Two Junior Riders Process Through the Whitethorne, The American Tradition of Excellence Equitation Challenge.

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Nicole McMillion and Milan in the warm-up round.

BY MIA JONES

The Grand Prix ring at Blenheim Equisports June Classic is getting prepped and ready for the return of the Whitethorne, The American Tradition of Excellence Equitation Challenge. This year The Plaid Horse will be covering the event following two distinguished junior equitation riders, Nicole McMillion and Naomi Wegner. 

The first rider we’ll be following is 16-year-old junior Nicole McMillion who trains at Elvenstar Farms. McMillion has been with Elvenstar since 2012 training at the Orange County location with Rachel Mahowald. 

Nicole McMillion and Milan out for a walk after their round.

McMillion is no stranger to top placings in the equitation. In the past few years, she has won the USHJA Jumping Seat Finals West, LAHJA Junior Medal, and received many other top finishes in medal finals. Along with riding in the equitation she also competes in the medium junior jumpers. McMillion has recently teamed up with Milan, an eight-year-old horse owned by Elvenstar Farms. 

“The thing about Nicole that stands out about her is that she loves to ride and spend time with the horses. She is in the barn with the horses being around them learning their personalities, learning to really relate with them.” said trainer Jim Hagman

The second rider is 16-year-old junior rider, Naomi Wegner. Wegner trains with Archie Cox at Brookway Stables where she is also a working student. 

Naomi Wegner and El Grande in the warm-up round.

Wegner started riding at the age of nine and has had a strong passion for the sport ever since. Wegner has led the field in the CPHA Child Adult and SFHJA Challenge medal finals as well as many “Big Eq” classes at large “A” shows. This show she will be catch riding a horse of Gail Banks named El Grande. It is not uncommon to see Wegner around the horse show grounds helping out. She credits Cox for teaching her about the behind-the-scenes aspect of horse shows.

Cox described Wegner as “Compassionate, determined, and that horses are generally happier after she has ridden them.” He also described El Grande as “A scopey seasoned equitation veteran who is a gentleman to ride.” 

After the finalization of the warm-up round, 87 horse and rider teams will return for The Whitethorn Equitation Challenge. The class starts at 9 a.m with the required riders meeting. Then proceeds afterward with the start of Phase 1. Once all riders complete the round they will head over to the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel to participate in Phase 2. Phase 2 allows riders to get their scorecards from Phase 1 and be able to ask the judges questions about them.

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