Ingrid Gjelsten (NOR) came to Desert International Horse Park with a dream, and she’s leaving a CSI4* Grand Prix winner. On the final Saturday night of the 2024 Desert Circuit, the 22-year-old took the win in the $182,000 La Quinta Resort & Club CSI4* Grand Prix with VDL Edgar M.

Over Peter Grant’s (CAN) track, rails came down and time faults accrued as the 33 entries tried their hand at an elusive clear round. Gjelsten went 28th in the order and produced the first clear. The only one to follow suit was Ali Ramsay (CAN) with Bonita VH Keizershof Z.

Going head to head in a match race jump-off, Gjelsten and Ramsay made their plans and each took their best shot at the title. Gjelsten kept a quick pace, but pulled one rail on her way, leaving the door open for Ramsay to snag a double-clear for the win. As fate intervened, Ramsay pulled the final rail on course, coming in just slower than Gjelsten, putting the Canadian in second.

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

“I was very nervous so I was trying to not go crazy,” Gjelsten said of her approach to jumping off first of the two. “My plan was to keep calm. I know Ali is very fast so I was just trying to do my plan. I was quite sure that she was going to be clear. I know my horse can do it. He is just amazing. I just need to believe in him and believe in me.”

The belief in her horse and herself was what got the task done tonight. Gjelsten has taken very significant milestone victories during her time at DIHP and the final night was the biggest victory of her career so far.

Looking down the list of starters, many thought by the time Gjelsten went there would be a handful of clear rounds she’d be up against, but she ended up being the first, but she didn’t even know it at the time.

“It was a very nice feeling,” she said of securing the first clear. “It felt amazing. I didn’t know if there was anyone else clear so I was just focusing on myself and I was very happy when I saw that I was clear. I was thinking about the time. The time was very short. I watched the first ones go and I went in my car to sit there alone. I usually go and sit by myself for a little bit to keep the nerves down.”

Mathijs Van Asten (NED) ran into a tiny bit of trouble on the clock, producing a clear but just one time fault, taking third to the two ladies on the podium.

Ingrid Gjelsten (NOR) atop the podium in her winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

VDL Edgar M, a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Arezzo VDL x Marlon) has jumped to the highest levels in the sport, and Gjelsten wants to get to that level, too. With him as her partner, and Jessica Curtain as her trainer, she feels there’s nothing she can’t do.

“He’s just amazing,” she said of VDL Edgar M. “He just wants to do the job. I really like him, he’s my best horse. He gives me so much self-belief. I feel like I can do anything with him. He’s just the best. My goal is to do the top sport and do some World Cups and just keep going.”

DIHP may have just become one of her favorite places based on the wins she’s gotten under her belt, so expect to see Gjelsten back in the Grand Prix Arena chasing more dreams in the future.

“It’s so nice,” she said of the venue. “The atmosphere is so amazing. I feel it in my horse also; he loves it. It’s very fun to ride under the lights. My favorite part about being in the desert. The show is just amazing. It’s so many nice rings here and the atmosphere and the grass field and riding under the lights is very special and very fun. I will come back for sure.”

Up next for Gjelsten is a trip back home to Europe before a tropical trip to St. Tropez to continue chasing her dreams, but now as a CSI4* Grand Prix champion.

See full results from the $182,000 La Quinta Resort & Club CSI4* Grand Prix here.

Gregory Wathelet Keeps Winning Streak Alive in $75,000 Aleron LLC Grand Prix

During Desert Circuit 2023, Gregory Wathelet couldn’t stop winning. Bringing a different string for Desert Circuit 2024, it’s taken his horses a bit to fully hit their strides, but the wins are coming in spades now that Desert Circuit 10, presented by La Quinta, is well underway. On Saturday, the Belgian took the win in the $75,000 Aleron LLC Grand Prix aboard Beau Gosse du Park as the sole clear effort.

“I must say I thought it was quite big for the National [Grand Prix],” Wathelet said of Joey Rycroft’s course. “For sure one of the biggest national grand prixs this season. It was not so technical but big fences. I didn’t expect there to be many clears, but I didn’t expect there to be only one. The time was a little tight and you need to think about it. I was lucky I was number one [to go]; I was clear and after there was no one behind me.”

Gregory Wathelet and Beau Gosse du Park. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The only other clear effort came with two time penalties from Jake Endicott and RMF Chacco Top, owned by Ashland Farms. Endicott was also the winner of the U25, sponsored by the Surrey. Wathelet also claimed third with Mr. Europe, owned by Morning Star Sporthorses, as the fastest 4-fault round.

Wathelet chose to bring Beau Gosse du Park to DIHP for a reason. He believes in the horse and he thinks competing consistently at a venue like this is what he needed to rise back to form and continue achieving at the top level.

“I think it’s a horse that can jump a five-star grand prix,” he said of the13-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Quaprice Bois Margot x Kannan). “He jumped already [the five-star] in Aachen and was clear. He has already won four-star grand prixs. It will all depend on his mind. Does he want to work with me or against me? If he’s with me he can jump bigger.”

The horse sat out for a bit recently, so Wathelet his building him back up to the level he knows he can achieve.

“I brought him here to get him back again to a good level and I think it was good for him to be here,” he said of the season at DIHP. “Even today he was clear but he was a little bit spooky at some jumps. I have to see how he will handle it in Europe when I take him to a show where he doesn’t know the place. He starts to know the place and then it’s a good experience but it’s a bit different when they have to come straight away the first day at a place they don’t know.”

Gregory Wathelet and Beau Gosse du Park in their winning presentation, pictured with Alexis Taylor of Aleron LLC. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Wathelet knows how to identify talent, and he’s proven to find superstars to add to his string or to sell off, but he knows the key is to feel when the horse is willing to work with him.

“The idea is always to try to find the best way to improve them and then to find the best level they can do,” he explained. “Some it’s for the really high level and some it’s the medium level. It depends on the horse. If you take the time and they have quality for sure they need to have the mind to work with us, if that is there then they can do big things.”

Last season, Wathelet brought a gelding named Ace Of Hearts to the desert, letting the horse jump in all kinds of atmospheres and across all levels, and just last week the horse jumped clear in the Rolex Grand Prix of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Wathelet knew the horse returned to Europe ready to rise, and he hopes for the same with Beau Gosse du Park.

“Here we are lucky to have an amazing grass arena and super sand arena, and we can swap every week,” he said of why he likes this venue for developing horses. “We don’t over jump on the same place. That’s really good for the horses and I think they can learn a lot from that. Aside, for sure the facilities with stabling and warm-ups are so good.”

Show jumping comes to an end for Desert Circuit on Sunday with the $30,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic and the $32,000 Heavy Metal Equipment CSI4* 1.45m Classic.

Imagination Lane Turns Out Strong in $25,000 Circle B and Hidden Creek Farms Grooms Class

Jose Garcia with Amore From Second Life Z. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The tireless grooms brought their best out on Saturday evening in the $25,000 Circle B and Hidden Creek Farms Grooms Class. In the end, after much consideration from judges Meghan Rawlins and Connie Dorsch, Jose Garcia from Imagination Lane ended up on top with Amore From Second Life Z, owned by Lindsay Sceats.

“This groom was paying attention to his horse the whole time standing him up,” Rawlins said of why Garcia was their pick, winning $5,000 as the top prize, plus a Yeti cooler and a belt buckle. “He presented beautifully and he was paying attention to his horse, had all of the things the rider needs for the ring and everything in his groom’s bag except the kitchen sink.”

“He really stood out,” Dorsch echoed of Garcia’s turnout. “He had a crisp, white shirt on, and he made sure that he was paying attention to his horse. Some of the other grooms were not as attentive and really, it’s a showmanship class. He took an early lead.”

The second-place groom was also from Imagination Lane, Nester Mendoza who brought forth Tic Tac Toe, owned by Amy Bean. The top 10 grooms each took a cut of the prize money, and nearly the entire park came out in support.

“It amazed me how many entries there were and how much prize money there was,” Dorsch continued.

“I love the appreciation shown for the grooms because they’re such a huge part of our industry,” Rawlins concluded. “Without them, we just couldn’t function, so it’s very important. I love that we honor the grooms and this is a very important class.”