December 2018 - It Worked!
Written by article & photos: Kim F. Miller
Friday, 30 November 2018 00:41


Las Vegas National & the AON/USHJA National Championships

article & photos: Kim F. Miller

An idea hatched about four years ago came to fruition in Las Vegas Nov. 14-18, as the inaugural AON/USHJA National Championships hitched its wagon to the Las Vegas National Horse Show, now a fixture on the West Coast circuit thanks to the great stewardship of organizers Blenheim EquiSports.


USHJA president Mary Babick explained that HITS’ Tom Struzzieri first suggested a national championship for amateur and junior riders. He stressed that it should be held in the West to compensate for the region being underserved in the past. USHJA banked on members from throughout the country getting excited about coming to Las Vegas and the prospect of being treated like national champions in their respective equitation, hunter and jumper divisions.


On The Move: Physical therapist Sharon Classen performs “joint mobilization” on the hip of Maria Falgione, a rider and rep for vendor SynNutra. Joint mobilization and therapeutic exercises are the core of physical therapy treatment for horses and riders, Sharon explained over two terrific education sessions.

Watch Words: Nayel Nassar earned another Longines winners watch after he and Lordan won the night’s $135,000 World Cup qualifier. From left are 4th place finisher, Richard Spooner; third placed Harley Brown; Nayel; runner-up Wilhelm Genn; and Blenheim EquiSports Melissa Brandes & Robert Ridland.

Course Planning: USEF/USHJA Youth Chef D’Equipe DiAnn Langer leads a detailed walk of Anthony D’Ambrosio’s CSIW-4* Grand Prix course.

Bo Says So: Haygain USA rep Kaitlyn Zaleski, left, meets Jamie Barge’s superstar jumper, Luebbo, back stage in the FEI stabling area. Jamie, center, and her groom Sarah Griffin are big fans of Haygain steamed hay, but “Bo” is an even bigger fan!

The USHJA is a 501c3 entity, with education at its core, Mary added. So, the addition of daily educational sessions was important to the governing body’s mission. Targeting a segment of the hunter/jumper community that does not spend the winter and early spring competing on the Florida circuit, the National Championships also included a championship for members of USHJA affiliate organizations. That was a big hit, too.

Autographs: Jennifer Gates greets a long cue of autograph seekers at the after-class signing session. It was late, but nobody left the line!

I’ll Be The Judge of This: Trainer, judge and USHJA board member Diane Carney leads a terrific “Judge with the Judge” session during which attendees evaluated equitation rounds while hearing Diane’s running judge’s commentary. Young riders loved it and so did their parents.

Wilhelm Genn & Bugatti.

Kristen Vanderveen & Bull Run’s Faustino De Tili.

“This has been a super experience,” said trainers Elizabeth Lacroix and Annalise Appleseth of Reno, NV. Both brought students to compete in the Affiliate division and were thrilled to give them the experience of showing in the South Point Arena, where they received special acknowledgement. “They’ve really made us feel like we are a part of everything,” concurred the Reno trainers. The overall focus of the National Championships is to strengthen and grow the hunter/jumper community, explained Mary. She was delighted to tell a surprised amateur jumper champion that, “yes, you can keep” the beautiful crystal bowl presented in the awards ceremony. Moments like that should foster lifelong involvement in the sport and inspire others to qualify for future Championships.

Knowledge Quester: Top junior jumper rider Amelia Enzminger of Los Angeles makes the most of physical therapist Sharon Classen’s willingness to share her expertise.

Richard Spooner & Quirado RC were 4th and jumped into the lead of the West World Cup league.

Jennifer Gates & Monaco

Harley Brown & MyLord Cornet make sure to finish round one with no time faults.

Topping it all off with Saturday night’s pinnacle of sport, the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping, was perfect. Nayel Nassar and Lordan won (again!), visiting East Coast-based German Wilhelm Genn was second with Bugatti and NorCal-based Aussie Harley Brown was third with Mylord Cornet. Richard Spooner’s fourth place finish with Quirado RC put him atop the West World Cup league, followed by, among U.S. riders, Eve Jobs and Zazou Hoffman. Two more World Cup qualifiers remain, in 2019 in Mexico, before the spring finals in Gothenburg, Sweden. Uma O’Neill, Nicki Simpson and Jamie Barge remain very much in the hunt, so it will be interesting to see if they head to Mexico early next year to pick up points. In the past, the season’s final qualifier was held at Thermal in late February or early March. But this year, that class got moved up to the Nov. 10 showdown at the Sunshine Circuit in Thermal.

Nayel Nassar & Lordan

Good Gathering: Riding Magazine’s Kim F Miller hosted an American Horse Publications regional gathering, featuring guest speaker Connie Sawyer, manager of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League. From left are Haygain USA’s Kaitlyn Zaleski; Classic Communication’s Marty Bauman; Langer Equestrian Group’s Marnye Langer; Connie; Catie Staszak, a former AHP Student Award winner; David Portner of Show Jumping Life; Kim; Equivont co-founders Jaclyn Dunn & Jessica Di Costanzo; and Brenda Mueller of Chicago Equestrian.