Macella O'Neill Wins Her First World Cup Qualifier
RELEASE: October 1, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Marnye Langer
Macella O’Neill and Murkas Rockstar (owned by Kimberly Butts) outran Jill Humphrey on Lou Bega (owned by Leone Equestrians, Inc.) to win the $50,000 Grand Prix of Los Angeles. The World Cup qualifier was held during the L.A. International Jumping Festival, September 17-21 at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center (LAEC). "I was the second to come back in the jump-off," said O’Neill. "Jill Humphrey jumped a beautiful first round and a beautiful, clean second round. My horse is fleet-footed. He’s a horse you can gallop around. If you don’t interrupt him, he’ll jump around. I really didn’t have a strategy. The course didn’t give you many options."
Both the grand prix arena at LAEC and course designer Guilherme Jorge are favorites for O’Neill. "I love the course designer," she said. "I always understand the questions he asks. He designs very fair courses. He asks the horses to be crescendo horses. The degree of difficulty seems to build."
O’Neill acquired Murkas Rockstar, a 12-year-old Selle Francais, in February of this year from Peter Charles, a two-time Olympian. "He is a very dear friend," she said. "I rode the horse several times and loved him. I told Peter that if he was ever going to sell the horse I wanted to buy him. I’ve taken him in nine grand prix and we’ve placed in the top five in seven. The horse is phenomenal. That horse is a winning machine. He’s phenomenally, consistently successful. I’d like to thank the owners Jim and Kimberly Butts and Peter Charles."
When O’Neill and her partner Charlie White started Diamond Mountain Stables in 1983, she promised her parents she would only train horses for five years. Twenty-five years later, she believes the ranch deserves partial credit for her success. "The horses love it," she said. "It has a magical feel. Most of the open horses do double days four or five days a week. One of those is on the trail. In the U.S. Cavalry manual it said the average horse’s work day should be six hours. They have a biomechanical need to be in motion, like land sharks. It’s fantastic for their systems to be out in the hills, going up and down and stepping over logs. We live in a really hilly area. We can accomplish in 20 minutes on the trail what it would take an hour and a half working on the flat in a ring. It’s important for the horses. Everyone says our horses are so good minded, so cheerful, and so happy; they have never seen such a happy group of horses."
Karen Healey’s students captured both the USEF Zones 8-9-10 Junior and Adult Equitation Finals: Tina Dilandri on RSVP won the Hunter Seat Medal Regional Finals; Lauren Hester riding K2 won the Adult Equitation Regional Finals. Arizona trainer Becky Warner found RSVP, Dilandri’s equitation mount, four years ago. Warner gave Dilandri her start and the fundamentals. Three years ago, Dilandri moved to Healey’s barn. "We’ve been working on getting her to take chances and go for the 90s," said Healey. "She needed to be aggressive with her ride and to be not just better but really better than. She got a 90 in the first round. He was a little fresh so we didn’t pull out all the stops. For the second round, he was dead on; she had an aggressive forward ride and scored a 94. Going into the work-off she was way ahead."
While the first two rounds were relatively straightforward, there were inside options, and Dilandri took advantage of those options. "There were options that let you make your test stronger," she said. "At the work off, the most difficult part was halting between markers, dropping my irons, doing a counter-canter and then three changes of lead followed by a hand gallop to an oxer with an inside turn to a four (stride). All my fences were great. Now I know what I need to do for back East."
Dilandri left on September 25 for equitation week at Capital Challenge, and she’ll end her year at the equitation finals in Harrisburg and Syracuse. "My goal is to do well at the fi