Two Californians, dressage star Steffen Peters and Brett Becker, trainer of numerous national champion Arabians in the Western divisions, have received the United States Equestrian Federation’s 2008 Equestrians of Honor status. They are among seven such honorees from which one will be selected as the 2008 USEF Equestrian of the Year, one of Federation’s most prestigious awards.
Steffen’s honor came with the William C. Steinkraus Trophy, and with this comment from the Federation: “During the 2008 Olympic Games, Steffen defined sportsmanship watching every single ride of both other disciplines and staying long after dressage was over to cheer on his teammates in show jumping. Steffen Peters handled himself with extraordinary composure and class after the disappointment of barely missing a medal.”
The San Diego-based rider and Ravel performed pretty well at the Games, too!
Brett Becker, of Northern California’s Grass Valley, earned the Barbara Worth Oakford Trophy. “Over the years Brett has accumulated countless national championships through his hard work, consistency and honest approach,” the USEF news release states. “Last year was no different for Becker as his Western horses took home top honors at the U.S. Arabian Nationals. Becker had three National Championship wins, in the Half Arabian Western Pleasure Open, Half Arabian Western Pleasure Futurity and Western Pleasure Futurity.”
All of the Equestrians of Honor will be recognized during the Annual Pegasus Awards Dinner at the USEF Annual Meeting, to be held Jan. 17 in Cincinnati.
Any USEF member can vote for the USEF Equestrian of the Year. Visit www.usef.org and scroll down to the end of the page where there will be a Horse of the Year voting link on the bottom left corner of the homepage. Voting closes on Jan. 9, at 5 p.m. EST.
Jumping World Cup Goes Into High Gear
With 74 points, Ali Nilforushan dominated the first half of the West Coast World Cup league for show jumping. Although the Southern California trainer grew up in the States, he rides for his native Iran and seems very likely to maintain the position foreign contenders need in this league to earn a berth at the Finals. In the cover article for our Oct. 2007 issue, Ali alerted readers that his Warco van de Halhoeve was one to watch, and he wasn’t kidding. The Darco son won the league’s first qualifier, at Showpark in September, and also #4, at the Las Vegas Invitational at the end of October.
The easy trip to Las Vegas for this year’s World Cup Finals, to be held April 15-19 and again along with dressage, ups the ante for our region’s riders. So far Mandy Porter maintains her lead among the Americans with 57 points. With her super mare Summer on the sidelines, Mandy has pulled it off riding the Korsh family’s San Diego. San Luis Obispo-based Harley Brown, who won the inaugural Sacramento International’s big class aboard Cassiato, shares the league’s second spot with Porter. The Final is a big target for Harley and if he holds a high spot in our league he’ll get there for his native Australia.
Hottest on Mandy’s heels among the Americans are Jill Humphrey, Richard Spooner and Will Simspon, with 55, 51 and 44 points, respectively. Last year’s World Cup hero, 2008 reserve champion Rich Fellers, skipped the first three qualifiers, but picked up 27 points in the Las Vegas, Sacramento and Los Angeles National classes. With both his 2008 partner, Flexible, and McGuiness in good health, Fellers is poised to make his move during the Thermal circuit’s four qualifiers, the first of which is Jan. 31. Last year, of course, Fellers and Flexible clinched their berth with three wins on the Desert Circuit.
Many of the names at the top of the standings are the usual suspects of high performance show jumping, but some of their stories have changed significantly since last year. Rich Fellers has segued out of the private-owner sector to run the Whip ‘N Spur stable in Wilsonville, OR. as his own business and with his wife Shelley’s help. His long-time owners, Harry and Mollie Chapman, still own Flexible, McGuiness and other jumpers for Rich, but they sold the Whip ‘N Spur property and have scaled down their involvement after many years of huge commitment to and support for show jumping.
Will Simpson is tackling this year’s World Cup league as both a newly minted Olympic gold medalist and an independent rider. His long-time sponsors, El Campeon Farms, changed tacks shortly after Will’s triumphant return from Hong Kong. His Olympic horse Carlsson Vom Dach was sold to East Coaster Hunter Harrison, and Will set up shop for himself in Hidden Valley, not far from El Campeon. Linda Smith’s Archie Bunker is his main Grand Prix mount at the moment and they got off to a great start with their win at the Los Angeles National’s qualifier in November. In the short time since going solo, Will’s string of ready international mounts and prospects has swelled to seven. It includes a 5-year-old named London Calling, which gives us a hint where Will hopes to be headed in 2012. His grander ambition, however, is 2016, and to compete there (hopefully in his native Chicago) with his daughter Sophie, now 11. With one lifelong dream accomplished, why not set the bar even higher!
Meanwhile, Richard Spooner is poised to parlay a summer of success against the world’s best into yet another Finals appearance. In October, Richard entered the top 10 of the FEI’s World Rankings thanks to his accomplishments on the Super League tour in Europe. He considers Cristallo and Ace to be equals in his World Cup run and he’ll have both at the first half of the Thermal circuit to lock up a Las Vegas spot, then he’ll zip to Florida for the bigger money on offer there.
Jill Humphrey, a first time Finalist in 2007, can’t be counted out thanks to her win and runner-up finish in rounds two and three. Both her 2007 partner Kaskaya and Lou Bega are looking good. And, like any sport, the rankings can change dramatically with five qualifiers to go. The finale is in late March at the Oaks in San Juan Capistrano and don’t be surprised to see up and comers Karl Cook and Ashlee Bond in serious contention at that time. These accomplished young riders hold the nine and 11 spots, respectively, at the league’s midway point.