Temecula, Calif. – May 19, 2021 – Top hunter riders returned to Galway Downs for the second time this year for the Temecula Valley National Series, presented by Interactive Mortgage. Following a brief two-week break from world-class competition, the High Performance Hunters made their debut in hopes of capturing their first championship ribbon of the series. Following the two over fences classes and one under saddle, it was ultimately Michelle Morris and Ka-Ching who walked away from the first day of competition on top.
Alexis Taylor and Up North, a 10-year-old Warmblood gelding owned by Aleron LLC, were the first to enter the ring in hopes of snagging an early lead heading into Thursday’s division championship. The pair showcased their style over Kelley LaFond’s eight-obstacle course and turned in the first two scores to beat. The Washington native returned to the ring with her second mount Catendro, owned by Mia Burlington, shortly after. Taylor and the 13-year-old German Sport Horse gelding out of Catoki impressed the judges with two consistent rounds highlighting the Catendro’s scope.
California native Shauna Pennell was next in the ring aboard WJC Farms, LLC’s Top Story, a 9-year-old Westphalian gelding. Pennell also put in two nicely ridden-over fences rounds, displaying Top Story’s cadence and textbook jumping style to earn scores high enough to just edge out Taylor and Catendro. The pair captured a second place ribbon in the second over fences round.
Saving the best for last, Morris and Ka-Ching, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Melissa Sklenar, entered the ring with their eyes on the prize. The duo laid down two fabulous rounds displaying flawless finesse that the judges rewarded with a first place and second place ribbon. The leader of Wednesday’s class came down to the under saddle portion as both Pennell and Morris each secured a first and a second place in the over fences portion. Ultimately, Morris edged out the competition in the under saddle portion ensuring a lead heading into Thursday’s championship. Though, Pennell and Top Story are hot on their heels in a close second place. Taylor and Catendro, currently sit in third place going into the final day of High Performance Hunter competition.
The champion of the High Performance Hunter division at Nilforushan Equisport Events’ Temecula Valley National Week I will be crowned on Thursday followed by the concluding day of competition in the Green 3’9” Hunter, Conformation Hunter, Green 3’6” Hunter, and Performance Hunter 3’6” divisions.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Michelle Morris – Leader of the High Performance Hunter Division
“My client has had him for a few years with me now. It’s kind of corny to say, but it’s been a really incredible journey with him because we started and he was very green. We put him in some of the 3’6” [classes] then he started getting more consistent. I rode him in the Green 3’9” Hunter and now in the High Performance, so we’ve definitely learned to build a partnership together just from that experience. He’s a very special horse and you know he’s always going to jump the jump and give 100 percent. It’s great to have a horse with that kind of mindset and you can just feel you trust that horse. It’s been really great and fun to see the progression over the years with him, and he’s just fun on top of that too. It’s really been great having that partnership with him and having those successes.”
On her preparation for the class:
“I do like to hack him first thing in the morning, it’s a routine that we’ve developed over the years and I think it gets both of us in that mindset. We get a feel for the ring, we see how things are set off of the corner, and he sees his surroundings a little bit so it’s not surprising. We don’t even have to hack all that long, just getting him in front of the leg and making sure he’s taking me a little bit and I think it’s just the routine of it and gets both of us on track for the classes later in the day.”
On her rounds:
“It was very interesting to ride in that ring [Hunter 1] because everything did come up quickly and you had to make sure that you had the right pace and connection on the ends of the ring. I thought he was great with that today, and going into tomorrow, and especially the warmups, I have to make sure I get him in front of my leg on the ends of the ring and get that connection to make sure I have him prepared for tomorrow. But, I couldn’t have asked him to be better today, he felt great, really getting down the lines nicely and giving some nice jumps, so I definitely feel like he was on point.
On their plans for the rest of the week:
“His owner is going to take him in the Amateur-Owner 3’6” Hunter division, and he will probably also do the derby here on Sunday.”
On showing at the Temecula Valley National I:
“I came here in 2019 when the Grand Hunter Arena was still grass, and it’s been amazing seeing everything. Ali’s done a fantastic job with the presentation of the show grounds and even just the vendors, VIP, and everything. All of my horses have been really good and I think it’s because of the energy in the field that’s here. I am a big believer that horses read the vibe of a place and there’s really a great vibe here. The footing is awesome, it’s fantastic. I would love to do more shows here! It’s very warm and inviting, which as an exhibitor you love. You definitely feel great being an exhibitor here.”