Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Berline Du Maillet Z. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Gregory Wathelet (BEL) proved his dominance of the desert once again Friday of Desert Circuit VI, claiming another victory, this time in the $145,100 Pomponio Ranch CSI4* 1.50m Welcome Prix. With Berline Du Maillet Z, his first of two mounts to jump clear over Alan Wade’s (IRL) track, he sped to the win against perhaps the toughest jump-off field yet during Desert Circuit.

The competition wasn’t light, as 15 pairs jumped clear out of 43 international starters. Going early in the jump-off with Berline Du Maillet Z, a 12-year-old Zangersheide mare (Berlin x Action-Breaker), Wathelet left nothing to chance, securing a double-clear effort of 36.34 seconds.

“It was a good jump-off,” Wathelet reflected. “It was big, with many clears, and maybe the time allowed was a bit too easy. But it was not an easy class. With 15 riders we knew it was going to be fast.”

Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Berline Du Maillet Z in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

He had faith in his partner, however. “That mare is very fast,” he continued. “I saw Conor’s jump-off but I knew I could take him because [I did] the same amount of strides. I can push with my mare and go a bit faster. I took a big risk one to two. I chose the eight [strides] down the last line. I could have done the seven but I chose to play it safe.”

Conor Swail (IRL) had the lead at the time with Theo 160, and ended up second, with a time of 38.80 seconds. Tiffany Foster (CAN) came in blazing as the very last to go, just missing Swail’s time by three one-hundredths of a second, taking third with Brighton, owned by Artisan Farms, LLC.

Conor Swail (IRL) and Theo 160. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The week of CSI4* action in Thermal has brought big North American names to the desert, including Kent Farrington (USA), Foster, and Erynn Ballard (CAN), among others who have been on the roster in weeks prior.

When asked if he had changed his preparation in anticipation of steeper competition, Wathelet coolly responded, “Not really. I’m used to it in Europe, where we compete every week at this level. The horses have gone well here, so I won’t change anything.”

His mare’s development through the California circuit has worked perfectly to plan, peaking just in time for this specific class he aimed her at. His top pick for Sunday’s CSI4* Grand Prix is Clarity, but could potentially jump Berline Du Maillet Z as well.

Tiffany Foster (CAN) and Brighton. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

This class marks the first FEI class under the lights during Desert Circuit, and the first since the CSI5* Grand Prix in December. The atmosphere bodes well for Wathelet and his mounts. “For these late classes, there are crowds and a good atmosphere. It’s really good for us to ride. It’s nice to have people around, and it gives a good idea of the sport for people who come to watch. It can be a good time,” he shared.

Part of Wathelet’s jump-off strategy, and general strategy when starting his courses, is to pick up the canter and build the rhythm far enough away from fence one, sometimes gathering momentum from the other side of the Grand Prix Arena. “I’m the kind of rider who likes to ride with rhythm,” he explained. “The first round I always put them a bit forward, not pulling or waiting. After that I slow down.

“When it’s a jump-off, I start from far away to get the rhythm because I find that, depending on the horse, if you start too late they get a bit confused. If I start 50 meters before they’re awake and you can start with the rhythm and keep it,” he said.

Show jumping continues Saturday with the $38,700 Pomponio Ranch CSI4* 1.45m Classic and the $50,000 Whittier Trust National Grand Prix.

Final Results: $145,100 Pomponio Ranch CSI4* 1.50m Welcome Prix

1. BERLINE DU MAILLET Z: 2011 ZANG mare by Berlin x Action-Breaker
GREGORY WATHELET (BEL), Mambour Delphine: 0/0/36.34

2. THEO 160: 2012 HOLST gelding by Christian 25 x Calando IV
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Team Philippaerts: 0/0/38.80

3. BRIGHTON: 2006 KWPN gelding by Contendro x Quick Star
TIFFANY FOSTER (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC: 0/0/38.83

4. MCCAW MVNZ: 2011 NZWB gelding by Corofino II x Cassini II
KATIE LAURIE (AUS), Carissa McCall: 0/0/40.66

5. NORTHERN LIGHT: 2011 SWB mare by Plot Blue x Contender
TIFFANY FOSTER (CAN), Artisan Farms, LLC: 0/0/40.87

6. EMIR: 2009 KWPN gelding by Eurocommerce Dubai x Cardento
KAITLIN CAMPBELL (USA), SWS Training & Sales: 0/0/43.98

7. OAKINGHAM LIRA: 2013 mare by Tornesch x Del Piero P&B
ALISON ROBITAILLE (USA), Alison Firestone LLC: 0/4/39.61

8. COCONET: 2014 mare by Colman x Cornet’s Stern
ERYNN BALLARD (CAN), Wight Show Stables: 0/4/40.48

9. CHAGOLOU: 2012 OS stallion by Chacco Blue x Conthargos
JAMIE GORNALL (GBR), Gornall Equestrian: 0/4/40.68

10. DJANGO II: 2011 gelding by Lordano x Brilliant Invader
KATIE LAURIE (AUS), Katie Laurie: 0/4.43.33

11. CHADORA LADY: 2013 OS mare by Chacco-Blue x Nintender
NATALIE DEAN (USA), Marigold Sporthorses, LLC: 0/8/37.16

12. KINGSTON: 2013 AES gelding by Ustinov x Insider
VANESSA MANNIX (USA), Vanessa Mannix: 0/12/41.58


Andover Struts to First Place in $10,000 DIHP Under Saddle Championship

Joie Gatlin and Andover in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The Main Hunter ring took center stage first thing Friday morning as the inaugural $10,000 DIHP Under Saddle Championship, sponsored by Premier Equine Center, welcomed the most beautiful movers to strut their stuff. Twenty-four stunning hunters walked, trotted, and cantered for nearly 45 minutes as the field dwindled to the cream of the crop, and ultimately Andover, owned by Cathy Morris-Schmitt, was awarded with the blue ribbon.

Joie Gatlin had the ride aboard Andover, a 15-year-old Oldenburg gelding, and knew she had real talent sitting beneath her. The horse has won the Professional World Champion Hunter Under Saddle twice at the Capital Challenge Horse Show, which follows a similar format, so one could assume Andover was the favorite.

“I guess you could say he’s a ringer,” she said of Andover. “He wins the hack about 99 percent of the time in his division with Cathy Morris-Schmitt. He’s been a junior hunter, and he’s now Cathy’s Adult Amateur hunter. He’s just a super horse. He takes great care of her in her classes. He’s fun for me to ride in a class like this. He’s an easy going guy. Just a wonderful horse.”

Joie Gatlin and Andover. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The class invited all 24 to hack simultaneously, then excused all but the top 12 to hack again, pulling horses into the center until only the winner remained. The crowd gathered for the first class of the day, with owner Morris Schmitt on the sidelines cheering on Gatlin and Andover as they were named the winners.

“He’s got a perfect head carriage,” Gatlin explained of why the horse is such a stunning mover. “He keeps his ears up most of the time. I think getting a nice working walk is important. I think the judges want to see that. He had some great passes at the trot; the trot is extra special. At the canter, he’s got that long, stroking canter with that little bit of suspension. He just shows himself off so well. He knows where the important side of the ring is, where the judge is watching. He always puts his ears up and he’s always really put together in front of the judge.”

With $10,000 in prize money awarded to the top finishers, Gatlin had a fruitful morning hack to start off her Friday.

“That was an amazing class to have,” she said. “The money is awesome, but it’s also the pride of having a horse that just floats like Andover, and many many others in the class. And it’s a long class. You just have to keep your cool, keep your horse motivated, keep them focused. It’s a hack marathon.”

Final Results: $10,000 Premier Equine Center DIHP Under Saddle Championship

1. Andover / Joie Gatlin / Cathy Morris-Schmitt
2. Pikasso / Samantha Lubrant / Judith Hasko
3. Anastasia / Shelley Campf / Laura Piccard
4. Treasure Chest / Sarah Magallanes / Sarah Magallanes
5. New Moon / Gabriella Goshtigian / Rosegale Farm, LLC
6. Louis Le Bon / Naomi Ries / Naomi Ries
7. Decadence / Ella Shatzko / Sherri Werner
8. County Line / Alexis Taylor / Aleron LLC

Teamwork Prevails in $25,000 Nations Cup Hunter Team Challenge

The winning team, Skylar Wireman, Paige Walkenbach, and Lillian Muzzy, were presented with awards from CWD, pictured with Jean-Philippe Rerole from CWD and Shayne Wireman. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Skylar Wireman, Lillian Muzzy, and Paige Walkenbach aren’t accustomed to competing on teams in the hunter rings typically, but they formed a trio of excellence to compete in Friday’s $25,000 CWD Nations Cup Hunter Team Challenge and their team chemistry wrote the rest.

The format of the class allowed each rider to jump twice – once over a classic hunter course and once over a handy course – and each trip was given a score. Each team was allowed one drop score per round of competition, so ultimately all the scores were added together to determine the results.

Skylar Wireman and Castelino. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Up against seven other teams, the trio made their choice of horses to compete and laid it all on the line. With scores of 89, 87, 84.5, and 83, the final score totaled to 343.5, putting them 14 points ahead of any other team.

“I chose a newer import for us,” Wireman said of her mount for the event, Castelino 5. “He hasn’t done the hunters a whole lot but he’s taken to it quite well and he’s quite good at it. He was previously a jumper so he’s right there with me in the handy rounds.”

Lillian Muzzy and Baldeur. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I chose my hunter Decisive that my sister and I share,” Walkenbach commented. “He’s only 6 years old so I thought it was a great experience for him to get in there and do a derby course.”

“My horse is Baldeur,” Muzzy said. “He was an easy pick for me because I do the hunters and equitation with him. He’s my steady Eddy. He’s perfect.”

All three team members echoed the benefit of being part of a team, especially since the format is not one frequently seen in the hunter ring.

Paige Walkenbach and Decisive. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I think it’s great,” Wireman said of the team event. “I did this class two years ago and it was really fun. It was super competitive. Because there are multiple scores it can make a big difference and a lot can change. Points here and there can matter. The drop score adds another whole element. It’s so much like the Nations Cup format which is so fun. We rarely see team events in the hunters but it’s so fun.”

Walkenbach echoed the sentiment, saying, “It’s a great opportunity because the hunters, especially the Junior Hunters, are really competitive and it’s hard to go against each other every week. It was nice to bring together a team. It’s a little nerve wracking but also exciting. The drop score is nice because if you have a mistake the team can help carry you up.”

The courses, set by Kevin Holowack, presented interesting options for the riders to consider, playing out almost like a hunter derby.

“I thought the first round was a really nice course,” Wireman said. “It was flowing, you could pick a nice rhythm, and keep it around the course. It was smooth with time to show off a little gallop. For the handy, there were a few inside turns and I took a couple of them. There was one I didn’t think was necessary; we had a pretty big lead. There were enough options that someone further behind could make it up, but it wasn’t worth the risk [for us].”

Hunter competition continues Saturday with Junior and Amateur-Owner Hunter divisions, plus the barnstyle Equitation Classic in the Grand Equitation Ring.