July 2017 - Meet The Zone 10 Team!
Written by Kim F. Miller
Saturday, 01 July 2017 17:33
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by Kim F. Miller

Chef d’equipe: Guy Thomas

YOUNG RIDERS, aka “The A Team”

Hayden Zadel & Triskel De Kerliven

Hayden and “Beau” came into the trials’ finals in second place, but they took nothing for granted. “I’ve always heard that anything can happen at the finals and I was over-the-moon excited to be consistent enough to make the team.” Consistent is an understatement. She and her 10 year old Selle Francais gelding finished all four rounds in San Juan Capistrano with just two rails to top that crucial phase of the qualifying process.

Hayden Zadel & Triskel De Kerliven. Photo: Sofia Jain

Hayden and Beau began competing together, at the same San Juan Capistrano venue, exactly a year before the June finals. Some ups and downs ensued, but everything came together at the right time with a win of the first YR trial at Thermal in mid-March.

By Sunday’s last rounds, Beau felt a tad tired to Hayden in the warm-up ring but didn’t look that way to fans as he expressed extra enthusiasm on course. “He knows when he’s doing well and he gets excited,” Hayden explains.

The 17-year-old had her own version of that celebration after the victory with close friend Natalie Dean. Competing in both the Young and Junior trials throughout the season, Hayden and Natalie traded winner’s podium places a few times and closed out the qualifying period by jumping off against each other on Sunday afternoon.

Hayden and Natalie don’t ride at the same barn or attend the same school, but they became fast friends at the USHJA’s Emerging Athletes regional training session last summer. Sharing the Young Rider trials adventure has enhanced the experience, Hayden says. And she looks forward to tackling the Championship together, with the help of the rest of their squad’s riders who all bring experience from last summer’s event.

Hayden rides with trainer Liz Hutchinson at Avalon Hunter Jumpers in Menlo Park.


Natalie Dean & Idagio Van Het Nerehof

Natalie had a few horses in the hunt for both the Young Rider and Junior teams, but it was with her newest ride, “Spencer,” that she came into the final rounds with a commanding lead. A homebred from the sporthorse breeding program run by her trainers, Butch, Lu and Guy Thomas of Willow Tree Farm, Spencer joined Natalie’s string just a few months ago. Guy had campaigned the young horse up to the Grand Prix ranks these last few years. “Butch had me sit on him, then jump him a little, then he said, “Hey, He jumps pretty well for you.” That was putting it mildly, and soon the new pair were off and running toward a spectacular trials topped by wins in Del Mar and Sonoma, then a second place finish in San Juan Capistrano.

The recent high school graduate from Palo Alto plans to attend UC Santa Barbara in the fall, along with continuing her final junior year in the jumpers and medal divisions. This is her first trip the NAJYRCs and a return visit is already on her goal sheet.

Sarah Baz & Abadan. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Sarah Baz & Abadan

Sarah and Abadan are a seasoned team. She and the 11 year old gelding have been together three years, starting with the 1.20Ms and up to some 1.50 Grand Prix classes as of last fall. Their resume includes being part of the silver-winning Zone 10 Junior team last year.

There have been some ups and downs. “There was a period of time when we’d either win or stop out,” Sarah shares. “But we have really developed along together.”

Training with Harley Brown Equestrian has been a big help in their journey. “Harley really knows what you are capable of doing, even if you don’t know it yourself and he balances that with doing it safely.” She hacks other horses at their program as part of her preparation for the big classes.

As one of three NAJYRC returnees, Sarah feels she’s gotten much better about riding under pressure during the last year. One tactic that helps: “I definitely need to go and sit alone for a while before the class.”

She’s heading to UC Santa Barbara in the fall and hopes to keep up with her riding while there.


Dalan Laughlin & Babiole

Dalan and “Babz” know each other especially well because the 10 year old Selle Francais mare lives at the Laughlins’ home ranch in Carmel Valley. Dalan cares for her daily, including schooling on their own and trail riding in between meeting up with trainer Mariano (and Nina) Alario of Estancia Farms at shows and occasionally at their Petaluma facility.

“She is my only horse,” Dalan says. “I have built a very strong relationship with her and she has proven to have one of the biggest and most willing hearts. She tries her absolute best and never wants to do anything wrong.”

Babz was doing the 1.20M when she came to Dalan and, at the start of the qualifying period, the team wasn’t sure whether she’d be up for the 1.45 ranks. “We planned to just jump the trials and see what would happen, without putting too much pressure on her.” The first trial went well and they tackled the challenges ahead. “The trials were difficult, but she tried her absolute heart out in each one.”

Babz’ favorite things include winning, “posing” for the win shots that follow and snacking on Dalan’s Skinny Pop Popcorn. Occasionally and affectionately called “Spazz,” Babz does have some quirks like “spooking at ponies, chasing our free-range chickens or ‘sassing’ our baby horses at home.”

Dalan contributed big time to last summer’s silver medal for the Junior team. “I will never forget that experience and I learned that consistency is truly key, especially on team day.” Another key is using the nerves natural to riding as part of a team to ride better.

Mariano Alario, a Grand Prix rider from Argentina, has been a big part of Dalan and Babz’ success. “He has worked wonders with my horse and with me.”

Dalan heads to UC Berkeley in the fall and is thrilled that puts her only a half hour from the Alarios’ program, instead of her current three-hour drive. Her folks are encouraging her to take the first semester off from riding, “but I honestly don’t know how I am going to handle being away from my horse for an entire semester!”

Sydney Hutchins & Zorlando. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Sydney Hutchins & Zorlando (alternate)

Several of this year’s team members aspire to continue high level riding during their upcoming first year of college. In that hope, they can look up to Sydney, who juggled the selection process with attending the University of Georgia and helping the Bullbogs NCEA equestrian team finish second in the national championships in April. She was able to keep riding regularly, but the degree of difficulty is nowhere near the Young Rider level she flew home to face starting with the Del Mar trials in May.

“Honestly, it was hard to prepare,” Sydney admits. It helps that she and her 12 year old KWPN, Zorlando, have been together for about three years. Along with riding on the Zone 10 Junior team last year, they’ve tackled a few Grands Prix and were able to meet up and compete a few times at the Wellington, FL show circuit this past winter.

The lifelong Elvenstar rider is a cool customer. Whether it’s winning the Maclay Regionals last fall or readying for Young Riders, the main thing she focuses on is “thinking of it as just another course. Just go around and jump it as best you can. Of course, you want to do really well and represent Zone 10 well.”

And there’s two sides to the team coin. “That can take a little pressure off of you knowing that someone could pick up the slack for you, or that you can pick up the slack for someone else if you need to.”

Last year’s Championships were a great experience. “There were a lot of activities to do and you get to know your own team really well, and other riders from around the country. There is a fun, competitive spirit all around the showgrounds.”

JUNIOR TEAM, aka “the B Team”


Hannah Loly & Amya De La Demi Lune

“Maya” is a brand new partner for 15 year old Hannah, the Rancho Santa Fe-based rider who had a few mounts in the chase this season and had logged a few trials classes last year to get a feel for the challenge ahead. She added the 11 year old mare to her string during the Del Mar National and they debuted with two clear rounds in Sonoma. Although they succeeded right away, Maya is a different ride- much hotter – than Hannah’s other top stars, Lady Capitol and Asombro.

“She has so much scope,” Hannah enthuses. “I love that I just go up the jump, let her go and she just breezes over.”

Hannah’s coach Keri Potter found Maya through Cara Anthony, who had campaigned her at the Grand Prix level. Hannah has been riding with Keri for about four years. Along with soaking up Keri’s considerable international Grand Prix experience, Hannah loves her coach’s clarity. “She’s very descriptive in telling me what I need to do to fix a problem.”

She enjoys being part of Keri’s small size training program. “We all have really close relationships.” At the same time, she’s looking forward to getting to know her new teammates. “Everyone seems to be super nice and I can totally see us becoming friends.”

Alyce Bittar & Star Girl B. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Alyce Bittar & Star Girl B

Alyce and the 9 year old Selle Francais mare by Quick Star got off to a late start in the trials. They jumped in during the last of three regular trials at Sonoma Horse Park, then onto the final rounds, where “I was just really focused on going clear all of the days,” says 17-year-old Alyce. Found by Alyce’s trainer and father, Georges Bittar, Star Girl joined the family program at the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center at the beginning of the year. “We were just doing the 1.20Ms and taking it slow, but when we realized her potential and how honest she is and what a good heart she has,” they upped their goals.

“She’s not difficult, she’s just green,” Alyce reports. “She needs someone who can show her what she needs to do and not scare her because she’s so new at this level.” Star Girl has progressed remarkably while keeping her sweet nature.

“I just love her,” Alyce notes. “Around the barn, all she wants to do is be petted. If you go into her stall, she’ll put her chin on your shoulder and wait until you pet her.”

Alyce enjoyed team competition in regional 1.20M Championships last year on another horse. “The team pressure makes it more fun and so much can change over the course of the competition.”

Travelling to compete outside of California is new for Alyce and she’s excited to get to know her teammates better.


Sophia Siegel & Bubblegum

Sophia and the 11 year old KWPN have been together for about two years. He had some Big Eq experience, but had not jumped above 1.30M. They had a challenging first year at that height but things took a good turn last November, triggered by coming under the guidance of Butch, Lu and Guy Thomas as Willow Tree Farm. The trio has considerable combined experience at the international level and a tough love approach that worked well for Sophia. “Butch gives it to us straight and he expects a lot from us.”

High expectations come with the territory of riding on a team, and Sophia has some of that experience under her belt. She competed in the USHJA Childrens Championships two years ago and in the 1.10M Friendship show in Germany, where riders compete as a team of two. She anticipates that “the riders who’ll do well at the Championships are those who worry about their own performances and don’t let the pressure of being on a team get to them.”

Sophia recently turned 15 and hopes to qualify for the YR team next year, then keep targeting the Championships “until I’m ready for something bigger.”


Katherine Brewer & Corleone E

Corleone E is “my first real jumper” says 17-year-old Katherine of Menlo Park. She spent most of her youth riding and competing on the East Coast up to the 1.10M division. When she moved out west two years ago and began riding with Harley Brown Equestrian, Harley found the stallion for her and Katherine made big steps up to compete successfully in 1.40M Junior ranks.

Along with her trainers’ help, “He’s taught me everything,” Katherine says of Corleone. “He’s small, but very strong and scopey and he gets the job done.” Corleone hasn’t done any breeding yet, and he’s extremely level headed. “He gets frisky in the ring, but he’s not affected when there’s mares around or anything like that.”

Qualifying for the Junior Nations Cup in Langley, British Columbia and earning a Junior team spot for Saugerties are their biggest accomplishments to date. The mandatory NAJYRC final trials and the Langley event fell too close together to do both, but she has no regrets about going to San Juan Capistrano.

As for the trip to Saugerties, “I’m excited for the competition most of all,” Katherine says. “The team aspect and the multi-phase aspects are things that we don’t normally get to experience as young riders, plus the high level of competitiveness.”


Danielle Lean & Dexceminka (alternate)

Danielle and Dex’s six-month old partnership has sad origins in that the 9 year old KWPN’s previous owner died in a riding accident. Danielle was riding the horse for trainer Devon Gibson as part of the process of selling him. “We started jumping together at 1.20M and three weeks later, he was doing the 1.40Ms.”

Dex also has a ton of energy. “I think people had been kind of intimidated by how much energy he had.” With Devon’s help, Danielle decided to counter that by staying super calm and relaxed. While others might have used a stronger bit and tighter rein, she went with a milder bit and a looser rein. “And I thought, if I stay calm, he’ll stay calm.” And that’s what happened to trigger their steady ascent to the higher divisions.

Having fallen short of qualifying last year on another horse, Danielle is thrilled to land the team’s alternate spot. “I’m super excited to show in New York. I love the opportunity to show in a team setting and that type of competition is a building block for what I want to do in the future. He has all the jump in the world and I think he can take me there.”

Eighteen year old Danielle rides out of Devon Gibson’s Seahorse Riding Club in the Los Angeles area’s Rolling Hills Estates.


(Editor’s Note: USEF invitations had not yet been issued at presstime, but these four pairs topped the money-won based rankings on which qualifications are based and were expected to comprise the team.)

Alexa Leong & Hertogin Ter Drie Leien.

Alexa Leong & Hertogin Ter Drie Leien

Pony star Alexa has only been riding horses for about a year, but she’s wasted no time making her mark in the jumper arena. A Children’s Jumper Champion for PCHA and NorCal last year, she and her 10 year old Belgian Warmblood are fresh from the first Children’s Jumper Nations Cup competition in Langley, British Columbia in late May. “That was super exciting and I liked having the pressure of being part of a team.”

Alexa began riding with Jill and Jan Humphrey of JH Sporthorses in Sacramento when she was 6 and she gets extra help from Karen Healey. The young rider was especially grateful to have Jill’s international jumping experience on her side in Langley. “She was able to give us all the information on what to expect in an FEI competition,” Alexa says.

She loves the jumper division for its objectivity, and will continue her successful run with the ponies and equitation. Alexa is qualified for a return trip to the Pony Finals in Lexington, VA, with Candy Crush, and hopes to qualify again for the Maclay Finals, which she did last year at only 11.

First up, though, is Saugerties: “I’m looking forward to getting to know all the team members and to competing against people from other zones. I’ve never done that and I want to see how they are similar and different to what we do in our zone.”


Virginia Bonnie & Captiva

Virginia hails from a long and distinguished line of East Coast equestrians, but it’s her California accomplishments that will carry her to the Championships. She has ridden her Hanoverian mare for about a year and a half and says, “I would trust her with my life.”

She recalls starting with Meredith Herman’s Burgandy Farms as a pre-schooler and, about nine years later, was excited when her Sonoma Horse Park-based coach told her about the brand new FEI Childrens Championship.

After a little confusion as to how to qualify, she and Captiva got on track for Saugerties. “I’m excited to be competing in the team format. I’ve done the Pony Finals, but not anything like this before. I think it will be exciting and fun.”

Before New York, she and Captiva will enjoy a summer vacation at their family farm in Virginia. Throughout the year, the 13-year-old’s main focus outside of school is riding, but she’s also dabbling in art. Her subjects are exclusively animals, including horses, of course. “I’m enjoying experimenting with that.”

Dylan Laiken & Callao: Photo: Anne Gittins

Dylan Laiken & Callao


Dylan and the 11 year old Belgian Warmblood have been partners for less than a year but they bonded very quickly once the horse arrived from Florida earlier this year. “Now they know each other to the point that if he lays down in his stall, he’ll let Dylan come and lay on top of him,” says Dylan’s mom Jessie.

Thirteen year old Dylan rides with Georges Bittar and is good friends with the Bittar girls, Alyce, who’s on the Junior team, and Amelie. “They’re like the Three Muskateers!” Jessie relays.

Dylan competes on the East Coast, where she trains with Alex Jayne and she has learned a great deal from Georges Bittar since she joined his program at the Los Angeles area’s Hansen Dam Equestrian Center. “She has learned a tremendous amount about horsemanship, including the care and psychology of horses,” Jessie observes.


Clea Caddell & Waltraut

Clea has been riding her Children’s Championship partner “Wally” since last November. At approximately 18hh, the 10 year old Holsteiner is a big girl with Grand Prix jumping experience that gives 12 year old Clea lots of confidence. “She definitely knows what she’s doing and is super kind,” Clea says. “If I do make a mistake, she’ll help me out. She’s a really sweet mare.”

Clea learned about the brand new FEI Children’s Championships from Jill and Jan Humphreys, who train her along with Alison Sherred. Alison partners with the Humphrey sisters’ JH Sporthorses from her base at the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center. Clea lives in nearby Carmel and rides her horses mostly at the Equestrian Center, with the option of hauling to JH’s facility in the Sacramento area to ride in their covered arena during the rainy season.

Zone 10 Young Rider and Junior teams. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Clea is fired up about the Championships. “I love the team aspect of it because riding is such an individual sport it can be a little isolating at times. The idea of being on a team really excites me and I hope it can be a stepping stone to doing the Young Riders later.”