If you looked through the start list for the $117,000 TALUS CSI3* Grand Prix on Saturday night of Desert Circuit 7, presented by TALUS, you may have recognized a special name and picked him as your winner. VDL Edgar M has jumped the Olympic Games, CSI5* Rolex Grand Prixs, FEI Nations Cups, has won FEI World Cup Qualifiers, and is now being piloted by Ingrid Gjelsten (NOR) who guided him to the win in the feature Saturday night class at Desert International Horse Park.

The 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Arezzo VDL x Marlon) is owned by Gjelsten and her family and in 2023, Gjelsten took over the reins from Marlon Modolo Zanotelli (BRA) who led the horse through its career highlights.

“I have been riding him for one year now,” Gjelsten said of her relationship with VDL Edgar M. “He’s a super horse; I really love him. He’s always trying his best for me. He’s so kind and just wants to do the job. He’s just amazing.”

Ingrid Gjelsten (NOR) and VDL Edgar M. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Gjelsten and “Edgar” were one of four pairs to jump clear over Alan Wade’s (IRL) track, coming back in the second-to-last position. No one had jumped a clear round yet, but she had Ali Ramsay (CAN) behind her with the super-quick Bonita VH Keizershof Z, so she knew she had to put some pressure on. Gjelsten jumped the clear round she needed and took the lead, and Ramsay ended up with a rail down, which was when Gjelsten realized she would stand atop the podium.

In second was Shawn Casady (USA) with Cool Quarz, owned by Morning Star Sporthorses, as the quickest 4-fault jump-off round. Just behind him in third was Camilo Rueda (COL) aboard Indus Van Het Keysereyck, owned by Lexi Silver.

It’s evident that Edgar is feeling at home with his newest rider and on the West Coast of the United States, a long way from the pair’s home nation of Norway. Saturday marked the second CSI3* grand prix that the duo scored a clear round in, this time being much more memorable as the sole double-clear effort.

Ingrid Gjelsten (NOR) topped the podium. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Despite the cool and collected rounds Gjelsten put in, her nerves were quite high heading into the week’s feature event.

“I was quite nervous today actually,” she shared. “I was just trying to keep calm and not stress. I tried to stick to my plan. I know Edgar can do it so it’s all on me. I really wanted to do it today.”

Gjelsten is no stranger to elite venues, jumping at horse shows worldwide including stops along the the Longines Global Champions Tour, plus Valkenswaard, Riesenbeck, St. Tropez, and more. But attending DIHP for the first time has her in awe.

“Desert Horse Park is just amazing,” she shared. “It’s so nice here, all the rings. I really like it here in California. All the riders here are very good. There are some very fast riders here, so it’s very fun to compete against them. I knew Edgar could do it so it was very fun to ride here today.”

Gregory Wathelet and Mr. Europe Score Second Consecutive National Grand Prix Win

Looking through the start list for the jump-off of the $40,000 Buchalter National Grand Prix, one may have thought this was an elite international class. Kyle King with Etalon. Conor Swail with Vital Chance de la Roque. Gregory Wathelet with Mr. Europe. Plus more. All of these riders and horses have jumped (and thrived) at the CSI5* level, so they put on a show as the jump-off got underway. Ultimately, Wathelet prevailed for the second week in a row aboard Mr. Europe, a top contender owned by Morning Star Sporthorses.

Wathelet only began riding the 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding for Karrie Rufer a couple weeks after Desert Circuit began, so he’s been getting to know the horse over the course of about a month. During Week 6, he topped the National Grand Prix with the horse, but luck was on their side, winning on a 4-fault score in the jump-off.

Gregory Wathelet and Mr. Europe. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“Today he was very good,” Wathelet said of the horse’s performance this week. “The first round I had a good feeling; I’d say even better than last week. Last week was a little more luck. Coming into the jump-off today it was a real win; we were clear and fast. On top of that I had a perfect jump-off like I had planned. ‘Eddie’ was really with me everywhere.”

The accuracy paid off, because going up against top riders, including Swail on two of his best mounts, was not an easy task, even for someone as accomplished as Wathelet. He unseated Swail on his first horse, Gamble, owned by Asta Torokvei, and waited to see what his second ride, Vital Chance de la Roque, would do. With the final fence coming down for Swail, plus a little behind on the clock, Wathelet took the win and Swail’s two mounts were second and third.

Gregory Wathelet and Mr. Europe in their winning presentation, pictured with Danielle Mayer, Peggy Hosking, and Leah Lively of Buchalter Equine Law, plus Cristofer Mendoza. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“He is quite fast,” Wathelet continued about Mr. Europe. “I know I have to balance not going too hard but he is very fast. Conor was fast with his first one, but not on the fastest horse, and he was coming behind me with a very fast horse. I knew I had to try. I had my plan and everything went according to the plan.”

Last week, Mr. Europe won on the grass, an this week back in the Grand Prix Arena, showing just how versatile the horse is. According to Wathelet, the atmosphere does not interfere with the way the horse rides or with his ability to succeed. More importantly, their partnership is beginning to solidify, since they were paired up and immediately put into the big divisions.

“It’s really the kind of horse that it doesn’t matter,” he said of switching up the surfaces. “You can jump on the grass, sand, night, day. The only thing for me since I didn’t know him so well, I am getting to know him more and more each week. The time has helped for sure. My riding is not the same as Karrie’s, so the horse needed to know me but I needed more to understand the horse. There were two weeks where it wasn’t how it should be but now I feel like I know him.”

Skylar Wireman and Citoki in their winning presentation, pictured with Emma Werner of the Surrey. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Alan Wade, who frequents DIHP, designed the track for the occasion, and Wathelet appreciated the nuances in the course that made for a great class and a competitive jump-off.

“It was a good course,” he said of Wade’s track. “On Thursday in the FEI classes and National he was fair but also you had to ride. Today the time allowed wasn’t crazy but the time you needed to think about. You needed to ride well to be clear. In the end it was not an easy Grand Prix.”

Skylar Wireman rode to the win in the Surrey U25 Classic with Citoki, as the second-fastest 4-faulters in the first round.

Ingrid Gjelsten Reveals a New Star in Derrick 121

Ingrid Gjelsten and Derrick 121 in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Ingrid Gjelsten, joining DIHP for the first time from her home nation of Norway, took home her first win of the day early Saturday morning with a brand-new ride aboard Derrick 121. Together the duo raced to a very fast jump-off time of 32.717 seconds in the Interactive Mortgage 10 & Under Futurity Series, nearly three seconds faster than any other pair.

One would think the 22-year-old rider and the 8-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Dinken x Aljano 2) had been together for years watching them seamlessly jump around, but Desert Circuit is actually their first time out competing as a partnership. It’s also the horse’s first time jumping on American soil.

“It’s a new horse for me,” Gjelsten said of Derrick 121. “We bought him in January so this is his first show. I’m really happy about him. He’s very cute. I think he will be very good in the future.”

Ingrid Gjelsten and Derrick 121. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Nicole Haunert scored second place, following up her Week 6 FEI win, with My Lady Lavista, owned by Cherokee Show Horses. In third was Jaclyn Duff with Leff Sa.

Gjelsten is enjoying everything DIHP has to offer on her first trip to the venue. She’s competing several top horses, including her top mount VDL Edgar M, across all the levels, from 1.35m up to the FEI division.

“It’s a very nice facility and a very good way to start the year,” she said of her trip to California so far. “It’s so nice to be here. I love all the rings. They’re so nice. They’re big and beautiful.”

Here for several more weeks, she has her eye on the prize with her highly competitive string. “I have two top horses, Edgar and Nevado de Toluca, doing the big classes,” she shared. “Edgar is jumping the [CSI3*] Grand Prix tonight. I have a new one, I Know, that we also bought in January. For the first time were doing the three-star and we got fourth place in the 1.45m yesterday. I’m really happy about all of them.”

Show jumping resumes Sunday with the $32,000 San Marcos Training CSI3* 1.45m Classic and the $5,000 Antares Sellier 1.15m Junior/Amateur Mini Prix.

Kathy Nolan and Just Because Prove Their Partnership in Riata Designs DIHP Adult Equitation Challenge

Kathy Nolan and Just Because in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Kathy Nolan and Just Because know each other through and through, and it was apparent Saturday when they aced the Riata Designs DIHP Adult Equitation Challenge and took the win. It was a competitive group of adult eq riders, but Nolan’s relationship with her 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding prevailed.

“I have had him since he was 2 years old,” she shared about how far back their partnership stems. “His show name is Just Because because everyone kept asking me why I bought a 2-year-old, and I kept saying, ‘just because!’ I thought that was a good show name. We’ve been partners the whole time and he’s just a super good boy.”

The course presented interesting lines and challenges that tested the riders, demanding accuracy and adjustability. Nolan answered all questions asked and was awarded the win. Nolan has excellent support at shows to guide her through classes like these, but at home she’s a bit on her own.

“It’s been amazing because I like to develop the young ones,” she said of why her relationship with Just Because is so special. “I’ve done all of it myself from the beginning. I just meet my trainers at the horse shows and I do all my homework myself. We’re a good match because we trust each other.”

Kathy Nolan and Just Because. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The duo dabbles in the hunters and the equitation, depending on the week, but lately the emphasis has been on the equitation. Nolan appreciates having the horse that can step into either ring and keep things fresh and interesting for such a long-term partnership.

“I used to do a lot of equitation when I was younger, so for him I do the [Amater-Owner] Hunters on him and the equitation medals I’ll pick and choose. These last few weeks I’ve been focusing on the eq and the medals and probably in the near future I’ll do some of the A-Os again too. He’s versatile.”

Hailing from Santa Cruz, CA, Nolan is a little far from home, but DIHP still feels like home to her because of the quality of the venue and the people she surrounds herself with.

“It’s so beautiful down here,” she said of the desert. “The weather is amazing and the facility is amazing. You just can’t beat it. The rings, the ribbons, and the people are great. You’re going to where all your friends are so it’s very social in that way. It’s just a lovely venue.”

Equitation concludes Sunday of Desert Circuit 7 with the NHS Hamel Foundation Medal, the CPHA Foundation Equitation Medal, and the CPHA Hunter Seat Medal.