The 2020 Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) presented by MARS Equestrian™ concluded with a victory for 14-year-old McKayla Brombach in the WIHS Pony Equitation Finals on Sunday, October 25, at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC).
McKayla Brombach on California Dreamin’. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography.
Brombach, who hails from Wimberley, TX, only had one goal after making her way to the WIHS Pony Equitation Finals this year – have a good experience with her pony California Dreamin’, owned by Millennium Farm, Inc. She never expected that she would walk away the winner in her first-ever appearance at WIHS.
At the conclusion of the two-phase final, which included an over-fences round and flat test, Brombach and California Dreamin’ were left standing next to Alexa Elle Lignelli of New York, NY, riding Agatha Lignelli’s Chiccobello. Alexa would eventually finish in the reserve position, while Ava Hartman of Marietta, GA, was third riding her own Sugarbrook West Point.
“I wasn’t expecting to win,” said Brombach, who is in her ninth grade year of online school at Connections Academy, which allows her to focus on her competing while balancing school work. “It was overwhelming, and the first time I think I have done well at this kind of final. This was a big deal for me. I couldn’t believe it was happening; it felt like a dream!”
McKayla Brombach on California Dreamin’ in their presentation ceremony with WIHS President Victoria Lowell. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography.
Brombach was matched with California Dreamin’, a striking 11-year-old palomino German Sporthorse gelding when the pony came into her family’s farm as a sale horse. She trains with her mother, Colleen Brombach, at their own Silver Fox Farms. McKayla started riding the mount she affectionately calls “Cal” just over a year ago, and has quickly fallen for the pony’s charm despite some challenges.
“At first, it was a little rough because he had his quirks,” she said. “Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but he always makes me happy. He kisses me on the face and makes me feel all better about anything.”
After a successful winter season in Florida, the owners of California Dreamin’ decided to keep him matched with McKayla for the duration of 2020. “We had a great show at WEF, and we kept getting better and better. The owners decided to let me finish out the year on him. He is very special to me, and I don’t think I will ever forget him.”
While McKayla continues to focus on her riding and online schooling, she is already looking ahead to plans for college. Following in the footsteps of her older sister, Brooke Brombach, she hopes to one day attend Texas A&M University to compete on its equestrian team.
Olivia Sweetnam on On Your Mark in her presentation ceremony for the Gochman Style of Riding Award, with ringmaster John Franzreb and WIHS President Victoria Lowell. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography.
Rounding out the top five in the WIHS Pony Equitation Finals, Ava Berman of New Freedom, PA, took fourth riding her own Valentino, while Olivia Sweetnam of Wellington, FL, placed fifth with Sweet Oak Farm’s On Your Mark. Sweetnam was also presented with the Gochman Style of Riding Award from WIHS President Victoria Lowell at the conclusion of the class.
WIHS Equitation Finals
Rank Rider | Hometown | Horse
1 McKayla Brombach | Wimberley, TX | California Dreamin’
2 Alexa Elle Lignelli | New York, NY | Chiccobello
3 Ava Hartman | Marietta, GA | Sugarbrook West Point
4 Ava Berman | New Freedom, PA | Valentino
5 Olivia Sweetnam | Wellington, FL | On Your Mark
6 Hayley Hewitt | New Canaan, CT | Enough Said
7 Addy Wingate | McLean, VA | Foot Steps
8 Grace Rabb | Fort Mill, SC | Carnival
9 Kaylin Schulthorpe | Freehold, NJ | Quicksilver Electric Slide
10 Ava Messer | Vestavia, AL | Why Not