The name Tina Yates might not be imediately recognizable to the average show jumping fan, but once you find out that Yates’ maiden name was DiLandri, you realize she’s a former equitation and junior jumper star who has rebooted her showing career after a bit of a break.
In the late ’00s, DiLandri scored multiple top-three finishes in major equitation finals—second in the 2007 USEF Talent Search—West (Calif.), third in the 2007 Pessoa/USEF Medal Final (Pa.), second in the 2007 WIHS Equitation Classic Final (Md.), and third in the 2009 Pessoa/USEF Medal Final. She had multiple wins in the junior jumpers, and participated in the 2008 George H. Morris Horsemastership Clinic (Fla.).
DiLandri looked to be en route to a professioncal riding career. But after her junior years, DiLandri took a step back. She stopped riding for a bit, then came back to the sport as an amateur. It wasn’t until 2011 that she stepped back onto the track to life as a professional rider and trainer. And she’s starting to make her mark.
When Yates crossed the timers with Cicomein VDL in the $30,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix Sept. 18 at the Blenheim Fall Tournament (Calif.) and looked up at the scoreboard, she had to do a doubletake.
“I was like, ‘There’s no way,’ “ said Yates, of Wellington, Fla. “I think that’s probably one in a million that would happen.”
Yates had posted the winning time in the class aboard the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Cicomein VDL (Chacco Blue—Pomein, Jus de Pomme), but she wasn’t surprised by the fact that she had guided the athletic bay to its first top-level score. What was astonishing was that their time—35.25 seconds—was identical to the time she had posted with her other mount, the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion Bowmore VDL (Chin Chin—Liancara, Cantus).
So, Yates won the class—twice.
Tina Yates on Cicomein VDL on the way to the blue in the $30,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix. Photo by Mark R. Lawrence
“Basically, they called it a tie and said I was a joint first, but they didn’t have two blue ribbons, so they gave me first and second,” Yates said. “I don’t think that will ever happen again. Someone sent me a message on Facebook, and they said, ‘I think that literally just made history.’ We know two people have tied, but never the same person on different horses. It was just kind of incredible.”
It’s just the kind of streak the 25-year-old is on right now. In the past year, Yates has turned professional, gotten married and started her own business with her husband, Jonathen Yates. Together, they run High Point Farm South, a division of Tina’s parents’ Scottsdale, Ariz., property High Point Farm.
“My parents and I started High Point Farm when I was a junior, and that was just the farm name we put the horses under,” Tina said. “As soon as I got married, my husband and I, along with my parents, decided to start High Point Farm South. Right now, we have a couple of owners, and we have about 11 horses in training. We focus on developing the horses—anything from young horses to grand prix horses to in between. We do not have any clients at the moment, but we’d be more than happy to welcome clients. We’ve been in business just a short period.”
High Point Farm South is based in Wellington at Hyperion Stud, LLC, but this summer, after riding on the Spruce Meadows (Alberta) circuit, Tina and Jonathen elected to take their string to the West Coast for a few months. They have tips planned to Del Mar, Thermal, the Longines Las Angeles Masters and the Las Vegas National before returning to their home base for the winter.
“We had a bunch of horses to develop, and these are great shows to develop young horses and bring them along,” Tina said. “We’re based in San Juan Capistrano until November, and then we’ll go back to Wellington.”
Tina met Jonathan, the trainer and head of international imports for Hyperion Stud, five years ago, when she was interested in breeding her mare to one of his stallions. The pair developed a professional relationship that gradually grew deeper.
“We just started talking, and we developed this instant chemistry, not only with the horses, but also on a personal level,” Tina said. “We just kind of hit it off from there, and things started to fall into place.”
The two were married in Boca Raton, Fla., on New Year’s Eve in 2015 and are now both business and life partners.
Tina and Johnathen Yates. Photo by Starfish Photography
“It’s a pretty incredible experience to work with your husband—if it works,” Tina said. “We’re together 24/7. He trains me, we run a business together, and we’re married and have a personal life. Being able to balance [both] is very difficult, but if you can do it, it can be very effective. I think we work great together, and we see eye to eye on a lot of things—I think that’s very important.”
Tina shows the horses, while Jonathen trains from the ground. He also helps ride and school the horses at home and, with strong ties to Europe as a native of West Yorkshire, England, scouts for potential investments. Every horse under Tina and his ownership is for sale, but clients like Hyperion Stud and HKC Collection, LLC also send them mounts to campaign and develop. HKC Collection owns Cicomein VDL, who Tina and Jonathen imported as a 6-year-old in 2013.
“We ended up selling her as a 7-year-old to HKC Collection, and she was ridden by Darragh Kenney and [six-time Olympian] Taizo Sugitani,” Tina said. “I actually got the ride back on her, which is pretty special, because I really, really loved the horse, and she has so much potential. It’s an honor to get to ride her after a few years of not riding her. She’s also very special. She’s fast, she’s competitive, and she tries her heart out. She’s an all-around great horse.”
A Renewed Passion
Turning professional was not always part of Tina’s plan. While Tina had a tremendously productive junior career, she admitted that transitioning to the jumpers did not come easily. Burned out after aging out of the junior ranks, she temporarily stepped away from the sport.
“I took a period of time off from riding, and I was gone maybe three or four months when I called my mom and said, ‘I can’t do this,’ “ Tina recalled. “She said, ‘Why?’ and I told her I had to start riding again. I just got that itch, and I wanted to come back and do the grand prix classes.”
When she returned to the show ring, she remained an amateur. It wasn’t until she met Jonathen that her thought process changed.
“He’s really the one that I have to give all the credit to for developing me as a rider and making me work hard and showing him and my parents that I really wanted to do this and that this was a true passion,” Tina explained. “He’s really the one to credit for bringing me along, because really, in the past four years, I’ve really developed as a rider, and without him behind me through all the ups and downs, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I hope I can continue to progress, which is my goal. I have to give a lot of credit to him.”
Tina didn’t compete in an FEI class for two years between 2012 and 2014 while Jonathen worked to take Tina’s riding to the next level. He focused on her boldness and implementing a more European style to her existing skill set.
Tina Yates on Bowmore. Photo by Sara Jorgensen
“Being from England and spending all his time over in Europe, he really completely changed my style of riding, and that’s where a lot of the ups and downs came from—taking that transition into riding a bit more aggressively and having that determination to win,” Tina explained. “I went from jumping grand prix classes to jumping the low amateur-owner jumpers and the medium amateur-owners and from being successful to not being successful. I went from thinking that I couldn’t do this to that I could do this. It’s really been the path here that I’ve really had the confidence to go in the ring and know that every single time I can go in, I can relax and use my ability and everything that he taught me to try my best to win.”
This summer, Tina was back on the international stage, riding the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion Zelote VDL in the $135,600 Longines FEI World Cup Qualifier at Langley, British Columbia. With her husband by her side, it’s quite obvious her career choice is agreeing with her.
“I really enjoy it,” she said. “As a junior and an amateur, I always enjoyed working with the horses, and I’ve always been involved with the horses that are in the barn—not just at the show ring. I did turn professional as of last year, and I really enjoy the business side, too. I enjoy working with the owners and the sponsors, and I do everything from riding the horses to helping groom and muck stalls. I do the billing; I do a little bit of everything, and I do enjoy it. I have a true passion for it, and I hope that my hard work and dedication pays off. I feel that it’s starting to, and it’s a great feeling.”