Riders from across the western United States converged on Las Vegas to compete in the North American League’s (NAL) West Coast Finals at the Las Vegas National Horse Show, November 13-18.
Dozens of riders competed in the West Coast Finals in five different divisions. The winners of the five divisions were Christopher Fellers, Adult Amateur Jumper; Kellie Byer, Children’s Jumper; Jaclyn Jarrell, Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper; Lily Blavin, Children’s Hunter; and Emily Winkler, Adult Amateur Hunter.
Everyone who competed in one of the five classics on “NAL Day” at the Las Vegas National Horse Show received a gift bag a with an assortment of gifts from the NAL and SmartPak including a commemorative NAL Finals stall plaque. Those who earned a trip to the winners circle were also rewarded with an array of awards including a polished pewter trophy, NAL coolerette, a certificate for an NAL scrim from the Clothes Horse and a Wellfleet Wide Noseband Hunter Bridle donated by SmartPak (the winner of the Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Final received a Wellfleet Figure 8 Bridle.)
“These Finals are an important part of the year-end championships for West Coast riders,” said Annette Longenecker of Ryegate Show Services which administers the North American League. “We really wanted to reward the riders in our NAL West Coast Finals as a way of honoring them for their accomplishments.”
Renowned trainer Archie Cox reinforced Longenecker’s comments on the importance of the North American League Finals, saying, “I think the NAL is a fantastic program. It gives riders in these divisions a chance to ride indoors, both in the east and now also in the west. We’re all goal oriented and the NAL Finals give us a great goal to strive for. I think it’s fabulous.”
Christopher Fellers, of Wilsonville, OR, won the NAL’s Adult Jumper Final. The 21-year-old junior at Linfield College rode his horse Cascade in the class that featured 15 entrants; four were able to make it to the jump-off. Two of the jump-off contestants, Fellers and Jennifer Elliott, posted fault-free rounds. Fellers had the faster time of 35.101 over Elliott’s 35.375, giving him the win by less than three tenths of a second. Fellers credited the quickness of Cascade during a crucial part of the course for giving them the win. “He’s got incredible ground speed,” said Fellers. “Ground speed to the last fence is where I got it.”
Fellers, son of reigning World Cup champion and 2012 Olympian Rich Fellers, thinks the NAL Finals are a great addition to the west coast season. “It’s great having these Finals here,” he said. “It gives riders something big to shoot for.”
Kellie Byer, of Torrance, CA, took home the NAL’s Children Jumper Championship riding Annestasia. The class had 23 horses competing for the title. The young riders proved themselves ready for competition as eight rode clear rounds. The jump-off saw three clear rounds, with Kellie Byer taking first and second place aboard Annestasia and Bonbini. Katherine Pratty took third aboard Quimba. Speaking of her position going first in the jump-off, Byer said, “She’s got a long stride and she’s pretty fast so I thought my time might be able to hold up.”
Jaclyn Jarrell, of Calgary, Canada, claimed the Championship in the Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Division, Presented by SmartPak, aboard Barthez, whom she’s ridden for six years starting first as a Children’s Hunter. Only three of 23 entries were able to reach the jump-off where two had clear rounds. Jarrell won the championship with a time of 37.316 with Jenny Calandra placing second with a jump-off time of 38.194. The nursing school student tried to prepare throughout the NAL season for the finals. “We tried to do as many NAL classes as we could all year,” said Jarrell. “The NAL Finals are great; it’s a real good way to finish the year.”
Lily Blavin, of Scottsdale, AZ, won the Children’s Hunter title. The 15-year-old, along with 15 others, competed in two rounds with the sum of their two scores determining the Champion. Blavin, riding Montague, was able to post the highest score, 84, in the first round for a comfortable lead as the next highest score was 77. The second round saw Blavin claim the second best score of 84 to Mikayla Stewart’s 87 on her horse Verdana. The combined score of 168 put Blavin first in the standings, followed by Stewart, who had only been competing in hunters for six months. Third place was taken by Blavin and her horse Sander. Blavin said of Montague that he is “the best horse I could ever ask for. He is so sweet and he jumps incredibly.”
Emily Winkler, of Long Beach, CA, won the Final in the Adult Amateur Hunter Division, Presented by Practical Horseman. Winkler, who is a doctoral student in physical therapy, rode her horse Landmark to victory. Twelve competitors again competed in two rounds. The first round saw Winkler with the third best score of 80, but she was able to capture the championship with a second round score of 85, making her combined score of 165 the best overall. Jessica Singer placed second and third with scores of 162 on Cruise and 160 on Cabo Z.
“It’s great having the NAL here out west,” said Winkler. “It’s a real neat experience and fun, like a big, east coast competition.”