It’s been an action-packed fifth week of competition at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival in Traverse City, Michigan. Here’s a round-up of who won what!

Kelsey Wickham and Pick Six Capture Back-to-Back Championships in Professional Hunter Divisions

August 11, 2016 – Kelsey Wickham and Pick Six dominated the second day of professional hunter divisions during the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival Week Five. After setting a strong lead in the Conformation Hunters on Wednesday, Wickham returned to the R.L. Polk Family Main Hunter Ring to not only take home the Conformation Hunter Championship, but also the Green Working Hunter rosette.

“It was a really good second day, and a really good week,” Wickham smiled. “Today, he felt amazing. He walked into the ring and he was so loose and relaxed—I honestly didn’t do anything. He was perfect—he was dead on, so straight, and everything was right out of his canter stride today.”

Wickham and Bandit, as Pick Six is more commonly known around the barn, nearly made a clean sweep of the hunter division, earning the first place finish in every over fences class, as well as the under saddle. It was only the model that the duo narrowly missed, with Catango V, owned by Samantha Gajoch, and shown by Jennifer Nadalin, taking the first place finish, and eventually the reserve championship.

Nadalin said, “We just moved him back up to the Conformation Hunters last week. He is great—super reliable and always does his job. He felt really good both days, he is really honest and really brave.”

His owner Gojach said, “Catango is a love bug, he loves attention. He wants to be in your lap all the time, and he is very nosy. He also loves to be scratched, when I get nervous before I go into the ring on him, I sit there and scratch his neck. We have had him for about two and a half years. We are going to show in the Amateur-Owner Hunters this week, I am excited to get back in the ring and show in the division again.”

Wickham laughed, “We aren’t the best model horse, it’s not our forte. We honestly do the division so that he has two divisions to do, gets practice over the 3’6”, and then is prepared for his next job. We have been doing both, but he has been really successful in the Conformation, so we have kept competing in it.”

The pair currently has their sights set on Harrisburg in the fall for the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. They have been working diligently to qualify for the indoor final, and Week Five of GLEF, sealed the deal with their championship win.

“Today helped a lot with the points to qualify for Harrisburg,” Wickham said. “It was the last week to qualify, so getting the championship this week was very helpful.”

Wickham also clinched the championship tricolor in the Green Working Hunters, where she and Bandit rounded out the two days with the first and second place finishes over fences, as well as the second place in the under saddle. Hillary Johnson and Moonwalk, owned by Copper Fox LLC, concluded the division with the reserve championship, after taking the win in the under saddle, as well as two third place ribbons for their efforts over fences.

Johnson returned to the ring for the Performance Hunters, putting in two phenomenal over fences rounds with Rogelio, owned by Cole Battershall, to clinch the championship with the first and second place awards over fences.

The 12-year-old gelding rose to the occasion on the second day, “He felt great, and ready to go for his kid this week,” Johnson said. “Cole will be back this weekend for the juniors, and I don’t always show him, but we wanted to give him a little tune up.”

The reserve championship was awarded to Alise Oken and Cavalia, owned by Hi Hopes Farm, LLC, who captured the first place in the handy on Wednesday and returned to take the first and third place finishes over fences on Thursday. Johnson is now aiming to compete in the $2,500 Glory Days Farm, LLC USHJA National Hunter Derby on Sunday with two mounts.

“Last year, I had a whole bunch of horses for the derby, and I have a Pre-Green that is on the verge of being ready,” Johnson said. “It gives them something to do other than their Pre-Green division, and is a good ladder up to the International Hunter Derbies. We tend to pick really brave horses, and the National Hunter Derbies help to keep them brave and focused.”

The Pre-Green horse to which Johnson spoke of was none other than the Treesdale Pre-Green Hunter Reserve Champion, Vienna, owned by Altair Farms. The pair also secured the first place in the $1,000 Treesdale Farms USHJA Pre-Green Hunter Incentive Stake. The champion of the Treesdale Pre-Green Hunters was Maggie Gould and Karoleena, owned by Christy Powell. 021957Kelsey Wickham and Pick Six. Photo: Kendall Bierer/Phelps Media Group.

Leah DeMartini and Mattias Tromp Lead Highlighted Jumper Classes

Aug. 11, 2016 – The High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers and the 1.35m Open Jumpers highlighted Thursday’s jumper competition in the Grand Prix Ring at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF). Leah DeMartini of Elm Rock LLC and Mattias Tromp of Beyaert Farm Inc. rode faultlessly in their respective classes to both take home blue ribbons on day two of Week Five.

DeMartini, a recent graduate of Vanderbilt University, claimed her first GLEF win in the High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers aboard Elm Rock LLC’s Firth Of Lorne, and were the only horse and rider combination of the class to jump double clear in 39.699 seconds.

“[Firth Of Lorne] is kind of funny,” said DeMartini of the 12-year-old Hanoverian stallion. “He’s definitely a stallion, but he’s really, really easy in the show ring. He’s just a great horse. He’s competitive and he’s really fun to ride.

“This is my first summer circuit with him,” continued DeMartini. “He’s been great. We’ve just been trying to figure each other out. I finished school so I’ve been riding full time, which is really nice because going back and forth is always challenging. We’ve done Kentucky, Tryon and here and it’s just been great to really focus on riding this summer. It’s our first time here in Michigan. It’s a beautiful facility, the horses are so happy and the weather is great so we’re excited to be here for two weeks!”

Although still a new partnership, DeMartini and Firth Of Lorne proved their winning ways on Thursday after successfully navigating around the Michel Vaillancourt-designed course, which proved to be quite challenging for the class, smoothly and effortlessly.

“I really like the shape of the ring,” said DeMartini. “I thought it was nice. There were a few bending lines, but it was pretty straightforward. I think the horses like the ground here so they jump well.”

Only three riders advanced to the jump-off during the High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers, with DeMartini being the best of the day. Alliy Moyer and her own Beorn collected 4 faults to finish in second place in 41.761 seconds, while Julia Tops and Zamiro 16, owned by Stone Ridge Farms LLC, placed third with a total of 13 faults in 50.552 seconds.

Prior to the High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers was the 1.35m Open Jumpers where 16 exhibitors vied for first place honors.

Mattias Tromp and Beyaert Farms Inc.’s KM Whatever RV were one of five to ride clear over the one-round speed track, tripping the timers in 59.265 seconds to take the top spot.

“I thought it was a really nice speed track,” said Tromp. “There was that one option for the inside turn, the rest of it was really nice and flowing. The one turn at the liverpool was a little bit of a challenge, but I liked it. I thought it had a good flow and was a good course.”

Of the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Tromp said, “[KM Whatever RV] is a really cool horse. I’ve had him and been riding him for about a year and a half. Whenever you’re on him, you never really feel like you’re going that fast — he has such a big stride. He doesn’t really jump so high over the fences; he doesn’t take a lot of time in the air so he’s a lot faster just by skimming the jumps. He’s such a good speed horse.”

Trailing Tromp by six seconds was Wednesday’s 1.40m Open Jumpers winner, Ryan Genn, and Ann Anastasio’s Welcome Cor. They finished in second place with no faults in 65.646 seconds. Theo Genn followed his brother with a clear round aboard Eduardo Leon’s Dirocco Blue in 66.195 seconds for third place.

Similar to DeMartini, this week is Tromp’s first time competing at GLEF.

“I’ve never been here before,” said Tromp. “I think the footing is amazing. The town surrounding the show is fantastic. All of the important parts are really here at this horse show. I think there’s a lot of growth here and I think there’s going to be a lot more people showing here. I’ll be here for the first two weeks. I have one in the U25 and one in the two grand prix coming up.”

The 1.30m Open Jumpers earlier in the day saw six contenders produce double clear rounds. Mattias Tromp and Beyaert Farm Inc.’s Capri Van De Helle took the first place spot in 61.917 seconds, while Dorothy Cox and her own Pensilvania trailed by one second to finish with the red ribbon in 62.521 seconds. Wilhelm Genn and Taylor Reid’s Dieta rounded out the top three in 64.158 seconds.


Leah DeMartini and Firth Of Lorne. Photo: Taylor Renner/Phelps Media Group.

Mackenzie Snider Wins Her First Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search

August 12, 2016 – Mackenzie Snider is an Olympic hopeful, and as with all dreams, they take years of practice and the proper preparation to achieve. On Friday, during the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF) Week Five, Snider competed in her first Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search 2*, riding to the first place finish with Questa Capriole, and one step closer to the Olympic pipeline.

“Today was a surprise,” Snider admitted. “I usually compete my horse in the Low Junior Jumpers. I was excited to see how this horse would work for the Pessoa/US Hunter Seat Equitation Medal Finals. It worked out!”

The judges tested the entries extensively, guiding them through a serpentine-like course featuring a vertical-vertical combination, as well as large oxers and unrelated distances. Six riders returned for the flat phase, where they were asked to exemplify the working trot, lengthening of stride at both the trot and canter, as well as hold the counter canter. It was Snider who stood out, even though she laughed, “I have been training with her a lot lately, but we haven’t been working on the counter canter or much trot work lately. I was surprised we did so well!” No further testing was necessary to pin the top competitors.

Snider looked out over the GLEF show grounds at the Flintfields Horse Park, and smiled nostalgically as she held her blue ribbon. At only 16 years old, and a local of Michigan, Snider first began showing and falling in love with the sport at the very same venue.

“This has been our main show for as long as I can remember,” Snider acknowledged. “I started showing ponies here, and then when I was 10, I moved to jumpers. All of my love of the sport began here. It is my dream to be the second youngest qualified rider for the Olympics, I know it is a bit ambitious, but I want to represent the United States at the highest level.”

The Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search mission is to “play an important role in the rider pipeline as it addresses the principal that form follows function and that it is important for a rider to have equitation basics and a solid jumper seat position in order to become an effective jumper rider. The Talent Search classes test a rider’s ability to ride a jumper style course effectively while maintaining the classic American forward style of riding. The Talent Search program fosters this tradition in U.S. Show Jumping and builds on preparing the next generation of international jumping riders.”

Snider trains with Melissa Hirt, and is already qualified for the Pessoa/US Hunter Seat Equitation Medal Finals, as well as the ASPCA Maclay Region 4 Finals, held during the Kentucky National on Sept. 24.

Snider explained further, “Questa Capriole was imported just a couple of months ago from Europe. We bought her from Ken Smith. We are a work in progress. She is very different from my other two mounts—She is a very German ride with a lot of leg. She never spooks at anything, she will jump anything, no matter what. It is what I love about her—she is calm and collected about everything.”

“I am pretty sure that I will be competing with her more in the equitation, and moving her up as high as we can go. We bought her to be my next grand prix horse.”

It was Marissa Rice and Upcountry Cetric who took the second place finish jut behind Snider. Rice has not been competing in the equitation for long, and the Talent Search is a new aspiration for the 15-year-old jumper.

“This is a new division for me, I haven’t been doing it long. I have had him for about a year, and the USET is fairly new for us. I thought he went great, and he jumped really well,” Rice explained. “I have mostly only done the jumpers, so I like it better than the other equitation classes, it is more in my comfort zone, and it is a great pipeline into the bigger classes.”

Rice trains with [Henri and Katie] Prudent and Paula Randall, and she traveled to Michigan from Wellington, Florida, for her chance to compete in the three weeks of the second GLEF series.

“One day, I want to make it to the Finals and Indoors and get some experience in the Medals,” Snider concluded. “We have been working on different courses, and getting confident with him over bigger jumps.”

Owen Gajoch and Sweet Nothings took the third place, while Aristea Santoro and Comtico finished fourth.

In the Taylor Harris Insurance Services (THIS) National Children’s Medal, it was Santoro who took the lead. The talented young rider captured the win with Audience of One, outriding fellow contenders to conclude with the score of 83 points. The second place was awarded to Natalie Groulx and Enticer, who finished the equitation course with 75 points, while Emma Flett and Drommels rounded out the top three.

The Marshall & Sterling/Ariat National Adult Medal concluded the third day of competition. Lauren Coates and Candor finished in the top spot. Barney Jacobs and Cashmo earned second place, while Laurie Bidwell rode Williamston to the third place.


Mackenzie Snider and Questa Caprio. Photo: Kendall Bierer/Phelps Media Group.

Eugenio Garza Claims One-Two Finish in $35,000 Welcome Stake CSI2*

Aug. 12, 2016 – Mexico’s Eugenio Garza made his Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF) debut during Week Five, claiming the top two spots in Friday’s $35,000 Welcome Stake CSI2* aboard Armani SL Z and Empire Van Wuitenshof, both owned by El Milagro.

Garza bested an original starting field of 29 entries to take the top prize with the 8-year-old Zangersheide stallion by Asca Z. As last in the jump-off and already in the lead, Garza outpaced his own time with Empire Van Wuitenshof to place one-two in the first FEI-rated class of the week.

“Darragh [Kerins] and Alma [Björklund] were nice enough to move up in the jump-off order to let me warm up my last horse,” said Garza. “[Empire Van Wuitenshof] and I were in the lead when I came back with my last one. [Armani SL Z] is an 8-year-old and these next two CSI2* weeks are going to be very educational for him. We wanted to try to start to run a little in the jump-offs with him and be competitive so that’s what we did today. He’s an amazing horse. He’s the nicest horse I’ve ever ridden.”

The 20-year-old rider from Wellington, Florida, has had Armani SL Z since the end of the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival circuit and has been building a winning partnership with the talented stallion ever since. The pair has experienced great success thus far and many top placings over the past year and a half, most recently winning the $25,000 Under 25 Grand Prix during Week One of the Tryon Summer series in July.

“We’ve really been taking our time with him,” said Garza. “After a couple of weeks ago in Tryon and now here, I can really see all of our patience and hard work starting to pay off with him. It’s really, really nice.”

Michel Vaillancourt set a large first round track where a triple bar immediately followed by a triple combination collected faults for many riders, eliminating their chance to advance to the jump-off round.

Ten horses and riders returned for the short course in the Grand Prix Ring at Flintfields Horse Park. Chile’s Samuel Parot and his own Dazzle White were the first to tackle the jump-off track. An unfortunate rail garnered them 4 faults, but their speedy time of 37.280 seconds would go on to make them the fastest of the 4-faulters.

The first double clear round of the class wasn’t seen until two rounds later when Garza and Empire Van Wuitenshof, a 12-year-old Belgium Warmblood gelding, finished with no faults and set the pace to beat at 39.940 seconds.

The top four finishers of the class were all separated by only hundredths of a second. Two rounds after Garza, Nick Dello Joio (USA) and Contiki, owned by Wembley Farms Inc. Coker Farm and Watershed Farm, also jumped clear, but were 5/100th’s of a second too slow in 39.990 seconds to catch Garza’s lead.

Parot was the next exhibitor to produce a faultless round aboard his second mount of the jump-off, Quick Du Pottier, a 12-year-old Selle Français gelding owned by Parot, in 39.980 seconds to put him in second place with three left to go.

Darragh Kerins (IRL) and his own Thunder D’Amaury were the fourth to jump double clear as second to last in the order of go, but finished conservatively in 42.470 seconds to move behind Dello Joio in the standings.

Garza returned to the ring, having already secured the win with this first mount, and piloted Armani SL Z to an impressively speedy and fault-free effort to best his first time by 2/100th’s of a second in 39.920 seconds, thus clinching first and second place honors, while Parot took home the yellow ribbon for third place.

“The course was not easy,” said Parot. “I didn’t go too fast. I was careful to the triple bar, but I made some mistakes, which cost me the win. I was very happy with the horse; he’s a really top horse. He’s won a lot of grand prix events. I’m very happy.

“This is a good start to the week,” continued Parot. “I had three horses in the class and two went clear to jump-off. Dazzle White is faster, but had the one down in the jump-off, but it’s OK. [Quick Du Pottier] was great!”

Of the courses in Friday’s $35,000 Welcome Stake CSI2*, Garza said, “It was a really nice course. I thought the time was set just right. A second over and we probably would’ve had too many in the jump-off, but Michel really did nail it. It was a really nice course — a nice welcome. It was technical but not huge. I really enjoyed riding this course

“The jump-off was amazing,” continued Garza. “It was one of those jump-offs where, for me, everything came up nice. It was just a pleasure to ride. He always builds a great track. We rode his courses at another show and again they were amazing. He always does an amazing job.”

Garza and Parot are both competing at GLEF for the first time this week and are so far thoroughly enjoying their time at Flintfields Horse Park.

“It’s an amazing horse show,” said Garza. “The facility here is amazing. This is also my first win here and hopefully not the last! I’ll be here all three weeks.”

“I love it so far,” said Parot. “It’s a really nice place. I’m thinking I’ll be here for two weeks, but if everything goes well, possibly the whole three weeks.”

Eugenio Garza and Armani SL Z. Photo: Taylor Renner/Phelps Media Group.

Paige Matthies and Justified Secure Large Junior Hunter Championship and Classic Victories

August 13, 2016 – Paige Matthies is a 14-year-old who has dominated the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF) leaderboard, from the hunters to the equitation, and even in the jumpers, Matthies consistently exceeds expectations. On Saturday afternoon, she did not fall short as she rode Justified, owned by Dudley Smith, to the championship in the Large Junior Hunter division, sponsored by French Road Cellars, as well as the highly competitive $1,000 Junior Hunter Classic.

“I love him,” Matthies said of Justified. “We got him in November of last year, and we haven’t been together that long, but he has just been amazing. He has taught me so much; I have come very far with him.”

Matthies currently sits fourth in the nation with Justified in the Large Junior 15 & Under Hunters. She added the Large Junior Hunter Championship during the GLEF Week Five to their already impressive repertoire. Olivia Jacobs and Southside, owned by Barney Jacobs, earned the reserve championship.

“The last two days, he has been amazing, he is perfect,” Matthies said. “He is very light in the mouth, so you have to try not to use too much hand. He is very sensitive, so he likes to be asked rather than told what to do, and he will always do what he asks.”

Matthies rode Justified to the $1,000 Junior Hunter Classic victory, with the first round score of 85 points and the second round score of 81.5 points, clinching the win with the cumulative score of 166.5 points. Emma Lena Green and Hennessey finished in the second place, only a half a point shy of Matthies. The third place was also picked up by Matthies and her second mount of the division, Icaris Vede.

“I really enjoyed the first round, it was a great course,” Matthies said of Eric Mayberry’s classic courses. “I liked that you got to end on the far end, so I was able to show off his trot. The second course was a long one, which showed the ability to keep the horse going, and he responded really well to that. He really shined out there. He is a great jumper, and he has a great expression.”

As Matthies walked out to the winner’s circle with Justified trotting after her, the 9-year-old gelding slightly nipped at her, only making her laugh as she acknowledged, “He is silly. He doesn’t know that biting hurts.”

The duo has been a pair since November of 2016, and Matthies has been working with trainer Melissa Hirt to better understand him. “He is an amazing horse,” continued Matthies. “He is a really easy ride, and he just needs the right feel. He is really soft, and wants to do the best he can, but on the ground he is extremely silly.”

Matthies plans to stay throughout the duration of the second series, and then is looking forward to the Pennsylvania National Horse Show and the CP National Horse Show for the Junior Hunter Finals.

For 15-year-old Kathryn ‘Kit’ Brown of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, winning the championship in the Junior 3’3” Hunters was the icing on the cake for her summer show tour. Having only bought Bourbon Street, the 6-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, during the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, Brown has been working both on the ground and in the saddle to solidify their partnership.

“He is really smart and saves me a lot,” Brown laughed. “He has a really good personality. I have been riding him for about six months, I just got him this winter in Wellington. I tried him there and then brought him home. This is our second big show, we competed in Kentucky, too, but this show went really well!”

Brown continued, “I spend a lot of time with him on the ground, and I ride him every day. We have a good relationship, and he has a great personality. He is so funny and curious about everything.”

Brown kicked off the division on Friday with wins in the over fences and handy, and returned Saturday to clinch the championship with another first and third place finish over fences, as well as the fourth place in the under saddle.

“You just have to stay connected with him, and tell him what to do,” Brown smiled. “As long as you do that, he will be right there for you. He has an amazing jump, and he doesn’t move too well, but when you see him jump it makes up for it—He is amazing.”

Brown has plans to continue working with trainer Heather Irvine as they prepare to move into the Junior 3’6” Hunters. She hopes to one day qualify for the Junior Hunter Finals.

Isabel Hermelin and Zekiel won the Junior 3’3” Hunter Reserve Championship with the first place in the under saddle, as well as three second place ribbons over fences, and the third for their efforts in the handy round.


Paige Matthies and Justified. Photo: Kendall Bierer/Phelps Media Group.

Abigail McArdle Captures Top Two Spots in $25,000 Under 25 Grand Prix at Great Lakes Equestrian Festival Week Five

Aug. 13, 2016 – Grey was the theme for Saturday at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF). As overcast skies set the scene for the day’s highlighted jumper event, the $25,000 Under 25 Grand Prix, presented by the Moyer family, Abigail McArdle finished with the top two placings aboard two grey 8-year-old mounts owned by Plain Bay Sales.

“We got both Comeback and Contessina Della Caccia during the middle of Florida this year,” said McArdle. “They’re both sales horses for Adam Prudent and Plain Bay Sales. Comeback — we bought him as a Children’s Jumper. I decided to school him and I thought, ‘This is a heck of a horse, it’s not a Children’s Jumper anymore.’ So we’ve just been bringing him up slowly, but he’s still green. He’s going to be a super, super top young rider horse for someone.

“Contessina Della Caccia is so talented and extremely scopey,” continued McArdle. “I think she could go to the Olympics with a professional. Either way, I’m blessed to have both of these horses right now.”

The U25 Grand Prix series continues to be a popular class among young riders who have aspirations to be more competitive in higher-level international competitions in the future. It’s a chance for young riders to showcase their talent in the show jumping sport and give them their first experience competing under FEI regulations.

Michel Vaillancourt designed a technical first round course, which only saw four of the original 15 entries, two of which were McArdle, finish with no faults to return for the jump-off.

McArdle was the first to jump-off and successfully navigated the short course faultlessly aboard Comeback, a Belgian Warmblood gelding, setting the pace to beat at 32.583 seconds.

Alise Oken and Hi Hopes Farm, LLC’s Hitchcock VD Broekkant were next to jump-off, but an unfortunate refusal at the second to last fence cost them a total of 13 faults, finishing in 50.501 seconds.

Friday’s $35,000 Welcome Stake CSI2* winner, Eugenio Garza, followed Oken and rode El Milagro’s Victer Finn DH Z to a 4-fault finish in 35.720 seconds.

With only McArdle left to go with her second mount, and still in the lead aboard Comeback, the 22-year-old rider piloted Contessina Della Caccia, a Selle Français mare, to another double clear round in 38.055 seconds to also take second place, knocking Garza into third place and Oken into fourth place.

“I had to go early with my first grey so I stuck to my plan,” said McArdle. “I had specific numbers for each of my horses. The plan in the jump-off was to really go for it because I had to go first on Comeback. After seeing that Lisee had a bobble and Eugenio had a rail, I decided I still wanted to go pretty fast on my second horse, just in case I had a rail so I could still be second. I was still a little cautious though because I like to be clear.

“I loved the courses,” continued McArdle. “I think it was interesting. That inside turn — there was a leave-out in the first line and an inside cut, which was obviously the winning track and what I did. Then there was a nice double to the line coming home. I think it was suited for both of my horses and they performed beautifully.”

McArdle has never competed at GLEF until this week, and was prompted to attend the event this year due to the addition of the new FEI-rated series.

“I absolutely love it here,” said McArdle. “I think the ring and the facility are great. I love that they’re offering FEI classes, that’s really nice. It’s a fun atmosphere being on Lake Michigan.

“We’d heard great things about it from different people from the Midwest, and we were very attracted to the FEI classes here,” continued McArdle. “We’re going to be here all three weeks and we’d like to come back again next year if they have FEI classes.”

Earlier in the day, the Grand Prix Ring at Flintfields Horse Park played host to 15 horse and rider combinations vying for the blue ribbon in the $5,000 NAL Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic.

Only three were able to jump clear around Vaillancourt’s challenging first round track to move on to the jump-off. However, it was Olivia Chowdry and her own Barbou De Ruet, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding, who were able to produce the only double clear round of the class for first place in 39.033 seconds.

“[Barbou De Ruet] a really fun, kind of quirky horse,” said Chowdry. “I’ve had him since June of last year. He’s been amazing and has really surprised me. Every show he gets better. He’s a trier; he really wants to be good. He’s careful and he’s quick, but he’s quirky. He’s got his tricks and he likes to toss his head and squeal.

“He was great today,” continued Chowdry. “The weather was a little crazy, but he was right where I needed him to be today. I usually show him in some bigger classes, but with it being our first week here and raining today, we decided we would do the lows today. He was super. He’s just wants to go faster and jump higher every time.”

Maria Yzerman and Player De Brocelia, owned by Les Cabrioles, LLC, finished in a faster time than Chowdry, tripping the timers in 38.115 seconds, but a collection of 4 faults in the jump-off garnered her second place honors. Duncan Peters and his own In Our Time rounded out the top three with 8 faults in the jump-off and finishing in a time of 43.014 seconds.

“This is my first time at GLEF,” said Chowdry. “We’re so happy. The horses are so happy here. The footing is fantastic. Even given the rain today, the footing has stood up really well. I felt really secure in the ring. The management’s awesome. It’s a really fun show!”


Abigail McArdle and Comeback. Photo: Taylor Renner/Phelps Media Group.

Jill Donaldson and Troubadour Capture Amateur-Owner Hunter Championship

Aug. 14, 2016 – The Amateur-Owner Hunter division features an array of talented riders, ranging from college equestrians to retired corporate employees, offering an outlet for equestrians of any age to continue to follow their hearts and their passion. On Sunday morning, the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival Week Five concluded with the Amateur-Owner Hunters taking center stage in the Polk Main Hunter Ring, and it was neurosurgeon Jill Donaldson who captured the championship with Troubadour.

“Where there is a will, there is a way,” Donaldson smiled. Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, Donaldson stays active with a full day Neurosurgical Care, and then finishes her day with her second home, the barn. “My day starts very early and I try to get as much done in the morning as possible. I am the last person in the barn in the evening, and it is a late supper every day. It is worth it. It is something I truly enjoy, and it is something my husband supports.”

Donaldson competed for years in the show jumping discipline, but more recently, she began showing Troubadour, a 9-year-old chestnut Hanoverian gelding.

“He reminds me a lot of a horse that I showed as a kid,” Donaldson laughed. “He has the recessive coloring with the flaxen mane and tail, and reminds me so much of my junior hunter. I have a special attachment to him. He is kind of quirky, a class clown, and he always has an opinion, although it is generally good, and he loves to do his job.”

Donaldson keeps Troubadour in a very consistent program at Meadowview Farm with trainer Tammy Provost, and in their three and a half years together, he has thrived with the program, as well as the attention the grooms and fellow barn mates are known shower on him.

“He loves attention, and he will do anything to get it,” Donaldson described. “He is just a fun horse. He loves to work every single day. I arrive, his ears are up and he is ready to go. The courses were great this week—straightforward and the ring was nice and big, which was great for him. Everything was done just beautifully, I really love coming to this show.”

Donaldson sealed the championship with three second place finishes over fences, as well as the first place under saddle. Alliy Moyer and Carlson took the lead on the opening day with two first place finishes, and narrowly missed the championship tricolor, claiming the reserve.

It was Kendall Meijer and Breckenridge who captured the $1,000 Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic victory. Meijer rode to the first round score of 85 points, and then returned to duplicate her effort for a solid second round score of 83 points. She captured the win aboard Breckenridge with a cumulative score of 168 points.

“He was so good,” Meijer said. “He went in there more relaxed than usual, and he always jumps a 10. I just kept him straight, and he performed great. He tries so hard, and he just wants to please you. We have taken our time with him, and he is perfect in the Amateur-Owner Hunters. He has a huge stride, and there is never a problem getting down the lines.”

Meijer rides with Cathy and Hillary Johnson of Meadowview Farm, thriving to stay consistent in her riding so she can stay competitive in the Amateur-Owner and Adult Hunter divisions.

“I ride as much as I can,” Meijer explained. “I try to go out to the barn as many days in a week as I can, so that I can stay consistent and so that the horses can do what I know they can do.”

Donaldson picked up the second place behind Meijer, falling just shy of the win with scores of 83 and 76 points for a 159-point total. Laura Obermeyer and Samwise rounded out the top three with 150 points.

Meijer concluded, “I love it here. This is my favorite show. I don’t think that there is any place better to spend the summer than in Northern Michigan. The management has done a great job. I have been coming here 8 years, and I love it.”


Jill Donaldson and Troubadour. Photo: Kendall Bierer/Phelps Media Group.

Andrew Kocher and Zantos II Bring Home Blue in $50,000 Grand Prix of Williamsburg CSI2*

Aug. 14, 2016 – Week Five’s feature event at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF), the $50,000 Grand Prix of Williamsburg CSI2*, went to Andrew Kocher (USA) and brand new mount Zantos II. With only having ridden and competed the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding for less than a month, the pair is already showing signs of a strong partnership with great potential for the future after Sunday’s win.

Kocher owns Zantos II along with friends Bob and Robin Mulkey. The gelding was recently imported from England and was previously ridden by British international show jumpers Robert and Louise Whitaker as well as their father and two-time Olympian (including the 2016 Rio Olympic Games), John Whitaker.

“He’s the grumpiest horse in the world in the stall,” said Kocher. “Out of the stall, he’s perfect — a 10-year-old kid could lead him around, he’s the sweetest horse. To ride, he’s got a lot of jump, he’s ultra careful, he’s really fast and he’s really strong. He walk, trot, canters perfect, a little kid or anyone could ride him around, but then you aim him at a jump and he’s totally electric. He’s really strong, but I just kind of try to let him loose. If I want to make space, I just move him to the sides.”

Although Kocher and Zantos II are still very new to each other, they’ve already claimed a few top placings including winning the $15,000 Modified Grand Prix CSI3* at International Bromont in July and, most recently, placing third in the $35,000 Open Welcome CSI2*at the Caledon Equestrian Park’s Summer Festival CSI2* on Aug. 4.

Since then, the duo decided to travel to Traverse City to test their luck at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival and came out on top over a field of 20 in Sunday’s grand prix.

“In this class today, I thought anyone could’ve won,” said Kocher. “It wasn’t too predictable. The course was built at a nice size. For a $50,000 FEI class, I thought it was pretty spot-on. The course walked perfectly. There weren’t any dicey lines; I thought it was straightforward.”

Only eight were invited to return to the jump-off after producing clear efforts around Michel Vaillancourt’s first round course.

Samuel Parot (CHI) and his own Cous Cous Van Orti were the early double clear pathfinders in the jump-off, setting the time to beat at 34.760 seconds.

Three rounds later, Darragh Kerins (IRL) and Ilan, owned by Maarten Huygens, finished double clear, but were four seconds off the pace to put them behind Parot in 38.370 seconds.

Next up was Kocher and Zantos II. After watching the first few rounds of the jump-off, Kocher opted to take a sharp and risky inside turn to a vertical, shaving one tenth of a second off Parot’s time in 34.680 seconds to take over the lead.

Michael Morrissey (USA) and QBS Equestrian LLC’s Chance Ste Hermelle decided to take the same inside turn as Kocher in an attempt to catch his time but was just two seconds too slow in 36.210 seconds, putting him in third, behind Parot, in the standings.

Parot had one last shot to beat Kocher with his second mount of the jump-off, his own Dazzle White. The pair finished in the fastest time in 32.780 seconds, beating Kocher’s time by two seconds, but collected an unfortunate 8 faults to place fifth overall with the 8-year-old grey Dutch Warmblood gelding, while also finishing in second place aboard Cous Cous Van Orti, a 14-year-old Belgium Warmblood gelding.

“[Dazzle White] is a special horse,” said Parot. “He won the grand prix in Tryon in July. The first day during the big class, he had one down, but was very fast. The same happened today with him being very fast but having the last jump down. He is a super horse, but young. He doesn’t have a lot of experience, but he’s a good horse. [Cous Cous Van Orti] is a super horse also. He has more experience and is more of a veteran of the sport.

“The course today was difficult,” continued Parot. “Michel does beautiful courses and he is a top designer. There were good riders, good competition, and seven or eight clear is not an easy jump-off. It was a very fast jump-off. It was a 2* course, but looked like a 3*. With Cous Cous, I wanted to go clear, but then when I was in second place and had my grey horse as the last to go in the jump-off, I wanted to win. I will go for it every time.”

In the final standings, Morrissey remained in third, while Kerins claimed fourth place honors, respectively.

“Samuel, I thought, went really fast and I didn’t think I was going to catch him,” said Kocher. “My horse is small, he doesn’t have as big of a stride, but he’s really quick with his feet so I think foot speed is what outdid the others. I got lucky because Samuel had poles down with his last horse, otherwise he would’ve had me. I thought in the first round Zantos jumped really amazing. He’s really hot and strong so the distances don’t always come up perfect, but you just have to be comfortable in the chaos. I was coming to the last jump though and I thought, ‘Wow, this jump-off’s just coming up perfectly.’ Everything was coming up the way I planned it, and I went to the last one and he moved a little bit right and I thought he was going to run out, but then he ducked back left and jumped over it!”

It was ten years ago that Kocher was last in Traverse City working for David Beisel, however this is his first time competing at GLEF and the Flintfields Horse Park.

“The footing in both rings is really nice,” said Kocher. “It was perfect. We’ve had a lot of fun around the area too. We went kayaking in Lake Michigan and went to a bunch of different little restaurants. Tonight we’re going to try to run up to Mackinac Island. My wife Jenny and I, we never do anything, we take care of the horses and that’s it. It’s been nice to have some time off and do some fun things.”

Of the conclusion of his first week competing at GLEF, Parot said, “This is a very top show — the people, the ambiance, the management. Everyone is happy. I am so happy. I got second place today and third place the other day.”

Prior to the grand prix action was the $7,500 Show Jumping Hall of Fame (SJHOF) High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic. Of the eight horse and rider combinations competing, none were able to jump clear over the first round course except Texas native Taylor Reid. She was aboard her two Dutch Warmblood geldings Ugano and Boucanier, who she competes with through the grand prix level, thus automatically garnering her first and second place honors.

“Ugano is 15 and I’ve had him for three years,” said Reid. “He actually rides more like a hunter. He’s really lazy and really loose on the reins so he takes a lot of leg. He’s a very sweet old guy; he knows his job. He’s very handy.

“Boucanier is 10, I’ve had him for two years and he’s fiery,” continued Reid. “He’s very quirky, he bucks and plays and he’s got a lot of motor. They’re two totally opposite rides. With Boucanier, you have to pull a lot and keep your legs off of him and with Ugano, you have to kick a lot.”

Taking the blue with Ugano and the red ribbon with Boucanier, Reid credited her consistent, winning rounds to her simple, yet effective strategy. She said, “My plan was just simply to ride middle to middle, and keep everything smooth.”

Leah DeMartini and Elm Rock LLC’s Touchable rounded out the top three as the fastest 4-faulter of the first round to take home third place honors.

Reid attended last year’s inaugural Great Lakes Equestrian Festival and has been competing at the Flintfields Horse Park for the past four years.

“I love the horse show facility, it’s awesome,” said Reid. “There’s good footing and it’s a great area with nice people. It’s just a lovely place to be and I love the weather. We’re from Texas so it’s nice to be up North for the summer.”

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Andy Kocher and Zantos II. Photo: Taylor Renner/Phelps Media Group.

Week Six of GLEF runs through Aug. 17–21 at the Flintfields Horse Park and will continue to welcome riders and thrill spectators over the next three weeks throughout the second series of competition, which runs Aug. 10–28.

Series Two kicked off on Aug. 10 and will run through Aug. 28, featuring three weeks of hunter and jumper competition with a FEI CSI2* rating Week Five and Six and a FEI CSI3* rating during Week Seven, culminating in the $100,000 Grand Traverse Grand Prix on Sunday, Aug. 28. Hunter highlights include the Glory Days Farm, LLC USHJA National Hunter Derby, which will take place each Sunday through the end of the second series.

Horses are not the only form of entertainment lined up for this year’s Great Lakes Equestrian Festival. The festival has teamed up with top musicians and entertainers from around the country to offer fun-filled evenings for this year’s concert and dinner series.

Week Six will host the Kari Lynch Band and farm BBQ dinner by on Friday, Aug. 19, at 6 p.m. at the Flintfields Horse Park, while Week Seven will headline the Billy Strings Bluegrass Closing Party by at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 28.

The Great Lakes Equestrian Festival is set on 88 beautiful acres and showcases five world-class competition rings in addition to spacious schooling rings. The property features don’t stop there as the park offers convenient onsite campgrounds and weekly nights of entertainment for a truly unique attendee experience.

For more information or to view schedules, please visit or