Traverse City, Michigan – July 10, 2016 – Week One of the first series of the 2016 Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF) concluded on Sunday with the $50,000 Grand Prix of Traverse City, presented by North Face Farm. Eighteen-year-old Spencer Brittan of Sweet Oak Farm and Unico earned the top prize as the only rider of the class to navigate a fault-free jump-off in his first time competing in the Grand Prix Ring at Flintfields Horse Park.
“I’ve had Unico for three years now,” said Brittan. “He jumped just awesome in the grand prix. That was the first opportunity I had to just go clean for the win. We were walking down there and were just planning on going all out. When Lacey had that rail down, my trainer, Lorcan [Gallagher], just said, ‘Take about ten breaths — all you have to do is go clean.’ So that was the plan.”
Germany’s Olaf Petersen designed a large first round track with a tight time allowed. The course consisted of three variations of double combinations — a vertical to oxer, vertical to vertical and an oxer to vertical — tight rollbacks and a triple bar fence. Only four of the 32 horse and rider combinations were able to produce clear rounds over the fences, but none were able to master the course completely fault-free. Each of the four exhibitors collected time faults in their first round course thus allowing for a jump-off to take place between the top three competitors with 1 time fault.
Jump Off Rails Made All the Difference
David Jennings was the first to return to take on the short course. He piloted Blue Moon 22, owned by Full Circle Farm, to a 4-fault jump-off finish, setting the pace at 40.121 seconds. Next was 22-year-old Lacey Gilbertson, who trains with Michael DelFiandra and Shane Sweetnam at Sweet Oak Farm, and Seabrook LLC’s Echo D. She followed Jennings 4-fault trend, but was able to catch his time by one second in 39.021 seconds to move into the lead.
“The course was nice,” said Gilbertson. “I thought it was definitely big enough, but not too big for a $50,000 class, and the time was definitely tight, which made it a little tricky.
“The jump-off round was good,” continued Gilbertson. “After David had one down, we were just planning to go in and be smooth and clear and then once I had the in of the double down, I knew I had to pick up the pace a little bit because he has so much air time and isn’t as quick across the ground. He was so great though.”
With this year being Gilbertson’s first year competitively riding at the grand prix level, she’s thrilled with Sunday’s second place finish with the 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding.
Lacey Gilbertson and Echo D
Lacey Gilbertson and Echo D. PC: Taylor Renner
“I’ve had [Echo D] for a year and a half now,” said Gilbertson. “He’s my first grand prix horse to teach me how to jump big. He’s honestly my favorite; he’s just delightful to ride. He’s easy, brave and he’s the perfect move up horse, and he’s gotten really good results over the past six months.
“This is my first real year,” continued Gilbertson. “It’s been really good. Last summer was my first summer moving up on him so this summer I have a little more experience and now I can actually go in the jump-off and take risks instead of just trying to go clear and be good.”
It was all left up to the youngest of the jump-off contenders to attempt the only faultless finish of the class and take the win. Brittan and Unico, owned by Paradise Farms, blazed through the jump-off course with ease in 45.452 seconds, but left all the rails up to garner them first place honors.
“I went second to last in the first round so I got a good understanding of the course,” said Brittan. “[Unico] was really good in the first round. I thought I was under the time allowed but it was very tight. I thought I went clean, but then we just had to pull it together for the jump-off.
“The courses were really good,” continued Brittan. “With Unico, my plan is to always keep him calm. I walked in there just trying to go slow and tidy in the beginning to keep him relaxed for the rest of the course. Then in the jump-off we just tried to do the same thing.”
Of the fiery 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Brittan said, “He just has so much energy, I feel like he has plenty of years left.”
As the first week of GLEF wraps up, both Brittan and Gilbertson are looking forward to Week Two.
“I was probably doing the ponies last time I was here,” said Brittan. “This was my first time riding in the grand prix ring — it was a lot of fun. I think we’ll come back next year for sure. Next week is our last week here then we’ll go to Kentucky and do a couple of grand prix up there. Unico’s been going great so we’re just trying to keep him healthy and do as many classes as we can with him.”
“I’ve actually come to this horse show every year since I was 14 except for last year we ended up going to Spruce, but now we’re back because we love it so much,” said Gilbertson. “I like it; I think it’s really good. I think the footing is really nice and the courses have been good. We’ll be here through next week and I’ll do the grand prix again on Echo D.”
Additional Week One Highlights
Leading up to the grand prix was the $7,500 Show Jumping Hall of Fame High Junior/Amateur Jumper Classic. Kelsey Thatcher, who also won the $5,000 NAL Low Junior/Amateur Jumper Classic on Saturday, was victorious again with Beja, owned by Pony Lane Farm. They bested a starting field of 25 and a jump-off field of 12 to finish double clear in 31.629 seconds for first place. Emma Sargent and her own Winchester finished in second place, tripping the timers in 33.929 seconds after a fault-free performance. Giavanna Rinaldi and Dulf Van De Bisschop, owned by Pony Lane Farm, rounded out the top three after a double clear ride in 34.014 seconds.
The Grand Prix Ring at Flintfields Horse Park kicked off at 7:30 a.m. with the $2,500 East Wind Farm Children’s Jumper Classic and the $2,500 Adult Amateur Jumper Classic — a member event for NAL/WIHS/M&S.
In the $2,500 East Wind Farm Children’s Jumper Classic, Mackenzie Snider and Robin Vilter’s Amigo took the top spot with a double clear round in 33.382 seconds. Olivia Parr finished in second with mount Uccella, owned by Oakland Ventures LLC and El Milagro, in another double clear round in 34.279 seconds, while Hailey Royce and her own Rapidash posted a 4-fault jump-off finish in 35.246 seconds to grab third place honors.
The $2,500 Adult Amateur Jumper Classic saw all top three finishers produce double clear rounds. Lindsey Tomeu and Bonapart, owned by DBHC, Inc., claimed first place in 30.732 seconds, while Madeline Cooley and her own Carlina finished second in 34.570 seconds. Brittany Hildebrand and Mindy Hildebrand’s Antonis placed third in 38.308 seconds.
The $2,500 Modified Children’s/Adult Jumper Classic immediately followed with 18 horses and riders going head to head in the Table II.2.b format class. Catherine Wu grabbed the blue ribbon aboard her mount Ren Round Number with a faultless effort in 25.980 seconds. Maria Roberts and her own Qasqai finished three seconds behind Wu with a double clear round in 28.290 seconds to take second place, while Missy Rossi and Vincent Rossi’s Roccana rounded out the top three, riding double clear in 28.363 seconds.
Week Two Starts Wednesday
Week Two of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival will be held July 13–17 at the Flintfields Horse Park and will continue to welcome riders and thrill spectators over the next three weeks throughout the first series of competition, which runs July 6–31.
The second week of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival has completely sold out of stabling space with limited spots remaining for Week Three, July 20–24. Act now to reserve stabling spots for August, and do not miss out on the chance to compete during the all-new FEI Great Lakes Equestrian Festival series in August.
Series Two kicks off on August 10 and runs through August 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, August 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 on-site campgrounds and weekly nights of entertainment for a truly unique attendee experience.

Results: $50,000 Grand Prix of Traverse City

1 UNICO SPENCER BRITTAN 1 80.165 0 45.452
2 ECHO D LACEY GILBERTSON 1 80.551 4 39.021
3 BLUE MOON 22 DAVID JENNINGS 1 80.153 4 40.121