Jesse Shurtleff and Mark Cassar Celebrate Unexpected Victories in the Jumper Ring‏

By Jennifer Walker for LEG Up News.

After managing the Portuguese Horse Show for the past 29 years, show manager Robin Serfass understands how important it is to uphold the tradition and quality that has made the horse show famous. “We have had the honor of hosting the PCHA 14 and Under Medal Final since 1987 and the PCHA Adult Medal Final since 2011,” Robin commented.  “Additionally, it is quite an honor to be one of only two USEF Heritage Horse Shows on the west coast.” The show earned the designation in 2013, which is reserved for established competitions that have made a “substantial contribution towards the development and promotion of the sport…by promoting the equestrian ideals of sportsmanship and competition.”

The 58th Annual Portuguese Horse Show (Sept 4-6) embodied these attributes yet again, providing an enjoyable, competition horse show while raising money for charity. “Over its entire history, the show has raised over $13 million dollars for charity,” Robin shared.  Here are a few riders that not only gave back to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles with their participation, but also made lasting memories in and out of the arena.

Jesse Shurtleff and Biscocho
It was weekend of firsts for Jesse (Nick Karazissis, Jr., trainer) as she piloted her horse, Biscocho, to first place in the $15,000 Seahorse Jumper Classic. “It was my first time showing at Portuguese Bend and my first time showing at the 1.30M height,” Jesse admitted. “I was obviously thrilled! I’ve been trying for a long time to move up from the 1.20M, so it was really rewarding. It felt like all my time and effort really paid off.”

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Jesse Shurtleff and Biscocho celebrate their win in the $15,000 Seahorse Jumper Classic
Photo: Captured Moment Photography.

The 22-year-old works hard to balance school and riding and grooms for her trainer as well. Jesse attributes much of her success to her strong partnership with her horse. “I’ve had Biscocho for two years and she’s so straightforward and trustworthy. I felt like she really came through for me in the jumper classic,” Jesse shared. “My trainer also took me to the show on his day off, so I was really grateful he came. It was truly a great milestone for me and Biscocho and I look forward to many more.” Jesse hopes to gain consistency at the 1.30M level and eventually move up to the Grand Prix level.

Mark Cassar and Leonidas
While Jesse was new to Portuguese Bend, Mark (Jeni Brown, trainer) and his Leonidas are anything but strangers to this horse show. Last year Leonidas was the winner of the $15,000 Seahorse Jumper Classic with Kristin Hardin in the saddle and Mark fondly remembers showing at Portuguese Bend over twenty years ago. This year, it was their chance to shine together as the pair took top honors in the $10,000 Barby Hartwig Hereford Junior/Amateur Owner Jumper Classic.

The class was a challenging one but Mark and Leonidas proved they could step up to the plate. “The course was difficult, but it rode exactly how it walked. We didn’t take one step differently than how Jeni and I walked the course,” Mark explained. “He jumped really easy in the first round and after we went clear, I chose to jump-off immediately. In the jump-off, I made a turn a lot tighter than I thought and ending up having a vertical down. We had a really fast time so I knew we would place, but I definitely wasn’t expecting to win it.”

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Mark Cassar and Leonidas Photo: Captured Moment Photography.

After his round, three other riders challenged his time but none of them could muster a clear round. Rails fell all over the course, and with each round Mark moved up in the rankings. It was a nail-biter for Mark as he watched. “It was down to the last rider. All she had to do was go clean to win,” he recalled. “But about halfway through, she knocked one of the fences down. I truly was surprised and excited to win, especially because I haven’t shown in a couple of months.”

Mark and Ledinos’ success in the arena is likely due to their long history together. “I bought Ledinos as a two-year-old and now he’s 14. I know him very well and after leasing him out for several years, I have a whole different appreciation for him,” Mark explained. “He loves to win, but he also loves to play. Sometimes he can be very cheeky and buck and toss his head. When we get into the show ring though, he is ready to roll and I just stay out of his way.”

As the owner of the Southern California Equestrian Center for the nearly thirty years, Mark truly lives and breathes horses. He lives on the property with his family, including his children who also ride, and close to 200 horses. “The hardest thing for me is to find time to show,” he admitted. “Between having three children, owning a business, and doing a lot of traveling for work, finding free time is a challenge. We actually were not planning to go the show until the day before, but I’m really glad we came. The people were fantastic and we’d definitely like to come back. It’s great to know that I could come back to show there after so many years and still find the same quality and competition.”

Annette Peterfy and Kir
In the $2,000 Junior/AO 3’3″ and 3’6″ Hunter Classic, generously sponsored by Archie Cox and Brookway Stables, Annette (Michael Leon, trainer) and Kirkland (Pinon West LLC, owner) earned first place out of a competitive group. “Archie and I have been friends for 20 years so it was really neat to win this class that was sponsored by him,” Annette shared. “I was a little surprised to win since there were so many other good horses and riders. But Kirkland really knows what he’s doing and I’ve been riding for about fifty years, so we make a pretty good team.”

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Annette Peterfy and Kirkland, winners of the $2,000 Junior/AO 3’3″ and 3’6″ Hunter Classic Photo: Captured Moment Photography.

Annette has shown at Portuguese Bend many times over her long riding career. “I showed here in the late 60s and early 70s!” she exclaimed. “I love this show because the volunteers always put on a great show and since I showed here when I was a kid, it always brings back fond memories. What makes it even better is that it’s all for a great cause. We don’t have many shows like it in southern California so I think it’s really important to support this horse show.”

In fact, Annette traveled from New Mexico to compete at Portuguese Bend. “I am originally from California, but I left Los Angeles a few years ago and left my show horses with Michael,” Annette shared. “I brought the retired horses and a few others to my ranch so I get to ride at home, but there’s a huge difference between riding around on your own and riding with a trainer. It can be a rude awakening when I get to the show and have to re-learn what I need to work on, but it’s worth it.”

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Photo: Captured Moment Photography.

Kirkland AKA Costco makes showing even more fun and has so far exceeded Annette’s expectations. “Costco was actually a horse that I got last summer to bring to New Mexico as a practice horse,” she explained. “I just wanted an easy, safe horse to ride at home, but he’s been doing amazingly in the adult amateur hunters. We even qualified for Devon! He’s a great horse and the less I do, the better he goes.”

For more information on how you can make a contribution toward the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, please visit http://www.pcch.net/index.php/horseshow/.