California Riding Magazine • January, 2008

Exciting Finale
Champions crowned at the
Los Angeles National.

by Marnye Langer

As the final major “A” show on the West Coast circuit, the Los Angeles National (Nov. 14-18) attracted a record number of entries. For Grand Prix riders, the LA National was doubly important; the show was holding two $50,000 World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix events.

Unseasonal rains and a severe power outage crippled the Los Angeles International in September. Show Chairman Larry Langer made the decision to cancel the show. “I didn’t like making the decision,” he said at the time “but it wasn’t hard. There really wasn’t any other choice.” This meant that the Saturday night $50,000 LA International Grand Prix was one of the cancelled classes.

After the dust settled, the mud dried out, and the power came back on, Robert Ridland, representing the West Coast jumper riders, discussed the matter with both Langer and then John Roche of the Federation Equestrian International. Although unprecedented, Roche agreed to allow the cancelled class to be held at the Los Angeles National. Langer and his staff put their heads together to revise the already impacted horse show schedule and to figure out how to accommodate the demand the two Grand Prix events would create.
With $100,000 of prize money between two classes, about 40 Grand Prix horses descended on the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in November, along with more than 700 other jumper, top hunters and elite equitation horses. The stage was set for a fabulous competitive show, the weather cooperated, and the competition lived up to the expectations.

Will Simpson and Carlsson Vom Dach on their way to winning the
$50,000 Los Angeles International Grand Prix.
Photo: AC Custom Photo

Will Simpson Wins One

On Thursday night almost 40 horses and riders contested Jack Robson’s demanding course. In the past two years, courses for World Cup Qualifiers have increased in difficulty. Riders found they were not prepared to tackle the courses at the World Cup Finals and realized they needed to qualify over courses more closely reflecting what they would face at the Finals.

For the make-up $50,000 Los Angeles International Grand Prix, the night belonged to Will Simpson. “He gave a riding lesson to all those other riders,” said Larry Langer after the class. “Will rode just great and showed everyone how it was done.” Aboard the El Campeon Farms horse, Carlsson Vom Dach, Simpson rode a quick, clear jump off course to capture the top prize.

Simpson liked the challenge of two major classes in a week. “We had a real championship week and we don’t have much of that in the United States, but this is what the Europeans do week after week. They have to be on form. Usually we have some kind of warm-up class like a speed class or 1.45 meter, then a Saturday or Sunday Grand Prix. At best it is a dress rehearsal, but to have big money twice in one week means we have to be ‘on.’ I came out swinging on Thursday and got the job done, but on Saturday I had two rails. My horse jumped well, but I have to learn how to maintain at the very top level. I feel like I learned volumes.”

Simpson realizes that having the two Grand Prix classes was a special occurrence due to an unlikely set of circumstances. “Having two big classes in a week was a special thing. It would be great to see if it could happen again. To have a championship style week at the end of year would be really great.”

Larry Langer, who has been very active in the sport of show jumping for many years and serves as co-chairman with David Distler on the USEF National Jumper Committee, is very supportive of helping U.S. jumper riders be competitive with the best in the world. “My plans for the 2008 LA National do include a second class, such as a $15,000 speed class. If the West Coast Active Riders want a true FEI Championship format, I would be happy to work with them to see how we can accomplish such an idea. It might involve the FEI since pointing qualifying classes and such things are not allowed presently.”

Rich Fellers and Flexible.
Photo: AC Custom Photo

Rich Fellers Repeats

On Saturday night a sellout crowd packed the Equidome as 32 horses and riders faced off. Richard Spooner, who spent the summer competing in Europe on various U.S. teams, put in clear rounds aboard both Cristallo and Ace. Cristallo has emerged as Spooner’s top string horse, while the stunning stallion, Ace, is developing maturity in Grand Prix events.

Jill Humphrey is also proving that she is not a one-horse star. Her partner and coach, Rudy Leone, has a good eye for a horse and continues to identify top horses for Humphrey. With two horses in the class, Humphrey piloted Lou Bega to a clear round. Spooner’s assistant rider, Chris Pratt, rode Airtime to the fourth clear round. Last year’s winner, Rich Fellers, this time with Flexible, a new mount, was determined get a piece of the prize money. Furthermore, Fellers was very disappointed at the forced cancellation of the September event and had not planned on showing his horses until November. However, it turned out his decision was worthwhile.

Last to go in the five horse jump-off, Fellers realized that his prime objective was to jump around Anthony D’Ambrosio’s technical track and leave all the rails in the cups. Both Spooner and Pratt had rails. Humphrey was careful to leave the rails up, but her caution cost her two time faults. Fellers, a master in the Grand Prix ring, paired the perfect blend of caution and speed. He posted a clear round within the jump-off time allowed for the victory.

Fellers was especially pleased with his win with Flexible (Harry & Molly Chapman, owners) as the 11 year old gelding has been sidelined by serious injuries that various vets felt would keep the horse from ever stepping foot in the ring. “I am so lucky to have owners like Harry and Molly,” said Fellers of the Chapmans. “They really trust me and are so supportive.” Flexible repaid his owners, his rider, and his entire support team with his stellar performance. “I only started him in the Grand Prix classes this year, and this is a big win, a very big win. This is such a great place and you can always count on a great crowd. Because of his win, Fellers will grace the full color poster for the 2008 Los Angeles National.

John Bragg with Nick Haness on Night Cap and owner
Andrea Downs and daughter.
Photo: LEG Up News

Hunters & Medals

The Los Angeles National (Nov. 14-18) was a hugely important show for jumper riders, but it was equally important for hunter and equitation riders as well. The show features a number of championships and year-end finals, and probably the most important are the $5,000 Pre-Green Hunter Championship, the Onondarka Medal Finals for riders 12 and under, and the WCE Junior/Amateur Medal Finals.

The number of entries supported the importance of these three championships and finals. More than 90 top Pre-Green Hunters vied for 20 places in the Pre-Green Championship. After two days of regular competition, the top 20 horses competed over two rounds on Friday morning. Under John Bragg’s watchful eye, Nick Haness piloted the lovely grey gelding, Night Cap, for owner Andrea Downs. “He is a beautiful type and jumps well,” said Bragg, and the judges agreed. Annie Downs jumped up and down in glee as her horse posted the highest scores of the day.

Victory was especially sweet for Downs as a year ago she lost her horse to an unfortunate accident. Finally this past spring she went to Europe with a friend to look for a new horse. “We went to this ‘hole in the wall’ place and saw this amazing horse. I said, ‘That’s the one!’ when I saw him jump. He jumped every jump the same and I wanted a pretty horse.” In Night Cap’s case, pretty is as pretty does. Handsome to look at, the gelding is also a joy to watch.

Corrine Miller and Vriendle, winners of the Onondarka Finals
(David Ohringer and Don Simington in front).
Photo: LEG Up News

Miller Keeps Her Cool in the Onondarka Finals

Every year East Coast judges are amazed at the sophistication and level of difficulty the 12 and under riders face in the Onondarka Finals. Scott Starnes sets courses with a similar level of difficulty as the Medal and the Maclay, only at 3’0”, and the best riders shine.
Corinne Miller, in her first and only year of riding in the Onondarka Finals rode with poise that belied her years. “She was bloody consistent,” said Kees. “She rides with a plan, confidence, and a sense of timing,” added Tauber. “She was solid every time she stepped in the ring,” said Kees. “This is the best class in the country for 12 and under riders.”

Eight riders returned for the work-off, and Miller led the field. “We incorporated a lot of flatwork into the work off since they had jumped so much (three rounds),” said Tauber. We wanted to see their flatwork, especially as it relates to jumping.” Throughout the test riders had to lengthen the trot, turn on the forehand, and counter canter. “On a whole, they did well,” said Kees. “Some were more precise than others.”

Miller’s own horse got hurt before the finals, so they leased Vriendle from Laura Santana. “I had seen him for years,” said Mark Bone, Miller’s trainer. “I was just hoping to do well,” said Miller after her win. “After I won the first two rounds I was a little bit nervous (about the third round), but I had fun.” In the work off Miller had a little trouble with Vriendle in the turn on the forehand, but she stuck with it and executed the test. “We looked at the problems the riders had to see how they coped and the correct use of aids.” Miller clearly showed her understanding of the turn on the forehand despite her horse’s fussiness.

Tina Dilandri Combines Style With Precision in the WCE Finals
The WCE Finals emphasize an understanding and mastery of jumper courses, with the aim of promoting quality jumper riding by juniors and amateurs. The first round is a power and speed phase, with no time allowed in the first part of the course, and a jump-off pace required for the speed portion of the course.

Regardless of jumping faults that may be incurred in the power phase, all riders jump the entire course and receive an equitation score less any time faults or rails down. The second round is a Table II style course set at 375 meters per minute. For many riders, riding at the pace required and still being smooth and stylish proved challenging. However, for the top riders, like Tina Dilandri, it was no problem.

“The WCE is like the jumper phase of the Washington (International) because of the time and faults. You have to be very precise,” explained Dilandri. The final round for the top 15 riders is held over a jump-off course with a time set at 400 meters per minute. Dilandri, who had the highest score went last in the order. “When I saw Zazou (Hoffman) put in a good trip and go for it, I knew I had to. No guts, no glory!” laughed Dilandri. “I didn’t know if my horse could go fast, but he stepped it up.” She sliced jumps to save time, galloped the long approaches, rode a tight track, and did it with a style that would make George Morris proud. The judges rewarded her and she led the victory gallop. “We loved her,” said Chrystine Tauber, who judged with Timmy Kees. “Tina was outstanding from start to finish. She showed us finesse, speed, turns, and did it all beautifully.” “She showed a ‘certain something’ and a great feel,” added Kees. “She showed us that she understood what was being asked in all three phases of the class,” concluded Tauber.

Full results from the Los Angeles National are available online at