Allison La Joie saved the best for last in the jump-off of the $50,000 Adequan® Grand Prix. Aboard Santa Rosa Apolo, owned by David Bustillos, she scored the fastest time and rose to the top of the field in the pair’s first grand prix victory together.

La Joie and Santa Rosa Apolo were one of seven to jump Colm Quinn’s course fault free, and they had the pole position of jumping last. When they came in, Mitch Endicott led the way with NKH Cento Blue, owned by October Hill Sales Limited, and no one had been able to catch his time of 38.256 seconds. La Joie put her speed to the test, and clocked in just a fraction of a second faster, in 38.113 seconds, claiming the win as her own. Endicott claimed second, and Nick Gegen took third with One Question, owned by Neaulani Farms. Della White scored fourth place and the win in the U25 Classic, sponsored by The Surrey, aboard Gucci.

Allison La Joie and Santa Rosa Apolo. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

La Joie just began jumping at the grand prix level last year, so as she’s gotten to know Santa Rosa Apolo she’s also gotten to know what it’s like to compete at the highest level.

“We’ve been working with him for about a year,” she said of her partnership with the coming 10-year-old Mexican-bred gelding. “He’s owned by David Bustillos and he’s been working with us all year. [The horse] is very forward thinking so a lot of it is just controlling his enthusiasm and leaving him alone at the jump to do his job. He’s very small but he has a huge heart and a funny personality. Even the way he jumps, he has short legs but just flies over the jumps.”

The speed got quite fast in the jump-off portion of the evening, and Bustillos had very specific instructions as La Joie prepared to give it a go.

Allison La Joie and Santa Rosa Apolo in thier winning presentation, pictured with Chelsea Buttermore of Adequan®. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“David told me before I went in just to run. To trust my horse and run,” she laughed. “He’s already forward thinking so I just let him go and I held on.”

At just 9 years old this year, the horse is clearly a superstar in the making, and La Joie recognizes the talent she is sitting on.

“He’s super scopey; I think he could do whatever he wants,” she shared about Santa Rosa Apolo’s future. “He did his first 1.50m as an 8-year-old. He’s a little different from some of the others I ride. I have to pull him together a little and then let him go to the jump. I have others that want me to ride them all the way to the base of the jump.”

Allison La Joie and Santa Rosa Apolo. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The night at DIHP was electric, as fans cheered on their favorite pairs, and La Joie’s cheering section was undoubtedly one of the best.

“I’m very lucky,” she said of having a team behind her to support her on evenings like this. “I work with Durango Farms and everyone there is super supportive. David Bustillos, the head trainer, has been so kind to let me ride the horse. My family is here – my mom, my brother, my little niece, and my sister in law. And then just tons of friends I’ve made along the way who are great and supportive.”

Atmosphere and all, La Joie is grateful to have a venue like DIHP to ride to major milestones like the one Saturday night.

“It’s a great venue. They’ve got the grass field and big Grand Prix Arena under the lights. I love the lighting here at night. Some night venues it’s a little deceptive where the jumps are but I don’t find that here,” she said.

See full results from the $50,000 Adequan® Grand Prix here.

Megan McDermott Pilots Bruce Z to 10 & Under Victory

It’s only Megan McDermott’s second week in the desert, and she’s making every day count. On Saturday of Desert Circuit 2, presented by Adequan®, she took the win in the $7,500 Interactive Mortgage 10 & Under Futurity Series aboard Bruce Z, owned by Counter Balance LLC.

As one of the last pairs on course, McDermott and the 8-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding blazed around the short course, displacing then leader Savannah Jenkins and Forastero 2, who won the week prior. They ended up second, while James Chawke and Maria 111, owned by Bryony Reid, claimed third.

Megan McDermott and Bruce Z. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“He’s still a little baby and we’ve had him for about a year,” McDermott explained of her relationship with Bruce Z. “One of my friends in Europe found him as a late 6-year-old and thought we had to get him because there was something special about him. He’s such a pet. He’s pretty tiny but he thinks he’s huge, and he has a huge stride and huge jump, with all the scope. He’s the perfect level of careful and brave. He doesn’t spook at anything but he gives everything notice. He’s going to be such a rockstar.”

The Interactive Mortgage 10 & Under Futurity Series is a very popular class at DIHP to help bring along young show jumpers, without the pressure of having to compete against the already seasoned horses. They get their own time in the spotlight in this class, and they are put to the test in a setting that helps them grow.

“This class is amazing because 1.35m is exactly the height that young horses need to practice at,” McDermott reflected. “From [age] 7 all the way to 10, at whatever stage of development they’re in, they need opportunities to jump proper classes that have atmosphere and are built tough enough – not necessarily scope tests, but technical and can teach them grand prix style courses.”

Megan McDermott and Bruce Z in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

With the win in her pocket, McDermott is further affirmed that Bruce Z is something special, and she has high hopes for the next few years with him

“I think for sure he’s going to be a grand prix horse,” she said. “He will probably be a perfect amateur grand prix horse because he has such a nice disposition. For being such a small horse, he has all the scope. We think even as a late to mid-8-year-old he will probably jump ranking classes. He’s just such a pal; in the ring you feel like you’re with a best friend.”

Show jumping resumes Sunday with the weekly $30,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic.

Ashley Weiman and Custom Romance Charm 3’ Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic

Ashley Weiman and Custom Romance. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Ashley Weiman reached a very exciting score of 90 on the final day of her division to seal the win in the ShowMD 3’ Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic on Saturday of Desert Circuit 2, presented by Adequan®. Aboard Custom Romance, owned by Romance Sport Horses, she combined her 90 with an 86 in the first round for the overall victory.

“‘Cheeto’ is 8 years old doing the 3’3” Green [Hunters] with Nick Haness and just started doing the 3’ A/Os with me,” Weiman, of Ramona, CA, remarked of Custom Romance. “He’s a little green but he’s stepped up to the plate and has been champion our past two times out, and he’s been champion the past two times in the 3’3” Greens. I’m super excited to keep showing him.”

Though they’ve only been together a little less than a year, they have molded well to one another and have created a seamless partnership, even this early on.

“Luckily I ride him six days a week so I have learned him really well,” Weiman said. “We’re starting to mesh together. I’m super excited about him.”

Ashley Weiman and Custom Romance. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Regarding what makes the horse stand out in the hunter ring, Weiman responded, “He’s super adjustable and every time he jumps a 10. He’s just spectacular and is a classic hunter. His ears are always forward and he’s so beautiful across the ground. His jump is so round and his knees are always together. It’s just a 10 every time.”

Weiman has several promising mounts for the hunter ring, but Cheeto gives her something to be very excited about.

“I’ve had Cheeto the longest and I’ve been able to get to know him the most throughout the year,” she explained. “Riding him every day we’ve learned to trust each other and work together. We need to work on our handy rounds but it’s going to come together quickly. This year he’ll do the 3’3” Greens with Nick and we’ll hopefully step up into the 3’3” AOs.”

Weiman has been a regular at DIHP for many years, watching it grow and evolve as she has progressed through her riding. “I’ve been showing here for nine years and every year I love coming out here,” she said of the venue. “It’s the only show we’ve been doing on the West Coast for the past few years. The weather is usually really great, even though it’s raining today. It’s so beautiful and they’ve done such a good job with improving the footing, the greenery, and everything around. Everyone is so friendly and nice and I love coming here.”

Hunters resume Sunday with the final classes for Junior Hunters.