When amateur rider Laura Hite qualified for the $100,000 Interactive Mortgage “Ticket To Ride” Grand Prix jump-off, she had the advantage of going second after Derek Chang and Chappie, the only other pair to qualify.
“Derek went before me, and I had two different plans for my jump-off ride, depending on what happened to Derek,” Hite said. “When he had the rail, I knew I could be more careful and try to go clear.”
Hite’s strategy paid off, and she emerged the winner, crossing the timers two seconds slower but with no faults Sept. 25 during Blenheim Equisports’ International Jumping Festival in San Juan Capistrano, California.
“It was so exciting to win this class,” said Hite, of Coto de Caza, California. “My trainer, Cassio Rivetti, kept saying to me all day, ‘Laura, you’ve got this. You can win this.’ I don’t always have confidence in myself, but Cassio did, and I was trying to focus on that.”
Course designer Anthony D’Ambrosio set a challenging, technical track, leading to rails down for most of the competitors.
“A lot of the lines were on the half-stride with a lot of options,” Hite said. “It was the type of course that I do well in because it was very technical. My horse is so rideable, adjustable and careful.”
Watch their winning ride in the $100,000 Interactive Mortgage “Ticket To Ride” Grand Prix:
Hite’s previous trainer of 17 years, Joie Gatlin, of Joie Gatlin-Morley Abey Show Jumping Inc., found Calypso V/D Zuuthoeve in Belgium five years ago with help from Stal Hendrix and Karel Cox. The 13-year-old Belgian Sporthorse gelding (Tangelo van de Zuuthoeve—Fabiolis van de Zuuthoeve, Thunder van de Zuuthoeve) is Hite’s top horse.
“We’re completely in sync; he reads my mind at this point,” she said. “He’s unbelievable. He’s given me so much confidence and is the first horse that’s taken me to the top of the sport.”
The pair have conquered many of Hite’s firsts together, including her first trips to compete in Europe in 2018; Spruce Meadows (Alberta) in 2018, where they finished third in a big 1.50-meter class; and Thunderbird (British Columbia) in 2019. In 2018, they bested a field of 50 to win a CSI2* Grand Prix at Jumping de Valence (France).
“That was my first grand prix win; I went faster than I’ve ever gone before and took a lot of risks,” Hite said. The pair also won a $100,000 grand prix at the Desert Circuit III (California) in January 2020.
Hite, 56, competes as an amateur and works a full-time job managing two subsidiaries of her family business. She’s also the master North American distributor for Harcour USA, a French equestrian apparel company. Hite distributes and sells Harcour apparel across the country and at horse shows.
“I wanted to meld my passion with business,” she said. “I’ve also had a hand in designing certain clothing ideas for the U.S. They don’t have hunters or equitation over in France, and they don’t understand why someone wouldn’t want sparkles on their breeches.”
As a junior rider, Hite competed in the hunters and equitation, dabbling a bit in the junior jumpers. But when she started attending the University of Southern California, she stopped riding.
“I didn’t have the time to start riding again after college,” Hite said. “Between getting married to my husband Chris, raising three children (Hunter, 26; Hailey, 24; and Hayden, 21) and work, the time just wasn’t there.”
When she turned 38, Chris jokingly told Laura she needed a hobby.
“I thought, what am I supposed to do? Play tennis?” she said with a laugh. “The only thing I knew was horses. I warned Chris that he might regret telling me to go back to riding, and his response was, ‘How expensive could it be?’ Those words will be etched on his tombstone!”
With Chris’ encouragement, Laura visited a local stable and asked if she could start riding again. A trainer gave her a rehab horse to ride and lesson on, which turned into some showing opportunities. “After that, I had caught the bug again, and the rest is history,” Laura said.
Chris, to whom Laura has been married for 29 years, and their daughter Hailey were there when Laura won the grand prix last weekend. Chris attends most of the bigger shows Laura competes at. “He’s my emotional support and biggest cheerleader,” Hite said. “He’s my good luck charm.”
In addition to “Calypso,” Gatlin also found Laura’s three other jumpers: Chattanooga, an 11-year old Oldenburg gelding (Cornet’s Prinz—Abraxa); Aviator Z, a 9-year old bay Zangershiede gelding (Q Breitling LS—Arzte RV); and Kayack, an 11-year old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Thunder van de Zuuthoeve—Blue Ice Mayflower).
Laura tries to show at least two to three times a month, which is an achievable goal with her string of jumpers. She recently transitioned to ride with Rivetti, a two-time Brazilian Olympic show jumper who owns and operates Cassio Rivetti Stables in Rancho Santa Fe, California.
“I couldn’t go to Europe with COVID, like I had originally planned to in 2020,” Laura said. “Cassio worked in Europe for 20 years, so I’m getting a bit of European training as well.”
Rivetti also competed in the $100,000 Interactive Mortgage “Ticket To Ride” Grand Prix, taking third overall with Icarus, owned by Strasburg Morin, Inc., as the fastest 4-faulter in the class.
Laura sometimes finds it challenging to balance work with horses, but she gives a lot of credit to her barn support staff.
“They help me out so much wherever we go,” she said. “I’m constantly on my phone or laptop for work. Most of my work is remote now, which helps a lot, and I don’t travel for work as much as I used to. It’s way more fun to travel for horse shows.”
Laura’s goal is to make a U.S. Nations’ Cup team or qualify for the FEI World Cup Finals in the future. In the shorter term, she has two World Cup qualifiers on her radar for this autumn: the Oct. 9 Longines FEI World Cup Qualifier in Sacramento, California, and the Nov. 20 $150,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup CSI4*-W in Las Vegas. She also hopes to return to Canada and Europe to compete next year.
“I used to make little goals for myself instead of lofty goals,” she said. “Now that I’m older, I push myself more with my goals. The enjoyment is in the pursuit of your dream.”