Thirteen years old is not the age when most junior riders find themselves winning open classes against the best professionals on the West Coast, but that’s exactly what 13-year-old Michelle Berry did Sunday morning in the $30,000 Brown Advisory Open 1.40m Classic.

Aboard the Professional Maintenance Systems entry Mecho Van’t Kiezelhof, a ride she acquired over the summer, the young athlete bested 58 professional, junior, and amateur entries with the fastest time in the jump-off class for the win.

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

“It felt incredible,” Berry said of her win. “I had no expectations today as I was in an open classic against amazing riders. I was definitely worried about Luis Sabino, Eric Navet, Cassio [Rivetti], and Elisa [Broz]; they’re really good riders. I was just hoping for the best.”

The best was what she put forward and it was plenty. Jumping 40th in the order, she navigated a clear round with the 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Echo Van’t Spieveld x Puccini), then secured a jump-off time of 28.702 seconds, unseating leader at the time Broz with Tinkerbell, who ultimately took second place in 29.025 seconds. Navet claimed third with Signe Otsby’s Cadillac Jack in 30.063 seconds.

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

“His barn name is ‘Mike’ but we call him ‘Michael,’” she remarked about her winning mount, a horse she acquired from Kaitlin Campbell and Shane Sweetnam. “He’s really an amazing horse. He’s so fast and he tries his heart out every single time he goes in the ring. Any distance I’m unsure of he really helps me cover it up and helps me jump the fence perfectly, so if you’re deep he backs himself up and helps us clear it. He’s really awesome.”

Many of the athletes in Sunday’s class had several mounts, including Broz who scored all three rides in the top 12, but for Berry, she only had one shot. She made it count, partly due to the expert training she had on the ground in Everardo Hegewisch.

Elisa Broz and Tinkerbell. Photo by ESI Photography

“I’ve been training with him since I was 9. He’s really helped me through the sport and he’s an amazing trainer,” Berry said.

Berry, of San Diego, CA, has attended Desert International Horse Park for the majority of her years in life so far. “I first came here a long time ago, and the improvements here are amazing,” she shared. “I love the grass field and the VIP. My favorite part of showing here is definitely the arenas. I love the [Grand Prix] Arena. It’s super fun to ride in, it’s so competitive here, and it provides really nice competition.”

With plans to stay the remainder of the season at DIHP, Berry has her sights set on jumping a grand prix before the end of the USEF calendar year. Fortunately for her, DIHP is jam-packed with grand prix action from the National level to FEI, so her options are wide to cross the bucket-list item off before she turns 14.

Eric Navet and Cadillac Jack. Photo by ESI Photography

National Sunshine Series week two kicks off in the Grand Prix Arena Wednesday, November 9, with the $10,000 Run A Mok 1.35m Welcome Speed.

Final Results: $30,000 Brown Advisory 1.40m Open Classic

1. Mecho Van’t Kiezelhof / Michelle Berry / Professional Maintenance Systems / 0/0/28.702
2. Tinkerbell / Elisa Broz / Elisa Broz / 0/0/29.025
3. Cadillac Jack / Eric Navet / Signe Otsby / 0/0/30.063
4. Cristal De Menardiere / Cassio Rivetti / Mavis Spencer / 0/0/30.079
5. Tizian 79 / Eric Navet / Signe Otsby / 0/0/30.910
6. Volstrups Cody / Elisa Broz / Constance Broz / 0/0/31.139
7. Zamia / Chandler Meadows / Chandler Meadows / 0/0/33.438
8. Chico Ask / Johanna Siefert / Jill Davidson-Rupp / 0/0/33.564
9. Hercule VH End House / Caroline Lynn / C & M Partnership LLC /
10. Charlie Red Wine CS / Simon Schroeder / Morris Simchowitz / 2/80.369
11. Castros / Meredith Ellis / Meredith Ellis / 2/80.776
12. Crispo R / Elisa Broz / Elisa Broz / 3/81.152

Rose Blooms in 3’6” Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic

Long-term partnerships seem to be a trend in both the hunter and jumper rings during National Sunshine Series I. To conclude 3’6” Amateur-Owner Hunter action Sunday, Sybil Rose and Ciacolini topped the $5,000 Marshall and Sterling 3’6” Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic. Partners for the past six years, Rose and Ciacolini know each other through and through, further solidifying their partnership in the desert.

Sybil Rose and Ciacolini. Photo by ESI Photography

“I bought him as a 5-year-old and he’s 11 now so it’s been a long term partnership,” Rose said of Homestead Lane Farm’s German Sporthorse gelding by Ciaco’s Son. “He’s really just an incredible jumper and wants to put out the best performance he can. He can be a challenging horse so I really am working hard out there, so it’s always rewarding when it comes together.”

Her hard work paid off as she was awarded an 84 in the first round followed by an 85 in the second giving her a total of 169 and the win.

“We’re so excited to be back here,” Rose continued. “The facility looks incredible. I actually brought my parents here and they hadn’t been here in years. They were just shocked at the difference that’s been made and we obviously appreciate it so much as riders. I’m very happy to be here.”

Lindsey Guillory and Outspoken. Photo by ESI Photography

Rose and Ciacolini are looking forward to the second week of the National Sunshine Series and have their sights set on Desert Circuit 2023.

Earlier Sunday morning, hunter derby riders took to the Brookway Stables 2’-2’3” and 2’6”-2’9” Child/Adult Hunter Derbies. Katherine Funk and Valentino earned impressive scores of 88 and 90 to seal the deal in the Brookway Stables 2’6”-2’9” Child/Adult Hunter Derby out of 30 entries. Lindsey Guillory took top call in the Brookway Stables 2’-2’3” Child/Adult Hunter Derby aboard her own Outspoken.

Katherine Funk and Valentino. Photo by ESI Photography

National Sunshine Series week two kicks off Wednesday, November 9, with professional hunter divisions. The week has exciting events in store, including CPHA Style of Riding Finals, USEF/NCEA Junior Medal Finals, and much more.