LAKE VIEW TERRACE, Calif. – The first show of the 2020 Verdugo Hills Series presented by Valencia Sport Saddlery kicked off with the January Season Opener (Jan. 17-19) at Hansen Dam Horse Park. In the USHJA National Hunter Derby, Gabriella Goshtigian’s Constellation trained by Stephanie Haney clinched the win with professional rider Steve Sanville in the irons.
This marked the first hunter derby win for Constellation, a six-year-old Belgian Warmblood. “He’s still green, but he’s coming along beautifully,” Steve said. “We just imported him about three months ago and this was his third horse show. I tried to stay smooth because he is a young horse.”
Steve navigated a challenging track designed by Kevin Holowack of British Columbia, earning scores of 83 and 81 for an overall score of 164. “The handy course was challenging, yet inviting,” he explained. “Kevin does a great job and the courses all had a nice flow to them throughout the show. Some of the lines were a bit close off the rail, which was a good test for juniors, amateurs, and even professionals.”
Not only was this Constellation’s first hunter derby win, but it was also Steve’s first derby win since he stepped back into the show ring last year. “My last hunter derby was in 2008,” Steve shared. “After going through recovery, I’ve worked hard to get back in the saddle and it’s a gift to be here. I am so thankful to Stephanie Haney for her belief in me and to the Goshtigian Family for giving me this ride. I’m also grateful for Marnye Langer who has been one of my mentors.”
Steve is now in contention for a LEGIS Hunter Rider Bonus if he wins another USHJA National Hunter Derby with Constellation during the 2020 Verdugo Hills Show Series. “I think that’s an amazing program that LEGIS offers to support riders,” he said. “I hope to do more derbies and I’m excited about what the future brings. I’m still emotional about this win. It’s so nice when everything comes together.”
Michelle Decker-Rumanes Makes a Return to the Show Ring
This was a special weekend for amateur rider Michelle Decker-Rumanes and her Goodnight Moon, trained by Chad Mahaffey. The pair stepped back into the showing after a nearly three-year hiatus, winning the NAL Children’s/ Adult Amateur Hunter Classic.
“Chad and Julia did such a great job in restoring my confidence and reminding me how much I do love competing,” Michelle explained. “Eddie is so special and I want to enjoy showing him again. I’d really like to make a go of some year-end championships with the local show associations, SFHJA, LAHJA, and LEGIS League.”
She was also champion of the Adult Amateur Hunters presented by Game 7 PEMF, earning a $100 Game 7 PEMF Certificate. “I just wanted to find the jumps and give my horse a good, positive ride,” she said. “While this is the first show I’ve gone to with Chad and Julia, they’ve watched me ride enough to know what we both needed to be successful in the show ring.”
Michelle had a great experience all-around, especially because her family was there to support her. “I love when my family gets to watch and cheer me on,” she shared. “I had so much fun. The staff was friendly and approachable, and HDHP Managing Director Larry Langer has continued to make improvements to the facility. Also, the prizes were great. This was the first time I have ever won a sash with our classic win, so that was really special.”
“It was nice to be in the ring again with familiar faces and I got to catch up with some folks I haven’t seen in years,” she added. “I’m excited to come back again and work on some of the things I took away from this weekend.”
Good luck to all competitors in the 2020 show season! We look forward to seeing you next month at Gold Coast February (Feb. 14-16) at LA Equestrian Event Center.
Stay tuned for news and standings from the 2020 Verdugo Hills and Gold Coast Series Awards, the 2020 LEG Trainer Incentive Trips, LEGIS Rider Bonuses, and more!