Ashley Brien Makes Triumphant Return to the Hunter Ring

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Ashley Brien and Manhattan pick up right where they left off. Photo: Flying Horse Photography
Ashley Brien and Manhattan pick up right where they left off. Photo: Flying Horse Photography
After spending two years focused on her studies at Duke University, Ashley Brien (Mark Purcell, trainer) was thrilled to win the $3,000 Memorial Day USHJA National Derby on her Manhattan. “I was fourth going into the second round, so I wasn’t even thinking about possibly winning,” Ashley shared. “I just tried to put in a good, solid round and honestly I was so surprised and happy when I won. It was the best moment; I felt like I was a junior again!”

Ashley racked up plenty of blue ribbons in her junior years with Manhattan, and she was thrilled to be able to show him again. “It’s been two years since I’ve shown Manhattan,” Ashley commented. “He’s exactly the same, and it’s so nice have him back. He had been leased out, but everything aligned this year so that I could show him when I came back this summer.”

While Manhattan was leased, Ashley took the opportunity to take on the jumper ring at several Gold Coast shows when she came home in the summer. “I leased a jumper in my barn and it was a crazy new experience,” Ashley recounted. “Just having that experience in the jumper ring I think has definitely made my all around riding better. I also am grateful to Mark who helps bring out the best, most consistent version of me as a rider, whether it’s in the jumper or hunter ring.”

In her return to the hunter ring, Ashley scored a 75 in the first round of the derby and felt fortunate to get around the course without any trouble. “The course design was definitely very different from what we’ve done before,” Ashley explained. “They had these barrels that added a new element and a lot of horses had trouble with them. Fortunately, Manhattan doesn’t look at too much so I didn’t have a problem. He was perfect in the first round, but I wasn’t my best.” Ashley and Manhattan improved their score in the handy round for an 84. “The handy round is always my favorite. You can add your own style, and Manhattan is such a versatile horse that he makes it quite fun,” Ashley noted.

Though she is back in Los Angeles briefly, Ashley will be leaving in July to broaden her horizons and study in Australia. “It’s so great to be showing Manhattan again, and this win was so meaningful to me because it may be one of the last shows I do with him.” Should Ashley have the opportunity to show at another LEG “A” show and win another derby, she’ll win a bonus check in the LEGIS Hunter Rider Bonus.

Over on the grass field, 21 horse and rider combinations took on the difficult course in the $7,500 1.35M Jumpers class. The course challenged riders and horses in several ways, including a short line from the open water to a plank jump on flat cups. “I thought the course was plenty big and challenging. They utilized a lot of fun, decorative jumps and the grass was in great shape,” trainer Kathryn Burdett-Griffiths commented. “This class is a great stepping stone to grand prix classes for horses and riders looking to gain substantial experience. I didn’t get a ribbon today, but it was a fantastic opportunity to gain more miles over a big and challenging track and I’m looking forward to the next one.”

Kristen Vanderveen has a great first showing at Memorial Day Classic. Photo: Flying Horse Photography
Kristen Vanderveen has a great first showing at Memorial Day Classic. Photo: Flying Horse Photography
The class not only provides experience for up and coming horses and riders, but it can also provide a great warm up class for Sunday’s grand prix. Several grand prix regulars like Kristin Hardin, Jenni McAllister, Mark Watring, and Justin Resnik competed in the competitive class. In the end, it was Kristen Vanderveen, owner of Bull Run Jumpers, Inc., who made the trek from Florida and took home first prize on Bull Run's Alli Luv Ya (Bull Run Jumpers Three LLC, owner). Kristin Hardin earned the red ribbon aboard Leonidas (Mark Cassar, owner) and Jenni McAllister won third place on LEGIS Venice (, owner).

In equitation, junior rider Taylor Simonian (Erin Duffy, trainer) had a successful day and won the CPHA Junior Medal Class and the THIS Children’s Medal Class aboard STS Quantador (Daniel Silverstone, owner). Adult amateur Elizabeth Storm-McGovern (Rebecca Bruce, trainer) brought home two blue ribbons for wins in the CPHA Amateur Medal Class and Equitation, 36 thru 50 – Over Fences. She also won second place in the Ariat National Adult Medal Class.

The Memorial Day Classic is just getting started. Watch for our continuing coverage which will include the $10,000 Memorial Day Classic USHJA International Hunter Derby, the $30,000 Memorial Day Grand Prix, and more!