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Steppin’ Up in the High Desert

- October 30th, 2020

HiDHA show season offers variety, competition — and lots of fun

Photos by Evon Kurtz Photography
EXCA Hall of Famer Bill Cameron enjoys participating in and contributing to his community’s shows. (Evon Kurtz photo)

PALMDALE — Obstacles play a big part in today’s popular horse show classes, but this year, obstacles also have gotten in the way of many 2020 shows. Eight months after COVID’s kickoff in March, some lockdowns remain in place at municipal show facilities, but like a clean trot over poles, some clubs managed to navigate problems and stitch together their show seasons.

THERMAL — The Los Angeles Hunter Jumper Association hosted all seven of its 2020 medal finals at the National Sunshine Preview, held Oct. 23-25 and co-produced by LEG Shows & Events and the Desert International Horse Park. Additional sponsors included Hansen Dam Horse Park, Elvenstar, LEGISequine.com and SmartPak.:

Charley Stowell and Milan

ESI photo

Stowell and Elvenstar’s Milan won the LAHJA Junior Medal Final, laying down three consistent rounds to earn the overall championship in the LAHJA Junior Medal Final presented by LEGISequine.com.

Hot to the end

- September 28th, 2020

Smoke and ash doesn’t deter WCRHA reiners in finale

RANCHO MURIETA — A blood orange sun and smokey, ash flurries from nearby wildfires welcomed exhibitors driving in to the Murieta Equestrian Center show grounds Aug. 20. Little did they know that such would be the norm for all four days of the West Coast Reining Horse Association Year End show.

As the NRHA Show Rep Kain Emmons stated, pulling up his face mask, “We don’t know if people are wearing masks due to COVID-19 restrictions or because of the smoky air!” Either way, exhibitors, trainers, and other folk adhered to current California state restrictions by wearing masks, social distancing, and having their temperatures taken daily at the entrance gate.

A full slate of ancillary classes as well as Futurity and Derby classes, judged by Nick Baar and Reid Fady, gave everyone ample opportunities to show off their talented horses. Gorgeous, Vaquero buckles are presented to class champions, and beautiful, silver pocket knives went to the reserve champions.

There were also special awards given at this show. The NRHA Rookie Professional class was recently renamed the NRHA Becky Hanson Rookie Professional class in honor of Becky Hanson, a beloved member of WCRHA and NRHA who passed away May 25 at age 48.

Becky, the winner of the NAAC Rookie Professional class at the NRHA Futurity in 2006, coached and trained many reining competitors over the years from Rookies through Non Pros. Her heart, however, was for the Rookie riders. Dave Bunfill of Plymouth won the class on his Custom Whizett. “Biscuit,” as she is affectionately called, is a 5-year old mare sired by Conquistador Whiz and out of Custom Crome mare.

Dave Bunfill earned the NRHA Becky Hanson Rookie Professional Award on his Custom Whizett. (John O’Hara photo)

Dave, who just started showing reining about a year ago along with his wife, specifically entered the class because of Becky. Although he never met her, he knows a lot about her story.

“It meant a lot to me to win this class — it is a real honor,” said Bunfill, who received championship class buckle as well as a specially designed Becky Hanson buckle.

In addition, in remembrance of Becky, the winner of the Prime Time Rookie class was presented with a beautiful, hand-tooled Becky Hanson memorial leather photo album made and sponsored by the Ricotti Saddle Company of nearby Clements. Jennifer Fisher riding Midnight Whizkey Run was the happy recipient. Becky was well-known for her beautiful photography, and many WCRHA members have more than one of her metal prints in their homes.

Another special award was the Gary Van Hoosen Perpetual Memorial Green Reiner trophy presented to Cindy Laver, winner of the WCRHA Green class. Cindy rode Revolutionic to the win. Revolutionic is one of those reining “war horses” that has carried his various riders to many wins over the years. Gary Van Hoosen was a long-time member, trainer and competitor at WCRHA shows. He was a strong supporter of the emerging reiner, and could always be counted on for an encouraging word and smile.

Cassandra Kindle was thrilled to receive The Topsail Cody Memorial Perpetual Trophy. This large trophy is presented each year to the champion of the Limited Non Pro class. Cassandra’s name plaque will be added to all the other winners since 2002. Cassandra’s ride for this class was Ill Be Smokinum.

On Thursday, five hours of open competition began at 7 a.m.. With scores of 73.5, David Hanson and Mike Boyle laid down what were to be the highest scores of the show. They each shared championship honors in the Open Maturity and David rode Lisa Dentoni’s Smart Little Dunnit, and Mike showed Betty McHugh’s pretty Palomino, Chics Dream.

In the Intermediate Open and Limited Open classes, Gabe Davide showed Mister Smartypants to championships of both classes with a 72 score. “Smarty” is owned by Gordon and Eileen Maxinoski. Liz Rammerstorfer was close behind Gabe in both classes with a 71.5, riding Like Madd, owned by Kelly Staley. Mike Boyle was also the Champion in the Prime Time Open class on Chics Dream as well as the Reserve Champion on Pale Of Gold, owned by Laetitia Loubser, scoring a 70.

Winning six Non Pro classes was Cam Essick and her gelding, Loveya. (John O’Hara photo)

Championing six of the Non Pro classes was Cam Essick and her (as Cam says) “plain, bay” gelding Loveya. Leaving their mark in the arena with a 73, Cam emerged victorious in the Non Pro Level 4 and Prime Time Maturity as well as the Non Pro and the Prime Time Non Pro classes. The duo also went on to win the Non Pro and the Prime Time Non Pro Derbies. Loveya is a proven reiner with LTE earnings of over $130,000. Two reiners shared the Reserve Championship honors in the Level 4 Maturity. Cassandra Kindle showed her Ill Be Smokinum and Betty McHugh showed her Chics Dream to scores of 72.

Concluding the second day of showing, the Non Pro Futurity allowed six riders to show off their 3-year olds. Bill Coburn reined his My Skill Your Luck to a score of 137.5 to take away the awards and monies given to the Champion of the Level 4. Caitie Moulding was Champion of the Level 1 Futurity riding her PS Ice Queen with a 138.

Nineteen Non Pros were eager to show their reining horses of ages seven and under in Saturday’s Non Pro Derby. Essick and her Loveya gathered their fifth and sixth Championship buckles of the show by earning a score of 144 in the Level 4 and Prime Time. Level 1 was won with a score of 142.5 by Stacy Hamilton and her Whizzen The Dream.

Five entries in the Open Futurity closed out the third day. PS Ice Queen won her second Futurity championship of the show, first with Non Pro Caitie Moulding on Friday, and secondly, with trainer Jason Richards on Saturday.

The last day of the show dawned early again but still a bit smoky and ashy. That didn’t deter the Open Derby riders, though. Running first in the draw was Eric Laporte on Michell Kimball’s Sugar Baby. Eric showcased his talent by earning a score of 143.5 which proved too tough to beat by the rest of the field. They took home the Championship of both Level 4 and Level 1.

Sugar Baby is by Spooks Gotta Whiz and out of Smart Sugar Rose. Eric says of the 4-year old gelding, “He is so laid back and such a dream to show and get ready.”

Sugar Baby now has a new owner, Megan Meyerdick, who looks forward to showing him the Green Reiner classes.

More online: https://bit.ly/010wcrha

Mark Blakely photo

THERMAL — For the first time in recent memory, the Los Angeles Equestrian Center will not host the year-end California Reining Horse Association Challenge show, as health officials still had not lifted constraints on events at LAEC as of press time.

In August, the CRHA moved its Summertime Slide show from Hansen Dam Horse Park in Lake View Terrace to the CRC Ranch in Temecula for the same reason.

The CRHA Challenge will be held Oct. 20-25 at the Desert International Horse Park in Thermal, a well-known hunter-jumper venue that will be hosting a reining for the first time.

“We really appreciate the generosity of the DIHP opening their doors to us on such short notice, and we look forward to cultivating this relationship for future reining events,” CRHA President Mike Berg said in a press release.

Steve Hankin, President and and CEO of the DIHP, said he hopes to create a new home for regional reining events, adding that three new sand rings will add 250,000 sq. ft. of schooling space to the facility.

Also scheduled the same week at the DIHP on Oct. 23-25 will be the National Sunshine Preview show, the first in a series of shows co-produced by DIHP and LEG Shows & Events that will focus on hunter equitation riders up to 3-ft. and jumpers up to 1.20m.

“These two events bring together two disciplines in a fun, casual weekend. There will be a crossover team event, a dinner social, and more fun activities throughout the weekend,” added Hankin.

“With COVID-19 limiting activities in Los Angeles County, this gives us a great opportunity to move the needle on producing affordable and accessible competitions for the West Coast equestrian community,” said Marnye Langer, Managing Director and CFO of The Langer Group.

Los Angeles Hunter Jumper Association (LAHJA) will also be moving its Medal Finals Extravaganza, featuring all seven of its 2020 LAHJA Medal Finals, to the National Sunshine Preview. LAHJA President Kay Altheuser said moving the finals to DIHP “is the best decision for everyone involved.”

“We understand how important the medal finals are to our members, and we want to do everything possible to be able to safely host the finals this year,” Altheuser said.

More online: https://bit.ly/010desert

Sliding through the pandemic

- September 28th, 2020

SCRHA series kicks into gear after COVID lay-off

Kirstin Booth on Babys Got Blue Eyes (Katie Wise photo)

ESCONDIDO — Enthusiastic reining and ranch riding brought the Hunter Equestrian Center to life Aug. 8, as the Southern California Reining Horse Association resumed its 2020 season.

Managed by Track One Events, the show featured NRHA classes and counted toward the popular SCRHA Saddle Series. Another Saddle Series show was happening Sept. 26-27, as this magazine was going to press..

SCRHA President Lori Riis said the uncertainties that have popped up in 2020 has forced members and the club to approach the season one month at a time — evaluate and then adjust.

“Although COVID has definitely created some challenges, our exhibitors have all been very respectful of the social distancing guidelines,” said Riis.”We want to be mindful of the trainers and exhibitors who aren’t able to show yet.”

Even though saddles will be awarded for the Saddle Series this fall, the emphasis lately has been more about returning to the show pen than it has been on year end awards.

“After the shutdown, we wanted to see how many members were comfortable to come out and compete before we scheduled the additional show in October,” said Riis. “They wanted the additonal show, and we will have it the weekend before the (California Reining Horse Association) Challenge.”

One of the canceled shows will take place Oct. 17-18, and it will be the last one in the Saddle Series. Riis and her colleagues have some other innovative ideas that they are chewing on for 2021.

More online: https://bit.ly/010scrha

Foxfield Finals

- September 28th, 2020

Lanie Walkenbach wins 49th edition of venerable medal event

Special to the Horsetrader

Walkenbach and Let’s Go, the 2020 Foxfield Medal Finals Champion. (Amy McCool photo)

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — The grass of The Oaks International Grand Prix Field was the stage Sept. 13 for 21 top amateurs to vie for the Foxfield Medal Final, held for just the second time in 49 years outside the Foxfield Riding School in Westlake Village.

In a close competition to the end, Lanie Walkenbach, a student at Texas Christian University, edged past Emily Williams and Haylee Hall for the victory. A mere three percentage points had separated the trio at the final compilation of two rounds of riding.

“I am currently on TCU Equestrian team, so I just come to show when I get the opportunity,” said Walkenbach.

Walkenbach and Let’s Go set the pace in Round 1 with a beautiful trip over the 3’3” course, scoring an average of 89.5.

Taking each rider’s overall average after two rounds, Williams, Walkenbach, and Hall were lined up with averages of 89.5, 87.75, and 87, respectively, and were brought back for an additional third round of tests. The work-off included a trot fence, counter canter fence, a walk transition in between a bending line, hand-galloping an oxer, and demonstrating simple changes of lead. Ellis and Wells sat together for this third round, and no scores were announced. A beautiful and accurate effort by Walkenbach rewarded her as this year’s winner.

Walkenbach praised her mount, Let’s Go, known as “Pedro” around the barn, after the win.

More online: https://bit.ly/010fox

The Skylar’s the limit

- September 28th, 2020

Wireman and Hot Pants win Region 8 NHSAA/ASPCA Maclay title

Special to the Horsetrader

Skylar Wireman and Hot Pants. (Amy McCool photo)

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Thirty-three riders competed on Sunday morning during the final day of the Blenheim Fall Tournament, vying for a prize in the Region 8 section of the 2020 NHSAA/ASPCA Maclay Championships. Skylar Wireman rode Hot Pants, owned by Lisa Halterman, to a solid first round, followed up with a beautiful flat phase, and then a picture perfect work-off to take a well-earned victory.

The ASPCA Regionals held throughout the country have two equally weighted phases, jumping and flat, and both count toward 50 percent of the overall score. For their jumping phase, Region 8 competitors rode a track designed by Kerry Kocher that asked technical questions of the riders over a track of hunter and jumper-style fences.

Training with her mother, Shayne Wireman, and Lisa Halterman, Wireman will be heading to Lexington for the Maclay Finals in early November. The dynamic duo are not newbies to the winner’s circle, having won all of their “Big Eq” classes this week, placing second in the CPHA Foundation 21-under Finals a few weeks ago, and second in the West Coast U.S. Equestrian Talent Search Finals last season.

Going into the work-off, Wireman was sitting in second place. Wireman had a consistent and bold work-off round to move up and take the lead. “Going later in the work-off, I had seen what the other riders chose to do, and I knew that I needed to take risks. My strategy was to make all the inside turns and have a strong hand gallop to the first fence,” Wireman said.

As the winning horse, Hot Pants also earned the Vigo Best Equitation Horse Award. In its fourth year, the perpetual trophy is in memory of Robyn and Demí Stiegler’s amazing equitation mount, who had his retirement on this day three years ago.

Wireman and Hot Pants have been partners for several years. “In his young years, Hot Pants competed in NAYC Finals and jumped some very big tracks,” Wireman said the horse owned by Lisa Halterman. “He loves being able to compete in the equitation now because he can still play in the jumper medals.”

The reserve championship went to Sydnie Young, who trains with Jill Humphrey and rode her own Couer De Lion. Stella Buckingham rounded out the podium with Calvatos Z.

Prior to the start of the competition, the Shelby Drazan Memorial Award was presented to Skylar Wireman. This special annual award is given to a rider who shows sportsmanship, integrity, and passion both in and outside of the show arena. Wireman applied with an essay that highlighted all of these qualities, as well as her life motto of, “Work hard, pay it forward, dream big, and go for it.”

The award, in its fifth year, provides the recipient with the opportunity to travel to the Indoors horse show circuit, with air and ground transportation provided for one horse and equipment. HOT PANTS, at the age of 22, is not able to travel to the east coast by trailer, but now that the Air Horse One is taking him back and forth, Wireman has the opportunity to show her long-time partner in the Finals as opposed to a catch ride. On top of the flight, provided by HE Tex Sutton Equine Air Transportation Company, the Drazan family provides $2,000 toward entry fees for any 3’6” National Medal Final

More online: https://bit.ly/010maclay

Back-to-back SCRCHA events gets regional talent back on track

From Horsetrader staff reports

TEMECULA — After three event-less months, cow horse competitors enjoyed back-to-back summer shows put on by the Southern California Reined Cow Horse Association. Green Acres Ranch hosted both events, the SCRCHA July Jubilee Show on July 10-12 and the Jimmy Flores, Sr. Memorial Aug. 7-9.

Classes were well-filled, attracting entrants from throughout the southwest, and there were plenty of inspiring stories from the two weekends. Here are three of them:

Summertime Sliiiiiiiiiide

- August 28th, 2020

CRC Ranch hosts reiners in a restart to show season

By BROOKE GODDARD / for the Horsetrader

Tom Foran and Taylor Sheridan’s Rey Town take third in the CRHA Open. (Mark Blakley photo)

TEMECULA — The California Reining Horse Association slid into California Ranch Company for its Summertime Slide Horse Show on Aug. 21-23. The show was initially scheduled to take place at Hansen Dam Horse Park in Lake View Terrace, but the City of Los Angeles placed a pause on horse shows due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The CRHA was grateful that California Ranch Company opened its doors on such short notice.

Medal Season

- August 28th, 2020

Top riders vie for CPHA Equitation Championships

Special to the Horsetrader

Jessica Smith and Haute Couture (Amy McCool photo)

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Medal final season signals the end of summer and the beginning of fall, and Aug. 22-23, 121 equestrians in three age sections were challenged in the equitation arena.