Verdugo Hills 3 A Great Show for Locals and Not-so-locals Alike

Mother Nature can't seem to make up her mind whether it's time for spring to arrive or not, but she decided to hold off on the rain and everything stayed dry for Verdugo Hills 3. Several local trainers and some from afar brought their students and horses to take on Chris Collman's courses.

Jennifer Rawlings (Michael Leon, trainer) showed First & Goal (Stage Left Farm LLC, owner) to a championship in the combined Low Amateur Owner/Amateur Owner/Junior Hunters and several blue ribbons to go with it. "Beckham is extremely honest, athletic, and handy, and he takes care of me," she said of her horse, which Michael Leon also shows in Second Year Green and the hunter derbies. "He is also a quite a character and loves to be spoiled with treats and attention."

The wins notwithstanding, Jennifer was particularly pleased with how her horse performed. "I was very proud of Beckham. The High Amateur Owners section was combined with the Low Amateur/Owners and the Junior Hunters, so the competition was tough. For me it’s not about the prizes. It’s about doing our best. We accomplished our goal, which was to improve with each round." As for the show, Jennifer added, "The staff is friendly, the footing is great, and it’s a good place to get show miles without breaking the bank."

Trainer Michael Leon of Windsor Stables found Beckham for Jennifer, and she purchased him in early 2008 for her Stage Left Farm. "He had recently been brought over from Europe and had very little training.," she explained. "He wasn’t much to look at and everyone thought he was too small, but I saw a lot of potential underneath the rough exterior. Buying him was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made."

Peggy Cooper (Edmonton Farms, trainer) was very happy with her decision to move up to the 3' classes with her Portofino, not only because she rode well, but because she was named reserve champion in both the Modified Child/Adult Hunters and the Child/Adult Amateur Hunters. "It was my first time competing at 3', so it was thrilling," Peggy commented. "I was a little nervous about moving up, not so much because of the height, but because it's so competitive. I'm especially proud of my horse for winning both of his under saddle classes. I just got him in December, and he's just fantastic. Besides being adorable and loving, he never stops, looks great over fences, and is a wonderful mover."

"We could count on the courses and footing to give her a great start," trainer Duncan McIntosh said of his decision to bring Peggy and his farm's other students to the show. "With these shows, you get the best of both worlds, because they're relaxed, but good quality with great jumps, great course design, and great judging so you can sharpen your edges. It helps the students prepare for the bigger shows."

Duncan, a resident trainer at Hansen Dam, was happy not only with Peggy's success in her classes, but with Cirsten Clark, who earned several ribbons aboard her Black Diamond in the equitation and jumper classes.

Laura Santana of Santana Equestrian Group is another resident trainer who enjoys having the Verdugo Hills shows at her home facility. "It's great to be able to show your clients' horses without having to go very far and spend a bunch of money, especially since gas prices are so high," she remarked. "We are very fortunate to have such a wonderful facility. It gives us the opportunity to share it with our clients and the horseshow community while staying within a comfortable budget. These shows give us the chance to practice in a low pressure environment. It also allows enough classes and competition for students to improve on their mistakes."

Laura decided to put that opportunity to good use, taking some green horses into the rings. She won the Performance Hunter with Blind Faith (Sharon Liveton, owner), the .95m Jumpers with Colina Bribon (Katherine Hittelman, owner), and the 1.15m Jumpers with Alfa Yaso (Karen Coyne, owner).

Jeni Brown and her group from Shadowbrook Stables have attended all of the Verdugo Hills shows this year. "They're great shows to get my students qualified for medals, because you can do them all in one day and get it done. The thing that makes it so nice is there aren't all the extra fees, the class fees are lower, and if you enter early you get a free class. If you pre-enter and plan well, and the horse will stand at the trailer, you can do it for a lot less money than other shows."

Jeni brought Otto Rocket, a young jumper she bred, raised, and trained but has let Susan Krieg ride and show him. "They've won a class at each of the shows," she said. "It's nice to see one you bred and brought a long do so well, and having an amateur show him is really fun."

Susan and Otto Rocket won the Low Child/Adult Amateur Jumpers class and were reserve champion in the section. "I haven't had my own horse in a couple years, and Jeni has been generous in letting me ride her young horse. She has a few horses of her own and doesn't have time for all of them, so she lets me ride him."

Susan had done very little in the jumper ring before riding Otto Rocket, so it has been a fun project for her to make the transition. "I switched mostly because the jumper ring is his forte, but I really like doing it more than I thought I would. I was used to quieter horses that take a lot of leg and go in a more hunter way. This horse is very up and excited to go, and he takes you to the jumps. He likes to turn tight and go fast. In the jump off this weekend, we had to take a jump at an angle and slice it to the inside, and he's good at that. It was really exciting to win reserve champion."

While most of these trainers didn't have to go far to attend Verdugo Hills 3, Angel Pitton brought her students all the way from Las Vegas, Nevada. They made the trip worthwhile, with Tessa DeJong winning Children's Pony Hunter Champion by winning all three of the classes in the section with her Sweeter Than Candy. Tali DeJong was reserve champion behind Tessa and also took advantage of the Opportunity section to win some ribbons in the Future Rider classes with her own MVP's Starswept Hero and the Beginner Rider classes with Sweeter Than Candy. Finally, Morgan Allison piloted her Jersey Girl to reserve championships in the B Child/Amateur Hunter 12 & Over and the B Equitation 12 & Over.

Whether traveling a few yards or a couple hundred miles, riders at Verdugo Hills found a lot of opportunities to prepare for the bigger shows without the big show budget.

For more information on Verdugo Hills 3, including complete results, visit

There are still plenty of shows left in the Verdugo Hills season to earn participation points or points toward the Maui Trainer Incentive. The next one will take place May 14-15 with Verdugo Hills 4. Meanwhile, riders will head to LAEC for Gold Coast 2. The Northern California show season will get started April 28-May 1 with the Woodside Spring Preview, and in Colorado, the jumping excitement will kick into gear May 12-15 for the High Prairie Spring Preview.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Rawlings takes first with First & Goal Photo: Flying Horse Photography