals but this was definitely the most prestigious, and I am thrilled to be part of a long-standing tradition,” she remarked. “I’ve been working toward it for a long time. This was the fourth time I’ve done it, and I came in second last year. Every year you get more fire in your belly to go again and try to put it all together. I don’t put pressure on myself; I just try to grow from the experience and get better. I do mental skills coaching, so I really work on just relishing being there instead of the pressure. I remind myself that this is what I want to be doing and how much fun it is.”

Tonya normally trains with Sonoma Valley Stables, but since Hope Glynn was in New York, Kelly Van Vleck took over the coaching role for the weekend. “Kelly is phenomenal,” Tonya said. “I rode with her last year, and it worked out really well. I was standing second going into the work off and just a fraction of a point behind Virginia Fout (Archie Cox, trainer). In fact, all four of our scores were all really close. The test was straightforward going in, but after the second jump there were two inside turns you could take and then there was a hand gallop fence. Kelly and I discussed the test before I went in the ring, and I watched the other riders go, but I decided not to make my decision on whether to take the inside turns until I got in there so I could see how I felt in the moment. The other riders took the inside turns. I decided to show off my horse’s hand gallop, so I went outside of everything, and it worked out. When they were doing the ribbons, I was just so excited and thrilled. It’s really fun when all the hard work pays off.” Virginia landed in second place, while Michele Tobin (Joey Pedroni, trainer) was third and Brooke Mansker (Nancy Turrill, trainer) was fourth.

Tonya rode a horse she has been leasing for just a short time, Eurocommerce San Francisco. “He’s 20 years old and a great horse with such a big heart. He was a jumper and did some World Cup Qualifiers years ago, and he’s been doing equitation for the last couple of years. He has a wonderful rhythm and a lot of jump, so you just feel confident on him that he will help you wherever you are. Last year, I leased Kendjira (Ashley Pryde, owner), and that’s the horse Virginia Fout rode this year so that was neat.”

 Marnye Langer and LEGIS Rockstar rock the 15,000 Seahorse Jumper Classic. Photo: LEG Up News file photo
Marnye Langer and LEGIS Rockstar rock the 15,000 Seahorse Jumper Classic. Photo: LEG Up News file photo

It was certainly a show to remember for Marnye Langer (Team McAllister, trainer) when she piloted LEGIS Rockstar (, owner) to the win in the $15,000 Seahorse Jumper Classic. “I had an amazing weekend,” she shared. “It was a really neat horse show, and to win that class was a huge accomplishment for me.”

With seven talented horses in the jump off, Marnye had her work cut out for her. “The jump off track had quite a few options, so it didn’t favor any particular type of horse,” Marnye recalled. “I knew there were two inside turns, but I didn’t think I could do those. I was third to go, and when my trainer Jenni McAllister came out of the ring right before me, she looked at me and said, ‘Don’t you dare not do those inside turns.’ So then I knew I had to do them. I went in there and nailed the turns and surprised myself. When I came out of the second one, the jump was in my face, so all I could do was sit up, hold on, use my leg, and hope the horse could get out of it—and he did. My heart was pounding waiting for the others to go. Of course I would have been disappointed if I didn’t win, but I was so happy with what I had accomplished, I knew no one could take that away from me. As the rounds went on, I realized the worst I could be was third. Then second. Jenni and her second horse were last to go, and as I watched her make the turn for home, I suspected she was a hair off my time. Suddenly I found myself winning, and I couldn’t believe it.”

Another amateur rider, Lindsay Douglass (Mickey Hayden, trainer), certainly had a stake in the class and hoped to claim the victory aboard her new horse, Butterfly Tibri Z, but Marnye’s blazing fast time pushed her to second. “We are very close to the Scharffenberger family and Marion Scharffenberger sponsors the class, so I was definitely excited to go for it in the jump off to win (as Marion’s son Jim Scharffenberger put it) ‘granny's money.’ I didn't get a chance to watch anyone go before me in the seven person jump off, but I heard that Marnye was clean and I knew she would be fast. The jump off was very much a test of turns, which isn't our greatest strength at the moment since Butterfly is still fairly green and we've spent the summer on the grass fields. However, she stepped up to the plate and wheeled around the turns without touching a rail. I think we were doing great time-wise until the last line when I settled and opted for the seven rather than the six. But overall I'm incredibly happy with the weekend and I look forward to returning to Portuguese Bend for many years to come!”

For Marnye, the win was a major career highlight, but the personal accomplishment meant more than any ribbon. “This was definitely the biggest win of my career in the jumper ring,” she remarked. “It’s cool because winning a class like this really gives me a great foundation. I know I can regularly put in double clean rounds. Steve and Jenni McAllister keep pushing me to go faster and take tighter turns, and I’ve been able to pull it off. I haven’t shown at 1.35M all year, but I did last year so I knew it was in my wheelhouse. I also spent a lot of time concentrating on flat work this summer with dressage trainer Jock Michelosen. That worked out really well because we got a lot of ridability and filled in some gaps.”

Perhaps what made the win even more exciting is that four of the top five places were from Team McAllister’s barn. Jenni McAllister was third aboard Casseur de Prix (Granville Equine, owner) and fourth on LEGIS Touch The Sun (, owner), while Amanda McQuady was fifth on her Picardo. “That was super, super fun,” Marnye said. “The win was all the sweeter because all of us were in the jump off, and we were celebrating each other’s successes. My husband, Larry, doesn’t always come to my shows, but he decided to come watch, which was thrilling.”

Marnye plans to stick to the Junior/Amateur Owner Jumpers for the rest of the year, and she looks forward to competing in the $12,000 West Coast Child-Adult/Amateur Jumper Championship Team Competition at the National Preview Horse Show (Oct 30-Nov3).

For Lindsay, it was a weekend of personal victories, as earlier in the show she won the $10,000 Barby Hartwig Hereford Junior/Amateur Owner Jumper Classic. “Portuguese Bend is local show for me, which makes for a great atmosphere of friends and family,” Lindsay explained. “I've had some exciting wins with Butterfly in the High Junior/Amateur Owners over the past few months, but the last two weeks have certainly been the most exciting. Winning the $10,000 Barby Hartwig Hereford Junior/Amateur Classic was a great win for us, so second place in the Seahorse Classic on Sunday was icing on the cake.”

Linsdsay and Butterfly, an eight-year-old Zangersheide mare, have only been together for a short time, but if the past few months are any indication, they are a great team in the making. “We imported her in February. My trainers Mickey Hayden and Lane Clarke found her for me, and I still can't believe I own such a nice horse. She's incredibly brave and eager. We've been taking it really slow with her, and she and I have been getting to know each other in the lower divisions. We have big goals for next year, so the most important thing is that we build a solid foundation now. However, she has certainly held her own in the few big classes we've done so far. I can't wait for all the exciting shows to come.”

Lindsay will be a junior at Stanford when classes start next week. “I've kept my horses at Stanford's Red Barn for the last two years but am moving to train with Rachel and Jeff Fields in Portola Valley in October. It can be hard to keep up with engineering classes while I'm at horse shows, but I think I have a lot of my hardest classes behind me so hopefully I will be able to show more this year. We have a big schedule ahead and are very excited for Butterfly's first grand prix at Sacramento.”

Gina Ross, winner of the 2,000 Junior/Amateur Owner Hunter Classic, the Gabriel C Duque Perpetual Trophy for high point amateur rider, and the Two Jacks Memorial Perpetual Trophy for overall high point rider of the show. Photo: Captured Moment Photography
Gina Ross, winner of the 2,000 Junior/Amateur Owner Hunter Classic, the Gabriel C Duque Perpetual Trophy for high point amateur rider, and the Two Jacks Memorial Perpetual Trophy for overall high point rider of the show. Photo: Captured Moment Photography

In the hunter ring, Gina Ross (Archie Cox, trainer) showed off her consistency to shine in the $2,000 Junior/Amateur Owner Hunter Classic, sweeping the top two places with her Beckham and Precedent, respectively. With Beckham, she scored 83 in the first round and 84 in the second. “It was a two-round classic, which I enjoy more than a single-round class as the pressure is to be consistent,” Gina explained. “Beckham is an experienced horse and a very good jumper. I just need to stay out of his way for two rounds or 18 jumps! My goal during the second round was just to try to pretend that the last couple of jumps on course were really the first, and then I wouldn’t become too excited.”

The win was a great way to celebrate Gina’s first experience at the Portuguese Bend National Horse Show. “I really enjoyed it. The show has a wonderful atmosphere, all the volunteers are super, they offer good rings and courses, and of course it’s for a great cause in the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. I'm looking forward to returning next year.”

In 2012, the Portuguese Bend National Horse Show entered the ranks of just 17 shows honored with the Heritage Designation by the USEF. USEF President Chrystine Tauber, one of this year’s judges, made a formal presentation at the Sunday afternoon performance. “The Portuguese Bend National Horse Show is a very special, time-honored tradition here in California,” she noted during her address. “The tireless commitment of the Peninsula Committee Children’s Hospital and its ‘Taking Strides for Kids’ initiative has raised over 13 million dollars in funding for pediatric and adolescent health programs and research.”

USEF Heritage Competitions must have been in existence for 25 years or more, have promoted and grown equestrian sport, and made contributions to the community outside the show by promoting sportsmanship and competition. These are all things Portuguese Bend has delivered on in spades during its 56-year tradition.

The weekend certainly delivered on surprise victories, personal accomplishments, and good old fashioned horse show fun. For more information on the Portuguese Bend National Horse Show and the charity it supports, visit their website.