Teamwork Makes the Dream Work in the $5,000 NEE Hunter/Jumper Team Costume Challenge

Temecula, Calif. – Oct 22, 2021 – Teamwork was abundant in the $5,000 NEE Hunter/Jumper Team Challenge at Galway Downs for Nilforushan Equisport Events’ Temecula Valley National Fall Week II. Hunter and jumper athletes came together in teams of two in hopes of taking top honors in the unique crowd-favorite class. The competitors were not only vying for the highest combined score, but also awards for the best costumes. Thanks to their overall score, comprising the highest hunter marks of the class and one of the fastest jumper times, the combination of Isabelle Tolentino and Della White took the win aboard Blazing Lute and Eye Catcher, respectively, ending a two year long winning streak by Shiloh Roseboom and Amanda Gomez.

Isabelle Tolentino and Della White Team “Ninja”

The $5,000 NEE Hunter/Jumper Team Challenge added an incentive twist to standard equestrian competition, this time with hunter and jumper riders teaming up to combine their talents all while showcasing their innovative and exciting costumes. Scores were calculated by subtracting the time from the jumper portion of the course from the score awarded by a judge to the hunter counterpart to determine a final tally, with the highest score winning the day. Hunters took to the ring first, riding over their 8-obstacle course, followed by the jumper pairs, tasked with navigating a 7-obstacle course.

Della White and Eye Catcher

Lexie Looker and Katie Taylor were the first to enter the arena, ready to showcase their talent against other competitors aboard their mounts Dot Com and Chaperon, respectively. The Nightmare Before Christmas riders had their sights set on taking the top position on the podium. Lexie Looker and her own seven-year-old KWPN gelding gave the hunter course their best effort, showcasing enough style to put in a score of 81. Combined with Taylor’s blazing fast time of 35.504 seconds over the jumper course with Chaperon, Looker and her own 14-year-old KWPN gelding held their own, earning them an early spot at the top of the leaderboard with a combined score of 50.496. Looker and Taylor were quickly overcome by Team Ninja, ultimately causing The Nightmare Before Christmas Team to take a step back into a second place spot.

Katie Taylor and Chaperon

Tolentino took to the Grand Prix Arena aboard Marlene Nadel’s gelding Blazing Lute, alongside her partner Della White who rode Eye Catcher, a 12-year-old KWPN mare owned by Julia A. White, where the dynamic duo showcased their Ninja-themed costumes. Tolentino was the first to take to the track, laying down one of the highest scores of the evening, an 82. Her effortless fluidity throughout the course and subtle maneuvers won the judges over. Following in her footsteps was her teammate White. Gunning for the top title, White and Eye Catcher leveled up, soaring around the jumper course and crossing the finish line in a blisteringly fast time of 37.452 seconds, putting her and Tolentino in the lead of the class with a combined score of 51.048.

Isabelle Tolentino and Blazing Lute

Though many teams attempted to dethrone the Ninja Team from their first place spot, none were successful in their endeavors. The pair to come close was the Monster Mash Team made up of Kara Fritz and Martha McKenna. The first to take the ring was Fritz aboard Coolboy, an 11-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by C.M.A. Growers, Inc. The pair had nothing to lose, giving their hunter round their all and earning a score of 84. Decked out in ripped up fabric to look like a mummy, McKenna gave a spectacular performance aboard her own 9-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare Marvelous Merle, showcasing unmatched footspeed and stopping the clocks in 40.784 seconds. Together, Fritz and McKenna were able to secure a last-minute upset in the results, snagging a third place spot on the podium with a combined score of 46.211.

Martha McKenna and Kara Fritz Team “Monster Mash”

Top show jumping competition in the Grand Prix Arena during the second and final week of the Temecula Valley National Fall Series, presented by Interactive Mortgage, comes to a dramatic conclusion Saturday with the $10,000 NEEd for Speed Derby, sponsored by Multi Radiance Super Pulsed Lasers, and the highlight event of the week, the $50,000 Grand Prix, sponsored by First National Bank of Pasco, held concurrently with the $1,000 U25 Jumper Classic, sponsored by Equine Discounts.


Isabelle Tolentino – $5,000 NEE Hunter/Jumper Team Challenge winner

Isabelle Tolentino and Della White Team “Ninja”

On being partnered together:
“Our trainers [Sean Leckie and Sophie Simpson-Leckie] pushed us to do this class. We wanted to do it, but he was very excited for us to do it too!”

On her strategy:
“I actually catch-rode this horse [Blazing Lute]. It was my very first time riding it. I was just trying to go in and have a solid round and have a good time.”

On choosing a costume:
“We went back and forth a lot. We had three different costumes for a while. We had a bunch of ideas until I went to the store and saw these [ninja costumes] and was like ‘Okay, we have to do that. They’re so cool.’ We just thought it would look the coolest out of all of them.”

On future plans:
“I rode at the beginning of the week and just did some hunter rounds on a different catch ride. This one, [Blazing Lute], was really a catch ride out of the blue because I just really wanted to do this class.”

On Nilforushan Equisport Events:
“I love this show. It has the best venue and is just the best.”

Della White – $5,000 NEE Hunter/Jumper Team Challenge winner

Della White and Eye Catcher

On being partnered together:
“We ride at the same barn and we heard that there was going to be a costume class. We decided last week that we were going to do it.”

On her strategy:
“Sean [Leckie] basically told me to just go fast and to not worry about anything. We weren’t really trying to win, we were just there to have a good time.”

On future plans:
“I showed earlier this week but I will also be doing the high [JR/AO/AM Jumper] on Sunday.”

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