BY ANNIE BIRMINGHAM
Morgan Garnett clinched the coveted High Score Amateur Award sponsored by The Plaid Horse in the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Blenheim EquiSport Spring Classic III. With an impressive eleventh place finish aboard her own “C’est La Vie,” Garnett bested a competitive field of twenty combined professional, amateur, and junior riders to win the honor.
Garnett has only had the ride on C’est La Vie (affectionately known as “Cella”) since August of 2018 when her family imported him from the United Kingdom. Of the striking bay gelding, Garnett says, “[He] has proven to be a fantastic partner in both the equitation and hunters for amateurs and juniors alike, so this signifies what a partner like him can do for an amateur like me in big classes with good company. I’m very lucky to have him, he makes the derbies fun!”
The USHJA International Hunter Derbies at Blenheim are Garnett’s favorite class held at the venue due to their unique natural jumps and sprawling derby field. “This class is refreshing because it’s different from any other classes at the show. The high options and spooky jumps on the field push the horses to be their best. The course for the first round and the handy of the derby were technical, but fun to ride and watch. To prepare for the class, we walked the course and hand-walked my horses around the field to check out all of the jumps, although they were more interested in trying to eat all of the natural obstacles. Since most of the lines were more than nine strides, my plan for the course was to get on a good gallop at the beginning, ride off of my eye, and do all of the high options.” Garnett first took the course with her own Hugo de Lui (finishing just out of the ribbons in 13th) before piloting Cella to 12th in the first round, moving up to the 11th position after the handy round.
Garnett, who trains with Crystal Theisen of Jubilee West in Los Angeles, grew up showing in the pony hunters before transitioning into the jumpers, competing on the Zone 10 Young Riders team in 2014. Since the retirement of her High Amateur Jumpers in 2018, she returned back into the hunter ring with much success on her three AO Hunters. Like many competitive amateurs, she balances a heavy school and workload between weekends spent at horse shows. “I’m 24 now and have spent almost my entire life in school. I’ve found a way to balance that with riding competitively, coming to shows Thursday nights and going home on Sundays. While I was doing the Young Riders I was a freshman at UC Berkeley, and I rode competitively throughout my time there. I’ve started law school at UC Hastings since then, and I’m taking a semester off to focus on riding for a few months. While I’ve always balanced school and riding, it’s certainly not easy and I have a lot of respect for others doing the same.”
After finishing out the Blenheim Spring Series, Garnett’s horses will enjoy a well-deserved month off at home to prepare for the summer. “Our goal is to have all three horses successfully showing in the hunter derbies and AO hunters with year-end awards in mind. But the overall goal is to keep them as happy as possible, paying attention to their needs and giving them well-deserved time off.”
$15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Results at the Blenheim EquiSport Spring Classic III:
- Hopeful- Jamie Sailor
- Get Rowdy- Karli Postel
- Verdict- Nick Haness
- Vanderpump- Augusta Iwasaki
- Matador- Jamie Sailor
- Quarter Note- Jamie Sailor
- L’Con Reyes- Katie Taylor
- Icon- Leslie Steele
- Castle- Lexi Wedemeyer
- Beach Boy- Emily Williams
- C’est La Vie- Morgan Garnett
- Small Kingdom- Jamie Taylor
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