Langer Equestrian group started summer off with a bang and five heated days of stellar competition at the Memorial Day Classic Horse Show, May 22-26 at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, culminating with the $25,000 Memorial Day Classic Grand Prix.
“The Memorial Day Grand Prix is one of the most popular events we host here at LAEC,” stated Box Office Manager, Tom DeBone. “We’ve been completely sold-out for the past four years.” Spectators lounged across bleachers and under lavish umbrellas in the VIP sections, all to take in the full slate of classes the Classic offers—open, junior, amateur and Grand Prix—as well as an array of special classes.
Some of the best up-and-coming junior and amateur riders faced off in the $5,000 PCHA Jimmy Williams Classic and the $5,000 Junior-Young Rider-Amateur Owner Jumper Classic. Both classes were USEF Zone 10 Trials for the upcoming North American Junior and Young Rider Championships. Katherine Bardis of Pebble Beach started off her week by winning the Jimmy Williams Classic aboard C&S Partnership’s Pariska 2. It was the first of many blues for the pair.
Karen Healey Stable’s star rider, Hannah Selleck of Thousand Oaks, piloted Bauer, owned by Descanso Farm, to a blue in the $5,000 Junior-Young Rider-Amateur Owner Jumper Classic. Selleck guided another of Descanso Farm’s horses, Kyle, to a blue in the L.A.H.S.A./Dominion Saddlery Junior Medal Class. For her efforts Selleck was given the Best Junior Rider award for the classic.
Fellow Healey barn mate, Sophie Benjamin, stepped up to the plate and scored a homerun in the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search class. Benjamin won the class on Cabo Z, owned by Fred Bauer. The win earns her 30 points and qualifies for the West Coast finals.
The $15,000 USHJA Hunter Derby
The $15,000 Memorial Day Classic USHJA International Hunter Derby offers one of the richest hunter purses on the West Coast, and the derby style course offers a fun twist to watching a hunter class. The class was originally conceived by legendary horseman, George Morris, then further developed by the High Performance Committee of the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA), and its Chairman, Ron Danta.
USHJA representative, Whitney Allen, explained the classes’ purpose, “is to promote a change for hunters. The driving reason USHJA developed the class is to showcase the horsemanship, handiness and showmanship of the hunter. We want to draw crowds, attract corporate sponsorship and bring excitement back to hunters.”
Spectators packed into the stands and crowded around the VIP tables to catch a glimpse of the spectacular performances over Chris Collman’s course. The competition was comprised of two rounds each judged by two teams of judges. First, all riders were asked to navigate an old-fashioned hunt style course consisting of natural split rails jumps, stout brush box oxers, and other like jumps. Then 12 riders were invited back, based on their first round scores, to compete in a handy hunter round.
Shelby Wakeman and San Francisco, winners of sections of the
USEF Show Jumping Talent Search and ASPCA Maclay classes at the
2008 Devon Horse Show.
Photo: Kenneth Kraus
Fences were set at 3’6” with four option fences set at 4’ and Collman pulled out all the stops for the handy phase. A trot jump out of the arena was followed by several jumps outside the arena and then, to the crowds’ delight, riders were asked to jump back into the arena over a natural vertical.
The crowd watched enthralled as both seasoned professionals and rising stars alike fumbled due to the challenging nature of the course. It wasn’t until Nick Haness and Whitney Downs’ Coffeetalk’s thrilling round that the crowd really got cheering. The paired earned 88 and 87 base scores with a 10 and an eight in added bonus points. Several more riders tried but couldn’t catch up to Haness’ 352 points. Then Natalie Rae Medlock returned on Hap Hansen’s Y2K.
Medlock took bold options and dared to redefine the term “handy” with some invigoratingly tight turns. Medlock herself called the round, “just a kick,” and the judges called it with scores of 87 and 83 with bonus points of 10 and seven, moving her into the lead with a 354 total.
Last to go was junior rider, Samantha Harrison and Triple Lutz. Triple Lutz had caught the eyes of the judges in the first round of the inaugural classic and Harrison returned ready to battle for the lead. She executed quick, handy turns, bold gallops, and all the hard options to take the lead by one point.
“I wanted to jump all the big jumps, go fast, and be smooth, said Harrison. “It was so exciting!” Normally Harrison rides Triple Lutz in equitation and medals, but she thought the Derby sounded like fun.
The Memorial Day Classic Equitation Challenge
One of the most popular classes every year is the Memorial Day Classic Equitation Challenge. It is a team event consisting of a professional, an amateur and a junior rider, and with a seven day trip to Maui up for grabs, the class is also one of the most competitive.
The event is held over two days, with junior riders riding first. Ten teams competed and, after Friday night’s first round, 2007 professional winner, Nick Haness and his team, Hawaiian Nick and The Hula Chicks, consisting of amateur, Yvette Lang-Einczig and junior, Navona Gallegos, were in the lead with a combined score of 250.
Only 10 points off the lead were Jim and The Elvenstarlettes consisting of professional Jim Hagman, amateur Marnye Langer and junior Taylor Harris. Using the initials of their first names as inspiration, Team L.T.A. (professional Laura Van Meter, amateur Amy Brubaker and junior Theo Boris) were just two points behind, in third, with John Bragg and The Braggettes (amateur, Katie Gardner and junior, Tina DiLandri in fourth.
Boris of Team L.T.A. wanted to improve on his first round score of 70. His pre-class lesson with Van Meter must have done the trick, because Boris and his horse, Du Calme, picked up a score of 85 in the final round. Elvenstarlette, Harris and Braggette, DiLandri both put in strong rounds with scores of 80 and 86 respectively. Hula Chick Gallegos only picked up a 74.
Amateur Katie Gardner of the Braggettes wowed the crowd in the next round of action. She earned a score of 87, while Lang-Einczig (78), Langer (79) and Brubaker (80) were steady, but paled in comparison. Finally. the pros took the field for the last round of competition.
Bragg and Hagman both had an unfortunate rail, and without their high scores, their groups took third and fourth respectively. Last year’s leading professional, Haness put in a strong performance earning a score of 84, but it wasn’t enough. Van Meter literally galloped to victory with Team L.T.A. and a score of 88; the highest score of the event. The last line of the course called for a hand gallop to the final fence and Van Meter put on the gas to reach a perfect spot, eliciting wild cheers from the crowd and her team mates.
“This is such a fun class to do,” said Brubaker. “This is usually such an individual sport. Now you have team mates that you don’t want to let down.”
“All of a sudden you’re really pulling for someone else,” added Van Meter. “It’s a great format having everyone come together and compete as a team.”
In addition to Van Meter’s professional award, an eight day-seven night stay at Marriott’s Maui Ocean Resort Group, junior, Boris and amateur, Brubaker, both received retro fat-tire bikes presented by LA Saddlery. All members of the second and third place teams receive gift certificates to LA Saddlery.
The $25,000 Grand Prix
The weather was perfect for the show’s culmination, the $25,000 Memorial Day Classic Grand Prix, on May 26. Thirty horses started over course designer Scott Starnes’ 15 element course. Fence 12 at the far end of the ring, a wide oxer, following a bending line from a vertical at 11 seemed to cause the most problems. It came down for more than a third of the class, including 2007 winner Mark Watring, who picked up a sixth place finish. Only four horses went clear and earned places in the jump-off.
First to go in the jump-off, Kasey Ament, Karen Healey’s assistant trainer, set a clean, blistering pace in 35.077. Both Francie Steinwedell-Carvin riding the Prentiss Partners’ Splitfire and Natasha Merback and Samar, failed to go clear leaving the way wide open for Katherine Bardis.
Coached by Richard Spooner and Chris Pratt, Bardis was unwilling to play it safe. Last to go in the four horse jump-off, Bardis and C&S Partnership’s 11-year-old, bay mare, Pariska 2 sped their way into the record books winning her first Grand Prix in an unbelievable 33.436 seconds. After crossing through the finish markers she shouted, “I finally won a grand prix!”
“I’ve been second a bunch of times,” she explained after the class. “I didn’t want to lose. I figured I was going to be first or last. I know my mare and she’s the fastest thing I’ve ever sat on. I knew if I left everything up to her and I was smart, we could do it.”