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Michael Leon Kicks off the Year in LA with Another Hunter Derby Win

RELEASE: January 24, 2014
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: LEG Up News

Michael Leon continues his winning ways in the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby (Flying Horse Photography)
Michael Leon continues his winning ways in the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby (Flying Horse Photography)
Burbank, Calif.
- Michael Leon, who earned a big check in the 2013 LEGIS Hunter Rider Bonus, is no stranger to winning. He started off the 2014 show year by dominating the $2,500 LAEC Opener USHJA National Hunter Derby at The LAEC Opener Horse Show (Jan 17-19), and if he and Freedom (Anna Sophia Lotman, owner) win a second derby together at LAEC this season, he’ll earn another bonus check. “This is Freedom’s first derby win. I’m ecstatic!” Michael commented. Michael also placed third with Cullen (Pinon West LLC, owner) and fourth with Copado (Pinon West LLC, owner). “I’ve been preparing all of them for this year. Our work has definitely paid off.”

Michael and Freedom have been preparing for this year’s derbies since last year. “All last year I competed in all of the derby classes with Freedom. I took it easy and didn’t take any of the harder tracks. In the handy rounds, I rode him as if we were in hunter classics. As the year went on, I started to push and do more of the shorter turns.” Freedom also competed at the show with Mara Chemerinsky, winning 3’3” Junior Hunter Champion.

In the $1,000 Junior/Amateur Owner Hunter Classic, Shannon Davidson (Ginny Plancke, trainer) and her Patriot took home the blue. “I’m thrilled to win the classic, as this was Patriot’s first time showing the Amateur-Owner Hunters. He only started showing last May.” Shannon and Patriot also won the Ariat National Adult Medal Class. Last year, this team were the Year End PCHA “A” Champions in the Adult Amateur Hunter 36-50. Shannon’s goal for 2014 is to start competing in hunter derbies.

Samantha Gastelum (Susan Artes Stables, trainer) was very excited to win the $500 Children’s-Adult Amateur Hunter Classic on her new horse, Romanee Conti. The pair has only been together for one month, and it was their first show together. “He’s a very extroverted horse,” Samantha shared. “He generally likes being around people and getting attention.” Samantha plans to show Romanee Conti in the Small Junior Hunters and the 3’6” medals this year.

In the jumper ring, it was Maddie Booth (David Sterchx, trainer) who was champion in the 1.00M Low Children’s/Adult Amateur Jumpers with her Celtic Clover. “It was my first 1.00M show,” Maddie reported. “It felt great to do well.” The pair has been competing together for two years, so Maddie really knows her horse. “Clover does really well in shows. She seems to perk up in the arena and becomes more excited.”

Faith Cunningham (Team McAllister, trainer) and her pony Barahute had a fantastic weekend, beating out horses to win the $500 1.10M Children’s Jumpers. At only 13, Faith is extremely proud of herself and Barahute, especially since it was Faith’s first Children’s Jumper Classic. “Barahute knows when she needs to win and step up her game,” Faith shared about her eight-year-old mare. “She always knows when to rise to the occasion.”

In the $1,000 1.20-1.25M Jumper Classic, Theo Boris rode his sale horse, Fidel, to victory and ended the weekend as 1.20M Jumpers Champion to boot. It’s no surprise to Theo that his seven-year-old gelding won the classic. “His brother jumped internationally with Eric Lamaze. Fidel is super easy, straightforward and careful,” Theo explained. He also rode his other sale horse, Climax Junior, to 1.30M Jumpers Champion. “Climax Junior has a lot of power. My goal this season is to get him more confident and relaxed.” Theo’s goal for himself as a rider is to go to the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships in Kentucky.

Belle Calkin (Joe Thorpe, trainer) always does well in the equitation ring, and she was extremely excited to win both the USEF Adult Equitation and the Foxfield Medal Class, plus she was Equitation 18-35 Champion—all on her Belle A Font. “We are off to a great start this year,” she commented. Belle has had seven-year-old Belle a Font for two and a half years.  “Winning with him is rewarding and special because I trained him, with the help of others, to be the horse he is today. He has come such a long way.” They also place third in the WCE Junior-Amateur Medal Class and the LEGIS Jumper Medal Class.
Belle has great hopes for the show year. “I'm excited Belle a Font performed so well this show, and I hope he continues to put as much effort into our other shows together as he did with this one. My goals for the next show are to remain consistent in my rounds to prepare for medal finals and to always have fun.”

2014’s LAEC Opener was a great start to the new show year for trainers and riders alike. The next show at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center will be the Gold Coast February Horse Show (Feb 14-16), while the shows at Hansen Dam Equestrian Center kick off this weekend with Verdugo Hills Series Opener (Jan 25-26). The show season starts in Colorado this month as well with Colorado Springs Series Opener (Jan 31-Feb 2) at Norris-Penrose Equestrian Center. The Northern California series will begin this spring with Woodside Spring Preview (Apr 23-27).

For more information on the LAEC Opener, including complete results, visit the LEG website.

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