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Hansen Dam Horse Shows

Ashley Brian
AC Custom Photo


The hunter/jumper shows are steadily developing support of area trainers. Langer Equestrian Group committed to producing the five show Verdugo Hills Series, as well as the upcoming Hansen Dam Fall (October 2-4) and the Hansen Dam Fall Preview (Oct.24) a one day show before the first show of the IEL season. New owner Sterling Champ has made a lot of improvements at the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center, which provides Los Angeles area trainers and riders another quality venue for shows. LEG offers a variety of incentives to help keep costs down by lowering various fees, and also offering an incentive to exhibitors who show at multiple shows.

The Hansen Dam Fall show ( ), a three day “B” show offers a full complement of hunter, jumper, equitation, and medal classes. Trainers are growing increasingly impressed with the facility and horse shows. During the Verdugo Hills 4 show this summer, trainers and exhibitors alike praised the improvements new owner Sterling Champ has made.

Among the trainers, Dry Creek’s Mark Purcell had nothing but praise for the facility and the show. “Hansen Dam is getting better,” he said. “Improvements are being made all the time. There are so many classes and it’s relatively inexpensive.” Purcell’s students took full advantage of the improved facility. He explains their successful rides. “I talk common sense,” he said. “Riding is not rocket science. Having fun with a little hard work will get you somewhere. The biggest thing is having the kids pay attention to rhythm and canter step so they can be accurate at jumps.”

Grass makes a big difference. Student Emily Kerr’s mother Sharon liked the whole show but she particularly noticed the grass. “We like the Verdugo Hills shows,” she said. “We’re a small barn. The show is homey. It’s really a good way for kids to earn points. They’ve put in grass and bleachers so the parents can watch their kids. The grass cuts way down on the amount of dust. They make a big hoopla out of every prize. It’s real user-friendly and the price is right.”

Emily was Pony Equitation Champion and her Lucky Charm won reserve in the Pony Hunter division. She’s taken to heart Purcell’s focus on rhythm. “He’s still the same Lucky Charm,” she said. “We need to work on staying the same rhythm and some other concepts. I need to find the correct rhythm and stay on it.” She hopes to be champion in overall Large Pony Hunter in the Gold Coast Series ( and qualify for some medals.

Student Ashley Brien took home a reserve championship in equitation on her Capri. She thinks he is really versatile. “He can go into hunters and win and go into jumpers and win,” she said. “He’s really alert and knows what is going on. When you make a mistake, he’s forgiving and doesn’t blame you. He just goes on.” This year, she plans to continue with 3’3” and do 3’6” next year. She hopes to place well in the medal finals. Riding is her “passion”. “I feel good when I ride,” she said. “Any other problems go away. It’s not just about winning. When I do well I feel good.” Her mother, Connie, calls Purcell “a genius”.

In addition, Purcell schooled Madeleine Holmes who rode Marnco’s Carlo Carlando to two blues in the one meter jumper section. “He’s a good horse that takes care of his rider,” he said.

Equitation is the focus for trainer Stacy Ryan. Currently she trains Lacey Early who is leading in 12-14 Equitation for the year-end awards by over 100 points. The second place rider is also in her barn. Early was champion in the equitation section, riding her horse Pikfair. They came to Ryan a year and a half ago, competing at the Short Stirrup level. “She’ll be someone to be reckoned with in the equitation world,” said Ryan. “My program is basically one-on-one, with private lessons. There are only eight horses in the barn. She rides four days a week, does flat work, and lots of jumping gymnastics. She’s a great student. You tell her once and she does it. I’ve just started building pressure on her. The medal finals begin in August so I put pressure on her to get certain scores every time she walks into the ring.”

Eclipse Farms sent six riders to the show. They went home with three medals, a reserve championship, and blues in equitation classes. Trainer Julie Conner-Daniels is using this show as a transition between smaller local shows and the Gold Coast Series. She bought a horse, Pik de T’Aime for herself. Like many other mothers, she ended up putting her daughter’s (Conner Daniels) saddle on the horse’s back. “The mare Conner is riding I bought for myself,” she said. “She went lame six years ago. We put her back to work last year so she’s eleven but green with a lot to work on. We want her to become more adjustable and work in a frame. She’s hard to do flat classes on.” This probably kept Conner from the championship in the “B” Equitation section; she was first and second over fences but sixth in the flat class. “Packaging her up is difficult,” said Conner. “She’s uppity at shows. We work on being round and going slower. I work on holding my leg still. She’s really adjustable. I’m just practicing this year. I’m trying to get used to her and to jumping higher. I think she’s going to teach me a lot and help me be a better rider.”

In the medals, student Beth Espinoza won a CPHA medal class and both over fences classes in the “B” Child/Adult Equitation. They’ve traced the paint/draft cross back to Canada and think he may be a Premarin foal. “We got him out of someone’s backyard,” Espinoza said. “My young horse had died and I was going to give up horses. Julie convinced me to try again. We call him our “Canadian Sport Horse”.” They had problems getting his lead changes, but recently “something clicked.” “He has a consistent cute jumping style, getting distance strides and now leads,” she said. “He jumps flat so it’s easy for me to do equitation on him.” She wants to qualify for the CPHA Horsemanship and the SFVHSA Futures Medals and be in the top 10 in the finals.

Cheryl Child, an amateur student of Conner-Daniels’, won the LAHJA Junior/ Senior Medal. “This was her first horse show since the end of last year,” said Conner-Daniels. “We are working on not getting him to drag her.” Conner-Daniels and her assistant Jamie Nila take a team approach to teaching Child and Luka. “Jamie works on my equitation while Julie focuses on the horse and the overall picture,” said Child. “Now we have to work on all the little stuff and see where we are. I wanted to see how my nerves held up. It’s been a while since we’ve been to a horse show.” She started taking riding lessons when she was a small child; her father, Justin, gave her lessons as a Valentines Day present when she was seven. Now, even though she’s an adult, her parents are still supportive, normally coming to her lessons twice a week.

Trainer Lisa Wall is especially happy with the improvements at Hansen Dam. “The Verdugo Hills shows are a good place to go to get medals,” she said. “They’ve improved the footing in the schooling arena. They cleared all the rocks from the schooling area. The lunging area used to be too deep but it’s fine now. The new owners are trying to make improvements. They have all the recognized divisions and the medal classes. They have good experienced course designers.” She also liked the new time schedule. Here daughter, Britney Leger, rode Gifted, the Children’s Hunter Champion. “The horses all did well,” Wall said. “We had several new-timers. Gifted is for sale. She was Children’s Hunter champion at the Oaks as well as here. She’s a lovely mare, a good mover, a good jumper, and always competitive.”

Wall rode Secret Affair to the Pre-Green Hunter championship. “He’s just coming back after a year layoff. We sent him with little preparation just to see how he’d be. We’re excited to look forward to showing at 3’6”. Meanwhile, owner Kathryn Bhatia rode Secret Affair to the championship in the “B” Children’s Hunter 15-17. She’s had the Westphalian for almost two years. “We work on staying straight – just baby stuff,” she said. “He’s six. He has a great personality – like a puppy dog, he likes attention. We’ll get ready for 3’6” by practicing over more complicated, higher fences.”

Trainer Deirdre Davis and her students went home with two medals. Eleven-year-old Morgan Dickerson won the SFVHSA 12 and Under Medal. “We do a lot of no stirrups,” she said. “We work on the balance of the horse, flexing and bending. We focus on a lot of quality flat work. Morgan is the sweetest little boy. He’s just moved up from Short Stirrup. He’s learning to get a good eye.” Currently Dickerson is currently riding Davis’ Quarter Horse; they are vetting a Holsteiner mare. This is his second time over the higher fences. “I’m excited to be in the medals,” he said. “I took lessons when I was six on my mom’s horse. When I was younger, I rode on the longe line. I like the way he (the QH) jumps. He goes to the jump and jumps it. The jump comes to you. I want to be a better horse rider. He’s experienced so he’s helping me a lot. I’ve won some nice awards. Riding teaches the bond between animals and humans. It is exciting to go to horse shows and be the best you can as an animal caretaker and rider. My next goal is 3’ to 3’3”, do higher levels and keep improving my riding ability.”

Fellow student Emma Shupper won the LAHJA LA Saddlery Junior Medal class. “She’s a super talent; she tries so hard,” said Davis. “At the Memorial Day Classic, she won two equitation classes. She tinkers with dressage and that helps her.” This was her second show jumping 3’3” with her new horse Lynaro, an Oldenburg she got in August. “We do a lot of flatting,” she said. “I do dressage to help with the cornering, keeping them more balanced and in a frame. I’d like to get him more relaxed. He gets hyper and tense. I have to work on keeping my right shoulder back. He’s not a horse that automatically does everything. I have to work to get results. He’s tense but not spooky.” They’re taking the summer off to unwind by going on trail rides. She plans to learn to groom him for shows herself.

Alivia Hart, trained by Stephanie Haney, won the Pony Hunter Championship on Rachel Mair’s Blueberry Pie. “Blueberry Pie is my favorite pony in the world. He’s a good teaching pony. Alivia is working on keeping him straight; he’ll do his job. He was a little fresh. She needs to work on the rhythm when he’s fresh.”

Foxfield was well-represented at the show. Caitlin Hart rode Hillcrest Icy Blue, a Welsh/Thoroughbred cross, to the “B” Children’s Hunter championship. “She’s amazing,” said Hart. “We’ve had her three years. I ride her in lessons, hack, ride bareback, and ride “wired” (no bridle, just a wire around the horse’s neck). I’ve been riding at Foxfield my whole life. We heard about this amazing pony from Colorado. We tried her and loved her. We’ll keep her forever. I’m trying to qualify for my medals so I’ll go to some show to get points.”

Claire Follmer got good ribbons including a first in Short Stirrup on the flat. She’s had Musical Toy for six months. “I’m working on a slower pace, keeping my leg and arms quiet and having a straight back,” she said. “He gives me stuff to work on. He makes me work so I can work on things to improve.” She wants to qualify for medals and Short Stirrup. She qualified for 12 and Under in her Futures class.

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