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

Lorcan Gallagher has spent quite a bit of time in the desert this season chasing down a win. During Desert Circuit VI, with his longtime partner Hunters Conlypso II, he finally got the victory he’s been eyeing all season long.

The $50,000 Whittier Trust National Grand Prix wasn’t handed to him, either. Over Alan Wade’s first-round course, Gallagher was one of only two pairs to jump clear out of 35 starters, with rails falling all throughout the course and presenting quite a challenge to get out scot-free. Robert Blanchette and Chardonnay, owned by RTS LLC, were the first to jump clear, followed eventually by Gallagher close to the end of the order.

Lorcan Gallagher and Hunters Conlypso II in their winning presentation, pictured with Andre Van Niekerk, Carol Egan, and Jim Egan of Whittier Trust. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“You never know walking [Wade’s] courses; you think they’re easy but he always has little tricks here and there,” Gallagher shared regarding the small number of clear rounds. “A couple people had time faults and there were a few cheap rails; this vertical by the in gate caused a few problems. I think a lot of people rushed for the time allowed and that’s why they had rails.”

Returning for the jump-off, Blanchette had two rails down, meaning Gallagher just had to go for the double-clear, knowing he had a rail in hand. He jumped home penalty free, securing the win. Blanchette took second while Conor Swail ended up third with one time fault aboard Casturano, making for an all-Irish podium.

“With only two in the jump-off, luckily I was second of the two,” Gallagher explained of his tactic for the short course, a familiar position for him in this very Grand Prix Arena. “That happened last year; there were only two and I went first and I was beaten. Unfortunately for Robert, he had two down and that made my job pretty easy. I just rode it again like it was a first round and I didn’t have to take any risks.”

Robert Blanchette and Chardonnay. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The partnership proved successful Saturday under the lights, but it’s not the duo’s first rodeo. “I’ve had him for six years now,” Gallagher said of Hunters Conlypso II. “He’s had his little injuries here and there but it’s great to have him back at this level; he’s super consistent. Every grand prix here Saturday night he’s placed. Every day I get to compete him here I feel very lucky.”

With his name in the hat for the $100,000 National Grand Prix Rider Bonus, Gallagher is rethinking his winter plan. “It’s great here at Desert Horse Park to have these Saturday night classes,” he remarked. “It’s good prize money. I’m meant to leave on Monday but now with the bonus I might have to look at the schedule.”

Conor Swail and Casturano. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

At 15 this year, the Hanoverian gelding (Contendro x Calypso II) still shows every bit of his personality. “He’s hilarious; We joke in the barn that he’s more like a dog than a horse,” Gallagher said. “He’s a little spoiled; he gets to do what he wants. Between classes he doesn’t work too strenuously anymore. Naturally he’s a very fit horse. I try to take it easy with him day to day. But he’s an absolute character. In the prizegiving I’m getting run away with after jumping two rounds; he’s ready to go again for a third.”

It seemed like an Irish takeover of DIHP, with an all-Irish podium and an Irish course designer. While still a competitive sport, Gallagher and Swail are the first to support one another in and outside of the ring.

“We travel to the same shows week in and week out, especially myself and Conor,” Gallagher remarked. “We’re all close friends so it’s great to all be up there as friends. Conor is obviously one of the best. I aspire to be in his shoes one day. When he wins, I’d be the first to congratulate him and in the [warm-up] he was one of the first to congratulate me. It’s more intense on the golf course than it is here in the ring.”

Elisa Broz was presented with a custom blanket from The Surrey for her U25 win. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Elisa Broz and Tinkerbell were named the EquiFit U25 champions and were awarded a custom blanket from The Surrey.

Swail and Gallagher’s competitive edge never rests; they both take the redeye back to Florida Sunday night so they can make a tee time together Monday.

Final Results: $50,000 Whittier Trust National Grand Prix

1. Hunters Conlypso II / Lorcan Gallagher / Lorcan Gallagher / 0/0/46.331
2. Chardonnay / Robert Blanchette / RTS Holdings LLC / 0/8/39.068
3. Casturano / Conor Swail / Conor Swail / 1/80.83
4. CMS Garadice Shore / Karianne Boyce-Lockhart / Karianne Boyce-Lockhart / 2/81.7
5. Tinkerbell / Elisa Broz / Elisa Broz / 4/74.699
6. Castelissimo / Shawn Casady / Tiffany Sullivan / 4/76.638
7. Feyon / Kaitlin Campbell / SWS Training & Sales / 4/76.879
8. Odysseus / Kyle King / Patricia Vasey / 4/76.273
9. Cooper / Simonne Berg / Berg Equestrian Enterprises LLC / 4/77.864
10. Palina De L’Escaut / Kaitlin Campbell / SWS Training & Sales / 4/78.113
11. Cerolino / Kyle King / Strasburg Morin Inc. / 4/78.883
12. Comrado / Savannah Jenkins / Proper 12, LLC / 4/79.6

Conor Swail’s Stroke of Genius Secures the Win in $38,700 CSI4* 1.45m Classic

Conor Swail (IRL) and Theo 160. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Between the Grand Prix arena and the golf course, Conor Swail (IRL) has been on top form in the desert. After finishing second in Friday night’s $145,100 CSI4* Welcome Prix with Theo 160, Swail and the 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Christian 25 x Calando IV) took the win in Saturday’s $38,700 Pomponio Ranch CSI4* 1.45m Classic with a time of 32.91 seconds.

“Theo had a good result last night under the lights, so today was a more comfortable course for him after what he had done,” Swail explained. “The first round was pretty solid and the jump-off I was very happy with. I was very tight back to the second jump. I also got a very good turn back to the double combination. I saw one very early and he picked up beautifully. I was very happy with the round. I thought it was going to take a very good round to beat it.”

Nine pairs advanced to the jump-off after navigating Alan Wade’s (IRL) track clear, but no one could catch Swail’s early lead. Katie Laurie (AUS) and McCaw MVNZ, owned by Carissa McCall, finished second with a time of 33.65 seconds, and Matt Archer (USA) with Zibaloubet Z, owned by Rys Farms, LLC, landed in third with a time of 36.27 seconds.

Conor Swail (IRL) and Theo 160 in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The Irishman is currently ranked fifth in the Longines FEI World Rankings, and has held a spot within the top ten for an impressive stretch of time. “I’ve been very consistent since I’ve been up in the top ten,” he remarked. “I have a good group of horses and they’re very well managed; I have a good team at the moment and we’re doing a lot of things right. I think that’s the reason for the continued success.”

In addition to his success at DIHP, Swail is one of the few riders traveling between winter circuits in Florida and California.

“It’s going really well for me,” he commented. “It’s a beautiful place [at DIHP] for the horses. I am competing four or five horses here. I don’t really understand why more people aren’t doing what I’m doing. It’s a great facility, the footing is fantastic, the hospitality is super, and the weather is great, golf is great. It’s a better place here to build up your horses.”

Swail demonstrates incredible balance and horsemanship in the saddle, which he attributes to riding and breaking young and unpredictable horses in his younger years.

“When something quick happens, you have to put yourself in the center,” he explained. “It’s more of an instinct thing but I always try to sit up and give them an opportunity to stay on their four feet. I make a lot of unusual moves; I don’t know whether they’re necessary sometimes. I seem to feel they are at the time, so why change it when I could just stick with it at this stage.”

Swail hasn’t just been competitive in the show ring, however. He has made the most of his days in the desert and frequents the local golf courses. “I got a game [of golf] yesterday actually,” Swail laughed. “I showed in the morning [on Friday] and got a game between that class and the night class.”

FEI competition concludes for Desert Circuit VI on Sunday with the $226,000 CSI4* Adequan Grand Prix.

Final Results: $38,700 Pomponio Ranch CSI4* 1.45m Classic

1. THEO 160: 2012 HOLST gelding by Christian 25 x Calando IV
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Team Philippaerts: 0/0/32.91

2. MCCAW MVNZ: 2011 NZWB gelding by Corofino II x Cassini II
KATIE LAURIE (AUS), Carissa McCall: 0/0/33.65

3. ZIBALOUBET Z: 2014 ZANG gelding by Zirocco Blue x Baloubet Du Rouet
MATT ARCHER (USA), Rhys Farms, LLC: 0/0/36.27

4.LONDONS DE MUZE: 2014 OS stallion by London x Conthargos
UMA O’NEILL (NZL), O’Neill Showjumping LLC: 0/0/36.99

5. STERN DEI FOLLETTI: 2011 HOLST gelding by Toulon x Berlin
KARRIE RUFER (USA), Morning Star Sporthorses, LLC: 0/4/33.88

6. NADALE VAN DORPERHEIDE: 2013 BWP gelding by Zilverstar T x Winningmood
CASSIO RIVETTI (BRA), Ilan Ferder: 0/4/35.22

7. CARMELA Z: 2011 ZANG mare by Candillo 3 x Nissan Caretano Z
VANESSA MANNIX (CAN), Vanessa Mannix: 0/4/36.38

8. ZAMIA 3: 2007 HOLST mare by Aljano 2 x Dream Of Glory
CHANDLER MEADOWS (USA), Chandler Meadows: 0/8/37.27

9. CHICAGO CM: 2013 HOLST gelding by Cassini x Carpaccio
ERIC KRAWITT (CAN), Eric Krawitt: 0/14/47.54

10. DOTCOM D’ATHUIT: 2013 SF mare by Diamant de Semilly x Quidam de Revel
NATALIE DEAN (USA), Marigold Sporthorses LLC: 4/66.58

11. CALYPSO DE BLONDEL: 2012 SF gelding by Lauterbach x Kassidi
ERYNN BALLARD (CAN), Ilan Ferder: 4/70.01

12. GRANDEUR WP: 2011 KWPN gelding by Whistler x Vainqueur
BRETTON CHAD (CAN), Stone Ridge Farms LLC: 4/73.64

Michael Williamson and Avery Glynn Team Up to Win barnstyle Pro-Am Equitation Classic

Michael Williamson and Avery Glynn in their winning presentation, pictured with Cynthia Krantz of barnstyle. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Pros and Amateurs had another opportunity to team up on Saturday in the inaugural barnstyle Pro-Am Equitation Classic. Out of nine teams, it was Michael Williamson and Avery Glynn who took top honors with a total score of 172.

The first round, a gymnastics course, was jumped by the professional rider followed by a classic equitation-style course that was jumped by the junior/amateur rider. Each rider received an individual score for their respective courses to total the final score for the team.

“I thought it would be a fun opportunity,” Glynn commented on why she chose to compete in the class. “It’s a class we don’t usually do at the shows, so I was thinking of who I could do it with. I asked Michael yesterday to do it with me so I’m happy it all worked out.”

Glynn had ridden both the team’s horses during Desert Circuit VI, one of which with the guidance of Williamson on the ground providing training tips. Glynn piloted Ashland Farms’ Ballentine’s F while Williamson rode Conners Boy, owned by Lori Johnston.

A team format is rare in the equitation world, outside of the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) and Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) for collegiate equestrians.

“It adds a little pressure because you want to do well for your teammate, but it’s also fun because it’s not just one person,” Williamson shared. “You walk the course together, and it’s fun to do something as a team. It’s different. It adds more pressure but it’s definitely more fun.”

As an equitation star in her final junior year, Glynn was excited to do something new. “Doing something different is good for you. I like being on a team because you put so much pressure on yourself, but then you have pressure to do well for someone else now,” she echoed.


Weekend Win for Sunday Styles and Christina Smith

Christina Smith and Sunday Styles. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Sunday Styles was aptly named for his weekend warrior amateur pilot, Christina Smith, but his excellence played out a day early, taking the win in the $10,000 Tucci 3’3” Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic Saturday morning at Desert International Horse Park (DIHP).

“We imported him from Europe off of a video; Jett Martin helped me find him actually,” Smith explained. “I’ve never bought a horse off of video without trying it, so I was really nervous. He came in and he’s been great. He’s super fun.”

With dual scores of 83, Smith clinched the win with her 10-year-old Westphalian gelding, finishing on a score of 166.

Smith has more than enough talent in Sunday Styles to jump anything she’d like, though she has only plans for the 3’3” fence height this year, hoping to qualify for indoors on the East Coast in the fall. “With his scope, I feel like I could jump the moon. I don’t want to jump that high, but I feel like I could!” she laughed. “I know he can get me out of any situation. He’s been really fun to get to know, and I can’t wait for the rest of the year.

“He’s a little bit of a newer horse for me, so I feel like I’m still figuring him out,” she continued. “He’s starting to get used to doing the three rounds. He’s just building his endurance and getting used to the third round. I think we were able to do that well today. He was super. His rideability was awesome this whole weekend. I think I’m one step closer to knowing him as well as I know [Chancellor], who I’ve had for seven years.”

Sunday Styles was awarded championship honors for the 3’3” Amateur-Owner division, while Chancellor took the reserve championship, making for a stellar Saturday for Smith.

Finishing week six on a high note, Smith and her team are looking forward to a few days’ worth of rest during the second off-week of Desert Circuit. “On the off weeks, for me, it’s even better than the show weeks because it’s calm and peaceful,” she said. Everybody’s always in a good mood. I go out onto the trails with my horses; I love the trail system. And the sun is always out. My horses all love it here.”

Hunter competition concludes Sunday with Junior Hunter championships and classics.