The crowd watched excitedly to see if any pairs of the 15 starters could clear 1.82 meters in the final round of the $15,000 DIHP Hidden Creek Farms 6-Bar. With just five pairs making it to the final round, the task (and the final fence) seemed enormous. But two pairs didn’t let the pressure faze them. Defending champions Skylar Wireman and Karen as well as Brooke Rose Morin and NKH Carrido cleared the 1.82m fence at the end of the combination and became co-champions of the crowd favorite class during the National Sunshine Series.

Brooke Morin and NKH Carrido and Skylar Wireman and Karen in their winning presentation, pictured with Amanda Tallman-Schuler and Bree Davis of Hidden Creek Farms. . Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“She has the biggest heart ever,” Wireman said of Karen, a mare owned by MKT Equine LLC. “She always tries. Honestly, the more you dare her the more she is ready to take on the challenge. Each time I went she jumped better and better. The bigger it got the more I felt like she was jumping higher over it. She always wants to please. Her name doesn’t always suit her.”

Brooke Morin and NKH Carrido. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Many horses might shrink at the sight of a fence that large, but Karen and NKH Carrido each grew wings. Both riders are still only teenagers, accomplishing a feat that not many seasoned riders have. “I will say that earlier this year when I won the last one, I walked in the ring and got a little chicken, not going to lie,” Wireman said of the feeling she got when she prepared to jump 1.70m, the highest the previous 6-Bar was set. “It was kind of scary. Today I thought it was huge. It was up to my waist when I’m sitting on her and she’s not that big of a horse. It was definitely intimidating going down to that big of a fence. The biggest I’d ever jumped was the last 6-Bar.”

Skylar Wireman and Karen. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Wireman definitely plans to return in February for the next edition of the $15,000 DIHP 6-Bar during week 4 of Desert Circuit to defend the title yet again.

Schroeder, Karazisis, and Collins Claim Derby Wins During Opening Week of National Sunshine Series

Karli Schroeder and Won Love. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The first “Derby Friday” crowned three winners during the first week of the National Sunshine Series. The morning’s $10,000 Platinum Performance USHJA National Hunt & Go Derby – Open was split into sections A and B, with over 30 entries coming forth in each section. Karli Schroeder took top call in section A with Won Love, owned by Jack Strang. The pair earned scores of 87.5 and 90 in the classic and handy rounds, respectively, for a total of 177.5.

Karli Schroeder and Won Love. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“He’s a new horse for me,” Schroeder reflected on getting to know the 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding. “One of our clients just got him after Junior Hunter Finals. It’s going to be [Jack’s] first real Children’s Hunter and hopefully take him into the Junior Hunters. We just started our partnership but I’ve had my eye on this horse for a long time. I actually judged him here at Desert Horse Park with his previous owner, and I fell in love with him then. I’m very excited to have the horse in the barn. He’s just a genius; he’s a gem.”

Won Love knew what the assignment was, despite morning shadows and a challenging course, designed by Nancy Wallis. “He was excellent,” Schroeder continued. “It was a little spooky in the morning with a lot of shadows. He rose to the challenge. As soon as I picked up the canter he was game on and full focus. I appreciate a horse that walks into the ring with that sort of mentality, wanting to win.”

Schroeder has big plans for the remainder of her time in Thermal, both for the National Sunshine Series and Desert Circuit. “It’s great to be back in the desert,” she shared. “I love Main Hunter; I love how much they decorate it and how fun they make the courses. All the competition that shows up to these horse shows is great, and it brings a different field than any other show we have in California. We’ll be back for six weeks for Desert Circuit and we’re really looking forward to it.”

Jenny Karazissis and Big Shot. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Jenny Karazissis brought a fan favorite Big Shot back into hunter derby action in section B of the $10,000 Platinum Performance USHJA National Hunt & Go Derby – Open. After quite some time off, Big Shot is back and better than ever, and the judges agreed. The seasoned duo brought home scores of 87.25 and 91 in the respective rounds for a combined total of 178.25.

“He had over a year off and his first show back was in August,” Karazissis said of Dulcie Lou Morris’s 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding. “He won the derby there and hasn’t done anything since then. We brought him here and geared up for this class. He was a little bit of a handful yesterday in the 3’6” Performance but it was perfect schooling for today and he was right on it. I knew he was going to be really dialed in and well behaved.”

Jenny Karazissis and Big Shot. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Karazissis sat on the sidelines for much of Desert Circuit 2023, but with her return to the saddle she’ll be a force in each of the upcoming derbies, no matter the mount she sits on. “It’s so great to be back,” she said of returning to DIHP. “We went to maybe two horse shows since Desert Circuit ended. It’s home for us; we have a place here and we just love it. What they have done to this place is just miraculous. It’s so horse friendly and I’m just very happy to be here.”

As for Big Shot, he’ll be carefully placed in the variety of big hunter classes as the season goes on. “I would love for him to be able to do the International Derby Regional Championships next week, but he will probably just do the National Derby next week and gear up for December,” she said of her plan. “Also week two of Desert Circuit there’s an International Derby in [Main Hunter] so I’ll gear him up for that.”

Parris Cozart Collins and Miss Magnolia. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The juniors and amateurs had their time to shine in the $10,000 Adequan® USHJA National Hunt & Go Derby – Jr/Am later Friday, and Parris Cozart Collins took victory aboard Miss Magnolia with a two-round total of 172. Christina Smith and Chancellor claimed second place, while Zoe Wolf captured third with Cassario 8.

Blake Lindsley Masters Inaugural 3’ DIHP Junior/Amateur Equitation Challenge, Sponsored by Butet

Blake Lindsley and Twizzler in their winning presentation, pictured with trainer Katrina Karazissis and Butet representative Ecole Lathrop. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Blake Lindsley could be considered a career equitation rider. With equitation being her sole focus currently, she was up for the challenge presented in the 3’ DIHP Junior/Amateur Equitation Challenge, sponsored by Butet. Riders both young and seasoned put their best forward over a flat phase, a jumping round, and a test for the final four, and Lindsley was ultimately named the winner aboard Twizzler, owned by Della Walker.

“Starting out as a junior, I found myself mostly doing equitation as a junior and loving it because it taught you how to be the best rider,” Lindsley said of why she loves this particular avenue of the sport so much. “The equitation gives you the foundation so you can maybe move up into the bigger jumpers because you have that foundation and you’re able to get the horse safely around the course.”

Lindsley sat in third going in for the test, having scored a 166 from the first two rounds. Being a confident and bold rider, she put in the test she needed to propel her to the top, proving mastery of the counter canter, halt, and sitting trot, among other tests.

“In the work off I knew I had to make up some points so I wanted to do enough of the hard stuff as slickly as possible,” she explained. “My worst thing on him is the sitting trot so that’s why I don’t always do well in flat phases, but I felt good after jumping. I felt strong and he was perfect.”

While many riders find themselves crossing disciplines at the horse show, Lindsley knows where she shines. “Right now I’m just doing the equitation,” she explained. “I would love to get a derby horse at some point. After I went to college and started my career I came back to riding and started ticking off all the amateur medal finals. I have a few left. I got to go to the Ariat Medal Finals for the first time and got third on Twizzler. That was a lifelong ambition.”

Blake Lindsley and Twizzler. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Twizzler and Lindsley have many major accolades to their name, including top three ribbons in the Jumping Seat Medal, the Gladstone Cup, and the THIS Regional Medal Finals. She plans to continue aiming Twizzler at equitation classes that challenge them both, but where they feel they can succeed.

Despite their evident connection in the show ring, they don’t actually practice much at home.

“It’s an interesting setup because this horse is really a show horse,” Lindsley explained. “I really only show him. At home my trainer, Cassandra Karazissis, has him in a very strict program and you don’t want to unravel that. She gets him ready and I show up and show him. At home I have another horse that I have who’s here at his first horse show with me. He’s my home practice horse.”

Karazissis earned a $1,000 bonus for being the trainer of the winning rider of the 3’ DIHP Junior/Amateur Equitation Challenge.

Saturday action at the National Sunshine Series features the $100,000 Go Rentals Grand Prix under the lights, the Family Class, as well as more mechanical bull riding competition and live music from Avenida Music at Roadrunners.