Liz Atkins & Rodeo VDL Come Out On Top in Equifest III’s $25k Grand Prix

Competition at the Lamplight Equestrian Center continued on Saturday, Aug. 11, as part of Equifest’s third week. An excited group of spectators gathered around the Grand Prix Arena to watch the talented group of horse-and-rider combinations compete in the final Grand Prix of the three-week festival. The crowd was on the edge of their seats as they watched the athletes battle it out, eventually seeing Liz Atkins and Rodeo VDL come out on top with double-clear rounds.

Liz Atkins and Rodeo VDL. Photo by Phelps Media Group

The grand prix course, designed by Paul Jewell, proved challenging for many of the horse-and-rider combinations, as just two went clear in order to make it to the jump-off. The first clear round of the evening was achieved by veteran show jumping competitor Holly Shepherd aboard Loretta Patterson’s gelding Sky High.

Although many combinations following Shepherd and Sky High had great speed around the course, no one was able to challenge her with a fault-free round until the final horse and rider entered the ring. Liz Atkins, riding Benchmark Stables LLC’s Rodeo VDL, was determined to make it to the jump-off and challenge Shepherd for the first place prize.

“He felt really good. Last week he jumped an amazing first round but it was by far the biggest track he’s ever had to jump,” shared Atkins. “You could tell. He came out this week and jumped really nice and relaxed. Paul [Jewell] did a great job designing and set a really nice track that obviously was tough enough. My horse just jumped incredible. I’m so happy with him!”

Shepherd was the first to return to the ring for the jump-off with Sky High. They unfortunately had two rails down on the course, finishing in 38.659 seconds with 8 faults. In order to take home the victory, Atkins knew that she and Rodeo VDL needed to finish with less than 8 faults. They succeeded once again, going clear with a time of 42.99 seconds.

Photo by Phelps Media Group

“This horse is amazing,” said Atkins. “He’s sort of a miracle story — He had a rare form of cancer as an 8-year-old and we thought we were going to have to euthanize him at one point. Now he’s healthy, sound and amazing! He keeps jumping bigger and trying harder. I could cry just talking about it. He’s just such an amazing animal. I can’t say enough about him. The way he feels and looks now, he’s going to be one of my top horses so I hope he continues to go this way.”

Shepherd was awarded second place with Sky High, as well as fourth place with her other mount, Manchester, owned by Loretta Patterson. They finished with 4 faults and a first round time of 72.657 seconds. Charlie Jayne and his mare Emy finished in third place with 4 faults and a speedy first round time of 70.795 seconds.


Place / Rider / Horse / R1 Faults / R1 Time / R2 Faults / R2 Time
1. Liz Atkins / Rodeo VDL / 0 / 77.364 / 0 / 42.99
2. Holly Shepherd / Sky High / 0 / 77.514 / 8 / 38.659
3. Charlie Jayne / Emy / 4 / 70.795
4. Holly Shepherd / Manchester / 4 / 72.657
5. Stefanie Collier / Emma-Lee / 4 / 74.036
6. Nicole Bellissimo / Bassandra / 4 / 74.198
7. Michael Dorman / Valinski S / 4 / 75.428
8. Sydney Swarr / Carl Loui TSP / 4 / 76.35
9. Annabella Sanchez / Incitatus / 4 / 76.763
10. Nicole Bellissimo / Jersey V.D. Hunters / 8 / 72.525
11. Liz Atkins / Undine / 8 / 77.036
12. Richard Cheska / Casme VDB Z / 9 / 80.032