It’s not easy to win a national championship on a horse you haven’t ridden since June, but Mikala Gundersen made it look that way after piloting Pikko Del Cerro HU to the Markel/USEF National Young Horse 6-Year-Old Championship today, Aug. 23, at Lamplight Equestrian Center.
“He had great canter work, but a couple of the changes were a little tense,” said Gundersen, Wellington, Fla. “He’s got a great walk. I smile and sit there and let him do the work.”
But the championship test didn’t go as smoothly as Gundersen had hoped.
“I came in after having a good warm-up, and we went around the ring, and he freaked out at the people applauding for the horse before me,” she said. “It took him a while to get settled again, but he was still good. It was just bad luck that we didn’t have the same round as we had on Friday.”
The pair posted a huge mark of 82.00 percent in the preliminary test, which counted for 40 percent of their overall score. The judges, Linda Zang, Hilda Gurney and Jeanne McDonald felt that the horse was more resistant today, but their 77 percent in the championship test sealed the win.
Gundersen, 40, has been riding the Hanoverian stallion since he was 4, but her tour of Europe with Leonberg this summer prevented her from working with the young horse for several months.
“Lisa Wilcox sat on him two to three times a week,” said Gundersen. “I couldn’t have done this without her. She got him a little stronger and more collected. We have such a great working relationship.”
Pikko Del Cerro HU (Pik L—Rohweena) is owned by his breeder, Horses Unlimited. Gundersen, a Danish citizen, hopes to continue riding the stallion, but she would also like to see him go on to compete in the Developing Horse Championship, which is only for U.S. citizens.
“I would love to continue to follow this program, and we hope to do the small tour next year,” Gundersen said. “He’s a talented horse. We’ll see how he performs and go from there.”
Faberge Sneaks Into Reserve Championship Spot
Jessica Jo Tate thought Faberge had the talent to place in the top five in the 6-year-old division, but she was blown away by their reserve championship title.
“I still can’t believe it, this is awesome,” Tate, Chesapeake City, Md., said with a laugh. “He felt so with me today and was in the ride. The whole thing felt easy and supple. I couldn’t have asked anything more from him.”
Faberge (Florestan—Baroness) was awarded 8.0 for his submission during his test by the judges, who appreciated Tate’s riding, as well.
“I read over the comments of the test, but I wanted to present him the same,” said Tate. “It was about getting him more uphill and really showing him off. He doesn’t have the most powerful extensions, but I highlight how balanced and rideable he his. He’s so compliant and has the best attitude.”
Tate, 31, has only been riding Faberge since April of this year after her client, Elizabeth Guarisco, purchased him.
“We were looking for a schoolmaster, but [Faberge] was perfect,” said Tate. “He doesn’t get nervous about anything. He wants to please the rider and gives a really great feeling. I’m so happy for [Elizabeth] because he’s great.”
Nicole Bellah and Winsor won the championship test today with 80.80 percent, which pushed them into third place overall. Warsteiner and Heather Mason were fourth overall, and Amy Miller on Waterloo SE finished fifth.