Thermal, Calif. – Nov. 12, 2021 – Equitation athletes took over the Grand Prix Arena at the Desert International Horse Park on Friday during the National Sunshine Series II for the NCEA Junior Hunter Seat Medal Finals followed by the evening’s highlight event, the CPHA Style of Riding Jumper Championships South. Two big winners emerged by the end of the night: Grace Belmont rode to the win in the bracket-style competition earlier in the day, and Skylar Wireman captured the CPHA Style of Riding Jumper Championship.
The track for the NCEA Junior Hunter Seat Medal Finals was set over a course of twelve hunter obstacles with jumper flair, including a triple-bar, an oxer-vertical-vertical triple combination, bending lines and tight rollbacks. Impressing the judges by navigating the course with style and correct equitation, Naomi Wegner received the highest score of the first round with a 90.
The top 10 riders after round one returned to the ring for a flat phase, during which they were asked to demonstrate the extended canter, collected canter, sitting trot, shoulder-in and haunches-in down the judges’ side of the arena to add to the difficulty. Naomi Wegner emerged on top yet again after the flat phase, followed closely by three riders, Kate Hagerty, Grace Belmont and Sophia Silveira.
The top four riders were required to switch horses and jump a new course for the third round as they familiarized themselves with new mounts as they would in the NCEA format. The work-off included eight obstacles, including one double-combination. The riders each were given two minutes to flat their new mounts, then two minutes to warm-up over fences before going into the ring.
Proceeding in a bracket style for the round three semifinal, the top four riders were split into two brackets, A and B, and competed within their bracket first. In bracket A, Hagerty and Silveira piloted First Choice, the mount of Naomi Wegner. Silveira rode the horse to a higher score, advancing to the final.
In bracket B, Belmont and Wegner rode Hagerty’s first round mount, Solitude and took turns on the work-off track. Ultimately, Belmont ended up on top with a score of 90 and found herself in the championship round competing for the win. The two finalists both rode Starboy, the ride of fifth place competitor Mialuna Hutcheson. Belmont, tackling the course with Starboy first, rode to a score of 88, which was enough to secure her the win overall after Silveira put in her round that earned a score of 70.
Once the course was reset, the evening highlight, CPHA Style of Riding Jumper Championships South, got underway with 51 riders vying for the title. The CHPA Style of Riding is a jumper seat equitation final set in the show jumping format Table II 2A over jumps set at 1.0m, open to juniors and amateurs who are members of the CPHA and competed in a qualifying event. All entries rode a jumper course with 11 numbered obstacles in an attempt to clear the course within the time allowed of 80 seconds. The course featured a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination, oxer-vertical double combination, a liverpool, and tight rollback turns. Riders who received a judges’ score of 75 or higher and completed the course on zero faults advanced to the jump-off.
Twelve riders advanced to the coveted jump-off round to take a shot at the overall title. Over the shortened track, the goal was efficiency, a quick time and a clear round, all while maintaining proper riding style and etiquette. Ultimately it was the final jump-off contender, Skylar Wireman, who took the win with a high score of 92 on a horse she hadn’t ridden since May. The horse, having been a jumper previously, was well suited to the class, which still requires the pace and mindset of a show jumper but with an added focus on equitation and quality, not solely time and faults.
Competition at the National Sunshine Series Week II continues through the weekend, with Saturday’s schedule including the Individual Final for all six sections of the Markel/USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships and the $100,000 Great American Insurance Group Grand Prix 1.50m, presented by G2 Insurance. On Sunday, the $15,000 Open 1.35m Classic takes center stage in the Grand Prix Arena while the USHJA Hunter Team Challenge takes place for the first time at Desert International Horse Park in Hunter 4.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Grace Belmont – Winner, NCEA Junior Hunter Seat Medal Finals
“I’ve had him for three years. We found him in Europe. He was doing the 1.40ms when we met him and I’ve turned him into my derby horse. He’s been fantastic; this is our third medal final win, he’s won four national hunter derbies and one international. He’s really just a spectacular horse.”
On today’s courses:
“Quirin has a pretty small stride relative to your average equitation horse; he’s kind of dainty so I got to ride forward through the corners. He’s naturally balanced very well so there was a rollback to an oxer so I went for the inside track and he just floats on through without me having to bother him. A couple horses were having a hard time with the short two [stride] to the short six [strides] and he just has the right stride to get there and can just float on up. He’s great at the turns; he loves them. He did the International Hunter Derby this morning too so he got to be out here and experience this ring.”
On switching horses and adapting to new rides:
“I’m really lucky I get to ride a lot of horses because my mom is a trainer. I’ve also got an amazing opportunity with my mom’s friend in Europe, David Artos, and he owns the jumper I’m competing in the USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships. He won the first day, and David has been sending me sales horses to do the equitation and jumpers on, so I’m getting to develop relationships, show them, help sell them, and get that cycle going. It’s been fantastic for getting really strong and adaptable as a rider.”
On goals as she ages out of the equitation:
“I’m actually aging out in two weeks! I did the derby this morning, then there is this medal and the WCE, so I’m pittering out on the equitation so we’ve been focusing more on the hunters. Right now I’m trying to become more independent; we’re working on selling horses and getting into the prize money, and once I become a little more independent I’ll become a professional. I really enjoy the teaching aspect of the business, I’m just waiting for my time.”
Skylar Wireman – CPHA Style of Riding Jumper Championships South
“So this horse is actually a jumper. His first equitation show was back in May and I haven’t shown him at all since then. He lives in Northern California and I’ve been down here in Southern California. This class suits him well; he’s good at the time allowed, he’s careful, and he’s a nice light ride. He’s very rideable. He’s a newer mount and it’s only his second show in the equitation, but I think this class is perfect for him; it suited him well.”
On her jump-off plan:
“I know I heard people talking about doing four [strides] in the first line but I knew I wouldn’t probably do the four. There was an inside turn on the landing which everyone did, but to make the turn easier I stuck to the five and rode to the base of the vertical, then slipped right inside. The plan was to just put in a nice round with tidy turns and just efficient riding without going crazy. Knowing I was on top I wanted to put in a solid round.”
On her goals as a junior:
“I have one more year left as a junior and I ribboned in almost all the top 3’6” equitation finals, so next year the goal is to go again and maybe win! Indoors is definitely the goal next year again, so we’ll go for the win next year.”
NCEA Junior Hunter Seat Medal Finals
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner
- Quirin / Grace Belmont / Grace Belmont
- Heathrow HX / Sophia Silveira / Sophie Transou
- Solitude / Kate Hagerty / Kate Hagerty
- First Choice / Naomi Wegner / Naomi Wegner
- Starboy / Mialuna Hutcheson / Mialuna Hutcheson
- Calino G / Rebecca Beall / Rebecca Beall
- Decklin / Gable Gering / Gable Gering
- Caprini / Shayla Williamson / Shayla Williamson
- Carrico Sun / Bella Primavera / Bella Primavera
- Casalino / Grace Russo / Grace Russo
CPHA Style of Riding Jumper Championships South
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner
- Famous / Skylar Wireman / MKT Investments LLC
- Criminal Minds / Brooke Mostman / Brooke Mostman
- Landmann / Jake Endicott / Brady Mitchell
- Aramis De B’Neville / Alexandra Lipacis / Mirador Equestrian LLC
- Cala D’Or 3 / Madison Nadolenco / Morgan Dickerson
- H De Revel / Gable Gering / Gable Gering
- Go For It B Gabrielle Sokolow / Sophie Root-Stevens
- Carrickview Gin And Tonic / Catherine Westling / Cameron Trimino
- Little Big Won / Marina Boudreau / Ingenium Farm
- Casalino / Grace Russo / Grace Russo