Wayne, Illinios – Mikala Munter Gundersen spent two months in Europe in this summer and left behind her young partner, the six-year-old Pikko del Cerro. The two-month separation didn’t seem to hurt their partnership because on Friday, the pair won the first round of competition in the Six-Year-Old division at this year’s USEF/Markel Young Horse Championships with a score of 82.00. Second was Merrie Velden with Sandomere and a score of 78.40 and third was Heather Mason riding Warsteiner to a score of 78.00.In the four-year-old competition, Caroline Roffman took the first round win on Bon Chance with a high score of 85.00 percent. Second place went to Karen Monks-Reilly and Aesthete with 83.80 and in third was Ulla Petersen with Sabati and a score of 82.80.
Gundersen just returned to the U.S. from a European trip and when she landed back on this side of the Atlantic, it was not to her home in Florida that she ran but to New York where she competed in last weekend’s Centerline Events CDI. She left that show on Sunday and arrived at Lamplight Equestrian Center Monday evening for the USEF/Markel Young Horse Championships. It’s the third trip to the championships for Gundersen and Pikko del Cerro. They competed last year in the five-year-old division and the year before in the four-year-old championships. Gundersen gives credit for her success in the opening round of competition this year to Lisa Wilcox who kept Pikko del Cerro going while Gundersen was away in Europe.
“She rode him two to three times a week,” Gundersen said. “I’m not used to being away from a horse and then hopping on and taking the reins, but Lisa clearly did a good job with him.” Pikko del Cerro is a Hanoverian stallion sired byand owned by Horses Unlimited. Gundersen was thrilled with the pair’s win. “It was awesome. We ride again on Sunday so hopefully, we can do the same.”
While she admits to missing home after three months away, Gundersen said she’s really enjoying her time at the Young Horse Championships – again. “It’s really fun to be back with same horse three years in a row.” As a four-year-old competitor, Pikko del Cerro finished in sixth place. In five-year-old competition, he moved up to fourth place. “So this year, we’re hoping to do better,” Gundersen said. “He did very well as a four- and five-year-old winning all his classes at Devon. But the six-year-old test is hard. It’s a big step.”
Photo: Caroline Roffman and Bon Chance
The pair is certainly on track for a good finish. The judges had many good things to say about the young stallion and they particularly liked his walk, giving him a 9. “He has a great walk and today was perfect. He didn’t take one wrong step,” Gundersen said. Pikko del Cerro was bred by Horses Unlimited, which is owned by Anne Sparks Whitten and she’d like to see Pikko del Cerro continue on in the young horse program next year by competing in the Developing Horse competition. But, there is one problem. “I’m not a U.S. citizen,” Gundersen said. She’s Danish. “It’s disappointing, but I don’t want to hold the horse back. I think this is a great program and it’s wonderful for the owners and breeders to produce good horses and have them in the program.” One option might be to find an American rider to compete in the Developing Horse classes while Gundersen competes Pikko del Cerro in Prix St. Georges competition. “We’ll just have to see,” she said.
Meanwhile, Gundersen is hoping that Pikko del Cerro will be this year’s six-year-old champion and as soon as the competition is over, she’s making a run for home. “I really miss my home. It’s fun being here with other riders, but I have to get back to Florida. I’ve got kids that need to get into school and I have to get on my other horses in training.”
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