Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2024

Hester Gets An Oxford Education At Menlo Charity


Oxford answers Lauren Hester’s wish, and they take their first grand prix win.

Lauren Hester and Oxford took the other riders to school in the $40,000 Menlo Grand Prix. Hester and her 11-year-old Dutch Warm-blood bested a field of 27 to earn the win at the Menlo Charity Horse Show, Aug. 7-12 in Atherton, Calif.
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Oxford answers Lauren Hester’s wish, and they take their first grand prix win.

Lauren Hester and Oxford took the other riders to school in the $40,000 Menlo Grand Prix. Hester and her 11-year-old Dutch Warm-blood bested a field of 27 to earn the win at the Menlo Charity Horse Show, Aug. 7-12 in Atherton, Calif.

Hester had previously shown in only five grand prix events and with only marginal success. “I’ve never gone clear in a grand prix before today,” said Hester. “I’ve always gotten 8 faults.” That changed in a hurry on Saturday evening.

Hester laid it all on the line with a very quick ride—just edging second-placed Missy Froley by less than .10 of a second. The 10-horse jump-off turned into a speed contest.

Two riders—including Erin Duffy, one of Hester’s trainers—bettered Hester’s time in the jump-off, but both had the last jump down, which was a concern of Hester’s, too.

Oxford (Topas—Akteur) occasionally fails to give verticals the respect they deserve. “We get the first jump down a lot, and the last jump,” Hester said.

Hester, who trains at Newmarket with Erin Duffy, Lori DeRosa and Cece Bloum, had only one thing on her mind as she approached the final vertical in Michael Roy Curtis’ course. “I was thinking, ‘Please, don’t knock it down,’ ” she said.

Hester, 20, is one of the mainstays of the equestrian team at Southern Methodist University (Texas), where she has a full-ride athletic scholarship. Hester’s own horses remain at home in southern California.

Reclaiming The Ride

Nick Karazissis generously gave up his ride on Penny Lane Farm’s Tredington Suite in the regular working hunters. His aunt, Jenny Karazissis, is in a tight race in the World Champion Hunter Rider Southwest regional professional rider standings and needed a few more points. Nick handed over the reins with one proviso—if the horse were champion or reserve, thus qualifying for the $10,000 hunter challenge, Nick would get the ride back for the big class. Jenny rode Tredington Suite to the regular working hunter championship, then sat back to watch proudly while her nephew took the lovely bay gelding to the win in the challenge. “I had big shoes to fill when Aunt Jenny rode him also,” said Nick, smiling. “I was lucky enough to pull it off today.”

The course for the hunter challenge was set on the huge grass hunter field at Menlo and encouraged horses to lengthen their step. “The lines were open, and I was able to let him go,” Nick said. “It’s very nice when someone will let the hunters go gallop a little bit.”

Making Winning Music

Polly Sweeney has had to wait a long time to concentrate on her riding, but her patience paid off with four wins out of five classes and the grand adult amateur and adult amateur, 56 and over championships at Menlo.

Her ride, Dublin, is just 6 and a pre-green horse this year. “I bought him as a 4-year-old and played with him all last year,” said Sweeney. “John French started showing him [at the HITS Desert Circuit (Calif.)] this year, and he’s learning his job.”

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Sweeney, a retired concert violinist, rode as a child but quit when she graduated from high school. “In those days, when you went to college you stopped riding,” she said.

Sweeney rode a little during her graduate school years at The Juilliard School (N.Y.), and continued when she moved to California. She rode at Flintridge with Jimmy Williams at the same time that Hap Hansen, Anne Kursinski and Susie Hutchison were there.

“All those guys were kids,” Sweeney said, laughing. “I got a wonderful six years riding, from 1968 to 1974, and then I had to quit for another 18 years until my daughter started riding.”

Arthritis and a couple of riding injuries have forced her to give up her career in music. “My hand broke,” said Sweeney. “It was a combination of too many hours twisting it and playing the violin combined with a few accidents. It’s okay to live with, but it doesn’t play the violin as well as it used to.”

That particular cloud does have a silver lining, however. “It’s affording me the chance to really have fun with the horses now, something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid,” Sweeney said.

Nick has had the ride on Tredington Suite for only a little more than a year, but he already knew the horse well. His father imported the gelding, and Tredington Suite spent some time showing in the amateur-owner hunter division. Nick is delighted that Tredington Suite’s now his own ride in the regular working division—that is, when his aunt doesn’t need those points.

“This horse has taught me how to ride the hunters,” said Nick, who assists trainer Mike Edrick in Agoura, Calif. “He’s very special. He gives me amazing confidence to go in there and let it all hang out.”

Tracy Sully also has a WCHR points race in the back of her mind. She started training with John French this year. The idea was for the Aldergrove, B.C., amateur to get a chance to show at more of the big venues in California, but she also wanted to make a run at the WCHR regional award.

And at Menlo, Sully achieved her goal, topping the amateur-owner hunter WCHR Southwest regional standings. She also rode Elvis to the top of the amateur-owner hunter classic.

Things had not gone so well for Elvis earlier in the week. “We had a couple of days with him being spooky with the tent,” Sully said. Elvis settled down in time to earn the amateur-owner, 36 and over reserve championship and for the big class, however.

“Today he kind of got it all together and relaxed and pulled it off,” said Sully after the classic. This was the first time Sully had shown at Menlo, and she was full of praise for the event. “It’s the real old feel,” she said. “This reminds me of some of the old shows when they put all the pomp and pageantry into it, which is nice to see again.”

Back In The Saddle

Glenda Morris reunited with Red Label to take top honors in the adult amateur hunter classic at Menlo. Morris bought the chestnut Hanoverian over the winter while recuperating from a bad fall, but then sold him again, to Laura Wasserman.

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“Laura fell in love with him,” Morris said. Morris wasn’t too worried about saying goodbye to Red Label, since both she and Wasserman train with Archie Cox and Peter Lombardo.

“I figured if he stayed in the barn, and she would let me ride him a little bit, I would go ahead and let her do it,” Morris said.

Wasserman was attending a wedding the week of Menlo, so Morris got the reins. “He’s kind of new to all this. He used to do dressage,” said Morris, who markets outdoor media in Las Vegas, Nev. “He’s coming
into himself. The more he goes, the better he gets.”

And while Red Label is talented, Morris appreciates another aspect of him as well. “He feels like I’m riding with airbags all around me,” she said. “I’ve never felt so safe in my life. He’s really an awesome animal.”

Safety is important to her, after a fall at the Capital Challenge Horse Show (Md.) in October left her with a fractured pelvis. No surgery was required, but she did have to spend six weeks flat on her back while the bones knit. She still has some residual numbness in her left leg and needless to say was a little worried about jumping again.

Corinne Miller also took advantage of a catch-riding opportunity and rode Liseter Clever Star to the large pony hunter cham-pionship and guided Simply Henry to the top of the pony hunter classic.

Miller, who trains with Mark Bone near her Brentwood, Calif., home, has had the ride on the ponies since late spring. Their usual jockey, Olivia Kohan, broke her foot in a non-horse accident and has been sidelined all summer. Kohan’s trainer, Kate Considine, called Bone for suggestions. Bone said that Miller would be the best bet.

But Miller was on vacation. “We were actually in the Bahamas,” said Miller. “Mark called us and told us we needed to get home as soon as possible. I was really honored.”

Miller, 13, is concerned that she is fast outgrowing the ponies. “It’s pretty much my favorite division. It’s just so much fun, because they’re all so good,” Miller said.

Top bill in the children’s hunter classic went to Blaire Kingsley and her Gran Turismo. Kingsley, who trains with Beverly Jovais, remembers the first time she sat on the talented Hanoverian gelding. “I smiled a lot. I had so much fun riding him,” she said.

Kingsley, who lives in Kentfield, Calif., was also named Best Child Rider at Menlo, and earned the children’s hunter, 13 and under championship. She got her start in riding thanks to a party. “I went to a birthday party one time, and we sat on horses,” Kingsley said. “I thought it was a lot of fun.”

Matt Hinton

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