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A post-Olympic year to ‘reset’

From Horsetrader staff reports - December 19th, 2013 - Cover Story, Show & Event News
Guenter Seidel

Guenter Seidel

JANUARY: It may not have been a day at the races, but Tommi Clark’s win-place-show stranglehold on the $2,500 USHJA Hunter Derby certainly brought some excitement to the LAEC Opener Horse Show, held Jan. 18-20 at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank. Although she is no stranger to the winner’s circle, Clark’s finish in the top three spots was quite a feat for the young professional. “I am so lucky to have all these great horses that performed their best,” she said. “We really just went in and had fun.”

When Hope Glynn and Campari won the $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix on Jan. 27, it capped a great week of competition at HITS Desert Circuit I in Thermal and put an exclamation point on a string of successes by Sonoma Valley Stables. It also was one for the record books, marking the first high-stakes competition on the HITS Desert Horse Park’s new Outside Course and the first circuit qualifier for the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final later in the year.

FEBRUARY: Calabasas-based Jenny Karazissis of Far West Farms ended Desert Circuit III with a bang, riding to blue in the $10,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix on owner Kelly Straeter’s Undeniable to break Sonoma Valley Stables’ juggernaut that saw Hope Glynn win the Devoucoux Hunter Prix in Desert Circuit I and II. Karazissis also enjoyed the success of her student, Bella Hadid, who won the week’s title as well as the Mid-Circuit Championship in the Equitation 16-17 division.

When California’s spring CDI season got under way Feb. 22-24 at the Mid-Winter Dressage Fair and CDI 3*/Y/J, at the L.A. Equestrian Center, all eyes were on Guenter Seidel with his new partner, Coral Reef Wylea, (Weinberg x Saluut) in their much anticipated CDI debut. They did not disappoint, earned a winning score of 70.021% from judges Gary Rockwell (5* USA), Jeanne McDonald (4* USA), Eddy de Wolff (4* NED), Brenda Minor (4* CAN), and Magnus Ringmark (3* SWE).

A grand prix jumping victory is always impressive, but when it’s your first, and it’s in a 1.60m class, that bumps it into the realm of stunning. Stun the crowd is exactly what Tiffany Sullivan did, riding Tristan to the front of the pack in the $54,500 Purina Animal Nutrition CSI-W 2* Grand Prix. Competing before an overflow audience for the last of three FEI World Cup qualifying classes at HITS Desert Horse Park, the Los Angeles-based Sullivan rocked the house as the first to go clear in the order of 22 horse-and-rider pairs.

When the three-day Galway Winter Horse Trials wrapped up in February, it really marked a beginning — of the Area VI winter-spring season, that is. Successive Southern California competitions at Twin Rivers, Copper Meadows, then back to Galway for this weekend’s International Horse Trials, then on to Twin Rivers for its mid-April event illustrated how the region has become a hotbed for the this exciting discipline that combines cross-country, dressage and stadium jumping. “California right now has got one of the best winter-spring schedules in the nation,” said Robert Kellerhouse, General Manager of the Galway Downs Equestrian Center. “Everyone talks about Florida, and I think Florida is a great option, but if you enjoy California, the season here touches all the best parts of it.”

Debbie Rosen

Debbie Rosen

MARCH: With a first-place prize of $350,000 on the line, Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum rose to the occasion, piloting Bella Donna to victory in the first-ever AIG Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix. The best of only two clear rounds, Michaels-Beerbaum and the 10-year-old mare that she co-owns with EOS Sport capitalized on a successful season at HITS Desert Horse Park with the sweetest win of them all. “California is my home and it was great to come here and ride for this kind of prize,” said Michaels-Beerbaum, who was named the Platinum Performance Leading Rider at the conclusion of the HITS Desert Circuit earlier today. “Money like this is more often given away in Europe and it is bringing the American standard to a whole new level. It’s a tremendous step and the future of the sport is becoming more and more exciting in this country.”

After the media frenzy which surrounded U.S. Dressage Team member Jan Ebeling in the 2012 Olympic Games, he and his mount Rafalca enjoyed a quiet winter away from the spotlight. The well-deserved vacation obviously benefited both rider and horse as they put in strong winning performances at the Festival of the Horse & CDI 3*/Y/J held March 27-30 in San Juan Capistrano.

APRIL: Ravel, America’s most decorated Grand Prix dressage horse ever, was officially retired April 27 in a Saturday evening performance before an adoring crowd at the Del Mar National Horse Show. Surrounded by the team behind his ascent, the two-time Olympic horse was feted by owner Akiko Yamazaki and rider Steffen Peters, who took the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding one last time through their Avatar freestyle before a tear-filled ceremony that honored Ravel’s entire team.

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Linda Paine’s superstar mare, Gin ‘N Juice continued their winning ways at the Galway Downs International Horse Trials on Easter weekend, winning the CIC3* (50.1 penalties) for their third straight victory.

Ravel's Retirement Ceremony

Ravel’s Retirement Ceremony

MAY: The serene setting of the historic Flintridge Riding Club belied the buzz of excitement surrounding huge scores and promising talent on display during Dressage at Flintridge CDI*/Y/J, held May 23 – 26. This competition once again hosted the Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Western Selection Trial, one of only two Selection Trials in the country used to select horses and riders to proudly represent the U.S. at the FEI/WBFSH World Breeding Championships in Verden, Germany this August.

A budding dressage star shined at the Dressage at Flintridge CDI*/Y/J May 23-26, as Charlotte Jorst of Reno, Nev., rode Skagen Holding’s striking chestnut stallion Vitalis to the selection trial victory with eye-popping scores of 9.18 in the Preliminary Test (counted as 40%) and 9.20 in the Final Test (60%), for an overall two-test combined score of 9.19 from judges Jeanne McDonald (4* USA), Jane Weatherwax (4* USA), and Sandy Osborne (USEF S).

JUNE: Mara Chemerinsky and star medium pony Paris were close to perfect in winning the 2013 Zone 10 Pony Challenge . The Grand Champion garnered some excellent scores for the tri-color in the competition after competing just three times on Paris, a 7-year-old mare.

JULY: In her last performance as a junior hunter in regional USEF National Junior Hunter competition, Samantha Sommers of Malibu was a hit. The 18-year-old incoming freshman at the University of Southern California took Small Affair and Illusion to the championship and reserve, respectively, at the USEF Junior Hunter West Coast Finals held at Showpark In Del Mar. “Coming in with two really good horses, I knew my chances were good,” said Sommers, who trains under Elizabeth Reilly of Calabasas.

AUGUST: On the final day of the Showpark Summer Classic, three divisions in the 3 ‘3″ CPHA Foundation Equitation Championships — 14-under, 21-under and 22-over, competed for the top calls. Alexandra Ladove, who trains with Newmarket, brought home her second medal final victory this season after topping the CPHA Junior Medal Finals 21-under division. Ladove performed in the large grass field as well as she had done in the indoor arena at Blenheim.

SEPTEMBER: Thirty-four leading junior equitation riders competed in the ASPCA Maclay West Coast Regional Finals, each trying to secure a spot on the roster for the prestigious ASPCA Maclay Championships. With 27 returning for the flat phase and six for the work-off, Olivia Champ took the win aboard Lamont. Trainer of the top five riders, Karen Healey, was thrilled with her group of riders. “The kids were all great, ” she said. “I was extremely proud of them all.”

Debbie Rosen and The Alchemyst overtook Lauren Billys and Ballingowan Ginger to win the CIC3* at the Woodside International Horse Trials. The CIC3* victory was worth $3,000, but it meant more to Rosen than the prize money. “Without crying, I don’t know if I can say what this means” said Rosen, 52, who had cancer surgery in 2009. “It means just don’t give up. When everybody else tells you you can do it, and you’re the only one who thinks you can’t, get your head right.”

OCTOBER: Even Del Mar’s own crew of bloodthirsty zombies couldn’t stop Vinton Karrasch and Coral Reef Baloufino from delivering a breathtaking clear round well within the time allowed to clinch the Rancho Valencia World Cup Grand Prix of Del Mar Oct. 26. An enthusiastic crowd – many in costume – enjoyed seeing 38 of the top Grand Prix riders and horses in the country take on the myriad challenges posed by Marina Azevedo’s extremely technical course.

Buck Davidson and Petite Flower Champions won the CCI3* Division to highlight the 2013 Galway Downs International Three-Day Event. “Nothing really happened like I expected this weekend,” said Davidson, shaking his head and enjoying the victory, his second career CCI3* victory. “But I do know that Petite Flower is world class. I know that beyond a shadow of a doubt, and it’s my job to bring it out in her.”

NOVEMBER: Wrapping up the indoor season, the Las Vegas National offered the final FEI classes on the West Coast until February 2014. In November’s $50,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix CSI-W, Andrew Ramsay on his relatively new mount, Adamo van’t Steenputje, edged all entries in the jump-off. A California native, Ramsay spent the last four years riding in Europe.

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