California Riding Magazine • November, 2009

NorCal Medal Finals
Mackenzie Drazan, Jan Humphrey,
Valerie Van Der Linden and
Grace McLaughlin take top honors.

by Amy Young

It’s medal finals season and the Northern California equestrian community celebrated in style at the Northern California Hunter Jumper Association (NorCal) Medal Finals held Oct. 7-11 at Leone Equestrians Inc. in Sacramento.

The Junior and Senior medal finalists were given the opportunity to show off their strengths in their approach to the first round course at 3’6” on Saturday. Course designer Peter Holmes of Canada tested the riders with rollbacks and bending lines and challenged them to come up with, and stick to, a plan that best suited them and their horses. Claire Margolis, Mackenzie Drazan and Ali Cornish received the top ribbons after the first round of the Junior Medal Final. Leading the pack after the first round of the Senior Medal Final were Adrienne Dixon, Emma Townsend and Jan Humphrey.

Hunter ring two had its fair share of first round action as well. Tylor Nowell, Dalan Laughlin and Madison Jarrell successfully navigated the first round of the Pony Medal Finals course, spooky hay bales and all, to place first, second and third, respectively. Last to show off their equitation skills around the Peter Grant-designed course were the 3’ equitation finalists. Grace Mclaughlin came out on top followed by Alexandra Ladove and Addyson Cord.

The dedicated riders, trainers and spectators that braved the brisk autumn morning on Sunday were treated to a ringside champagne breakfast. The second round course for the 3’6” division began with an oxer to a bending line, featured rollbacks and options, and ended with a forward one-stride to an optional five or six strides to an end fence. Twenty-two riders faced off in the Junior Medal and 17 competed in the Senior medal. Second round awards went to Mackenzie Drazan, Ali Cornish and Claire Margolis in the Junior Medal and Jan Humphrey, Lauren Kardel and Laura Hansen in the Senior Medal.

The sun broke through the clouds just in time for the top four Junior Medal finalists to battle it out in the work-off. Mackenzie Drazan of Woodside, trained by John Bragg and Jennifer Davis, skillfully completed the test, which included hand gallop and trot fences, as well as a circle at the collected canter, to win the championship. The reserve championship went to Jill Stevens of San Anselmo, who trains with Ned and Hope Glynn, with Claire Margolis of Carmel Valley, trained by Toni Venza, taking third.

Not to be outdone, the top four Senior Medal finalists finessed their way through a tough work-off that included demonstrating simple lead changes in front of the judges, counter cantering a fence and trotting a fence. Jan Humphrey of Sacramento, trained by Rudy Leone and her sister, Grand Prix rider Jill Humphrey, showed that consistency paid off and claimed the championship. Reserve champion honors went to Lauren Kardel of Oakland, trained by Meredith Herman and Karrie Rufer of Pleasanton, trained by Diane Yeager, placed third.

For the first time, NorCal awarded a special prize to the Best Medal Horse at the finals. The judges chose to bestow the inaugural honor on Summertime, owned and ridden by Jessica Etterman of Lost Gatos, trained by Laura Gerst and Paul Bennett. Summertime helped Jessica ride to a top 10 finish in the Junior medal finals.

Nineteen young riders tried their hand at the second round of the NorCal Pony Medal Finals on Sunday. Valerie Van Der Linden, Katie Aoki and Isabella Batki impressed the judges enough to claim the top three placings in round two. The overall top four riders were invited back for a work-off that included a trot fence and a halt. Valerie Van Der Linden of Garden Valley, trained by Amy Bell, won the championship, with Dalan Laughlin of Carmel, trained by Toni Venza, taking reserve and Peyton Warren of Sloughhouse, trained by Rudy Leone and Jill Humphrey, claiming third place.

The 2009 NorCal Medal Finals wrapped up with the final rounds of the NorCal 3’ equitation finals. Twenty-seven riders tackled the course and Grace Mclaughlin, Alexandra Ladove and Alison Turner took the top spots in round two. Grace Mclaughlin of San Francisco, trained by Beverly Jovais, stayed on top to win the championship. Alexandra Ladove of Pebble Beach, trained by John French, captured the reserve championship and Alison Turner of Loomis, trained by Sami Milo, rounded out the top three.

This was the first year that this event was held at Leone Equestrians and NorCal would like to thank Rudy Leone for providing such a wonderful venue and Adrian Ward, show manager, for his attention to detail and dedication to making these finals memorable for all of the riders, trainers and spectators.

NorCal extends congratulations to all of the 2009 NorCal medal finalists and wishes everyone a successful 2010 show season!

Author Amy Young is an amateur hunter rider, member of the NorCal board of directors, a Sacramento Area Hunter Jumper Association
(SAHJA) judge and a writer for She is a genetics laboratory manager at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.