Thermal, Calif. – Feb. 6, 2022 – Amateur-Owner hunter competitors took to Hunter 1 Sunday morning for the final day of Desert Circuit III at the Desert International Horse Park (DIHP) to compete for championship honors in their respective heights and age groups. Over courses designed by Kevin Holowack, horse-and-rider combinations laid down the best they had to offer in an attempt to impress the judges one last time and secure the tricolor ribbon. In the end, it was Christina Smith and Soon To Be who rose to occasion to walk away with championship honors.
During Saturday’s portion of the division, Smith piloted Soon To Be to the top of the leaderboard for both over fences rounds, setting them up nicely for the championship. Sunday’s courses consisted of a classic hunter course and a handy round, where athletes had the opportunity to show off their horses’ adaptability and scope as they turned tightly around the arena and executed difficult tasks including a trot jump and a two-stride. Smith and Soon To Be gracefully met each jump out of stride and impressed the judges with the 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding’s scope and fluidity over the jumps and around the entire course.
The pair returned for their handy round, picking up a forward pace to the first oxer, navigating skillful inside turns around the winding course as the concluded by acing the trot jump and opening the stride to the final oxer. In the end, they would earn first place for their first over fences round and second place for their handy effort, ultimately clinching the championship.
Virginia Fout and Carma, an 18-year-old Warmblood gelding, also impressed the judges throughout the two days of competition. They claimed first place under saddle as well as a second and third place over fences Saturday, eventually clinching the reserve champion Sunday after earning second place over fences and fourth place for the handy round.
Along with vying for their championship titles, amateur-owner riders competed in their respective Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic. Fout and Carma took home yet another top honor, taking the win in the Amateur-Owner 3’3” Hunter Classic, sponsored by Perfect Products. The pair rode to scores of 83 and 85 for a total score of 168. Sybil Rose and Ciacolini won the Amateur-Owner 3’6” Hunter Classic, sponsored by Tack Warehouse, after earning two scores of 85 to finish on a total score of 170.
Sunday concluded Desert Circuit III at DIHP. Hunter competition will resume Wednesday, February 9, as professional hunter riders take to Hunter 1 to kick off Desert Circuit IV.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Christina Smith – Thumbs UP Farm Amateur-Owner 3’3’’ Hunter 36 & Over Champion
On Soon To Be:
“I’ve had him for five years now. He is my horse of a lifetime, for sure. He was super today, he was super yesterday. It was fun to be in Hunter 1. He is really handy. Joie [Gatlin-Morley Abey] and I came up with this great plan, and we were planning on doing the inside turn. When I missed that I knew I just had to be handy, so I decided to pick up and be brilliant and gallop. It was really nice that there weren’t a whole lot of inside turns after the first fence, so I picked up the gallop and just kept the gas pedal on the whole course. He gave me a beautiful trot jump and landed on the lead so I didn’t have to get the lead change and he just galloped right down to the last fence. He was super.”
On her plans with Soon To Be:
“I will continue to do the [Amateur-Owner 3’3’’ Hunter], and some weeks I catch a National Derby. If we want a light week we will just do a National Derby. We will be here for the rest of the circuit.”
“With the new improvements, it is unrecognizable. Every time I come, Steve [Hankin] has done an amazing job and there is something new and improved. I want to take the Grand Prix Arena footing home with me; it’s amazing! I hack in that warm-up ring whenever I can. All of the hunter rings look amazing. My daughter is in the pony ring and they added a pony club down there and everybody is having so much fun. I think everything is always better every time we come.”
Amateur-Owner 3’3” Hunter Classic
Place / Horse / Rider / R1 Score / R2 Score | Total
1. Carma / Virginia Fout / 83 / 85 | 168
2. Shadowfax / Josephine Cassens / 83 / 80 | 163
3. Haute Couture / Jessica Smith / 82.5 / 79 | 161.5
4. SWS All In / Alissa Brandt / 79 / 81 | 160
5. Cheroshi / Christine Phillips / 78.5 / 81 | 159.5
6. Adele / Chelsea Samuels / 75 / 84 | 159
7. Touche / Chelsea Samuels / 81 / 75 | 156
8. Close Up / Stephanie Goodson / 77.5 / 78 | 155.5
9. Montecito / Cherie Callander 80 / 75.25 | 155.25
10. Fabulous / Teresa Mann 78 / 76 | 154
11. Soon To Be / Christina Smith / 85 / 67 | 152
12. Delegate / Nicole Stern / 73 / 77 | 150