Liz Atkins and Rodeo VDL Come Out On Top in Equifest III’s $25,000 Grand Prix

Wayne, Ill. –  Aug. 11, 2018 – 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
Liz Atkins and Rodeo VDL

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.

Liz Atkins and Rodeo VDL
Liz Atkins and Rodeo VDL

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.

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.

Holly Shepherd and Sky High
Holly Shepherd and Sky High

Atkins was incredibly proud of how far the 9-year-old gelding has come, as just one year ago his life hung in the balance when he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Now in 2018, he is back to being his healthy and happy self with lots of promise for a bright future. With the amount of talent and spirit that Rodeo VDL has, Atkins expressed that she is hopeful he will be one of her top horses.

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.

Charlie Jayne and Emy
Charlie Jayne and Emy

Competition at the Lamplight Equestrian Center will conclude Sunday, Aug. 12, with the Show Jumping Hall of Fame Junior/Amateur-Owner Classic sponsored by Hollow Brook Wealth Management at 1:30 p.m. in the Grand Prix Arena.


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


Liz Atkins – $25,000 Grand Prix winner

On Rodeo VDL:
“This horse is amazing. He’s 9-years-old this year and I’ve had him for about three years. 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 just came off of an amazing trip to Spruce Meadows, it was our first time ever going up there. He ribboned in fourout of the six classes he went in there, top five ribbon, not just getting one. 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.”

On the class:
“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. 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!”

On what’s next:
“He’s going to go home and get turned out for a few weeks, then we’ll go to Kentucky at the end of September and see how he does there!”

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