Last-Minute Qualification Pays Off For Vella At Washington International

Oct 28, 2021 - 8:06 AM

Mill Spring, N.C.—Oct. 27

The Washington International Horse Show was not on Sophia Vella’s radar with Just For Kicks this year. She’d gotten “Kitty” in December last year, and 2021 was the 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Durango VDL—Venneyfee) mare’s first year jumping.

But Kitty went beautifully in the adult hunters all year, so Vella took her to the WIHS Regional Horse Show in Virginia last weekend thinking, “Fingers crossed she’ll be champion.”

“And low and behold, she was phenomenal,” said Vella. “And she actually had a clean sweep there. I was pretty ecstatic.”

With that championship, Vella and Kitty punched their ticket to compete in the $10,000 WIHS Adult Amateur Hunter Championship. And at the end of the two-round classic, the last-minute entries took home the coveted red WIHS winner’s cooler.

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Sophia Vella and Just For Kicks. Kimberly Loushin Photo

“I didn’t believe it when they called our names first,” Vella said. “She was phenomenal, and she was right with me every stride. She’s perfect.”

Vella also rode Mr. President to sixth in the class.

“It’s funny because they are actually polar opposites,” she said. “She’s a kick ride, and he’s more of a woah, pull ride. They’re just totally different personalities. But they’re both sweet in their own way.”

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Sophia Vella gives Just For Kicks a pat after their round. Kimberly Loushin Photo

Vella, 24, The Plains, Virginia, graduated from the University of Virginia last year and works as a consultant for Deloitte. While she often juggles work calls while at horse shows, when she knew she’d qualified for Washington, she was quick to ask for paid time off so that she could enjoy the experience.

“I took some PTO so I could come here for these three days, just because I was hoping not to check emails,” she said. “If I can schedule a Zoom call around classes, then that’s basically the way to go. I save up the PTO for the big shows.”

A Stop Along The Journey

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kaycie Miranda went horse shopping, hoping to find that special unicorn that could check the pre-children’s box and eventually the 3’3” juniors box—and every box in between. And in Aiken, South Carolina, such a unicorn was found in Notable.

“I moved up from a pony, so I was looking for a horse,” said Miranda, 15, of Atlanta. “We were kind of just looking for a horse that could get me from pre-child to 3’3″ junior hunters. We got [Notable] from Elizabeth Cram, the Crams down in Aiken, and they loved him very much, and they treated him fantastic. We are just so lucky to have him. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse. He has taught me so much already, and I love him.”

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Kaycie Miranda and Notable. Laura Lemon Photo.

Notable was originally a dressage horse before the Cram family transitioned him into a hunter. Elizabeth Cram guided him to the 3’3” small junior hunter championship at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in 2019.

“He has his own personality, but he’s different than what I’m used to in a good different,” Miranda said. “He’s forward and carries me, but he’s really like a show horse. He loves being at the shows, and he loves going out there, and he loves winning—I think as much as I do.”

He did the job that Miranda hoped he would—showing her the horse step in the pre-children’s divisions before moving up to the children’s, 14 and under, last November. The pair qualified for the $10,000 WIHS Children’s Hunter Championship and met up with former trainer Devan Cottrell in Mill Spring this week. Miranda and her family had just moved to Atlanta four months prior, and her current trainers at Hillford Farm couldn’t make the trip. And as the sole representative of the barn, Miranda and Notable topped the class above Hollin Sutherland and Rafferty.

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“I was not expecting it,” said Kaycie Miranda. Laura Lemon Photo

“I was going to be happy with any placing because this is my first Washington show,” said Miranda. “I was just hoping for maybe a top six, and then I got to top three, and it’s unbelievable that we won this. I was not expecting it.

“Devan was so nice to come up here and help me with this show,” she added. “He’s here helping me; it’s just us here. It was so worth it.”

See full results.

The Chronicle will be on-site all week bringing you stories and photos on all the big winners. See our coverage here. Want more? Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the Nov. 22 issue of the magazine. What are you missing if you don’t subscribe?

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