Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2024

Benjamin Takes A Handy Victory At Colorado Summer Classic

This equitation rider impressed the judges in the hunter derby.

Sophie Benjamin had a specific plan for the $15,000 ASG Software Solutions USHJA International Hunter Derby. Although she entered the class on a whim aboard her equitation horse, Sir Neel, she decided to take full advantage of all the handy opportunities and see if the show hunters could keep pace.

They couldn’t.


This equitation rider impressed the judges in the hunter derby.

Sophie Benjamin had a specific plan for the $15,000 ASG Software Solutions USHJA International Hunter Derby. Although she entered the class on a whim aboard her equitation horse, Sir Neel, she decided to take full advantage of all the handy opportunities and see if the show hunters could keep pace.

They couldn’t.

And after Benjamin jumped all of the biggest option fences and thrilled the crowd with a bold gallop to the last oxer, the bonus points she earned in the handy round propelled her to the top of the class at the Colorado Summer Classic Horse Show, July 23-27 in Parker. Colo.

“He’s such a straightforward guy,” said Benjamin of Inspiration Farm’s Sir Neel. “I knew he wasn’t going to care about the naturals. That’s why I did all the handy things, because I knew I couldn’t beat all these hunter riders.”

Benjamin, 18, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., who trains with Susan Artes, hasn’t owned a horse of her own for several years. “I just do a lot of catch riding. The last time I was significantly formidable was on my medium pony,” she said, laughing.

Sir Neel’s owner, Victoria Hobbs, bought the horse largely so Benjamin would have a good mount for the East Coast fall indoor horse shows. Benjamin couldn’t say enough to express her gratitude to her patroness.

“She’s like my second mother,” she said.

Benjamin hadn’t intended to ride in the derby, however, Artes suggested it would be a good experience and urged Benjamin to give it a try. “We just entered it to try to prepare for back East,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin, who also won the Washington International Equitation Classic hunter, jumper and overall phases, will start college at Princeton (N.J.) this fall and is looking forward to riding at Beacon Hill. “I want to do the horses professionally,” she said. “We’ll see how things go.”

Cudmore’s Horsepower

Karen Cudmore always enjoys traveling to Colorado for the summer shows. She missed last year, however, when she went as an alternate for Canada to the Pan American Games. A knee injury kept her from riding there, but she was able to cheer from the sidelines as Canada won team silver and individual gold.

Cudmore, Omaha, Neb., showed no lingering problems with her knee while earning first and third in the $60,000 Grand Prix of Denver with Ocelot and Southern Pride, respectively. Interestingly, her ribbons were exactly the same the last time Cudmore visited Colorado.

“I like it here,” said Cudmore, laughing.


Colorado Summer Classic Tidbits

•    Eduardo Vasquez, Monterrey, Mexico, topped the $10,000 high junior/amateur-owner jumper classic aboard Quinex 79. “He was injured from January until June, and now he’s back and doing really well,” Vasquez said.

•    Mina Yang, Beverly Hills, Calif., teamed up with Madoc to win the Marshall & Sterling Children’s Jumper Classic. She finished second as well with Goulash. Madoc is at the end of an illustrious career that included numerous grand prix victories. He remains fit and eager, and Yang feels fortunate to have him. “I’m a lucky person,” said Yang, who trains with Santiago Rickard.

•    Lindsay Udelson, Tomball, Texas, rode her Haute Brion to victory in the Marshall & Sterling Adult Amateur Jumper Classic. Udelson, who trains with Daniel Bedoya Jr., always enjoys coming to Colorado in the summer. “It’s an escape from the humidity, and my horses are always good here,” she said. 

It was no surprise to Cudmore that Ocelot beat Southern Pride in the jump-off, though.

“If I do the exact same track with those two horses, that one is always faster,” she said. “Southern Pride’s a Mercedes; Ocelot is a Ferrari.”

At 13, Ocelot isn’t a young horse, and Cudmore is taking care not to show him too much. “I’m picking and choosing for Ocelot,” she said. “He won’t dance every dance. But he’ll go to places where I know he likes it, and I think I can win.”

Both Holsteiner stallions share similar bloodlines. Ocelot is by Ocean II, who is by South Pacific, Southern Pride’s sire. Both have breeding duties at the Cudmore’s Heartland Farms in Omaha and are
excellent advertisements for their get.

Mickie Sage was sandwiched between Cudmore’s stallions with Shannon Strom’s Cocknito CH. The crowd was behind the Colorado-based rider and expressed disappointment when Sage didn’t win.

Sage, however, was delighted with her second place. “It was big. It was challenging and completely what I need to experience,” said Sage, who is campaigning Cocknito in his first full grand prix year.

She had a scary moment in the jump-off when she lost a stirrup iron rolling back to the triple bar.

“This is a huge jump in front of me, and he’s going to jump so big over it,” she remembered thinking. She did the only thing she could in the circumstances. “I just hung on for dear life,” said Sage.

A Great Life

Guy McElvain was pleased with his two rides in the grand prix when Airforce One placed 11th with a rail in the first round and Acrobaat Z had two rails. But he was even more thrilled with Rancho Corazon’s Paroli, who won the low junior/amateur jumper classic.

McElvain’s win in the classic came with a horse originally intended for his wife, Sharon. “She didn’t like him that much, so I get to ride him,” he said smiling.


McElvain’s success over the lower jumps helped settle down some of the butterflies in his stomach for the grand prix. “That ride gave me confidence,” he said. “That [grand prix] was a thrill. It was a big course. It was hard enough, and only the top horses and riders were in the jump-off. I was very happy with that.”

McElvain’s wife and daughter Chenoa also ride at the family’s Rancho Corazon in Lemitar, N.M., where they train with John McConnell. Chenoa represented Zone 8 at the North American Junior and Young Riders Championships (Colo.).

“It keeps us all out of trouble, gives us all something to do together, and everybody loves it,” he said. “It’s a great lifestyle.”

Classic Performances

Lindsey Fishell and her Tabloid took home the blue in the amateur-owner hunter classic. Fishell, originally from Colorado, relocated to Texas two years ago.

“I’m a Texan now, yep,” she said laughing.

She went into training with Will Roberts, and not long after purchased Tabloid from Eric Lamaze in Canada. “ ’Tab’ is a pretty spectacular jumper,” she said of the 5-year-old. “He’s been a little bit of a challenge, but he’s really starting to come around and learn his job, and we’re both getting comfortable with one another.”

Bringing along a young horse isn’t a process that can be rushed, and Fishell was pleased with their championship in the amateur-owner, 18-35, division as well. “Consistency, patience, realizing the ability that he has, using that to better him and yourself,” said Fishell. “Every day is a learning experience.”

Kelsey Thatcher is also learning about her Gianni, and the pair put it all together for victory in the junior hunter classic and the tricolor in the large junior, 15 and under, division. Thatcher purchased Gianni last September through Colorado trainer Michael Dennehy.

“He had a nice jump and a lovely expression,” said Thatcher, who lives at Pony Lane Farm in South Jordan, Utah.

Thatcher garnered the classic win with an 88 in the second round. “I haven’t ever had an entire day when it was like right on,” she said. “It finally came together the last round, and I was just thrilled.”

To make a good story even better, the win came on Thatcher’s 15th birthday.

Matt Hinton




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