Thursday, May. 30, 2024

Pepper Pulls Off A Win At CDS Southern Junior Championships

Aboard Leonardo, she earns the fourth level title and puts her hunter roots behind her.



Aboard Leonardo, she earns the fourth level title and puts her hunter roots behind her.

Admittedly, dressage was not Jaclyn Pepper’s first love. Originally a hunter rider, she only started dressage lessons because her mother insisted. But now she’s hooked, and after winning the fourth level championship at the California Dressage Society Southern Junior Championships, Aug. 21-23 in Burbank, Calif., she’s looking forward to moving up to the young rider level soon.

Pepper, now 16, started showing hunters when she was 10. But her mother Lisa wanted Jaclyn to start taking dressage lessons with her own trainer, Allison Harding at Dove Hollow Dressage Center in Olivenhain, Calif. That was 21⁄2 years ago, and now Jaclyn is selling one of her hunters and has the other leased out.

Before leasing her winning CDS partner, Leonardo, from owner Sharon McCormick, Jaclyn had only shown at first level on her mother’s Haflinger. Last November she started riding Leonardo, a 16.3-hand, 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding who is trained through Intermediaire I. They competed together for the first time in January.

“I was really excited jumping from first level to fourth,” said Jaclyn. “It’s so different. I was not expecting it to be that much harder, but it was really exciting. I showed fourth level at one show and then moved up to Prix St. Georges at the Dressage Affaire [Calif.] in March. It’s a huge jump from fourth level to Prix St. Georges.”

Jaclyn trailered in to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center on Friday evening and didn’t get a chance to practice in the Equidome before her tests on Saturday.

“I was worried about how he would be in the indoor, but he was good,” said Jaclyn.

In Jaclyn’s first test of the day, there was some confusion regarding which level she was riding, fourth or Prix St. Georges. She entered the arena prepared to ride fourth level, test 2, but the judge had her down for Prix St. Georges.

“I had to run out and change coats and run in and do Prix St. Georges,” explained Jaclyn. “So I was a little distracted. But it was pretty good for the first test at a show. Leonardo can get really strong in the bridle, but he’s getting better about it. He behaved himself. He just gets really excited at horse shows. He likes them. And he doesn’t act his age.”

She declared that afternoon’s fourth level test to be the best she’d ever ridden. “We got a 66 percent. It was awesome!” said Jaclyn with a grin.

Jaclyn’s Prix St. Georges on Sunday was much better without the distractions, and she scored 66.25 percent. Her 65.61 percent in her fourth level, test 3, ride easily put her in first place for the fourth level championship with a 65.93 percent average.


Jaclyn was up at 4 a.m. each morning and at the show grounds by 4:30 a.m. for her early morning rides. “The show was really fun, and I can’t wait to go back next year!” said Jaclyn, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

She will be shopping for a horse to do young riders on as soon as her hunter sells. “I’m really excited about it,” she said. “I love dressage.”

Dressage Genes

Risan Naness of Burbank, Calif., won the second level championship on her 13-hand, palomino New Forest Pony, Golden Star. They scored 64.76 percent in second level, test 3, on Saturday.

“I had a really good ride, and he was a really good boy,” said Naness, 12. “I really went for it today. I kind of went a little too much, but it was good schooling for him. We normally show in the Equidome so he’s used to that arena. He’s not spooky at all.”

Golden Star was a little tired in their second level, test 4, ride on Sunday, and they scored 58.81 percent for a 61.78 percent average. Naness also won the freestyle championship.

“My mom helped me with the pattern, but I knew since I was little that I wanted to do a freestyle to Grease, and that was my music,” explained Naness.

Naness comes by her dressage talent naturally. Her mother, Kristina Harrison-Naness, is a dressage trainer at the Paddock Riding Club in Glendale, Calif., and competed on the 2003 Pan American Games gold-medal team. Naness has been riding since she was 4. She showed her first pony, Sparky, at the junior championships for two years.

She purchased the 14-year-old Golden Star (Merrie Moscan—Chungels Broomy) four years ago. They qualified for second and third levels at the championships, but Naness decided Golden would be too tired to do both levels in the heat.

Naness is on a mission to get her bronze medal and only needs her third level scores now.

“Golden thinks he’s a big horse,” she said. “He’s the best pony. He’s so sweet, and he loves the horse shows. As soon as we get there he’s just the happiest pony in the world. Sometimes at home he tries to bite people, and he’s really cranky. But as soon as he gets out of the trailer he’s just, ‘Oh my gosh—it’s a horse show!’ ”


Naness enjoyed meeting new people at the championships. “I don’t really know many kids in dressage because there aren’t a lot of kids riding dressage at my barn,” she said. “So it was good to meet some new friends who I can hang out with at the horse shows.”

And there was one more thing that made the win special: “I really liked doing the victory lap. I’ve never been able to lead the victory lap before and go around again. It was really fun to do that!”

Making The Most Of An Opportunity

Hayley Heers of Las Vegas, Nev., had the highest combined scores of the show—69.42 percent and 69.07 percent—riding first level with Ubramino.

Heers, a hunter rider who has occasionally ridden dressage over the last three years, won the first level championship for riders 17 and under with an average score of 69.25 percent.

She competed at the 2007 championships on her hunter Duke, a Swedish Warmblood gelding, and was the reserve champion at training level for her age group. This was her first trip to the championships with Ubramino, owned by Anne McCabe of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

“ ‘Ubi’ is very easy to ride,” said Heers. “He has a positive attitude, and I really enjoy riding him. In our class on Friday I got distracted by the bell in the other arena so we had a break in one of our transitions. That was my mistake, but Ubi was very, very good. Our test on Saturday was great. We got a 69 and won our class. I never got a 69 on him before.”

Sandra Burns Gardener trains the 12-year-old, 16.2-hand Belgian Warmblood gelding, who usually lives at Gardener’s facility in San Marcos, Calif. He spent the spring in Las Vegas with Heers so she could show him and qualify for the championships. The last three months Heers only rode him periodically when she could travel to San Marcos for lessons with Gardener.

Heers, 14, has been riding since she was 3. She primarily shows hunters but has also done some eventing at the beginner novice and novice levels with Duke.

“I’ve always had an interest in dressage from watching other people,” said Heers. “I’m definitely going to miss Ubi. He’s one of those unflappable, easy-to-ride, light-in-the-mouth horses. A pleasure to ride.”

Heers isn’t sure when she’ll compete in dressage again. She doesn’t have a suitable dressage horse to ride in Las Vegas, and Ubramino is for sale.




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