October 2019 - North American League West Coast Finals
Written by photos: Kim F. Miller
Tuesday, 01 October 2019 01:28
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Increasingly popular junior & amateur league concludes with great riding,  prizes and perks for all.

photos: Kim F. Miller

A year of hotly-contested North American League (NAL) competition concluded with 2019 West Coast Jumper and Hunter Finals staged during the Blenheim EquiSports International Jumping Festival, Sept. 18-22 in Southern California’s San Juan Capistrano.

The NAL distributed its popular gift bags of treats for horses and riders to all entrants in each of the NAL’s five division Finals. Each winner was awarded $5,000 in prize money along with an array of much-appreciated prizes. Top finishers received gift certificates generously donated by EquiFit, SmartPak and The Clothes Horse, and winners were dressed out in an NAL coolerette before going home with an International Jumping Festival trophy.

The following sponsors help make the NAL Finals an increasingly popular series for junior and amateur competitors: The Clothes Horse, EquiFit, Horseflight, SmartPak, Schindler, and the Canfield Family. All three jumper Finals were held on the beautiful, grass Oaks International Field over tracks designed by Anthony D’Ambrosio.

Rachel Freer & Cheers Twin

$5,000 Low Junior/Amateur Jumper Final Presented by HorseFlight

In her second year of NAL competition at the 1.30m level, 17-year-old Rachel Freer was in it to win it with Cheers Twin this year. One of six pairs to go clear over Anthony D’Ambrosio’s first-round track in the $5,000 Low Junior/Amateur Jumper Final Presented by HorseFlight, Rachel found the course perfectly suited for her big horse. “I thought the course had nice big lines and he’s great about getting down them.”

Second in the jump-off, their time of 42.927 seconds held for the win. “The jump-off was really fun, with no crazy inside turns but plenty of places to cut off a few seconds,” Rachel noted.

A student of Erin Isom and Alden Giacopuzzi at Alderin Sporthorses in the Los Angeles area, Rachel has been focused on the jumper division since she was a pre-teen. She’s grateful for a scopey and careful partner in Cheers

Twin, with whom she hopes to ascend to the 1.40m and 1.45m ranks next year in pursuit of the North American Youth Championships.

“I love these Finals,” Rachel concluded. “It’s a great show and I loved competing on the grass.”

Amateur Marnye Langer and LEGIS Air were second in the class, about a half-second behind the leaders, and Mauricio Huesca and Boheme Lerchenberg were third. Mostly self-coached, Marnye had an assist from visiting show organizer and former Grand Prix rider Dale Harvey. Mauricio is trained by Show Jumping Hall of Famer Susie Hutchison.

Charlotte Murray & RFM Fara Van De Maltohoeve

$5,000 Children’s Jumper Final Presented by EquiFit

Charlotte Murray wouldn’t mind if her big sister Alexandra misses a few more shows. The rising equitation rider got to borrow Alexandra’s mare, RMF Fara Van De Maltahoeve, for the $5,000 Children’s Jumper Final Presented by EquiFit and she made the most of it. Tackling the jump-off fourth of the five who turned in clean first-rounds, Charlotte shaved nearly three seconds off the runner-up’s time without sacrificing sanity or style. Their efficient track made the most of the mare’s excellent turning radius.

“She is the best turner in the world!” Charlotte raved. “Sometimes I almost fall off when she turns, because she turns so fast!” There was no hint of falling off in the Final, however, as Charlotte rode a wise, angled track per her plan from the outset.

Charlotte’s trainer, Jeni Brown, applauds the NAL Finals as a big goal for the jumping students in her Los Angeles area training program. “It’s a very nice final, with good prize money and it’s great for the jumpers to have a big event they can prepare for all year like our equitation riders do.”

Ariana Marnell and Balisar, trained by Denise Finch, finished second followed by Emily Johnson and Eragon, a pair coached by Tracy Burroughs.

Constance Kilmartin & Lucent

$5,000 Adult Jumper Final Presented by SmartPak

Constance Kilmartin had a big smile on her face well before she won the $5,000 Adult Jumper Final Presented by SmartPak. Riding the 6-year-old Lucent and coming back from some riding related injuries within the past year, the 60-year-old former professional was exuberant to be galloping around the international ring on a warm, beautiful afternoon.

“It’s just a great experience to ride in this league and Final. It’s been my goal all spring and summer and we worked hard to be prepared for it. I think it paid off!”

Of the four pairs to go clean in the first round, Constance and “Luke” were the only ones to make it a double-clear day. As for the future, Constance had so much fun that she may aim to defend her NAL title next year, or possibly move up a notch to the 1.20m division with her talented young horse. Constance trains with the Show Jumping Hall of Famer Hap Hansen in San Diego.

Trish Jacobs and Kilardo, trained by Robert Leckie, were reserve champions and Sylvia Loftus and Polanka Jmen, coached by David Bustillos, were third.

Cathy Morris-Schmitt & Andover

$5,000 Adult Hunter Final

The winning horse in the $5,000 Adult Hunter Final didn’t have to travel far - his trainers, Morley Abey and Joie Gatlin, are based just minutes from the venue in Southern California. But his owner, Cathy Morris-Schmitt, traveled from her home in Colorado and determined the journey was well worth every mile.

“The NAL Finals were very important to me after missing them last year,” Cathy said, while praising her coaches for readying her horse so well. “I came and had the most wonderful and prepared horse that you could imagine.”
With an 84 and an 87 score from judge Jim Zulia, Cathy and Andoverwere unbeatable. The lifelong rider now only gets saddle time when she meets up with Andover at shows, but she entered the NAL Finals without worry. “When you are sitting on a horse like him, there’s no cause to be nervous. All you have to do is stay out of his way!”

Tonia Cook-Looker and Deja Blue were reserve champions and Debra Chambers and Hinckley were third. Scott Starnes designed the Saturday afternoon course in the Sand Hunter ring.

Watermelon sorbet Smartcookies were a big goodiebag hits

$5,000 Children’s Hunter Final

Peyten Seltzer had been hoping and preparing to make the NAL Finals since learning of the league in the spring. The (show-age) 12-year-old admitted to being a tad nervous about the $5,000 Children’s Hunter Final, but trusted her Que Crème to be his usual self. “We’d already done a few rounds early in the morning and I didn’t think he was going to change how good he was being.” With her trainer, Philip Cillis, “We’ve been working on keeping him straight and just doing what we’ve been doing.” That’s what it took to walk away with the win from judge Bill Ellis over a grass field course designed by Joe Lombardo.

Kate Parker and Cici Top, trained by Kendra Bridges, were reserve champions and Whitney Hejmanowski and Arizona, coached by Lori De Rosa, finished third.

The North American League West Coast Finals are the culmination of the NAL’s year-long series that includes classes at hundreds of horse shows across the United States and Canada. The NAL features two year-end Finals - at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg and at the International Jumping Festival hosted by Blenheim EquiSports.

The NAL 2020 qualifying season began September 1 and concludes August 31, 2020. 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 qualify for the West Coast Finals held at the International Jumping Festival hosted by Blenheim EquiSports in San Juan Capistrano, CA and the National Finals held at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg, PA. Annual memberships are only $40 per rider.

With several show series poised to add the league to their agendas, the NAL on the West Coast is growing by leaps and bounds.   

For more information and to sign up for 2020, visit www.ryegate.com/nal. Report provided by the NAL/Classic Communications.