If Emma Lindstrom and Coraggio were on cloud nine Thursday after their championship in the High Performance Hunters, Friday put them into an entirely different orbit. The pair checked off a bucket list item: winning the $65,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Regional Championships in the Grand Prix Arena at Desert International Horse Park.

National Sunshine Series 2, presented by Marshall & Sterling, had already gone swimmingly for the pair. They both thrive at high fence heights, especially ones adorned with fancy decoration, at its peak during the day’s feature event, designed by Thomas Hern, in the Grand Prix Arena.

Emma Linstrom and Coraggio. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Lindstrom and June Salin’s 12-year-old gelding put in a stellar round to start, earning a combined score of 178 from the two panels of judges. The gelding’s sweeping canter and beautiful jumping efforts kept them in the lead as round one came to a close.

In the handy round, Lindstrom did exactly what she had to do, being just bold enough while also protecting the lead, doubling her score with a repeat score of 178, for a two-round total of 356.

Just behind Lindstrom on a score of 354 was amateur rider Caroline Ingalls and Concerto, who just returned from a highly successful indoors season on the East Coast. Nicole Bourgeois captured third place with Belico Royal, owned by Peyton Broll, with a score of 351.5.

Emma Lindstrom and Coraggio in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“He is great in a big ring like this,” Lindstrom said of Coraggio’s winning performance in the Grand Prix Arena, which is home to hunters only a few times each season. “He has a huge stride and big, slow canter. A ring like this is made for him. He loves new environments so, for him, getting in there and seeing all the flowers and beautiful jumps, he loves that and it makes him pay attention. He was on it.”

The element of the handy she thought went particularly well was one that many riders dread. “He’s always great at the trot jump,” she shared. “I try not to take it for granted because it’s smaller than the rest of the jumps but I thought he did that really well.”

Caroline Ingalls and Concerto. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The focus hasn’t always been front and center, however, for the gelding, who’s matured quite a bit from day one with Lindstrom and Salin. Under the training of Lindstrom for several years now, they’ve let the horse advance at his own pace, knowing there was a superstar horse within.

“The owner, June, has had him since he was 4, so it’s taken a few years to get here and there have been challenges along the way,” Lindstrom reflected on the path to this point with Coraggio. “He’s always been so brave, bold, and confident. It just took a little channeling to get him here, but it feels great.”

Nicole Bourgeois and Belico Royal. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

As for the training regime, the focus has to change frequently to keep the horse engaged. “It’s a mix of letting him think he’s having his own way while also making him understand there are some things he needs to just do,” she explained. “We do a lot of trail riding, I don’t go to the ring every day. We do a lot of cavalettis and small jumps just to keep him interested. His mind needs to stay engaged.”

With her bucket list win in her pocket, Lindstrom looks forward to the rest of the week and season enjoying everything DIHP has to offer. “We both love it here. There’s so much space to ride, we love going out back on the trail. The nice open spaces and big rings are great,” she said.

See full results from the $65,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Regional Championships here.

Audrey Carmody Captures CPHA Style of Riding Championship – Southern

Audrey Carmody and Castelino 5 in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Sixty-six junior and amateur riders went head to head under the lights Friday night in the penultimate evening session of the National Sunshine Series to contend for the CPHA Style of Riding Championship – Southern. After two rounds of jumping, it was Audrey Carmody who took the win in the prestigious equitation final.

“I feel very happy,” Carmody, 18, said of her win. “It’s my first medal finals win and I feel very grateful to have done it on a friend’s horse. It was really fun and unexpected. I just wanted to make the second round and to be on top was really special. Going into [the USEF/NCEA Medal Final] tomorrow I’m going to try to have a smooth round and see if we can replicate today.”

The horse she piloted was her friend Lillian Muzzy’s Castelino 5. “I’ve only been riding him for about a day and a half,” Carmody said of her partnership with the winning horse. “He was perfect; we just went into the ring and did his job perfectly. He packed me around like he knew exactly what to do. It was really fun. Thanks to Lilly Muzzy for letting me ride him.”

The CPHA Style of Riding Championship focuses on a jumper-style course where faults and time matter as much as the actual style around the course. Because of that, riders’ strategies are different for this class than in most other equitation classes.

“For this class I just really wanted to be clear and inside the time because I know it can be tight sometimes, especially when there are so many people in it,” Carmody explained. “We also focused on being under the lights in a different environment. For the NCEA [Medal Final] I really like how it focuses on the flatwork and switching horses. Tomorrow we get to be smooth but not focus on time, and we also get to focus on flatwork and riding other horses.”

The time was set quite tight, just another challenge these junior and amateur riders face coming into an already challenging environment. “I really wanted to be inside the time and be clear first of all, so I was trying to be efficient wherever I could and turn as neatly as possible, also trying to get the right number of strides,” Carmody explained of her game plan.

The past two years, Carmody has focused quite a bit on the equitation, but she’s only a few weeks out from the end of her junior career, so she’s making the most of the medal finals season.

Audrey Carmody led the victory gallop. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I just got back from indoors and recently sold my equitation horse,” she shared. “This is actually the last portion of my junior career. Next up is Vegas for WCE Finals and after that I become an amateur. I’ve been doing the equation for about two years now competitively. I ride with Shayne and Skylar Wireman and they’ve helped me so much in the past few months. I am so grateful to them, my parents, and everyone else who’s made it possible.”

Like many of the young riders at DIHP and around the country, Carmody believes in the equitation as a solid foundation for the rest of her riding. Having just stepped into the jumpers for the first time this week, she already feels the benefit of a solid equitation background in the jumper ring.

“The equation is important because it teaches you to be accurate and smooth,” Carmody reflected. “I’ve actually never done the jumpers before this week, but I noticed that when I went in after only doing the equitation, I thought it was easier to be smooth when you know how to ride the bending lines, S-turns, and rollbacks that equitation teaches you. It gives you a good basis of fundamentals to build up from.”

Up next, Carmody and other junior athletes will contend in the USEF/NCEA Junior Medal Final, taking place Saturday afternoon. Also kicking off Saturday and concluding Sunday is the Onondarka Medal Final, for riders aged 12 and under. The champion of the Onondarka Medal Final, in its second year at DIHP, will win a new CWD saddle.

Schroeder, Banis, Nelson and Omand Capture National Derby Wins

Karli Schroeder and Coastal. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Karli Schroeder is on a roll in Open National Hunt & Go Derby action, taking victory in section B of the $10,000 USHJA National Hunt & Go Derby – Open, sponsored by Marshall & Sterling. This week, she won aboard Coastal, an 8-year-old American-bred gelding owned by Emily Williams.

“He’s very special to me because I’ve ridden him since he was 4 years old,” Schroeder remarked. “He’s 8 this year and really coming into his own in these national derbies. This is his fourth win this year. I thought he excelled the most in the handy portion today. I was really proud of him. There were a couple technical turns and he was right there for me. He’s a big horse and a long horse, so I wasn’t sure how the turns were going to go but he was so good and followed me everywhere. I couldn’t have asked him to be better.”

Schroeder’s scores of 89.5 and 92 for a combined total of 181.5 sealed the deal, while last week’s winners, Jenny Karazissis and Big Shot, owned by Dulcie Lou Morris, took second with a 178.75. Keeping it in the family, Simon Schroeder took third with Azucar, owned by Erin Boatwright, scoring 176.75.

Karli Schroeder and Coastal. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I am feeling very blessed right now. I have a really good string of horses going, thanks to some awesome clients that are super supportive,” Schroeder continued. “I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities to do the derbies lately and I’m really enjoying it.”

The hunter schedule is filled with highlights during the upcoming circuits, with big hunter action taking place every single week. “Of course I’m looking forward to the $100,000 WCHR Spectacular at the end of Desert Circuit,” Schroeder said of what she is most excited about on the hunter schedule. “That’s always one of my favorites. I’m excited for some of the bigger international derbies that are coming up at the beginning of next year.”

Natalie Banis and Mayfield. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Section A let a different group of horses shine in the $10,000 USHJA National Hunt & Go Derby – Open, sponsored by Marshall & Sterling, and it was Natalie Banis in the spotlight aboard Mayfield, owned by Kathryn Phillips. The pair had the highest score of the day in any derby, with a handy round score of 94 and a total score of 183. Halie Robinson’s score of 177 with Crowd Pleaser, owned by West Coast Equine Partners, LLC, took second, while Paige Dendiu and Expressive, owned by Kaylen Schwartz, were third on a 171.

Juniors and amateurs each got their own respective derbies on Friday. Noah Nelson had an explosive return to the derby ring after taking top results at equitation finals on the East Coast, taking the win in the $10,000 USHJA National Hunt & Go Derby – Junior, sponsored by Valencia Sport Saddlery. His ride, Catwoman, owned by his mother, Leslie Pinkerton Nelson, has been a staple for him in the derby rings and in the Junior Hunters.

Catwoman in her winning presentation, pictured with Ecole Lathrop of Valencia Sport Saddlery. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Sophia Donald claimed second aboard Apropos, while Sophie Sherman and Best Chance, owned by Sherman Equestrian, LLC, took home third.

Jayme Omand found herself atop the $10,000 USHJA National Hunt & Go Derby – Amateur, sponsored by Valencia Sport Saddlery, with Mister Carrera, a newer ride for her.

“He’s only 6 and I just got him at the end of last year,” she said of the Dutch Warmblood gelding by Carrera VDL. “We’ve been building quite the partnership. He’s an amazing animal. He knows it all, does it all, and I’ve challenged him with everything. I’ve missed and he’s got it; he’ll figure it out. He’s the best young horse I’ve ever owned. I’ve never really done the hunter derbies or had a competitive hunter and he’s so competitive. I love him.”

Jayme Omand and Mister Carrera in their winning presentation, pictured with Ecole Lathrop of Valencia Sport Saddlery. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Omand stays busy at DIHP on her average show day, and Friday was no exception. “It was a little chaotic for me because I had my jumpers going at the same time, but I do better with chaos because if I have to sit and wait all day I get more nervous,” she explained. “I came up with the course, took a breath, watched a few, warmed up and thought about what’s best for him and what works for him. I tried to go out there and keep my cool.”

With exciting opportunities across all rings, Omand is pleased to be back in the desert to take advantage of all DIHP has to offer. “I love all the classes. I love the fill and flowers of the hunter ring. Every course I’ve done out there this week has been so beautiful and I am loving all the decoration in the big Main Hunter ring,” she remarked.

Hunter action continues through the weekend with Junior and Amateur Owner Hunter divisions.