Thermal, Calif. – Jan. 23, 2022 – The final hunter highlight event of Desert Circuit I, the Child/Adult Hunt & Go Derby 2’6”-2’9”, sponsored by G2 Insurance, took place on Sunday in Hunter 4. Thirty entries came forward to contest the single-round class, but ultimately it was Leila Palestrant and Elevation who emerged victorious on a total score of 171. Second place in the class went to Megan Sweeney and Lina Gruber’s Lemba Z, while Natalie Rae Medlock and Bourbon rounded out the top three.

Leila Palestrant and Elevation. Photo by ESI Photography

The course, designed by Kevin Holowack, presented 10 jumping efforts, with fences one through six serving as the first round score, and fences seven through 10 serving as the handy round score, featuring a trot jump at fence nine and a high option at fence 10 for one bonus point. The handy portion of the round offered rollback turns and opportunities to turn tightly and show off the horses’ handy abilities before a long gallop to the final fence. 

Palestrant piloted the 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding to a beautiful and flowing first round, meeting each jump out of stride and keeping a steady rhythm all the way around Hunter 4. Riders had to switch into handy mode very quickly with no break between rounds, and Palestrant effortlessly changed her game plan as she approached each of the final fences, keeping her smooth and consistent pace but taking shorter approaches to fences seven and eight, showing off Elevation’s flashy trot to fence nine, and opening up the gelding’s stride to the high option at fence 10 for a bonus point.

Palestrant has been showing Elevation since October 2021 and now competes in the Junior Hunter 3’3” Division with the gelding. The pair took home a win in the under saddle this weekend at Desert Circuit I. 

Martha Price and Leviosa PT. Photo by ESI Photography

Taking place simultaneously in Hunter 5 was the Child/Adult Hunt & Go Derby 2’-2’3″, sponsored by Struck Apparel. Set in a similar fashion, the course offered 10 jumping efforts with a trot jump at fence seven and a high option at fence 10. Leviosa PT and Martha Price took top honors with a score of 165 after laying down a smooth and flowing round to propel them to the top.

Hunter highlights during Desert Circuit II include the $5,000 USHJA National Hunt & Go Derby, the $15,000 USHJA International Hunt & Go Derby, and the $1000 DIHP U/25 International Hunter Derby Series.


Leila Palestrant – Winner, 2’9” Hunter Derby, Sponsored by G2 Insurance

On the round:
“I’ve been doing the 3’3 Juniors this past Friday through Saturday, so going into the derby, I just wanted to go in confident and happy and just be happy to do it. Then just go in calm and chill, and just have every jump come up to me.”

On Elevation:
“Vinny, or Elevation, is absolutely incredible. I love him to death. He’s the sweetest in the barn. Over fences he takes anything I give him, any distance, he makes it look amazing. So I thank my lucky stars for him everyday.” 

On the 2’9 Derby class:
“It’s so nice because they’re not Internationals or Nationals, but they’re derbies, and you can go in there and have fun and compete with a bunch of other amazing people and have some fun.”

“This is by far my favorite horse show. I love coming here. It’s my favorite place.”


2’9” Hunter Derby, Sponsored by G2 Insurance
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Score

  1. Elevation / Leila Palestrant / Leila Palestrant / 171
  2. Lemba Z / Megan Sweeney / Lina Gruber / 169.5
  3. Bourbon / Natalie Rae Medlock / Natalie Rae Medlock / 169
  4. Sligo / Natalie Rae Medlock / Natalie Rae Medlock / 168
  5. How Sweet It Is / Christine Mccormack / Sierra Geisler / 166
  6. Hanky Panky / Romi Skolink / Romi Skolink / 164.5
  7. Natan / Lucia Botham / Aurora Farms, LLC / 162
  8. Wellington / Christine Mccormack / Christine Mccormack / 161
  9. Checkmate / Justice Delhagen / Kelsey Williams / 160
  10. Quintessence / Lily Stewart / Lily Stewart / 157

2’3” Hunter Derby, Sponsored by Struck Apparel
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Score

  1. Levisoa PT / Martha Price / Martha Price / 165
  2. Gucci St. Anne / Caylin Garnett / Lynne Maclean / 164
  3. Farmore Royal Gala / Maclean Sennhenn / Lynne Maclean / 160
  4. Ringo / Ripley Ehrlich / Kathy Megla / 159
  5. Coolman / Caroline Ebenhack / Georgy Maskrey-Segesman / 158
  6. Whiskey Business / Lorena Christie / Lorena Christie / 157
  7. Unscripted / Bella Moretti / Taylor Piecukonis / 151
  8. Zelano / Elizabeth Spraker / Laila Klinsmann / 147
  9. Fiorella / Paige Okerstrom / Paige Okerstrom / 146
  10. Picturesque Best Dressed / Abby Wittie / Abby Wittie / 140