Cassio Rivetti had to settle for second place Thursday in the $10,000 1.35m Welcome Speed with Vulcana, after leading the class nearly the whole way. But Sunday the duo got their victory, plus increased prize money, in the $30,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic to close week 1 of the National Sunshine Series.

“My plan on Wednesday was to do a nice round and not go too crazy, but she did really well,” he said of Delaney Batter’s mare and how she performed in the opening class of the week back on Thursday. Coming back confident in her ability, he topped a 21-horse jump-off Sunday morning in the competitive 1.40m class and claimed the win.

Cassio Rivetti and Vulcana in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“We bought her almost two years ago,” Rivetti said of the 11-year-old Westphalian mare. “Delaney was riding her and jumped very good grand prixs on her last year, and now she’s in Madrid doing school so I’m riding her a little bit just keeping the mare fit for Delaney. She’s a grand prix horse so this is kind of light for her. She’s so brave and scopey. Always wants to do the job, and that’s a good quality.”

The only pair that came close to threatening Rivetti’s lead was his own student Elisa Broz aboard Tinkerbell.

“Today Elisa was second so it was a perfect day,” Rivetti said of the result. “I was hoping she would be faster than me. I always like to be second to my students. But I really like to teach and produce young riders for the top level. I really enjoy that. They’re doing well, jumping grand prixs and World Cups.”

Cassio Rivetti and Vulcana. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Based not far away in San Diego, Rivetti and his entire team are grateful to have DIHP so close. With a strong roster of clients in the higher levels, Rivetti is able to place both himself and each of his students in the various divisions each week offers, balancing their schedules and building confidence for both horse and rider.

“It’s so nice because we can go home; it’s very close,” he said of DIHP. “We show at a high level of sport. In December we have two five-stars. For us it’s amazing, and we need shows like this in California to keep the people here. This facility is doing a great job, the footing is great. Everything we need for a five-star show level. For me and my clients we’re so happy to stay in California and don’t have to move across the states or to Europe to show.”

See full results from the $30,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic here.

Week 2 of the National Sunshine Series features repeat editions of the major jumper events, including the $10,000 1.35m BarnWalkers Welcome Speed, the $30,000 1.45m FarmVet Open Classic, the $100,000 Marshall & Sterling Grand Prix, and the $30,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic.

Sunday Styles Lives Up to his Name on Classic Day

Christina Smith and Sunday Styles in their winning presentation, pictured with trainer Joie Gatlin. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Christina Smith is already collecting wins in the desert aboard a newer mount of hers, Sunday Styles. The duo took victory in the 3’3” Amateur Owner Hunter Classic, sponsored by Perfect Products, to wrap National Sunshine Series 1.

“I’ve had him a little over a year now and it really took us a good six months to figure him out,” Smith explained of the 10-year-old Westphalian gelding. “I’m still learning every day. Even this weekend I changed my ride inside the lines and supported him more and it felt amazing. It clearly worked. I was really happy with all my rounds today, and topping it off with the Classic round is always nice because we’re both a little tired on Sunday. He was jumping better and better every round and he was just super.”

Smith had a lighter show week, bringing “Sunny” back into the division as well as a second-place finish in the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Jr/Am with Chancellor.

“This week I showed him and my old faithful horse that brought me back to the sport after taking 20 years off,” she explained of her lineup for National Sunshine Series 1. “Sunny was the only horse I did in the division. I need to rotate derbies in with him to keep him focused and interested. He’ll get a little dull with just the division week after week.”

Training with Joie Gatlin and Morley Abbey, Smith has plans to step the horse up a level and jump the 3’6” fence height. The horse might arrive at that height before they debut as a pair, but she knows she has the horse to get her there.

“He’ll definitely move up, and I think he’ll do some 3’6” Greens this season,” she explained. “If I ever had a horse to do it on, it’s him. He makes you feel like he can jump the world. You can feel his scope and there are no reservations. My trainers say if I’m ever going to do the 3’6” this is the horse.”

Smith has been a top contender on the East Coast at indoors in the past, despite having taken the past season to focus on her daughter, Sienna’s, riding goals.

“It depends on when I make the move up whether I go to indoors next year,” she said of her plans for the year. “It’s harder to qualify for indoors if I move up midway through the year. Last year I focused more on Sienna and her farewell to the pony world. We did Pony Finals with her and I let the focus be on her, but I would like to take him back to indoors this year.”

Playing both rider and mom at the horse show can be tough, but Smith has learned a balance of choosing weeks to try both and weeks to step into one realm or the other.

“It’s bittersweet because I think we are out of the pony world,” she said of Sienna’s riding. “Pony Finals was our last hurrah but it’s fun watching her starting on the horses. She’ll do the Children’s Hunters next week for the first time. It’s a balance for sure, whether I’m mom or rider or both. That’s why it’s nice to just have a week doing the derby, then I show one day and then really focus and watch her and do whatever she needs.”

Week two of the National Sunshine Series brings major hunter highlights including the $65,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Regional Finals and the USHJA Hunter Team Challenge.

Sophie Kinsella Comes Back with a Bang in 2’9” Equitation

Sophie Kinsella and Coeur de Lion in their winning presentation, pictured with Julia Kelleher of Jewel Images. Photo by Megan Giese Photography

Only 10 weeks ago, Sophie Kinsella and husband Mark Kinsella welcomed a new baby boy into their family. Then on Saturday of National Sunshine Series 1, Sophie was back in the irons and back to her winning ways, remembering the things she loves most about the sport.

Aboard Coeur De Lion, owned by Catherine Gosz, she topped the 2’9”Adult Eq Flat, sponsored by Jewel Images, and received a free portrait session for her victory.

“Honestly I didn’t really prepare, but Alex Wilson is a really good friend of mine and had this horse for sale,” she said of her ride for the day, Coeur De Lion. “I got on it right before the class and jumped a few jumps and got to know him, then I went in the ring. It was easier for me to do that because right now I’m 10 weeks postpartum so my brain is all baby, baby, baby. The less I have to think about riding wise the better.”

The strategy paid off, and Kinsella was thrilled to step back into the horse showing mindset, something she hadn’t felt in quite some time.

“For me to be able to get on and do my thing and have my few minutes to myself in the ring is easier than preparing at home,” she continued. “When I’m on I get to cherish the time I have in my own thoughts and I’m not worrying about anything else.”

The horse played a key role in the win, as well. “He was really lovely,” she said of Coeur De Lion. “He was a lot different from the horses I typically ride and I had so much fun on him. Alex Wilson is so accommodating and patient and always helps me at the ring, as does MK Equestrian.”

Kinsella is turning her focus in the show ring onto the equitation. “Yesterday was a perfect example of why I love the adult equitation,” she said. “Everyone is so complimentary. You can laugh if you mess up, it’s not serious, and afterwards everyone has a job to go back to or a family to go back to or a husband to laugh about it with. There’s so much camaraderie and everyone comes together as a whole. And it’s so fun here in the desert because the prizes you win are so much fun.”

Her goals are lofty for the year, but she has the best support team in place to help her accomplish them. “I’m still hoping I can show my horse Colfosco,” Kinsella said of her heart horse. “He got injured when I found out I was pregnant and he’s been coming back, so now we’re getting him show ring ready. My goal for this year is to do Ariat Finals on him. He’s my adult eq war horse. He’s so great in the ring.”

She chose Desert International Horse Park for her show ring return for a reason. “I’m so excited to be back,” she continued. “I’ve wanted to get back into the equitation at this show because it’s my favorite show in the world. It’s really nice to be here because there’s been so much work done here. The barns have bathrooms and really big living areas where I can feel comfortable with the baby, then get on my horse and then come back to him. The new VIP is amazing as well. They’ve done a great job.”