Kyle King had the last word in Saturday evening’s $50,000 Hygain Feeds National Grand Prix, and he made his words count. With Etalon, owned by Christine Maclean, he bested a six-horse jump-off stacked with speed, bringing home his first grand prix victory of the 2023 Desert Circuit.

Kyle King and Etalon. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Bernardo Costa Cabral set a track for 24 entries to contest, with top talent coming forward. Among jump-off contenders were Belgian superstar Gregory Wathelet, Australian Olympian Katie Laurie, and fellow Desert International Horse Park (DIHP) Roadrunner Kaitlin Campbell. King had an advantage, however, and that was his spot as last to go in the jump-off.

With Campbell leading aboard Armentos, owned by SWS Training & Sales, Laurie and Wathelet were then taken out of win contention with rails. King knew the time was beatable, and he also knew he could count on Etalon.

Kyle King and Etalon in their winning presentation, pictured with Andrenna Flores and David Snodgrass of Hygain Feeds. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I was going to win one way or another,” King said, after taking two consecutive second-place finishes just this week in CSI3* competition, among other top-five placings that were just shy of the top spot. “I was not going to settle for second again, third again, or fourth again. I consider this my home field, so I went in with my ears pinned.”

With his ears pinned, King sped to a time two seconds faster than Campbell’s, and with all rails intact. Campbell claimed second, while Lorcan Gallagher took third with Hunters Conlypso II. Sophia Siegel captured the EquiFit U25 Classic with Unchained 2 on a single time fault.

Kaitlin Campbell and Armentos. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I saw everybody’s strides and did the same,” King remarked on his strategy. “I was maybe a little short to the third jump, and I’m glad I got patient because I was going to get the seven to the last but on the angle [I had] that would’ve been [a risk]. I’m proud of myself for being a little patient at the end.

“Etalon is one of my longest partners,” he continued of the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Otangelo x Concorde). “He’s a great horse. We’ve had him four or five years now, we’ve won numerous grand prixs, his owners were here tonight which is really cool. Between Gregory and Kailtin, I knew I had to lay it on the line, and he came through.”

Lorcan Gallagher and Hunters Conlypso II. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The horse put in his all, but it wasn’t without the expert guidance of King, who hasn’t had the win percentage he would have liked at this point in the circuit. But with the hard work put in, he expects to push for the results from this point out.

“I like to win a lot. It’s a bit frustrating, but I’m proud of my horses,” King said. “I purposely started out a bit easy because I was injured the first three weeks. I have a back injury I’ve been fighting. I’ve been slowly getting through it while riding my horses. I wasn’t totally on my game at the beginning and I was patient with my horses; I’m really looking at the long run. This is only [Etalon’s] second week. I’ve got enough horses right now to rotate. They’ve all been answering well and now it’s time to tighten it up a little bit.”

Sophia Siegel and Unchained 2. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

As a true competitor, King has heard pieces of advice from other professionals throughout his career, but he seems to always stay true to his inner speed demon. “I have lost more classes trying to win than the other way around,” he joked. “Hap Hansen once said he won more classes trying to be second. My mentor and good friend Stuart Belkin is always trying to get me to slow down and ride for second or third and I have the hardest time doing it. It goes against my instinct. I’ve lost so many classes where I could’ve gotten a lot more money if I was a little more patient, but it’s the way I’m wired.”

Karrie Rufer Reigns Supreme in $38,700 CSI3* 1.45m Classic

Karrie Rufer (USA) vacationed in Paris in 2017 and brought home the best possible souvenir she could find: a winning grand prix horse.

“I was vacationing in Paris with a friend when Alex Duffy, who I bought my first grand prix horse from, called me,” Rufer recalled about the day she first heard about Stern Dei Folletti. “My friend and I hopped on a train at five a.m. in Paris and went to Dusseldorf and tried the horse. He was just incredible. I fell in love with him and bought him as a 6-year-old.”

Karrie Rufer (USA) and Stern Dei Folletti. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Flash forward six years and Rufer and “Stan” have accumulated quite a few victories, including in Saturday’s $38,700 Pomponio Ranch CSI3* 1.45m Classic at Desert International Horse Park (DIHP). Bernardo Costa Cabral designed an impressive course to test the international field, with only five jumping clear. Rufer and the small but mighty 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Toulon x Berlin) put in the quickest of four double-clear rounds for the top call.

Rufer knew the horse would be a stellar competitor early on. “His first show in [North America] was Spruce Meadows as a 7-year-old and he didn’t bat an eye,” she said. “He was so game for whatever you wanted him to do. I knew as a 7-year-old that he was going to be a very special horse.”

“He’s one of the only horses I’ve ever ridden who understands a jump-off,” Rufer continued about what makes the horse so special. “He knows what’s expected, and he gives every jump everything. He’s very smart.

Karrie Rufer (USA) and Stern Dei Folletti. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“He fires up in the ring,” Rufer continued. “He’s very calm; you can take him on a trail ride, ride him in a snaffle at home, then he goes in the ring and just knows. He’s got this strut and flick of the tail. He’s aware of the job and always tries to exceed my expectations.”

Rufer and Stan to the winner’s circle, while Kyle King (USA) claimed second with Chess, owned by the Chess Group. Ali Ramsay put Canada on the podium in third place with Conrado 12, owned by Ramsay Equestrian Inc.

Rufer is learning and training under Belgian show jumper Gregory Wathelet, who is also racking up wins at DIHP. “It’s great having Gregory here,” she remarked. “He’s a super help and is so knowledgeable. He takes such a detail-oriented approach. It’s great to have that caliber of rider out here on the West Coast because it raises your own expectations. You expect to do better because you have these riders going so much faster and you can learn from them.”

Show jumping concludes for Desert Circuit V with Sunday’s $145,100 Premier Equestrian CSI3* 1.55m Grand Prix.

Final Results: $50,000 Hygain Feeds National Grand Prix

1. Etalon / Kyle King / Christine MacLean / 0/0/35.911
2. Armentos / Kaitlin Campbell / SWS Training & Sales / 0/0/37.822
3. Hunters Conlypso II / Lorcan Gallagher / Lorcan Gallagher / 0/0/38.032
4. Argentina De La Marchette / Gregory Wathelet / Gregory Wathelet / 0/4/41.737
5. Monseigneur / Matt Archer / Rhys Farms, LLC / 0/8/38.576
6. Cera Caruso / Katie Laurie / Carissa McCall / 0/12/37.759
7. Unchained 2 / Sophia Siegel / Sophia Siegel / 1/85.753
8. Castelissimo / Shawn Casady / Tiffany Sullivan / 4/77.680
9. Escapado S / Ian McFarlane / Mountain View West Farm LLC / 4/78.778
10. RMF Chacco Top / Jake Endicott / Ashland Farms / 4/81.780
11. Comrado / Savannah Jenkins / Proper 12, LLC / 4/82.076
12. Tinkerbell / Elisa Broz / Elisa Broz / 4/82.609

Final Results: $38,700 Pomponio Ranch CSI3* 1.45m Classic

1. STERN DEI FOLLETTI: 2011 HOLST gelding by Toulon x Berlin
KARRIE RUFER (USA), Morning Star Sporthorses, LLC: 0/0/40.33

2. CHESS: 2011 BWP gelding by Bufero Van Het Panishof x Latano I
NICK DELLO JOIO (USA), Wembley Farms Inc.: 0/0/40.74

3. CONRADO 12: 2013 ZANG gelding by Cardento x Diarado
ALI RAMSAY (CAN), Ramsay Equestrian LLC: 0/0/41.91

4. KINGSTON: 2013 AES gelding by Ustinov x Insider
VANESSA MANNIX (USA), Vanessa Mannix: 0/0/42.22

5. JEFFREY JARDEN: 2014 KWPN gelding by Bustique x Warrant
TALI DEJONG (USA), Tali DeJong: 0/4/47.03

6. MCCAW MVNZ: 2011 NZWB gelding by Corofino II x Cassini II
KATIE LAURIE (AUS), Carissa McCall: 4/72.49

7. ZIBALOUBET Z: 2014 ZANG gelding by Zirocco Blue x Baloubet Du Rouet
MATT ARCHER (USA), Rhys Farms, LLC: 4/72.69

8. FEYON: 2010 KWPN gelding by Zazou R x Hamilton
KAITLIN CAMPBELL (USA), SWS Training & Sales: 4/74.87

9. CHAGALL DE TOSCANE: 2012 SF stallion by Norton D’Eole x Opium De Talma
LAURA HITE (USA), HF Farms LLC: 4/75.64

10. CALACAS D AUBIGNY: 2012 SF gelding by Jarnac x Notrestar Dela Nutria
ZUME GALLAHER (USA), Blue Gate Stables, LLC: 4/75.83

11. KADANS VAN DE MISPELAERE: 2010 BWP stallion by Wandor Van De Mispelaere x Lux Z
JAEHEE JEON (KOR), Brother Fortune Equestrian Ltd.: 4/76.62

12. EDITA: 2009 KWPN mare by Ukato x Clinton
ZUME GALLAHER (USA), Blue Gate Stables LLC: 8/71.97


Madison Nadolenco Triumphs in ASPCA Maclay Medal

Madison Nadolenco is a force to be reckoned with in the Grand Equitation ring here at the Desert International Horse Park (DIHP). Saturday morning proved no different when she and Dionysus took top honors in the ASPCA Maclay Medal out of 27 competitive entries.

Dionysus, also known as ‘Dino’ in the barn, seems to be a match made in heaven for Nadolenco. “I didn’t get him until December of 2022, so he’s fairly new to me,” she explained. “His first show was in California and he’s been nothing but amazing. He’s the best partner.”

Madison Nadolenco and Dionysus. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Despite the new partnership, Nadolenco and the 18-hand Holsteiner gelding have collected several equitation wins together during Desert Circuit in the Maclay, Dover/USEF Hunter Seat Medal, and Platinum Performance/USET Talent Search Medals.

“I was born and raised in the equitation,” Nadolenco reflected. “I started as young as you can. I think it is so important for the fundamental qualities of riding. The understanding of the track, pace, and everything you get from the equitation ring is amazing to have in your toolbox going into the jumper – and also hunter – ring. I am showing a hunter right now and it helps so much in so many aspects. It hones in on the skills and it rewards you when you figure it out.”

This year being her last year as a junior, Nadolenco has big goals and is looking ahead to the indoor season, including many prestigious finals at the end of the year. “I hope to qualify for Maclay [Finals], Dover [Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Finals], Capital Challenge, and maybe USET [Finals] on the East Coast,” she shared. “Ideally, I’d love to be top 25 in one of those [finals], but ultimately I want to have a nice, positive experience.”

With this win under her belt, she is well on the path to a successful Desert Circuit and final junior season.

Equitation during Desert Circuit V concludes Sunday in the Grand Equitation ring with the NHS Hamel Foundation 3’3” Medal, CPHA Foundation Equitation Medal, and the DIHP Adult Equitation Challenge.