North American League West Coast Finals Inspired Intense Competition
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 26 September 2018 15:55

Just after the U.S. show jumping team earned gold at the World Equestrian Games, juniors and amateur riders engaged in their own heated competition at the 2018 North American League (NAL) West Coast Finals. The two days of hunter and jumper competition comprise one of the two Finals that culminate the NAL's year-long Series that includes classes at hundreds of horse shows across the United States and Canada. This year's NAL West Coast Finals were held in beautiful Southern California weather during the Blenheim EquiSports International Jumping Festival, September 22-23 in San Juan Capistrano.


The NAL West Coat Finals featured five divisions, the $5,000 NAL Adult Jumper Presented by SmartPak, $5,000 NAL Children's Jumper Presented by EquiFit, $5,000 NAL 1.35M Junior/Amateur Jumper Presented by HorseFlight, and $5,000 NAL Adult Hunter and $5,000 NAL Children's Hunter. The winners of each Final were presented with fantastic awards including gift certificates generously donated by EquiFit, SmartPak, and The Clothes Horse, an NAL coolerette, and a trophy from the International Jumping Festival. Popular NAL gift bags given to every Finals participant were filled with an assortment of goodies including a commemorative NAL Finals stall plaque and photo box.

In addition to the West Coast Finals, the NAL also hosts National Finals at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg, October 11-20.

Fifteen-year-old Erin Nichols, of Yorba Linda, CA., and Hindee's 29.697-second time was unbeatable among the 12 pairs who advanced to the jump-off in the $5,000 NAL Childrens Jumper Final Presented by EquiFit. "Forward and smooth equals fast" trainer Edgar Pagan told Nichols before she entered the jump-off, and she and her 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood were all three. Nichols splits her time between jumpers and dressage, in which she competes with equal success at Second Level. She's found dressage to be a big help in developing the keen feel needed for pinpoint control on a jumper course and she used that effectively in the win. Nichols aspires to represent the States internationally in either discipline. Having targeted the Finals all season, the victory was a big milestone. "Doing as well as I did, I'm very proud of myself and my horse," she said.

Jake Cheikha, of Trabuco Canyon, CA., and Noteworthy Horses' Cagoldas were less than a half-second behind Nichols with their clean jump-off for the red rosette. The pair trains with David Bustillos. Lola Stern and Woodgrove Farm's Arco Z's 30.61-second jump-off placed the Katie Gardner-coached pair in third.

 

Evette Delong and Blue Calvados. Photo: (c) KimFMiller.com

Riding the same Scott Starnes-designed course on the grass Derby Field as the Childrens Final contenders did, Evette Delong and Blue Calvados were the unbeatable pair in the NAL $5,000 Adult Amateur Jumper Finals Presented by SmartPak. "Everything aligned today," said Delong, who lives near the venue in San Juan Capistrano, CA. "Between my trainer Hillary Ridland and my horse, I'm feeling blessed." Delong has ridden much of her life, but took a break during cancer treatments. Blue Calvados was purchased about 18 months ago to help her get back into the game, which they've done with gusto, earning numerous circuit championships along with the NAL title.

"Hillary and I walked a great track and I was able to stick to my plan," Delong explained of the jump-off strategy to best the four contenders who also had clear first-round efforts. "Mentally, Hillary really pre-set me up with where I could cut corners or step on the gas, while keeping my horse balanced and it worked!"

Whitney Coleman and Sarah Sharou's Cavalino 30 finished second with two clear rounds and a 32.145 jump-off time. Coleman lives in Woodland Hills, CA, and is coached by Susan Artes. They were followed by Lauren Wilson of Long Beach, CA, and Constance Farmer's Kessel Run. Trained by Hayden Clarke Show Jumping, this duo was double clear with a 32.860 jump-off time.

Competing on the Oaks International Grand Prix field, contenders in the NAL $5,000 1.35m Junior/Amateur Jumper Finals Presented by HorseFlight faced a very stout track designed by Anthony D'Ambrosio. Katie Murray on Calgot Hero and Brooke Morin on Cassito Del Diablo were the only two to navigate clear rounds. Riding second in the jump-off, Murray knew Morin had downed a rail, so going clear was the main objective. But the student of Grand Prix rider Michelle Parker also wanted to gain experience, so she was happy to have pulled off a mid-course inside turn on top of going clear.

Murray, a 21-year-old from Anaheim, CA, appreciated the big confidence boost of excelling in the class. Describing Calgot Hero as her "best friend," she explained that they'd "made a few mistakes" in higher divisions earlier in their roughly one-year partnership and are in rebuilding mode. "He's such an incredible horse and I don't know what I'd do without him."

Hailing from Calabasas, runner-up Morin rides with Lee Flick. Their stable-mate, Kate Abajian and Curtis 57 were right behind them in third, having only incurred a time fault on the first-round track.
           

Kristyn Hill and Cortez. Photo: (c) KimFMiller.com

In the Hunter Ring

Mother of two Kristyn Hill, of Dana Point, CA, set her cap for the NAL $5,000 Adult Amateur Hunter League early in the year. So she was thrilled to lay do

wn two beautiful rounds with Cortez in the Saturday afternoon class held in a sand arena over a course designed by Kerry Kocher. Trained by Lee Flick, Hill led both phases of the Final, with an 80 and an 83 respectively, for a 163 total that topped the next-placed pair by a whopping 10 points.

"He's a good, good boy," said Hill of her 11-year-old Holsteiner, Cortez, whose "Prince" nickname suits her partner of two-and-a-half years. "He loves to show and compete. He's really serious and if there's ever a problem, it's my fault. And, usually, when there is a problem, he covers and takes over for me." As was reflected in the scores from judge Scott Williamson, there were no problems for this pair. The NAL Finals were a key target for Hill this year. "At the beginning, we weren't sure how many shows we were going to do, but we got off to a strong start and decided to keep going. Aside from my family, this is my favorite thing to do!"

Harriet Posner and her own Leonetti almost caught Hill's second-round score with an 82 that vaulted them to a 153 total and into second place overall. Based in Beverly Hills, CA, Posner rides with Kate Considine. Another Considine client, Jennifer Rawlings, of Woodland Hills, CA, and Stage Left Farm LLC's First & Goal, ended on a 152 total score for third.

Thirteen-year-old Victoria Simonds, of Beverly Hills, CA, has only been contesting the Childrens Hunter division since June, but she and Valentino wasted no time becoming winners. With scores of 80 and 79, they edged out tough competition for the top spot in the $5,000 NAL Childrens Hunter Finals that completed the NAL West Coast Finals on Sunday afternoon. Riding on the grass Pacific Field under the eye of judge Lynne Forgione, Victoria's round over the Joe Lombardo-designed course reflected what she loves best about Valentino, a 12-year-old Argentinian Warmblood. "He's super fun to ride," enthused the student of Raine Rose. The fun factor carried into their victory gallop, when they snuck in an extra jump. "I've never done that before, but I thought it was fun!" Simonds said.

Just one point behind were Angela Haring, of San Diego, CA, and El Cid. Trained by the legendary Hap Hansen, their stellar second-round score of 84 bumped up a 74 first-round to a 158 total for second place honors. Mika Clear, of Oakland, CA., and Gabriel earned a total 156 score, bringing the pair trained by Traci Brooks into third.

The NAL qualifying season runs from September 1 through August 31. NAL qualifying classes are open to all competitors but only current members are awarded points. By joining the NAL, riders can accumulate the points necessary to make it to the West Coast Finals, or National Finals being held this year at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg, PA, October 11-20. Annual memberships are only $40 per rider.

The NAL would like to thank the following sponsors for their support of the 2018 Finals: Blenheim EquiSports, The Clothes Horse, EquiFit, the International Jumping Festival, SmartPak, and HorseFlight.

For more information regarding the North American League series please call (717) 867-5643, email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit www.ryegate.com. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NALFinals. Press release provided by North American League.