December 2016 - Parade of Champions

This year’s winners share insights on their successes.

produced by Kim F. Miller & Alicia Anthony

Welcome to our fourth annual Parade of Champions edition. Once again, we’ve asked some of the year’s junior and amateur stars to share a little behind-the-scenes info on their terrific seasons and their relationships with their horses and ponies. They also shared observations on their corner of the sport, which ranged from wishing that politics played a smaller part in determining winners and that more riders took part in all aspects of their horse’s care to praising technology’s impact on the show experience.

(Look for the second installment of this annual feature in our January issue.)

Here’s what we asked each:

  1. Top 3 2016 competitive finishes.
  2. Top horsemanship lessons and/or progress made this year.
  3. Most enjoyable non-competitive moment with your horse or pony?
  4. Does your horse/pony have any funny quirks?
  5. What rider to you most admire and why?
  6. Favorite horsemanship or horse-related book, movie, video, YouTube channel, website, etc?
  7. Biggest riding goal for 2017?
  8. Any major changes you would like to see in our sport?


Amateur rides with Button Baker of Epona Farms in Westlake Village
Horse: Wenesa, aka “Sis”

  1. Winner of HOY Intermediate-1 class at Region 7 Championships; Adult Amateur CDI Champion at PSG & I1 classes at Del Mar; My first 70% on Wenesa on my birthday in Burbank CDI show at I1.
  2. I have now trained with Button Baker of Epona Farms for a year, and I am so proud of our progress. Wenesa and I have competed together since Third Level and I feel excited to go to Kentucky for the Dressage Finals. It was our goal to be invited this year and we were!
  3. We summer in Sun Valley, ID and trail riding is what we love to do a couple of times a week. Wenesa loves the trails. It makes me happy to know how much she loves it.
  4. She makes funny faces with her lips. When she was at River Grove Farm, the staff called her “Hotlips.”
  5. Carl Hester. He’s classical and lets his horses be horses. He’s funny and has an overall great attitude.
  6. I subscribe to It’s a great way to see different teaching methods and styles.
  7. My goals for 2017 are to do more Adult Amateur CDIs and work on a freestyle.
  8. I’d love to see Adult Am CDI get more recognized. Right now we only have three in California for the 2017 show season and none are in Los Angeles! The East Coast is well-supported and there are many opportunities for the adult amateurs there. I will be doing our first Adult Am CDI the first week of January in Las Vegas.


Thirteen-year-old rides with Nick Karazissis, Jr., at Far West Farms Malibu
Horse: Karl Ernst, aka “Karl”

  1. 2016 Onondarka Finals Winner, My first ever medal final, Rosewood, 6th: and 2nd place in my first Hunter Derby.
  2. I’ve made a lot of progress in focusing in on my horse’s balance and what I can critique so that I can have a perfect round. I’ve also worked a lot on bending lines and being able to ride them on half-strides and how to ride them at shows.
  3. Definitely either spending time with him in his stall or going on trail rides with my friends.
  4. Karl can be quite a character. He loves people… not so much horses. He’s not a fan of horses but anyone can go up to him and give him a big hug because he is the sweetest horse ever.
  5. My most admired rider is Brianne Goutal. She won four medal finals in one year and has gone off to do bigger and better things including doing major Grand Prix classes in Europe and traveling around the world with her horses … my dream.
  6. My favorite video/advice on learning at home would be to watch the Maclay Finals from 2013. It’s amazing to watch. You get to see all of the top junior riders compete and how they control and ride their horses. Now that I know how useful watching these finals are, I’ll get up at 3 a.m. to watch them. I’ve learned so much from watching the best of the best.
  7. My biggest riding goal would be to compete in the 3’6” equitation and to do well at Maclay Regionals.
  8. I would love to see the political aspect of the sport change. Although the riders with big names have truly earned it, sometimes they get away with mistakes that other riders can’t get away with. I’ve seen it happen multiple times and that would definitely be a big change I would like to see.


Twenty-one-year old student of Hap Hansen & Trudi Fletcher in Rancho Santa Fe
Horse: Jet Jones

  1. CPHA 2016 Amateur Medal Finals Champion; CPHA 2016 Foundation Finals 3rd place finish; GSDHJA Open Equitation Challenge Reserve Champion
  2. The biggest progress I’ve made this year is learning to enter the ring with a clear mind, and the ride will follow. I tend to get nervous and over-think things so this year I made it a point to take a nice deep breath, shake it off, and go make a great round with my horse.
  3. My favorite non-competitive moments are when it’s just Jet and I in his stall, whether it be at a show or at home, just spending quiet time with each other. He’s such a special horse, my horse of a lifetime, so I cherish the quiet moments when we just sit together.
  4. My horse is very quirky. I often get told that Jet is the horse version of me. He is quirky in ways I can’t exactly describe, but you notice them when you meet him. There is just something about him. In his stall, for instance, he will pin his ears and act grumpy, but he’s really not and will lick you when you put your hand out.
  5. It’s really hard for me to pick a single rider that I admire, because there are so many that have such incredible riding talents that set them apart. Hap Hansen is one that I truly admire, not just because he is my trainer, but because he has this way about him that the horses like. Riding just comes so naturally to him and he doesn’t even have to think about what to do, it just happens. Trudi Fletcher is another rider I admire. She is brave and will ride whatever she is given with a kind of grace and ability many wish they could have. I am very thankful I have been blessed with these two as my trainers.
  6. I think my favorite horse-related book is 101 Jumping Exercises, by Linda Allen. I love that, if I am feeling creative, I can flip to a page, set up what I choose, or flip through and see what I think my horse needs to work on that day.
  7. My biggest riding goal for 2017 is to move up to the Low Amateur Owner Jumpers with my horse Criss Cross. Now that Jet and I have retired our partnership, I am focusing on furthering my riding career in the jumper ring.
  8. The biggest major change I would really like to see in this sport is that riders be more into their horses. I see far too often the horse spends more time with the groom than the rider. I groom, tack, feed, water and clean my horse’s stall myself, and I think it helps play a major part in the trust and rides that horse and rider do in the show ring.


25-year-old student of Leslie Pinkerton-Nelson in Santa Barbara
Horse: Likewise: aka “Kassidy”

  1. Champion 3’3” GSDHJA Medal Final; Champion 3’ GSDHJA Medal Final; Champion 3’ OCHSA Medal Final
  2. This year has been a year of endless, valuable lessons.  Patience, trust, consistency, more patience.  I think my biggest goal was to improve my overall consistency in the show ring, not only from round to round but from one horse show to the next and to be able to keep doing so on a variety of horses.  When the year culminated in a more successful medal finals season than I could have ever imagined, I felt like I definitely made huge leaps of progress towards that goal.  I also worked very closely with my horse’s health care professionals, such as his amazing veterinarian and farrier, which broadened my education and knowledge out of the tack and helped me to further optimize Kassidy’s performance throughout the year.
  3. Kassidy acts more like a hamster than a horse in his stall.  Usually when I visit him early in the morning or later for night check I’ll catch him pulling his shavings into the middle and burrowing into whatever type of nest he’s made himself.  This is when he’s the most snuggly and he’s typically happy to share his shavings with me if I bring a snack to share with him.  He usually likes the same flavor of Ben & Jerry’s that I do…
  4. To name the things that make Kassidy “normal” would be a shorter list.  He is quite possibly the quirkiest horse I have had the pleasure to work with and it is what makes him so sensational.  I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t frustrated me at times, but learning to work with his quirks rather than against them has helped me to grow exponentially as a rider and horsewoman.  Among one of his more endearing and benign quirks: he will greet you like a Labrador and lick your entire face if you let him.
  5. I have the most tremendous amount of respect and admiration for my trainer Leslie, and not just because she puts up with my amateur moments on a daily basis.  She is a true horsewoman and an incredibly talented hand in and out of the tack.  In addition to being a beautiful rider and a passionate educator, she treats her horses with the utmost compassion, love and respect.  She always puts their well-being first and foremost and I feel the connection she fosters with each horse shines through in the success she has with them throughout their careers.
  6. The USEF made these Get Connected videos that feature demonstrations of USEF Tests 1-19, etc.  I love watching them before a show, particularly medal finals when I feel like I need to brush up on my technique.  It’s really helpful to hear and see exactly what the judges will be looking for.  Hunter Seat Equitation by George Morris is also an excellent, very educational read.
  7. I think my goal to continue to be consistent will be an ongoing one for the rest of my time spent in the saddle.  I would also like to participate in some of the National Hunter Derbies that are being offered.
  8. I definitely feel that it’s an exciting time to be involved in this industry.  It seems that, as a whole, things are becoming more progressive, from the way we can use our smart phones to sign in for orders-of-go in real time to the micro-chipping technology that has been developed for equines, I love to see the progress that is happening and hope it continues.  I think the USHJA has some incredible educational programs/opportunities available to juniors and that it would be exciting to see some of the same experiences afforded to amateurs as well.


11-year-old student of Amber Smigel, Coto de Caza Equestrian Center.
Horse: Dow Jones, “Dow”

  1. California Dressage Society SJC Chapter Cashells Rock of Ages High Point trophy JR/YR Training Level for the 2016 summer series; Champion 14 and under Training Level 2016 JR/YR CDS Championships; Champion Training Level 2016 JR/YR USDF/CDS Dressage Championships Section 7 Finals; Champion 13 and under USDF Dressage Seat Finals
  2. I am a United States Pony Club member and I received my C-1 Dressage Certification this year. It was a great horsemanship accomplishment outside of competition.
  3. Flying lead changes.
  4. Dow is a bit finicky when he has to put a blanket on and if he see’s his farrier shoeing another horse, he will get distracted because he thinks he’s next in line. It’s a bit silly.
  5. Dressage is my passion and I hope to compete in the Olympics one day. Charlotte Dujardin is an inspiration to me because she is an Olympic gold medalist. She is also a former Pony Club member just like me. Charlotte inspires me to always do my best while riding and to always think “forward” and enjoy the sport.
  6. Saddle Club: it’s a bit similar to Pony Club, where a group of riders get together and take care of their horses and ride together. I also like the movie War Horse. It was a heartfelt movie and what I loved about it is Albert and his horse Joey’s determination, special bond and unconditional love for one another. I have this same bond and connection with Dow and my other horse Fancy. It’s super special.
  7. I am working on my GEM Rider Award and Bronze Medal this year. After the JR/YR Championships this year I started training First and Second level.  I’m really excited to compete at my CDS chapter regional shows to qualify for the 2017 JR/YR CDS Championships.
  8. Add a Junior/Young Rider freestyle.


11-year-old student of her parents’, Hope & Ned Glynn’s Sonoma Valley Stables, in Petaluma
Horse: Esteban La Paz

  1. Champion NorCal 3’ Medal Finals; Champion WCHR Pony Rider Southwest Region; Circuit Champion Childrens Hunters and Medium Ponies at Sonoma Horse Park 2016
  2. Learning how to bring a green pony and a green horse along.
  3. I love just hanging out with my horses. We live on the ranch so I get to spend a lot of time with them.
  4. Esteban has a droopy bottom lip that he hangs down when he is happy and relaxed.
  5. I admire my mom Hope Glynn because she can get on almost any horse and have a good round and she always has a good attitude.
  6. I want to show 3’6” in 2017