Fourteen-year-old Michelle Berry made her FEI debut a memorable one. On Thursday of Desert Circuit IV, she and Mecho Van’t Kiezelhof sped to an impressive win in the $10,000 Lost Lake Farm LLC CSI2* Two Phase, claiming top honors in her first-ever international appearance.

“I was definitely a little nervous coming into my first FEI event, and it was against some pretty big riders,” Berry remarked. “But today was supposed to be a nice warmup class. I wasn’t supposed to go too fast, turn up my turbo boost all the way, but I followed my trainer’s plan and it worked out really well so I was happy with that.”

Michelle Berry (USA) and Mecho Van’t Kiezelhof. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Berry has been climbing the ranks as a young rider, taking victories in the $30,000 1.40m Open Classic against top professionals, and moving right along into international divisions. Her trusty partner, “Mike”, is teaching her the ropes after successfully competing at the top levels with elite riders including Shane Sweetnam and Kaitlin Campbell.

“He’s a special horse to me,” Berry said of the 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Echo Van’t Spieveld x Puccini). “I wouldn’t ever give him up for the world. He always knows how I’m feeling and he helps me when I’m down. When I’m not riding my best he knows how to cover up my mistakes and make it look good. He really knows what he’s doing; he’s a caretaker.”

Skylar Wireman (USA) and D-Laloma. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

But their time together isn’t just in the ring; Berry cherishes every moment she gets with Mike, further developing their relationship and helping them get to know one another. “I really love spending time with him. Just going and sitting in his stall, he really loves being all in your business. Anytime you’re opening a bag or brushing your boots off he always has to be a part of it. He has to see what you’re doing. He always pricks his ears up and is a big fan of cookies. He really loves his cookies,” she said.

In second place was Skylar Wireman (USA) with Shayne Wireman’s D-Laloma. Kate Hovland (USA) aboard Cruz and Ali Ramsay (CAN) with Conrado 12 tied for third place on the exact same time.

Kate Hovland (USA) and Cruz. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Show jumping resumes Friday at DIHP with the $7,500 Interactive Mortgage 10 & Under Futurity Series and the $15,000 Whittier Trust 6-Bar.

Final Results: $10,000 Lost Lake Farm LLC CSI2* 1.40m Two Phase

1. MECHO VAN’T KIEZELHOF: 2012 BWP gelding by Echo Van’t Spieveld x Puccini
MICHELLE BERRY (USA), Professional Maintenance Systems: 0/0/27.54

2. D-LALOMA: 2008 KWPN mare by Colandro x Quidam De Revel
SKYLAR WIREMAN (USA), Shayne Wireman: 0/0/27.56

3. CRUZ: 2009 BWP gelding by Volstrups Casillas x Lorentin
KATE HOVLAND (USA), Kate Hovland: 0/0/28.40

3. CONRADO 12: 2013 ZANG gelding by Cardento x Diarado
ALI RAMSAY (CAN), Ramsay Equestrian LLC: 0/0/28.40

5. SUN WARRIOR: 2014 gelding by Flexible x Fasolt
KAITLIN CAMPBELL (USA), Linda Starkman: 0/0/29.13

6. CITOKI: 2006 HOLST gelding by Catoki x Chambertin
SKYLAR WIREMAN (USA), Shayne Wireman: 0/0/29.20

7. CASALLANTUM: 2012 HOLST gelding by Casall x Quantum
SAVANNAH JENKINS (USA), Lavender Creek: 0/0/29.26

8. CHARDONNAY: 2011 WESTF mare by Comme Il Faut x Jus De Pomme

9. VALENTINO D’ELTE: 2009 SF gelding by Castronom Z De Hus x Windsor
VANESSA MANNIX (CAN), Vanessa Mannix: 0/0/30.92

10. ITALY HDH: 2013 KWPN gelding by Cream On Top x Numero Uno
CHANDLER MEADOWS (USA), Chandler Meadows: 0/0/30.95

11. CHICAGO: 2007 KWPN stallion by Cicero Z Van Paemel x Heartbreaker
TRACEY EPP (CAN), Tracey Epp: 0/0/32.61

12. CALIFORNIA SUNSHINE: 2013 DSP mare by Captain Z x Bollvorm’s Lauriston
SUSAN ARTES (USA), Alix Fargo: 0/0/32.93

Kaitlin Campbell Commands the Course in $30,000 FarmVet 1.45m Open Classic

Kaitlin Campbell and Palina De L’Escaut. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

When Kaitlin Campbell saunters into the ring on Palina De L’Escaut, she isn’t the obvious choice for winner to the untrained eye. But once it’s game time, it’s game over for other competitors if the mare keeps the rails up.

“You have to saunter in on Palina because if you get too much energy before the first jump, then it just unravels,” Campbell explained of Palina De L’Escaut, owned by SWS Training & Sales. “I always just walk until the buzzer goes, and then she knows she can go.”

When the buzzer sounded for Campbell’s single speed round in the $30,000 FarmVet 1.45m Open Classic Thursday afternoon, the pair knew exactly what to do. Over Alan Wade’s track, they took the top spot by using the mare’s natural foot speed and keeping their turns tidy.

Kaitlin Campbell and Palina De L’Escaut in their winning presentation, pictured with Sarah Chenoy and Sam Laurie of FarmVet. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“Palina is so fast,” Campbell explained. “She has her own speed and you can’t take that speed away. So, normally, if she leaves the jumps up, you’re going to be in the top three. I saw Karrie [Rufer] go, and she did seven down the last line. I was planning eight, but she did it quite nicely. So I stuck with my plan and changed and did the seven down the last line. I think that’s where the difference was.”

Rufer, who went in right before Campbell, ended up second with Mr. Europe, owned by Morning Star Sporthorses, while James Chawke claimed third with Gamble.

When Campbell sees that Wade is designing, she sets up Palina De L’Escaut to succeed that week. She won her very first grand prix in 2010 in Lexington, VA, with Wade building, and the success has continued pouring in over his tracks as she’s ridden them more and more.

“Alan Wade is building this week and he always does a really good job,” Campbell said, having won a National Grand Prix at DIHP in December over another course of Wade’s. “I know if I just go at her speed and do some tight turns, the lines always ride. Because her stride isn’t massive, I can always do the correct number while still going a bit forward, so I don’t have to lose my momentum slowing down to try to fit the strides in.”

The course Thursday fit them perfectly, guiding them to lead the victory gallop, which was another moment where the 14-year-old Hanoverian mare let her speed take over. “She’s won so many classes, and the [victory gallop] is her favorite part. She loves to know there aren’t any horses in front of her in the gallop. She is very offended when she’s looking at a horse ahead of her in the victory gallop,” Campbell joked.

Campbell now aims Palina at the $50,000 HorseFlight National Grand Prix Saturday night, hoping to add another victory to their resume.

Final Results: $30,000 FarmVet 1.45m Open Classic

1. Palina De L’Escaut / Kaitlin Campbell / SWS Training & Sales / 0/69.424
2. Mr. Europe / Karrie Rufer / Morning Star Sporthorses LLC / 0/71.466
3. Gamble / James Chawke / James Chawke / 0/72.446
4. Epsilon De Brenil / Leslie Thomas / Andrew Lopez / 0/74.095
5. Chess / Kyle King / The Chess Group / 0/79.714
6. Bling VD Duvelshove Z / Olivia Brown / Caroline Burke / 0/79.714
7. Stern De Folletti / Karrie Rufer / Morning Star Sporthorses LLC / 0/83.038
8. Coolio 23 / Skylar Wireman / Shayne Wireman / 4/69.534
9. McCaw MVNZ / Katie Laurie / Carissa McCall / 4/75.089
10. Capri 111 / Amy Juelsgaard / Amy Juelsgaard / 4/77.420
11. Escapado S / Ian McFarlane / Mountain View West Farm LLC / 4/77.844
12. Zella 2 / Ariel Marx / Ariel Marx / 4/79.869

St. Somewhere Finds His Place in the 3’6” Green Hunters

Kaitlin Campbell didn’t limit her victories to just the jumper ring Thursday. As hunter action resumed for Desert Circuit IV, champions were awarded for the professional hunter divisions concluding Thursday.

Kaitlin Campbell and St. Somewhere. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

In the 3’6” Green Hunter division, it was St. Somewhere, piloted by Campbell, who took the tri-color. Traci and Carleton Brooks of Balmoral Farm purchased the 7-year old gelding just last November from Jenn Serek.

“He was doing the jumpers in Canada,” Traci Brooks explained. “He was very quiet, so they thought he would be better suited as a hunter. The first time we showed him was week one here [at DIHP]. We just started him in the first-year [Green Hunters], and we knew he was really brave. He just kept getting better and better every class.”

As stunning as the horse is to look at, the Warmblood gelding won Brooks over with his gentle disposition and positive attitude. “He’s really sweet on the ground and to ride,” she said of his character. “He always has his ears forward. He understands his job and you can tell he enjoys it.”

“We would love for him to stay solid and keep improving,” Brooks remarked. “We would love to start putting him in the Junior [Hunters]. He’s so straightforward. I think he’s going to be an amazing junior/amateur horse.”

With his quick success, there is no doubt St. Somewhere has a bright future ahead as a hunter. Winning three out of five classes in the 3’6” Green Hunters during week four, the horse has proven himself capable against the toughest competition.

Hunter competition continues Friday with the $10,000 USHJA Open and Junior/Amateur Hunter Derbies, sponsored by Granite Bay Farm, and the $25,000 CWD Pro Equitation Challenge in the Main Hunter ring.