By Emily Kerr
THERMAL, Calif. – Mar. 5, 2021 – Teamwork made the dreamwork for Nick Haness, Christina Smith, and Alexis Meadows in Desert International Horse Park’s inaugural $10,000 Nations Cup Hunter Team Challenge, sponsored by Horse Hair Analysis. Nineteen teams vied for the top honors in the new class, and thanks to consistent and unwavering performances, Haness aboard West Coast Equine Partners LLC’s Reese’s, Smith and her own Soon To Be, and Meadows paired with her own Antwerp claimed the Championship title.
Teams consisted of one Professional and two additional members of Amatuer or Junior status. The team format offered a unique opportunity for riders across different barns to compete together. “All three of us are good friends. We root each other on and come to the ring to watch each other. We don’t ride in the same barn, but we are all competitors and friends at the horse show,” shared Haness. “When this Team Challenge came out, I thought to myself it would be a great honor to have these two beautiful ladies on my team.”
“This class with these two; there has been no better part of the circuit,” added Meadows. “I’m riding with the two people that I probably look up to the most in this sport and to be able to be on a team with them was single handedly both terrifying and a huge honor.”
Earning reserve honors were Jenny Karazissis (Calabasas, CA) and Big Shot, owned by Dulcie Lou Morris, Skylar Wireman (Bonsall, CA) and Picnic, owned by Lisa Hankin, and Noah Nelson (Santa Barbara, CA) aboard his own Holy Smokes. Rounding off the podium in third place were Hope Glynn (Petaluma, CA) and Moonriver LLC’s Mon Tresor, owned by Moonriver LLC, Avery Rose Glynn (Petaluma, CA) and her own King of Hearts, and finally Paige Walkenbach (Paradise Valley, AZ) and Classic, owned by Walkenbach Equestrian LLC.
The Challenge featured a two-phase format – a traditional Classic round and a Handy round – with an optional work-off round over the Classic round’s course. The work-off round was put in motion when the second place team’s score was within ten points of Haness, Smith, and Meadow’s collective score. Smith was chosen to represent her team in the work-off.
“It was a lot of pressure. The course was the same as the first round, which was nice because I knew where I was going. My mind was jello at that point,” noted Smith of the work-off. “It was a lot of pressure, but so fun and at the end, it’s much more rewarding because the win wasn’t just for myself, or my trainer, or my barn family, the win was for everybody.”
Haness shared similar thoughts on the team format as Smith. “I was way more nervous to not let down my partners than I was worried about having a personal best for myself. The pressure to do well for them was unlike anything I have ever experienced,” Haness revealed. “This was a whole new level of dealing with those nerves because you’re not just riding for yourself – which is what we normally do – you’re riding to bring the best out for your whole team. I think that was a really fun and challenging, yet new and exciting experience in the hunter ring this week.”