Tuesday, May. 21, 2024

Hite Hits The Heights At The Menlo Charity

This amateur rider is relieved to win her first grand prix with the only first-round clear.

One of Laura Hite’s lifetime goals was to ride in a grand prix. Actually, she phrased it a bit differently. “I just wanted literally to survive,” said the amateur rider from Coto de Caza, Calif.

She not only survived the $40,000 Menlo Grand Prix, only her second outing at that level, but she and her Pandrels also won the class.

“This is my hobby and my dream. It’s unbelievable,” she said.
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This amateur rider is relieved to win her first grand prix with the only first-round clear.

One of Laura Hite’s lifetime goals was to ride in a grand prix. Actually, she phrased it a bit differently. “I just wanted literally to survive,” said the amateur rider from Coto de Caza, Calif.

She not only survived the $40,000 Menlo Grand Prix, only her second outing at that level, but she and her Pandrels also won the class.

“This is my hobby and my dream. It’s unbelievable,” she said.

The grand prix was a highlight of the Menlo Charity Horse Show, Aug. 5-10 in Atherton, Calif.

Hite trains in San Juan Capistrano with Joie Gatlin and Morley Abey. Neither could be at Menlo, but assistant trainer Tara Metzner was on hand to help. Metzner, realizing Hite was nervous, kept her technical advice to a minimum.

“Have enough pace, keep my reins short and good luck,” were the sum of the instructions, according to Hite.

When Hite entered the ring, only one horse had jumped fault-free over Michael Curtis’ course, and that horse had 2 time penalties. Hite finished clear within the time and won without a jump-off, which was just fine with her. Lise Quintero and Wendy Darling’s Nulli Sucundus settled for second with their 2 time faults.

“I was scared I’d have to do another round,” Hite said, laughing. “It’s the highest either one of us has ever jumped.”

Hite, the CEO of a company that manufactures children’s bath products and vitamins, has three kids. School, marriage and parenthood resulted in her giving up the sport she loves for 18 years.

“When my daughter was old enough to start riding, I decided to start again,” she said.

Hite credited her grand prix victory to Pandrels, a horse she’s owned for three years.

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“I have an amazing horse—that’s all I can say. I love him, and he loves me,” she said of her 11-year-old bay gelding. Hite also didn’t hesitate to call on a little help from above. “I just kept praying for safety and clarity, and angels to pull us over these jumps!”

Hunting For Prize Money

Trainer Keri Kampsen had to rise above all others in the $10,000 Grand Hunter Challenge—including her own student—to earn the top check in the richest hunter class at the Menlo Charity.

In the end, she rode Monarch International’s aptly named On Top to victory. Her student, Nicoletta von Heidegger, gave her cause for concern, however.

“Nicoletta went before me and got a 90, so I had to rise above,” said Kampsen, who assists Joe Thorpe at Sovereign Place in Los Angeles, Calif. “It was a nice track—lots of combinations, long gallops.

Kampsen and On Top scored a 95 for an appreciative crowd, as the class preceded the grand prix in an adjacent ring. “It was a great stage,” Kampsen noted.

Menlo Charity Tidbits

•    Lucy Davis, Los Angeles, Calif., won the Flying Farm Junior Hunter Classic with Old Oak Farm’s Red Rooster, a relatively new ride for her. “He’s still fairly green, and we were looking for a little bit of a project,” said Davis, who trains with Archie Cox and Peter Lombardo. “He has a really great jump, and he’s sweet and pretty.”

•    Samantha Sommers rode Huckleberry Farm’s Del Ray to victory in the Bertram Capital Pony Hunter Classic. “We had a rough day the second day, but all the other days he was really good,” said Sommers of her large chestnut pony. Sommers’ father is a Hollywood director and producer, whose credits include Van Helsing and The Mummy. He also directed an adaptation of Huckleberry Finn in 1993, and that’s where the farm got its name.

•    Conor Perrin was nervous at the beginning of the week, but he settled down to win the Trick Or Treat Children’s Hunter Classic aboard Polar Star. He trains at Bridgeport Farms in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. “I came together at the end,” he said. “I just relaxed a little bit.”

The regular conformation hunter tricolor winners Sole Heir, ridden by Jenny Karazissis, and Cunningham, with John Bragg, stepped up for second and third, respectively.

Hope Glynn didn’t settle for just first place in the Shaw’s Saddlery Handy Hunter Class, she took the top two spots for a significant chunk of the $4,000 purse. She earned the blue with Helen McEvoy’s Campari and the red aboard Courtney Sibert’s Tessa.

“Campari is a 6-year-old that we bought from [trainers] Scott Fitton and Rob Bielefeld at the beginning of the year,” Glynn said. “Tessa is an 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare that I got three years ago out of Canada from Eric Lamaze as a jumper prospect. She was brave and honest and happened to be beautiful. She’s really come into fruition this year. I’m just very blessed that I have two nice horses that help me out out there.”

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Hope and her husband Ned operate Sonoma Valley Stables in Petaluma, Calif. Glynn’s young daughter Avery held the blue ribbon during the awards presentation but looked as though she’d have preferred a different one. “She still thinks pink is a better color,” said Glynn, smiling.

Glynn said the format of the class, a take-your-own-line event with lots of natural jumps, took her back to the basics.

“I go into the hunter rings and I’m not as effective because I’m just trying to be pretty,” she said. “Out here [on the outside course], you ride because you know you need to get your horse to the other side of the fence. It just shows you that that’s how you’ve got to ride all the time–ride to the middle and ride with leg, and your horse jumps better.”

New Winners

Even though Tracy Sully didn’t have her established partners to ride at Menlo, she made the most of her newest ride, Dominick, and the pair won the China Blue Farm Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic.

With her great hunter Choreography retired, and Elvis recovering from a slight injury, hunter duties fell to a fresh face in the barn, an 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding.

“He’s really straightforward and doesn’t look at the jumps,” said Sully of Dominick. “I have to kick him and get him going, that’s the only thing. He’s a little bit like a pony.”

Sully trains with John French in northern California, but lives in Aldergrove, B.C. Dominick seemed to have been just waiting for Sully to find him, as French discovered him at a horse show at the Thunderbird Equestrian Center, quite literally in Sully’s back yard.

“It was quite funny that John had to come to my place to find a horse for me,” Sully added with a laugh.
Sully grew up with Thoroughbreds and still prefers a horse that requires a bit less urging. Dominick requires more leg and less hand, a different ride for Sully, but beyond that, Dominick presents few problems. “He won’t even take a look at anything outside the ring,” Sully said. “It’s nice to have something that’s just so simple.”

Trainer Erin Duffy took Chelsea and Ryan Wilkinson’s Rumba to the first year green championship, winning three of the four classes over jumps. Chelsea, meanwhile, earned the reserve championship in the amateur-owner, 18-35, division and placed third in the amateur-owner classic.

“He was imported as a junior jumper, but it quickly became apparent he was not a jumper,” said Chelsea and Ryan’s mother Wendy of the gray gelding. “[He’s] too relaxed and too pretty, and moved way too well. As one person in our barn says, ‘He’s lit from within.’ That’s a very good description of him.”

Duffy, who works with Lori DeRosa at Newmarket in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., was impressed when she tried Rumba in April of 2007. “He was just everything that I could want,” Duffy said.

Matt Hinton

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