Exhibitors Enjoy a Two-Fer at Almaden Farms

July 30th, 2013 12:45 PM | Comments Off on Exhibitors Enjoy a Two-Fer at Almaden Farms

Nicolette Hirt wins her first medal final
Photo: Deb Dawson

Equitation riders had the chance to get in on some early season medal finals at the Almaden Farms Summer and Almaden Too Shows (July 11-14 and 18-21), and Nicolette Hirt (Hilary Johnson, trainer) was certainly glad she was one of them when she won the CCEA Medal Final 3’0”. “I’ve won medal classes before, but this is the first final I’ve won,” Nicolette said. “I haven’t done as many medals this year as I did last year, so I was really just going in to use it for practice for the bigger finals I plan to do later this year.”

Nicolette was second going into the flat phase after earning 78 and 85 on the two jumping phases, and her score of 86 in the flat phase pushed her over the top to win.. ”Hilary told me to go in and have fun and find my rhythm,” Nicolette recalled. “She said she’d won a big flat phase when she was a junior and you have to just suck it up and do it. I put all my strength into it, and my horse was awesome. I was really excited to win. It was really fun.” Later this year, Nicolette hopes to compete in the Nor Cal Junior Medal Final (Oct 9-13), as well as the PCHA and CPHA Foundation Medal Finals. Nicolette also did well in the hunter ring, winning Modified Junior/Amateur Owner Hunters Champion the first week and Junior/Amateur Owner Hunters Reserve Champion the second week on her Double Eagle. Paul Bennett rode Nicolette’s other horse, Capitol Hill, to Performance Hunters 3’3” Champion both weeks. Fourteen-year-old Nicolette will be a freshman this fall at The Athenian School, where her trainer Hilary went to school.

Elsewhere in the hunter ring, Hilary’s crew from Rose Hill Stables brought in ribbon after ribbon. Among their other successes, in the second week Alexandra Hirt cleaned up in the Low Children’s Hunters and English Pleasure classes on her Churchill, winning Low Children’s Hunters Champion, and Hilary rode the horse to Modified Future Hunters Reserve Champion.

Emily Dodge is another ecstatic first-time medal final winner
Photo: Deb Dawson

Emily Dodge (Tracy Cotchett, trainer) was thrilled when she not only entered the Almaden Farms Medal Final as her first medal final, but she won it. She also placed second in the Almaden Farms Equitation Special 2’9”. “I apparently qualified for the Almaden Farms Medal Final a week after last year’s at Pebble Beach, but I wasn’t sure I’d qualified until three weeks before this year’s show. I got a letter telling me I was qualified, and I thought, ‘Why not?’”

Although it was a late decision to enter, Emily had it all under control. “I felt prepared going in,” she recalled. “I had a good trainer with me helping me get ready. Kara Mia Love is my trainer at home, but Tracy trained me at the show. In the first round, I wasn’t super confident and I had some funny distances. Then the courses got harder as the days went on, but in each round I knew I just had to keep it going for two more minutes, so I really needed to make it count. I tried to just stay calm and ride my horse.” Sixteen-year-old Emily, a junior at Sir Francis Drake High School, has her sights set for more medal finals this fall, hoping to show in the Nor Cal Medal Finals and repeat her success.


Robert Blanchette and Cord top the $5,000 Julie Gray Jumper Classic both weeks
Photo: Deb Dawson

Robert Blanchette and his Cord were the stars of the jumper ring when they topped the $5,000 Julie Gray Jumper Classic both weeks. “It was a great show. I was very happy,” Robert recounted. “My strategy was to not take too many risks. I didn’t go too fast, but I took a lot of tight turns and short lines between the jumps. It worked out, so it was great. I thought the courses were challenging enough but didn’t scare the horses; each one learned something. Everyone could get around and have a good experience, but not everyone could do it clean.”

Robert and the ten-year-old Cord have been together for several years, ever since he imported him as a five-year-old. “I mostly import horses from Germany and Sweden, but sometimes I like to go a little further afield to find the right horse. I went to the Czech Republic and found Cord. He recently came back from competing in Spruce Meadows, and then he’ll be competing with a student in Sonoma. He’s very easy to do everything with. He’s a little on the lazy side, so it’s always easy to get to eat or walk. He loves to get on the trailer and go to shows, though. He’s always a favorite for the students to ride.”

This was Robert’s first year showing at the Almaden Farms shows. “I liked it very much,” he commented. “Management did a very good job getting the facility ready and taking care of the footing. We had a lot of fun. The facility was good and I liked the setting very much. It was beautiful. The rings were in close proximity to each other, which worked out well for us because I had students in all different rings and I didn’t have to run a mile back and forth.”

Robert’s students did well both weeks, as well. Ella Sullivan rode Up Til Dawn (Tammy Blanchette, owner) to many wins and several championships in the pony ring, plus she rode Noah (Robert Blanchette, owner) to championships in Opportunity Short Stirrup and Modified Future Hunters. Lena Block was champion in Junior Equitation and won the CCEA Medal 3’0” the first week.

The Almaden Farms shows were the perfect environment for families who show together, such as Donelle Laughlin and her daughters, Keely and Dalan (Tracy Cotchett, trainer). All three of them enjoyed a fun show together. “It was a really nice show,” Donelle shared. “I saw a lot of happy kids and supportive parents, and a lot of the barns had potlucks. The weather was great; not foggy like at the old location at Pebble Beach.”

“The first week I brought my green horse, GHF Hyde Park,” Keely explained. “I was really proud of him because we both learned a lot about each other. He’s just six, and he’s really improved a lot. We bred him, and I have done most of his training. I ride him at home, and my trainer, Tracy, comes over and gives us lessons. He used to be really fast and now he’s in control and balanced so it’s really good.” Keely and GHF Hyde Park earned ribbons in the Children’s Hunters and Junior Equitation, plus she won the PCHA 14 & Under/35 & Over class. “In the second week, we did the hunter derby and he was really good. After the first round we were in fifth place. We had a couple canter steps at the trot fence so we moved down to ninth, but I was really proud of him. It was my first derby, but I wasn’t nervous because I just wanted a good experience for the horse and to have fun. It was a great experience.”

In the second week, Keely rode her new horse, Pariska 2, previously shown extensively by Richard Spooner, and won one of their Children’s/Adult Amateur Jumper classes. “Pariska is coming back from a lameness, so I was really proud of her,” Keely said. “It was my first time showing her and she’s a really awesome horse, so that was exciting for me.”

Donelle showed Refugio Latino, a horse she imported from Argentina, to Child/Adult Amateur Jumpers Reserve Champion and fifth place in the $5,000 Julie Gray Jumper Classic in the first week. “He was really good,” she recounted. “We had a bummer of a rail in the Julie Gray class, but he jumped well. The second week, I brought Ready To Rumble. He’d been laid off for a year, but he jumped around really well and won one of our Child/Adult Amateur Jumpers classes. It was really fun.”

The family had only planned to show the first week, but Donelle was very happy when they decided to stay for the second. “Since Keely did so well and Dalan was so consistent and solid, I said let’s go back and see if we can do that again,” Donelle remarked. “Both of them came back and rode so great. I think Pariska is Keely’s future, and it was wonderful seeing her jump around with a big smile on Keely’s face. Dalan was really just getting to know her new horse, Intuition, the first week, and she came back and won the $2,500 Jumping Horse Shows Hunter Derby. She was second after getting an 84 first round, and then she got an 85 in the second and moved up to first. She won the whole thing, so that was super exciting.”


Dalan Laughlin enjoys her first derby win
Photo: Deb Dawson

Naturally, 14-year-old Dalan was over the moon at her first hunter derby win. ”I’ve only done one derby before, and it was a different horse,” she explained. “I was pretty nervous because Intuition is new and green, but he was really good so I was really proud of him. Going into the second round, Kelly Maddox and Tapatio (Emily Johnson, owner) was leading, and she had a really good round. I was extremely surprised to win. My plan was just to get around confidently and ride the jumps as best I could. I was lucky because I got a good feel for the bending lines when I competed in the Almaden Farms Medal Final in the first week.” Dalan and Intuition were also Junior Equitation 13-17 Reserve Champion the first week and Children’s Hunters Champion the second week.

Showing as a family means the Laughlins always have their own personal cheerleading section, plus someone to commiserate with when things don’t go so well. “Showing with my mom is fun because we compete in some of the same classes, although we don’t really compete against each other because I’m a child and she’s an adult. We haul our own horses, and on the way back from shows we always talk about how it went. When we do well we’re really happy for each other.”

It all started when Donelle was young. “I’ve loved horses my whole life,” she recounted. “I started riding Western when I was about eleven and did the Quarter Horse circuit until I was about 18. I did reining, cow horses, cutting, rail classes, etc. Then in college I played polo and was an All American Woman player my last two years, and then I played professionally. I eventually moved on to eventing and now I just do show jumping. To raise two daughters who love horses as much I do is definitely a surprise. I was just happy they liked horses at all, and to see the girls enjoying them as much as I do–taking care of them, getting excited about the different horses—it’s really special for me.”

The Let’s Show season continues with Fall Festival (Oct 3-6), now an A show, featuring the Cloverleaf Medal Finals, $5,000 Cloverleaf Jumpers, and Zone 10 Medal Challenge. The season will conclude with the highly popular Let’s Show Halloween Celebration and Championships (Oct 23-27). For more information on the shows, including prize lists and online entries visit www.letsshow.net.

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