Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Ace Of Hearts. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Gregory Wathelet (BEL) has an ace up his sleeve.

With Ace Of Hearts, Wathelet took home arguably his biggest win of Desert Circuit so far on Sunday of Desert Circuit VIII in the $145,100 Go Rentals CSI3* 1.55m Grand Prix. As one of only two clear rounds, Wathelet sealed the deal in the second-to-last week of his Californian winter tour.

Up against Vanessa Mannix (CAN) and Kingston, Wathelet had the disadvantage of jumping first. He kicked the speed up a notch over the short course while not going all out, but the final rail came down for a quick time and a score of 4 faults.

Gregory Wathelet topped the podium in the $145,100 Go Rentals CSI3* Grand Prix. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“He jumped amazing in the first round,” Wathelet reflected on his horse’s performance. “With two [in the jump-off] it’s always a little bit delicate to know what you have to do. I stayed inside to the last one because I found a good line to cut in. He just focused on the [decoration] behind the jump rather than what he had to do, and that caused the 4 [faults] so I was a bit surprised.”

With Mannix pulling two rails along the way, the victory was Wathelet’s.

The Belgian Olympian could see the challenge presented immediately upon walking Marina Azevedo’s (BRA) course. “This week she has built very good but very difficult,” he said. “We saw it yesterday in the National Grand Prix and again today. The fences were big for a three-star. There were some spooky jumps like the wall, the delicate white vertical at [fence] four, and the last line also. It was a bit more technical.”

Vanessa Mannix (CAN) and Kingston. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

One welcome change for Wathelet was the move to the grass field, which will host National and FEI show jumping the final week of Desert Circuit as well.

“I was ready to jump on the grass because [grass arenas] are something I really like, especially here where they have that kind of grass with a good ground,” Wathelet said of the change in environment to the grass field. “This is what you like [to see] in the grass. It was good for the horses to change the pace as well. With first and fifth in the Grand Prix I’m very happy.”

While Ace Of Hearts is full of talent, he had a rather slow start at the highest levels due to being a slightly difficult ride.

Katie Laurie (AUS) and Django II. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“He was always jumping a bit too high,” Wathelet said of the 13-year-old Estonian Sport Horse gelding (Aliandro B x Ra Ex Romanov ESH) earlier in his career. “He had too much quality and he was difficult to develop. I feel more and more comfortable now on him; he’s starting to trust his scope. I’m feeling like I can trust him more and more at this height and he’s really fun to ride; he’s fantastic. I’m not sure [at what level] he’s going to stop, or if he’ll jump everything [I put in front of him]. Now that he has the rhythm I also need to trust him because he can do it easy.”

Hopes are high for the horse as he continues to plan the his schedule following the performances in the desert. “It’s perfect here because you can jump proper classes,” Wathelet said of developing Ace Of Hearts at DIHP. “I started him National and now next week I’m going to do the four-star Grand Prix, then after here he’ll be ready to do a five-star grand prix.”

While Mannix claimed second place, Katie Laurie (AUS) returned to the podium for the second consecutive week, taking third with just one time fault.

Skylar Wireman Makes History in $20,000 Friends of MeadowGrove 1.20m Classic

Skylar Wireman and Karen!. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Earlier Sunday, 77 entries went head-to-head in the inaugural $20,000 Friends of MeadowGrove 1.20m Classic to benefit #WeRideTogether. With the $150 entry fee going directly to the initiative, plus additional donations, the class raised over $14,000 to donate to #WeRideTogether to support strong and healthy foundations in the sport of show jumping.

Of the 77 junior, amateur, and professional athletes, it was Skylar Wireman with MKT Equine’s Karen! who took the win.

“I know Karen is a speed specialist,” she said of the 11-year-old Hanoverian mare (Levistano x Cassus 2). “I knew if there was any horse I could win it on it would be Karen. I thought I’d really go for it. It’s for a good cause too, so that was part of my decision. Getting more donations and jumping for a good cause is great. I knew she could be a winner in it.”

Not only was Wireman the winner, she also took third on West Port, owned by Kate Parker. In between her two mounts for a second-place finish was Jamie Sailor with Fire Flash Toltien, owned by Carolyn Mittler.

“The horse I was third on actually won the U25 in the International Hunter Derby on Friday,” Wireman explained. “For the longest time I was leading and I went first [in the order] on him. I went as fast as I could and he was flying. He’s a hunter turned jumper but he loves it. I did the Talent Search on him too so he does everything. He has a lot of fun in the jumpers. He just does it all.”

Skylar Wireman and Karen! in their winning presentation, pictured with Susie Schroer of MeadowGrove Farm and Carrie Kehring of #WeRideTogether. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Wireman’s decision to enter the class boiled down at the end to wanting to support healthy barn environments, especially as a recent junior-turned-pro who is now educating young minds, still a relatively young mind herself. “It’s so important to have a safe environment,” she shared. “The kids learn so much, even beyond riding, just life skills. It’s important to have a safe space for kids to learn and grow up in. It’s a big family environment so you want to teach them to be ready for the big world.”

Kennedy Chang and Starfly earned the top-placing junior rider award, while Stacey Bacheller and Ketouelle-S took the top-placing amateur rider award. Both were awarded brand-new Equestrian Stockholm Saddle pads and bonnets.

All participants in the class were given a pair of #WeRideTogether Dreamers & Schemers socks, plus spur straps from Equ Lifestyle Boutique and a water bottle.

DIHP extends gratitude to Meadow Grove & Friends for sponsoring this special charity classic benefitting organizations like #WeRideTogether and The Courage First Athlete Helpline. Meadow Grove & Friends, including clients as well as Francie & Dick Carvin, Nick Haness, Joie Gatlin & Morley Abey Showjumping, Leslie Steele, Sandhaven Farm, West Coast Sport Horses, Kyle King LLC, Ingenium Farm, Elvenstar, Alora Sporthorses, Balmoral Farm, Meredith Herman & Jenn Serek, Nora & Morgan Thomas, Windfall Farm, Erin Duffy Show Stables, Whitethorne, Guillermo Obligado, are committed to ensuring a safe, fun, and healthy sports environment for all competitors and graciously donated $20,000 in prize money for the class. Thank you also to Equ Lifestyle Boutique, Equestrian Stockholm and Koffie Velo for their support.

Skylar Wireman and Chirolito Z in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Skylar Wireman didn’t stop there with the victories. She also claimed top honors in Sunday afternoon’s $20,000 Stal Hendrix 1.45m NAYC Trial with Chirolito Z, owned by Shayne Wireman. The duo were the only clear round in the class, taking the win. Second place went to Daisy 920 and Naomi Wegner, while Aya Clear and Fomorku claimed third.

Shawn Casady and Castelissimo in their winning presentation, pictured with Tiffany Sullivan. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

To open competition Sunday on the grass field, Shawn Casady claimed the win with Tiffany Sullivan’s Castelissimo in the $30,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic. The pair was the fastest of six double-clear efforts, clocking in at 39.950 seconds. Second place went to Elisa Broz and Volstrups Cody, while Kaitlin Campbell and Palina De L’Escaut, owned by SWS Training & Sales, took third.

Show jumping continues Wednesday, March 15, with the $10,000 Welcome Speed and CSI4* FEI Jog.

Final Results: $145,100 Go Rentals CSI3* 1.55m Grand Prix

1. ACE OF HEARTS: 2010 ESH gelding by Aliandro B x Ra Ex Romanov ESH
GREGORY WATHELET (BEL), Gregory Wathelet: 0/4/45.68

2. KINGSTON: 2013 AES gelding by Ustinov x Insider
VANESSA MANNIX (USA), Vanessa Mannix: 0/8/48.92

3. DJANGO II: 2011 gelding by Lordano x Brilliant Invader
KATIE LAURIE (AUS), Katie Laurie: 1/84.82

4. CHICAGO CM: 2013 HOLST gelding by Cassini x Carpaccio
ERIC KRAWITT (CAN), Eric Krawitt: 4/82.07

5. CLARITY: 2009 HOLST gelding by Clarimo x Ephebe For Ever
GREGORY WATHELET (BEL), An Breeding: 4/83.11

6. CHESS: 2011 BWP gelding by Bufero Van Het Panishof x Latano I
KYLE KING (USA), The Chess Group: 8/83.09

7. CHIC D EMMA Z: 2013 ZANG stallion by Cigaret JV H Z x Unique Drum Van Het Juxschot
SAMANTHA BUIRS (CAN), Samantha Buirs: 9/84.51

8. UN DIAMANT DES FORETS: 2008 SF stallion by Diamant de Semilly x Papillon Rouge
JIM IFKO (CAN), Eventyre Farms Ltd.: 12/81.19

9. NKH MR. DARCY: 2013 HOLST gelding by Darco x Chepetto

10. HAVANA: 2012 KWPN mare by Cardento x Judgement
KASSIDY KEITH (CAN), Cheryl Keith: 13/84.10

11. CALACAS D AUBIGNY: 2012 SF gelding by Jarnac x Notrestar Dela Nutria
ZUME GALLAHER (USA), Blue Gate Stables, LLC: 15/86.42

12. JAVAS MISS JORDAN: 2009 ISH mare by Luidam x Obos Quality
NICKY GALLIGAN (IRL), Nicky Galligan: 17/92.63

Final Results: $20,000 Friends of MeadowGrove Farm 1.20m Classic to Benefit #WeRideTogether

1. Karen! / Skylar Wireman / MKT Equine LLC / 0/0/35.225
2. Fire Flash Toltien / Jamie Sailor / Carolyn Mittler / 0/0/36.871
3. West Port / Skylar Wireman / Kate Parker / 0/0/38.555
4. West Side River / Nicole Bourgeois / Maggie Kehring / 0/0/41.330
5. Ketouelle-S / Stacey Bacheller / Stacey Bacheller / 0/0/42.074
6. Atlantic DVZ / Jamie Sailor / Teton Farms LLC / 0/0/43.041
7. Chinell / Braden James / Stump Lake Ranch & Cattle Limited / 0/0/43.682
8. Diamant Du Coeur / Hannah Simson / Hannah Simson / 0/0/44.237
9. Starfly / Kennedy Chang / Kennedy Chang / 0/0/45.247
10. Izara Des Dames / Jamie Gornall / Jamie Gornall / 0/0/45.351
11. Companero / Kyle King / Robin Kopala / 0/0/45.459
12. Celina Z / Mika Clear / AKM Concept LLC / 0/4/39.737

Cathy Morris-Schmitt and her Dream Horse Float to Adult Amateur Hunter Classic Win

Cathy Morris-Schmitt and Andover. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Cathy Morris-Schmitt knows her horse Andover is as special as they come, but it’s even better to know the rest of the horse show thinks so, too. The judges pinned them as best of the bunch in the Adult Hunter division and the DePaolo Adult Amateur Hunter Classic Sunday to conclude Desert Circuit VIII.

“He has been a dream horse,” Morris-Schmitt said of the 15-year-old Oldenburg gelding. “We got him six years ago. He was a very successful junior hunter and I was returning to the sport after a five-year hiatus. It was fortuitous that the two of us connected. It’s been nothing but a dream to have him.”

Training under Joie Gatlin and Morley Abey, Morris-Schmitt has been a staple in the Adult Amateur Hunters with Andover. They currently sit in third in the circuit standings as they head into WCHR week, where they will seek points for Capital Challenge in the fall.

“We’ve had a fantastic circuit,” she reflected. “He won the [$10,000] Under Saddle Championship, which was surreal. It’s just a pleasure to have such a wonderful quality horse that can also be such a good caretaker in the Adult Amateurs. He takes care of his mother every time he steps in the ring and every time I get on his back.”

Riding has served as a breath of fresh air from a busy career for Morris-Schmitt, as it does for many amateur riders who call DIHP home during the winter. “I was working too hard; that’s why I originally took up riding as an adult many years ago. I took a hiatus because I had gotten a little burnt out competing at indoors and trying to qualify. It was a lot of horse showing. I focused on my career for a few yearsyears, and one day I decided that I needed to get back to the horses,” she explained.

As for how her riding has flourished in her time back in the saddle, she responded, “I would say I’m one of the most mature adult amateur riders out there. I just feel fortunate that I have the opportunity to ride. That does put a little less pressure on on every round and counting points. I’m just enjoying the pleasure we get from having the bond with our horses and being able to ride them.”

With one week remaining, Morris-Schmitt takes her positive outlook into WCHR week with her stellar hunter. “[WCHR] is always an objective of ours because we like to go to Capital Challenge. But this show has done such a wonderful job the last few years with all the obstacles they’ve had to overcome. I think this year has been an extraordinary circuit for everyone who has participated.”

Hunters resume for the final week of action on Wednesday, March 15, with the professional hunter divisions.