Thermal, Calif. – Dec. 1, 2021 – The Desert Holiday I kicked off in Hunter 1 Wednesday morning with the combined High Performance/Green Conformation Hunter division, sponsored by Ramard. Top professional hunter athletes took center stage as they rode for an early lead during day one of competition. Each horse and rider combination tried their hand over a classic hunter course for round one and then showcased their handiness over a trying handy round. Several of the top competitors came back for the flat portion to garner more points towards the championship honors. In the end, it was Mitch Endicott and Aventus who took the lead after day one of the competition. Nick Haness and Only Always were right on their heels to sit in second, while Joie Gatlin and D’Avant sit in third. 

Mitch Endicott and Aventus

Endicott and Aventus, a 7-year-old Brandenburg gelding owned by Jennifer Cancellieri, were the first on course for round one, where they executed a beautiful hunter round showcasing Aventus’ fantastic form and scope. They were awarded fourth in the first over fences and came into the handy round with a vengeance. Shortly after, the pair returned to try their hand at the eight-obstacle handy course, where they laid down another beautiful round earning the blue ribbon. The handy round tested many riders with a short turn to the trot jump, followed by a galloping bending line to an outside oxer. The dynamic pair showed off their handiness and impressed the judges with their consistency, helping to put them in a top position going into the flat phase of the division. Aventus once again caught the judges’ eyes in the flat where he was awarded for his fluidity and movement, taking home the blue ribbon and securing the lead heading into day two of competition. 

The second pair in the ring was Haness and Only Always, a 9-year-old Warmblood gelding owned by Balmoral, who quickly set the standard for the first round, catching the judges’ attention and laying down a picture-perfect winning round. The pair came back for the handy round and established a nice open pace, allowing Haness to showcase the horse’s handiness and beautiful jump, helping to secure a third-place finish. Only Always wrapped up day one of the division with the flat portion earning a fourth place finish, putting them in second place going into day two of competition. 

Nick Haness and Only Always

The final horse and rider combination to try their hand over the two over fences courses was Gatlin and D’Avant, a 7-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Cathy Morris-Schmitt. The pair quickly became a force to reckon with in the first over fences class, putting in a beautiful first round which earned them the yellow ribbon. Gatlin and D’Avant came into the handy round and once again put forth a great effort, highlighting their ability to maneuver around the tasking handy course to earn second place honors. They continued to dominate the competitive field of horse and rider combinations, taking home second place in the flat, which helped put them into the top three going into day two of competition Thursday.

The regularly scheduled hunter divisions will continue in the main hunter ring Thursday, December 2 at 8 a.m. with the Green 3’6” Hunter division and will conclude the day with the Hi Low 3’ Hunter division 

D’Avant and Joie Gatlin


Mitch Endicott – Leader of High Performance/Green Conformation Hunter Division Day One

On Aventus:
“We have had him in the barn for a couple of years now; Jennifer Cancellieri is the owner. He is turning 8 this year and he is a really awesome horse. I have been riding him consistently for about four months now. I think we are off to a pretty great start!” 

On courses:
“The courses were really nice today. They flowed really well and nothing was too choppy. There were a couple of nice questions in the handy, which is always really nice. So, they rode quite well today.” 

On Desert International Horse Park:
“I absolutely love it here. I am here for the entire season. It is beautiful weather and the rings are very nice.” 

On upcoming season:
“They have a ton of new classes for this circuit that I am really looking forward to. They also have some nice derby classes. They are really putting a big effort in this year and it is showing. I think the landscaping looks awesome and the new footing is fantastic. They are doing a very good job here.” 

On future with Aventus:
“We just stepped him up to the 3’9” height and we will continue on that path. We will probably also do some hunter derbies as well.”


Horse / Rider / Owner
High Performance/Green Conformation Hunter 

  1. Only Always / Nick Haness / Balmoral 
  2. Azucar / Shawn Cassidy / Zoe Wolf 
  3. D’Avant / Joie Gatlin / Cathy Morris-Schmitt
  4. Aventus / Mitch Endicott / Jennifer Cancellieri
  5. Everything / Mitch Endicott / Stephanie Ray 
  6. Impressionist / Kylee Arbuckle / Nicole Needham 

High Performance/Green Conformation Hunter Handy 

  1. Aventus / Mitch Endicott / Jennifer Cancellieri
  2. D’Avant / Joie Gatlin / Cathy Morris-Schmitt
  3. Only Always / Nick Haness / Balmoral 
  4. Everything / Mitch Endicott / Stephanie Ray 
  5. Azucar / Shawn Cassidy / Zoe Wolf 
  6. Impressionist / Kylee Arbuckle 

High Performance/Green Conformation Hunter U/S 

  1. Aventus / Mitch Endicott / Jennifer Cancellieri
  2. D’Avant / Joie Gatlin / Cathy Morris-Schmitt
  3. Azucar / Shawn Cassidy / Zoe Wolf 
  4. Only Always / Nick Haness / Balmoral / Nicole Needham