June 2016 - Kayla Lott
Written by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 01 June 2016 06:56

horse people

Interscholastic Equestrian Association champ taking her game to Oklahoma State.

by Kim F. Miller

It’s fitting that Kayla Lott’s fifth and final trip to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Finals was her finest. Riding for Elvenstar, an early West Coast adopter of the national program for middle and high school riders, Kayla conquered in Kentucky during the April 20-24 Championships. She was Varsity Open Champion, defending a title earned for Zone 10 last year by Ransome Rombauer, and earned the Leading Rider Award.

Surrounded by Elvenstar team members for the win ceremony at LAHJA Junior Medal Final last year. Pictured from left are Andrea Young, Rachel Mahowald (Elvenstar OC), Lauren Franco, Becky Abeita, Kay Atheuser and Jim Hagman.

Kayla and her coach Kaycee Bischoff, of Elvenstar, with the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Varsity Open championship trophy won during the IEA Nationals in April.

“It was crazy!” says the 17-year-old. “It was so cool.” And it was the latest of many highlights marking Kayla’s first 10 years in the sport. Last December, she was the Los Angeles Hunter Jumper Association Junior Medal Champion. Earlier in the fall, she finished a career-best eighth in the Maclay Regional Medal finals and won the regionals for the USEF Pessoa Hunt Seat Medal Finals. Additional resume highlights include the PCHA Horsemanship 14 & Under Final in 2014, the LAHJA Rosewood Medal Final, JV and Varsity titles with the Interscholastic Equestrian League in Southern California, and she was a USHJA Emerging Athlete Program participant in 2014.

The Camarillo resident and high school senior’s greatest prize may be earning the opportunity to continue the sport in college next year as a member of Oklahoma State University’s Hunt Seat team.

It all started 10 years ago in a summer camp at Jim Hagman’s Elvenstar, the classic example of a good quality riding school as launchpad for the best that equestrian sports has to offer a young rider.

Kayla has only owned one horse of her own, and not for very long. That was Kif Kif D’Elle, whom she bought from a friend in the barn after progressing on Elvenstar’s school ponies and horses.  “He was a big milestone for me,” she says. “He took me from the 2’3” to the 3’ medal finals and was a great confidence booster for me.”

Photo: Mia Jones

Kayla with her aunt Lynn Scaroni, left, and mom Michelle Cronk.

She outgrew him quickly and from then on has advanced her skills and experience riding everything except her own horse. That’s included long- and short-term leases, borrowed mounts and catch rides. For the last few years, Kayla has been a working student at Elvenstar. The post entails everything from schooling and campaigning top quality imported sales prospects for Jim to grooming at summer camp and everything in between. Catch-riding for other professionals has been part of her education, too.

She’s always been super enthusiastic about riding and horses and one of those treasured kids willing to do anything involving either. She didn’t angle herself into the working student role in a calculated way. “I always just did whatever was needed and one day I was a working student.”

Silver Linings

Not owning her own horse for very long had a silver lining, Kayla reflects. “I don’t think I ever would have come this far if I had not had so many horses to ride.” It certainly has helped her in IEA competition, in which riders use horses provided by host stables. She’s been pleased to see and be part of the IEA’s significant growth on the West Coast. “In our first year, we only had a few people on the (Elvenstar) team and I was the only one to qualify for Nationals. I was kind of like the guinea pig!”

Elvenstar jumped on the IEA bandwagon early, growing its own teams and helping other barns start their own. With West Coast riders doing so well at the recent IEA Championships, the region is making its mark nationally and growing fast locally. Especially on circuits like the Gold Coast Series, Kayla is constantly hearing more riders getting excited about IEA participation.

On the A-rated hunter/jumper circuit, most of Kayla’s equitation accomplishments in recent years have come when partnered with sale prospects, including last fall’s mount Caracas 89. She doesn’t consider the added responsibility of riding them for marketing purposes as added pressure—at least not the kind she lets get in her way. “I just try to do the best I can with any horse I ride. I’m not one to put pressure on myself. If someone likes the horse and winds up buying it, then I know it’s going onto a new life and I’m going on to another horse.”

Young Riders contender Chandler Meadows & Carletto. Photo: Malibu5Star

The opportunity to grow up, as a rider and a person, at Elvenstar has been priceless, Kayla says. “They have a great system and care about the horses a lot and about making everybody happy. That could be difficult for the trainers, but instead, everyone is always so willing to help each other. The most important part of the program is that the horses are treated as the main athletes.”

Kayla has been happy to have horses dominate her time. Her high school requires an internship and she landed one with Humphrey, Giacopuzzi & Associates Equine in Somis during her junior year. “It was cool to watch surgeries and other procedures,” she says, but she’s not sure that hands-on veterinary work will be her chosen profession. An animal science degree with a business emphasis is her current thinking, though she knows it’s early to be locking in career pursuits.

She was a tad surprised to pick Oklahoma State from the several options presented to ride competitively in college. Kayla knew she wanted the experience of going out of California and looked at programs in Georgia, Alabama, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Oklahoma State was initially not high on her list. “I had never been to the state and I thought the school would be out in the middle of nowhere.”

A recruiting visit changed her mind. “The land was so beautiful and I liked the openness. Everyone was super nice and the school has a great vibe.”  The team was ranked fifth going into the 2015/2016 National Collegiate Equestrian Association season and Kayla looks forward to contributing to their success.

As for the rest of her last junior year on the circuit, Kayla has qualified for most of the medal finals. She hopes for a chance to return to the East Coast for a second visit to the Indoors circuit, but that depends on how things work out with school.

One thing for sure, the Oklahoma State Cowgirls are getting an awesome California wrangler who can add a ton of talent and team spirit to their Hunt Seat roster.



Don’t Mess With The West!
Californians fly their flag at Interscholastic Equestrian Association Championships in Kentucky.

Congratulations to our region’s riders who topped podiums or were in the ribbons during the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Nationals, held April 20-24 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY.
When this year’s Varsity Open Championship winner Kayla Lott first began competing on the IEA circuit five years ago, she felt “like a guinea pig” as one of very few West Coast riders taking part. As the results reflect, that’s not the case any more. All these strong finishers represent teams in IEA Zone 10, which encompasses California, Nevada and Hawaii. (patterned after USHJA Zone 10)

Varsity Open Championship
Ch: Kayla Lott, Elvenstar
6th: Ransome Rombauer, Sonoma Academy

Special Awards
Hunt Seat Leading Rider: Kayla Lott
Hunt Seat Team Spirit: Red Barn and Woodside

Upper School Individual

Varsity Open Over Fences
Ch: Kayla Lott, Elvenstar
5th: Ransome Rombauer, Sonoma Academy

Varsity Open on the Flat
6th: Ransome Rombauer, Sonoma Academy
8th: Sarah Ryan, Sonoma Valley Stables

Varsity Intermediate Over Fences
Reserve Champ: Sara Tuck, Pebble Beach Equestrian

Varsity Intermediate on the Flat
6th: Sara Tuck, Pebble Beach Equestrian
7th: Katrina Rolland, Woodside

JV Novice on the Flat
4th: Brandon Carreon, Elvenstar OC

Middle School Individual

Future Intermediate Over Fences
8th: Dabney Park, Longview Stables

Future Intermediate on the Flat
Champion: Sydney Shelby, Monte Vista Christian School
Reserve Champion: Emma Symon, Woodside

Future Novice Over Fences
5th: Adele Bonomi, Sonoma Valley Stables

Future Novice on the Flat
5th: Mackensie Park, Longview Stables
8th: Julia Nicki, Elvenstar OC

Future Beginner on the Flat
5th: Annette Chun, Valley Brook Equestrian

Upper School Team
8th: Monte Vista Christian in Watsonville

Varsity Open on the Flat
3rd: Skye Bolen, Monte Vista Christian

Varsity Intermediate on the Flat
7th: Katrina Rolland, Woodside

JV Beginner on the Flat
3rd: Lizzy Schmitzer, Monte Vista Christian Middle School – Team
5th: Monte Vista Christian

Future Intermediate Over Fences
3rd: Sydney Shelby, Monte Vista Christian

Future Intermediate on the Flat
2nd: Sydney Shelby, Monte Vista Christian

Future Novice Over Fences
2nd: Abby Postel, Pebble Beach Equestrian

For more information about the IEA and joining or starting a team in your area, visit www.rideiea.org.