Michelle Berry braided a variety of “good luck” charms into Mecho Van’t Kiezelhof’s mane for the $30,000 1.40m Adeptus Open Classic Sunday afternoon of National Sunshine Series II. Considering she won the class last week, she may not have needed too much extra luck, but the charms served their purpose as she took a repeat victory in the same class this week.

“The charms in his mane are my good luck charms,” said the 13-year-old. “I got them this week and won the Open 1.40m this week and these are the only two classes I’ve done. I really thought these were good luck so I wanted to put them in his mane again.”

Michelle Berry and Mecho Van’t Kiezelhof. Photo by ESI Photography

The charms – and the rider’s competitive nature – guided the duo around Manuel Esparza’s first-round track as one of 17 clear rounds of the starting 51 entries. Berry and the 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Echo Van’t Spieveld x Puccini) were among the first to return for the jump-off, and none of the remaining combinations could catch her extremely quick time of 39.179 seconds.

Alec Lawler gave it his best shot aboard quick-footed For Gold, but came up just short in 40.507 seconds and the red rosette. Eric Navet and Signe Otsby’s Coachella 4 rounded out the top three in 42.234 seconds.

Michelle Berry and Mecho Van’t Kiezelhof. Photo by ESI Photography

Despite the laundry list of top professional athletes on the roster, for Berry, the steepest competition in the class today was herself. “I definitely had to make sure I wasn’t competing against myself; that’s what I do a lot,” she explained. “I get stuck in my mind thinking about going fast. My strategy was to not get too quick to the combination and really run through the last line and sit up for the last jump. From the four-stride to the combination the goal was to not get too forward.”

Now that she has won two Sunday 1.40m Classics, plus additional 1.40m action, Berry is in the running for the $50,000 Open 1.40m Rider Bonus to be awarded at the close of the season. But she has her sights set on even bigger competition in the coming months.

Alec Lawler and For Gold. Photo by ESI Photography

“I definitely want to do the grand prixs with him,” Berry said about her goals. “I think I can move up to 1.50m eventually but right now we’re really consistent so I want to stick to 1.45m.”

The partnership is still evolving, but Berry knows she’s met her match. “My horse, Mike, has the biggest personality. I love him so much. He’s such a goofball. He loves his cookies and he knows every time he comes out of the ring when he did well and jumped clean, which is the majority of the time unless I make a rider mistake,” she shared.

Brooke O’Malley and Calvandani Z in their winning presentation. Photo by ESI Photography

Berry will return in December for more action at DIHP during Desert Holiday, which features CSI5* and CSI2* show jumping. She has her heart set on jumping her first national grand prix during Desert Holiday with Mecho Van’t Kiezelhof, but regardless of the outcome, she enjoys her time competing in the desert. “I love the horse park,” she concluded. “I love the variety of jumps they have and the arenas are very wide. The footing is great. I love the property and all the trails back there.”The National Sunshine Series concluded in the Grand Prix Arena with the $10,000 Devoucoux Open 1.35m Classic, which was won by Mariano Maggi and Jesse Jia’s Zuperman MT. Ian McFarlane and Daytona, owned by Arwen Stables, claimed second while Chloe Kuang and Kalea 8 rounded out the top three.

Final Results: $10,000 1.35m Open Classic
Horse / Rider / Owner / Faults/Time

1. Mecho Van’t Kiezelhof / Michelle Berry / Professional Maintenance Systems / 0/0/39.179
2. For Gold / Alec Lawler / Alec Lawler / 0/0/40.507
3. Coachella 4 / Eric Navet / Signe Otsby / 0/0/42.234
4. Bemol Des Champs / Luis Goncalves / Sigma Stables LLC / 0/0/42.592
5. Vertige De Galarzacs / Karrie Rufer / Morning Star Sporthorses LLC / 0/0/43.351
6. Vulcana / Delaney Batter / Delaney Batter / 0/0/43.364
7. Zamia 3 / Chandler Meadows / Chandler Meadows / 0/0/44.400
8. Dorado / Darrin Dlin / Jacqueline Patmore / 0/0/44.687
9. Bisou / Keri Potter / Tres Palomas / 0/4/40.871
10. Epic Air / Lane Clarke / Lighthouse Farms LLC / 0/4/41.664
11. Javas Miss Jordan / Nicky Galligan / Nicky Galligan / 0/4/42.132
12. Jubel ES / Bruno Diniz Das Neves / Mirasol Equestrian, LLC / 0/4/42.590

Dreams Come True for Brooke O’Malley in Onondarka Medal Final

When Brooke O’Malley started training with Meadow Grove Farm, she told them her goal was to win the Onondarka Medal Final. In her last year of eligibility, she made that dream a reality.

“The whole year we’ve been doing the Onondarka qualifiers so when I got to the Final I knew it was my last year to win it, and it ended up quite well,” said the newly 13-year-old from Pacific Palisades, CA. “As I got older and had more experience I realized it was possible, and my friend had won it too a couple years ago so I wanted to win just like her.”

Brooke O’Malley and Calvandani Z in their winning presentation. Photo by ESI Photography

2022 marks the 60th year for the Onondarka Medal Final, open to riders of USEF age 12 and under. The event is renowned for identifying talent at a young age and providing a stage for young riders to shine. Saturday welcomed 28 riders to contest round one of the Final, with all 28 returning for round two first thing Sunday morning.

At the close of round two, 12 pairs were selected to return for a third jumping round. The field was then condensed to the top eight, who each tried their hand at a final work-off to determine overall placings. At the conclusion of the test, O’Malley was named the winner. Reserve championship honors went to Nico Alario and Middlepath Farm LLS’s Sporting Chance. Third place was awarded to Emma Brand and Ned Glynn’s Cocon 4.

“The first day was probably the hardest course,” said O’Malley, who put in a strong performance for third place in the first round. “He was good but he had a lot of energy. Today he felt very nice and he was a little tired at the end, but in the work-off I just carried him along and started with a good pace. I think that’s what helped us win it.”

O’Malley brought forth her partner Calvandani Z, a ride she’s had for the past year and a horse owned by Madison Sanders. “I know him pretty well and I know the leads he likes to land which really helps,” she said of her mount. “I really like these medals so I’m hoping to go to the THIS Final this coming year and start qualifying for that, and also the USHJA Jumping Seat Medal.”

The seventh grader loves spending her time at DIHP, as does Calvandani Z. “This is probably my favorite show,” she said. “It’s so big and there’s so much grass. It’s where he’s happiest because he knows we’re here. He knows all the rings well and is never spooky. He knows what he’s doing and makes me more comfortable because he says, ‘I got you.’”

Final Results: Onondarka Medal Final
Horse / Rider / Owner

1. Calvandani Z / Brooke O’Malley / Madison Sanders
2. Sporting Chance / Nico Alario / Middlepath Farm LLC
3. Cocon 4 / Emma Brand / Ned Glynn
4. Chicago / Brooke Condren / Noteworthy Horses
5. On Point / Ripley Ehrlich / Jill Hamilton
6. All In Favor / Anika Phillips / Anika Phillips
7. Lemba Z / Megan Sweeney / Megan Sweeney
8. Go / Madison Wiener / Madison Wiener