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Blue moment

Nathalie Manning is at home in San Juan with first grand prix win

Releases & Staff Reports - July 16th, 2015 - Cover Story, Show & Event News

1507B WP CoverSAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Folks have been expecting Nathalie Manning to record her first grand prix victory for some time, perhaps none longer than Nathalie herself.

At age 2 (“before I was walking”, she says), her legendary horseman grandfather, Morton “Cappy” Smith, would lead her around his Middleburg, Va., farm. By age 7, she was riding almost any horse on the property, and as an 8-year-old, she conceived her future barn name: Acorn Farm, “where every little acorn turns into a great oak.”

“My grandfather would put me on just about anything,” she smiles. “He had a lot of sale horses, and I was fearless.”

Smith, a USEF Hall of Fame inductee, passed away in 2002 at age 86. But when Manning went double-clean on Con Spirit June 27 to win the $30,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix at the Blenheim Red, White and Blue Classic, his influence was present.

“I learned many things from him, including persistence,” said Manning, 30, an East Coast girl who moved to San Juan Capistrano in 2007 after college. “Even if you are struggling with something, you keep working through it. He was always such a fighter, and he was very successful at what he did because of his determination and persistence.

“And he taught me to always be a really good horseman, to make the care of the horses the No. 1 thing,” she added. “They are your best friend, your partner — your everything.”

Today, Manning has 40 horses in training at — you guessed it — her Acorn Farm, located near the Rancho Mission Vista Riding Park on property once widely known as The Oaks, built by her grandmother, Joan Irvine Smith. For her inaugural grand prix victory to come here was special, too.

“It was great to win the first one here,” said Manning, a pro since 2009 who is coached by Michelle Parker. “My grandmother was really involved in developing that facilty when it first started. And all my clients were there because we train right across the creek. It was great.”

Manning acquired Con Spirit, her first grand prix horse, as a 6-year-old in Belgium in 2012. She nicknamed him “Henry” because she wanted a noble-sounded name — and there already was a horse named Noble in her barn.

“I’ve kind of brought Henry along the ranks,” she said. “He’s been a confidence-builder for me. He’s really forward-going, and he’s enthusiastic about what he does. He knows when he’s doing it well, and he’s proud of himself when he does.”

Plus, he has personality.

“Personality is everything,” Manning said. “Not only are they your partner in crime, they’re your best friend. You build up that partnership. He’s a total love bug. Everyone in the barn loves him.”

Bringing along another young horse, Manning also won the Six-year Old Jumper Classic aboard Helium, a horse she named in honor of one of her grandfather’s great mounts. She’ll continue to campaign both horses at the Blenheim shows.

“I’m looking forward to competing,” she said. “And I am grateful for the whole Acorn family here and the guys who take care of the horses. Guillermo and Ricky Flores. Michelle Parker. Alex and Sal Alvarado. It really takes a village, and I am thankful to have such amazing and inspirational people with me.”

The class included show jumping up-and-comers like 16-year-old Sophia Mossman and 17-year-old Morgan Dickerson, both alternates for the North American Junior and Young Riders Championships this July, as well as riders with impressive miles, like Mexico’s Eduardo Sanchez Navarro and American Michelle Rodal. A strong local contingent also competed, including last week’s Markel Insurance Grand Prix winner, Marc Grock, and the 1.40m event once again offered another solid yet not overwhelming grand prix opportunity.

In 2014, the wildly successful Markel Insurance 1.40m Grand Prix Series hosted classes with up to 96 entries and a competitive final at the Las Vegas National.

Returning as the sponsor for a second year, Brandon Seger, Director of Equine Operations for Markel, is pleased with the response to these events.

“We wanted to do a sponsorship with Blenheim Equisports, and they had the brilliant idea to do this ‘meter forty’ series,” Seger said. “They explained that it would be a class where up and coming riders, as well as amateur riders, could compete with some of the pros. I thought what a cool opportunity to get involved in a class that brings everyone together, and gives them a chance to rise to the occasion.”

International course designer Jack Robson’s track handled the mix of experience well. With a tight time allowed, two riders finished with only time faults, Rodal on Morgan Hill Partners’ Albert II and Jamie Barge on Kyelico’s Luebbo.

In a winning round format, faults accrued for the top six scoring riders in the first round carried over to the jump-off. The two riders with time faults returned first, followed by the four who were clean in round one. The first of the four were Manning and Henry, who rode fault free in 45.85.

The next three attempts, Misti Cassar on Gavin Brodin’s Allstar 5, Eduardo Sanchez Navarro on his Pacifico and Jamie Barge aboard Kylieco’s Lasse, each had rails.

More online: http://bit.ly/507B_jump

$30,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix
Place – Entry Number – Horse – Rider – Owner – Faults/Time
1. 367 – Con Spirit – Nathalie Manning – Nathalie Manning – 0/0/45.857
2. 406 – Pacifico – Eduardo Sanchez Navarro – Eduardo Sanchez Navarro – 0/4/44.962
3. 512 – Lasse – Jamie Barge – Kylieco – 0/4/48.187
4. 494 – Allstar 5 – Misti Cassar – Gavin Brodin – 0/4/48.277
5. 513 – Luebbo – Jamie Barge – Kyleico – 2/4/45.484
6. 607 – Albert II – Michelle Rodal – Morgan Hill Partners – 1/8/54.150
7. 158 – Caretol – Marc Grock – Moonlite Beach, LLC – 4/76.390
8. 164 – Churchill – Nicole Haunert – Paul Haunert – 4/77.881
9. 311 – Grand Chance – Mattias Ekeroth – Mattias Ekeroth – 4/78.052
10. 257 – Colin – Michelle Kerivan – Michelle Kerivan – 4/78.565
11. 230 – Zola – Sophia Mossman – Sophia Mossman – 5/79.845
12. 242 – Conejito – Carol Wright – Carol Wright – 6/80.957

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