The R.W. Mutch Equitation Championship, which requires riders to do the entire class without their trainers, is not an easy class to win. Junior riders competed in HITS Grand Prix Stadium at HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California, for a blue-ribbon victory in the R.W. Mutch Equitation Championship on Friday as the final weekend dawned for the 2016 Desert Circuit.
The class is named in honor of the well-known rider, teacher, trainer, and judge Ronnie Mutch, who for many years operated Nimrod Farm in Weston, Connecticut. At Nimrod, Ronnie produced a number of Medal and Maclay winners, including Ronnie’s own son Bert Mutch, a well-known West Coast rider and trainer. The Equitation Championship is a two-round class during which riders must walk the course, school their horse, and ride the class, all without any coaching from their trainers. The first round included gymnastics, trot poles, and combinations and required riders to counter canter from jump one to two. The top ten returned under the lights for a second round to contest a technical jumper-style course.
The rider to beat was Jaden Olson of Parker, Colorado, aboard her own Clearview. As the second-to-last rider in the order, Olsen piloted her mount to garner a second-round score of 159, which combined with the highest score of the first-round, 172, gave them a winning total of 331 to step way ahead of the competition on the leaderboard. Olson is trained by Michael Dennehy.
“Jaden continues to grow and mature as a rider and I was very hopeful she would win,” said Olson’s trainer Michael Dennehy. “I really like the format of this class, it was hard to sit back and watch as a trainer, but it was great because I was so impressed that she really applied what she’s learned.”
Second in the ribbons was West Lake Village, California, equestrian Elli Yeager. Yeager, who is only fourteen, piloted her own Copperfield 39 to consistent rides with a first-round score of 161, improving to a 162 in the second round for a total of 323 for their efforts.
Ransome Rombauer of St. Helena, California, came in behind Yeager by just a half of a point. Rombauer rode Lalonde, owned by Alexis Graves, to a comeback in the second-round earning a score of 174, which combined with their first-round score of 148.5, earned them third-place.
Fourth-place went to Nanaimo, British Columbia equestrian Kassidy Keith. Keith piloted Chantale Entz’s Rigoletto to a first-round ride that scored 151, improving to a 161 in the second-round to earn a total of 312.
The top five rounded out with Samantha Gastelum of Trabuco Canyon, California, and her own Romanee Conti. Gastelum garnered the finals spot in the top five with consistent scores of 154 in both rounds, totaling 308 for fifth-place.