Karrie Rufer has eased back into competition for the 2023-2024 season so far. She ended the 2023 Desert Circuit with a win in the final National Grand Prix, and she started her season as well with a win during National Sunshine Series 2, presented by Marshall & Sterling.
Her win came with a long-time partner of hers, Mr. Europe, in the $30,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic. Up against 47 total entries, Rufer and the Morning Star Sporthorses entry ended up the fastest of eight double-clear rides, claiming victory as the National Sunshine Series came to a close.
“Going early in the order I wanted to be as efficient as possible,” Rufer said, jumping off second. “Seeing Saree [Gordon-Solanki] go, she was really quite quick, so I thought I could try to beat that. I did all the leave-outs. My horse is super quick across the ground and over the fences so luckily just keeping the gallop the whole time and not really pulling on the reins worked.”
The track was designed by Colm Quinn, and rufer believed it was well suited to her 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Mr. Blue x Cassini). “It suited us because his stride is so big. If you have the options to take out strides, it does give you an advantage. He’s quite quick at turning and I always have a habit of dropping my shoulder if I want to turn, and he just follows it. It worked out really well.”
Rufer has been a force in the desert for many years, and her current string is as strong as it gets. She’s had other riders step in to help season some of the up-and-coming mounts, but she’s back in the irons on her steady partnerships, looking to take more wins this season.
“I have one of the best strings I’ve had in a very long time, everything from 6 years old to 15,” Rufer said of her horsepower. “We’re looking forward to the rest of the season and next season as well. I’ve got a new grand prix horse that jumped World Cup Finals in April. He was actually in the class and I had my friend Shawn Casady ride him today. He’s an exciting horse for me to get used to.”
It’s not just the current string of superstars she’s excited about, though. “The younger generation coming up also gives me so much to look forward to,” she said. “This is such an important facility for us on the West Coast because we have the opportunity to develop young horses here. I love bringing my young ones here.”
Rufer has her own stable at DIHP, so she calls the desert home for the winter months, carefully planning out her horses’ schedules to best suit each one. “The Major League weeks are so much fun,” she said of what she’s particularly looking forward to as the season goes on. “The atmosphere is just so exhilarating those two weeks. All the classes, from young horse classes to the grand prixs, bring something special to look forward to. Being consistent is always my goal. Hopefully we’ll keep on being consistent.”
Rufer will give her horses a well-earned break until competition resumes in late November for Desert Holiday, featuring two weeks of CSI5* and CSI2* action, including the $1,000,000 Coachella Cup Grand Prix and the $1,000,000 Major League Show Jumping Team Final, among other highlights.
Denim Schneider Rides to Onondarka Medal Final Victory
Denim Schneider had a big day in Hunter 2, taking the overall win in the Onondarka Medal Finals, sponsored by CWD, in its second running at Desert International Horse Park. For her victory, Schneider won a new CWD saddle.
Schneider, at just 13, has already spent several years advancing in the equitation. She was paired by surprise with her winning mount Diarano two years ago, and she’s learned the ropes of equitation ever since, with goals to keep moving up the levels.
“I’ve had him for about two years and we’ve grown a lot,” she said of Diarano. “I just love him so much and I couldn’t have asked for a better horse at this age and with what I do. Two years ago, one of the trainers I was riding called and said, ‘I love this horse and I think you two would be great.’ It was a surprise horse for me.”
The Onondarka Medal is special in that it allows young riders, USEF aged 12 and under, to compete against one another at a lower fence height. The final still provided its challenges, spanning three rounds and testing 30 young riders, preparing them for many medal final opportunities to come.
Schneider won both the first and third rounds, making the victory hers. “The first round I just wanted to have a clean, solid round and build confidence,” she said of her plan throughout the two days of competition. “For the third round I planned the same thing, plus I thought I’d do some inside turns and try to help get more points, but overall just aimed for three solid, good rounds.”
The equitation serves as a stellar building block for young riders to set them up for any discipline or goals they want to achieve as they grow as athletes.
“For being how young I am and competing in the equitation, I often compete against all the kids that are going to college soon,” Schneider reflected. “It’s really cool when I do well in those classes and it’s inspiring to keep going in the sport. I love doing the equitation. Jumpers is hopefully coming soon, but for now I love equitation and all you can do.”
Schneider has formed a wonderful partnership with Diarano, but she also recognizes she’ll get to ride a variety of horses if she continues this path in the equitation. “I think a good quotation horse has the rideability and is able to turn,” she said of her ideal equitation ride. “They’re easy to ride but also a challenge, to keep you on your toes. I like when they’re put together and easy to maneuver around the course and take on the challenges.”
Schneider’s trainer gave her some big-picture advice going into the final round, saying, “Just don’t be nervous, and ride like you normally do. If you don’t win it’s totally fine, this is for the future and how you ride later in life.”
As for the future, Schneider has riding goals including competing in the USET Talent Search and riding at the collegiate level, both of which she’s on the right track to achieve.