San Juan Capistrano, California— September 28, 2021—Blenheim EquiSports’ International Jumping Festival set a beautiful stage for the North American League’s West Coast Finals, September 25-26. After earning qualification at over 600 participating competitions throughout the United States and Canada all year, Amateur, Junior and Children’s hunter and jumper finalists gathered in Southern California’s San Juan Capistrano to vie for 2021 NAL West Coast titles.
With $5,000 prize money for each final, and generous prizes and gift certificates provided by EquiFit, SmartPak, HorseFlight and The Clothes Horse, the North American League attracts the best and all Finalists excelled.The NAL Finals feature year-end championship competitions in five divisions. The NAL National Finals will take place at the Capital Challenge Horse Show, October 1-10.
$5,000 Adult Amateur Hunter Finals
Kristi C Siam and her gorgeous flaxen-maned mount, Surfside, set a high bar in this two-round competition with a first round score of 85. They were only the second pair to go, giving Siam ample time to think about their position that wound up being 4 points higher than any other first-round go. “That made me more nervous, of course!” said Siam, who is elegant in and out of the saddle. “We all know that being on top puts a little more pressure on us, and this was my first time doing the North American League Finals.”
Centering herself mentally, staying focused on the plan she and trainer Peter Lombardo had worked out and trusting her relatively new equine partner paid off. Their second round was even better than the first, earning an 88 for a total score of 173. “I know my horse will do whatever I ask him to do,” commented Siam, who is a grandmother of four. “He is normally pretty consistent and today he was spectacular, thanks to Peter (Lombardo) and John (Zambrano). They always do a wonderful job preparing the horses.”
After riding as a junior, Siam left horses in favor of family and career. It was her daughter’s interest in horses that led Siam back into it about 15 years ago. “I never thought I would ride again,” she still marvels. Siam called the NAL win a perfectly timed confidence boost. She’ll be heading back East for the NAL National Finals at Capital Challenge. “When you get a little older, nerves can be an issue. You have to talk yourself back from the ledge now and then. You have to figure out what works for you, and not get caught up in what works for others.”
Soul Mate and Leigh-Ann Kazolas, trained by Molly Brock, were reserve champions, with scores of 82 and 83 for a total of 165 points. First & Goal and Jennifer Rawlings were third on a combined score of 162 points. Rawlings trains with Kate Considine.
$5,000 Children’s Hunter Finals
Twelve-year-old Lauren Padilla had to gallop over from a winning performance in the pony ring to jump on her handsome gray horse Way Maker for this Final. They were worth the wait. Riding both rounds back-to-back and with blue ribboned braids flying down her back, Padilla laid down two 85 scores to top the field on a 170 total.
Padilla was more impressed with her horse than she was with her own double duty victories. “He is only 7 and I am really proud of him going into this big ring today,” she explained. “He felt good and loose. After the first jump I knew this was going to be a good day!”
Padilla shares the sport with her mother and they both train with Mike and Christa Endicott at Pegasus Show Stables. Padilla’s long-term goal in the sport is to “try my best to help my horses as much as I can to be the best I can.”
Grayson Pacelli had two lovely performances in the Finals. The student of Alicia Saxton rode Labrinth to the reserve championship with a 161 score, and Acoradus to third on a 154.
$5,000 Low Junior/Amateur Jumper Finals Presented by HorseFlight
A 23-horse field of strong contenders tackled a solid track filled with ample turn and bending line options on the famed Oaks International Field, the carefully tended grass on which many Olympians have tested their mettle over the years. The Saturday afternoon class was won by Jake Endicott and Gauguin Du Pachis, one of many sales horses the 17-year-old rides for his family’s Pegasus Show Stables.
“I’m happy with the round and the outcome, and the course fit my horse pretty well, he said.” A slip after the first fence in the jump-off required an extra stride going to the next, but otherwise Endicott was able to stick to his plan. He secured the win with time-efficient tracks everywhere offered and good foot speed on the straightaways.
Although he is the son of top professionals Michael and Christa Endicott, and his older brother Mitch is an accomplished jumper rider, the younger Endicott only started riding two years ago. Football and soccer were his passions. “I guess I just wanted to be different,” he said. Those sports have now been back-burnered in favor of the equestrian path.
Elisa Broz and Tinkerbell were close behind as reserve champions, riding under trainer Cassie Belmont’s Belmont Training Stable banner. Rachel Glicklich and MJ finished third. They are trained by Bruno Diniz Das Neves.
$5,000 Adult Jumper Finals Presented by SmartPak
The five clear first rounds in this competitive class were laid down by two contenders riding three and two horses, respectively. The ultimate winner, Selah Shephard, had three horses in the hunt and it was her second ride, on Skyliner, that had the fastest time to win the Finals. She was third on Indigo VDL and fourth on Escada.
“I thought Skyliner might be my fastest horse,” Shephard shared after the round. “He is the most enthusiastic, but the other two are a little more careful. I knew if Skyliner left the rails up, there’d be no doubt he’d be on top.”
Trained by Tina and Craig Yates of High Point Farm, Shephard rode all three horses with control and efficiency. “My goal is to continue to do well in the upper levels, so you want to have consistent rounds. It was not my goal to ‘turn and burn,’ but that’s what wound up happening with Skyliner.”
Having three horses in the class, let alone in a jump-off, was a new challenge Shephard was thrilled to master. “I really had to collect myself and make sure I knew exactly what the plan was for each horse. To go that quickly was new for me.”
Lexie Looker was a close second, finishing as reserve champion on Chaperon and fifth with Quanto Fino 2. She is coached by her mother Tonia Cook Looker.
$5,000 Children’s Jumper Finals Presented by EquiFit
Riding last in the four-horse jump-off, Grace Belmont knew what was needed to win the Children’s Finals with Dia Fina. Having had the mare less than a week, however, she wasn’t totally sure how things would pan out. “She is so sporty and game for anything,” Belmont reported. “It was really fun to try something new with a new horse.”
After a few days of experimenting with bits, Belmont and her mom and coach, Cassie Belmont, found a hackamore to be the perfect choice. “In the turns in the jump-off, she just needs a second to see the jumps and — boom! — she is right there. She’s got her own motor and is just great about going to all the jumps.”
The 18-year-old is debating between college and going directly into a professional equestrian career. “I think I have already found my calling. Working for my mom has been great, especially getting to train the kids moving up the ranks at our schooling shows.”
MacKenzie Greer and Chelsy 17 earned the Finals’ reserve champion honors, adding an accomplishment to the Endicotts’ full ribbon rail. And Erica Cooper and CCF Hibiscus Coast, students of Michelle Parker, were third.
About the NAL
The NAL season runs from September 1 to August 31. NAL qualifying classes are open to all competitors, but only current members are awarded points. Joining the NAL allows riders to accumulate the points necessary to qualify for both the West Coast and the National Finals. Annual memberships are only $40 per rider.