Riders from California topped the podium in the Team and Individual Championships
Bend, Oregon—– July 25, 2017 —– Riders from Zones 8, 9 and 10 gathered at the Oregon High Desert Classic I in Bend to vie for top honors in the USHJA Children’s and Adult Amateur Hunter West Region Championships, presented by SmartPak.
For this championship, the Children’s and Adult Amateur riders were combined and then the teams were drawn from a pool. In the end, seven teams went head-to-head for the title on July 22 over two Classic Hunter-style courses and an under saddle set on the expansive grass field of the Aleron Training Stables Hunter Ring 1.
Team 6 from Zone 10, led by Chef d’Equipe Laura Gerst, earned the gold medal with 1,161.5 points (an average of 77.43). The all-California team included: Ava Lakey, 14, of Pleasanton; Olivia Vance, 17, of San Anselmo; Misa Kokka, 14, of Fremont; and Sonja Petri, 32, of Burlingame.
Team 7, another California team from Zone 10 led by Gerst, earned silver with 1,147.25 points (an average of 76.48) with riders Ella Dyson, 12, of Portola Valley; Katie Kehring, 11, of Woodside; Alison Stern, 55, of Turlock; and Elizabeth Stodden, 17, of Davis.
Team 3 from Zone 9, led by Chef d’Equipe Corene Smith, earned the bronze medal, with Molly Hughes, 14, of Seattle, Washington; Chloe Sperling, 14, of Kirkland, Washington; and Brylee Dickey, 13, of Bend, Oregon, earning 1,098.5 points (an average of 73.23).
The hotly contested Individual Championship, held on July 23, consisted of an under saddle, a Derby-style course and a Handy course. Competitors were judged by two panels of two judges, and the courses included three options where riders could earn bonus points by jumping a high option. Judges for this year’s West Championship were Scott Fitton and Nancy Wallis as Panel 1, with Tucker Ericson and Anne Selinger as Panel 2.
Once again, it was Zone 10 that dominated the competition, with California riders taking both Individual gold medals. Ava Lakey rode Denize Borges’ 8-year-old Holsteiner Double Blind to the top of the Children’s card with 408.5 points (an average of 81.7), while Sonja Petri rode her own Drop The Mic to the Adult Amateur victory with 417 points (an average of 83.4).
“I saw this competition last year and thought it was really cool,” said Lakey. “When we drew teams, I got one of my best friends, Misa. And I got two people whom I’d never met before, and they were so nice, and it was so much fun to ride with them. It was great to be on a team and build a relationship, since we were riding together, and that was really, really fun.”
Lakey returned to the Individual Championship having already won a team gold medal, so she said she felt some pressure to repeat her performances. “I was kind of nervous because I knew I had some good scores from yesterday, but I tried to keep my cool,” she said with a smile. “He came out today and felt amazing, so it was really fun.”
Silver medalist Elizabeth Stodden rode Lonan Z to consistent scores in all three phases for 401 points (an average of 80.2), and Misa Kokka took the bronze with 396 points (an average of 79.2) aboard Ucello after winning the Handy Hunter Round.
Both Lakey and Kokka ride and train with Borges, of Crystal Image Farms, of Sunol, California. Lakey, who has been riding Double Blind since January, made the USHJA Children’s Hunter West Regional Championship a goal this year before she moves up to the Junior Hunters.
“After we’d looked at probably 20 horses for Ava, I flew out to Pennsylvania from California in the middle of winter in 13-degree weather and tried horses,” said Borges. “I fell in love with this one, sent her the photos and videos and bought him without her, which is why his name is Double Blind.”
Kokka had to overcome a particularly challenging day to earn the individual bronze medal. During the under saddle phase, another rider inadvertently cut her off during the canter, forcing her to jump a straw bale fence in the corner of the ring. Then, during the Handy Round that same fence fell down while she was on course, and she had to pull up and wait to have it fixed.
“The straw was after her today,” said Borges laughing. “But she still ended up winning the Handy and third overall. She was very consistent over fences.”
Lakey added, “We’re both not very good in the under saddle, so in the team competition we were so lucky because we had Sonja with the winning under saddle horse! She really helped us, so that was great yesterday.”
Their fourth teammate, Olivia Vance, guided Concordia to an 81.5 in the Under Saddle for seventh place in that phase.
Receiving the Shapley’s Best Turned Out Award for the Children’s section was Mario Hernandez, groom of Madison Givant’s LA Reserve. Hernandez was presented with a bucket of Shapley’s products and a commemorative hat for his efforts.
In the Adult Amateurs, it was Sonja Petri aboard Drop The Mic who earned the Individual gold medal for Zone 10. Sonja and Drop The Mic won the Under Saddle, the Classic Round and placed second in the Handy for a commanding win with 417 points (an average of 83.4). Zone 9’s Nancy Butano, of Bend, Oregon, aboard Sideswipe and Alison Stern, of Turlock, California, on Disaronno tied with 369 points (an average of 73.8), but Butano had the higher tie breaking score in the Derby round to earn her the silver medal and Stern the bronze medal.
“It was really neat. I’ve never done anything like that before so it was fun,” said Petri of the team championship. “The best thing about it was that I could help out my team in the hack. My first round over fences was good, but I wasn’t stellar in the second round, and they stepped up to the plate and helped make it happen.”
Lakey and Kokka remained ringside during the Adult Amateur Individual classes to support their Zone 10 teammates.
“They were so sweet cheering me on,” said Petri. “They didn’t have to stay and watch, but they did. It was a really fun experience, and I think it’s great to be able to do this at the three-foot level.”
Petri, 32, as chief of staff for a tech company in operations, balances her career with riding and enjoys the amateur camaraderie at trainer Missy Froley’s Hunter Bay Farm in Portola Valley, California.
“This was so much fun! I was here last year and saw it, so I signed up early and I’m still excited,” said Petri. “My goal is to get to the top of the Zone in the Adult Amateurs. It’s a big one, but I’m going to try. I think it’s important to be able to do this as an amateur and work toward goals.
“Today was my first Handy on him,” she added. “Last year at this time we bought him, and he was doing the 1.30m jumpers with Will Roberts of Texas. We’ve just been taking it slowly with him. Missy does him in the 3′ USHJA, and I do him in the Adult Amateurs, and I think next year we’ll step him up. We’re taking him nice and slow because he’s quality, and we want to keep him for a long time.”
Earning special recognition as groom of the Shapley’s Best Turned Out Horse was Eddie Cacho for his grooming of the chestnut Disaronno, owned and ridden by Stern. Cacho was presented with a bucket of Shapley’s products and a commemorative hat.
All riders received polo shirts and tote bags from the Championships presenting sponsor SmartPak. The Individual Championships were pinned through eighth place. In addition to medals and ribbons, the Individual gold medalists received an embroidered cooler, Charles Owen Helmet, CWD halter, Professional’s Choice Pro Performance Schooling Boots, Essex Classics Riding Shirt and FITS Riding breeches.
The 2017 Championships are held by region—– North Region, made up of Zones 1, 2 and 5; South Region, made up of Zones 3 and 4; Central Region, made up of Zones 6 and 7; and West Region, made up of Zones 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12.
For more information about the Children’s and Adult Amateur Hunter Regional Championships, and to see all Championship dates, visit ushja.org/ChAAHunter.
Adult Amateur Hunter Individual Championship Results:
Children’s Hunter Individual Championship Results:
Presenting sponsor of the Championships SmartPak Equine was founded by riders and horse owners for riders and horse owners in 1999 with the purpose of simplifying the administration of nutritional supplements to horses. Their patented SmartPak™ supplement feeding system has been adopted by thousands of barns and horse owners across the country, who value knowing that their supplements will be fed correctly. In addition to the SmartPak supplement system, they offer a broad line of horse health, show apparel, tack, and canine supplies sold online and through their catalogs. More information is available at www.smartpakequine.com.