Edited Press Release
Wayne, Ill. – June 25, 2022 – Not all victories are easy, some are a hard-fought, uphill battle, and that is what Ryan Sassmannshausen and Rosalita showcased on Saturday at HITS Chicago. Hunter riders took over the Grand Prix Ring to kick off the morning during the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Lamplight Spring Spectacular III. After a rub at the last fence during the first round, Sassmannshausen and Rosalita executed a flawless handy round that helped them climb from a seventh-place ranking to the top of the leaderboard to lead the victory gallop.
“Seventh was lower than I wanted to be going into the handy, but I knew that personally, handys are something that I enjoy, and Rosalita is really good at the handy round,” admitted Sassmannshausen after his win. “I would have preferred to be more like fifth, but being in the seventh spot was actually kind of nice because I had nothing to lose. I did a few things that others didn’t. I wanted to leave it out there because I had a big hill to climb.”
The first round of the day’s highlight event featured a beautiful classic hunter round over natural obstacles with four high options. The top-ranked combinations were invited to return for the handy round. They could begin with a very sharp inside turn to the second fence, before a rollback to three and then the first high option followed by the trot jump. Riders then continued to a bending line with two high options before a rollback to a two-stride in-and-out, and finally hand galloping the last option oxer.
Sassmannshausen’s rub at the last fence during the first round had him ranked seventh going into the handy with a score of 133, which was bolstered by taking all four high options. He knew he had to take every risk to rise to the top during the handy round, and that’s exactly what he did.
“I jumped one and went super inside to the oxer and was basically parallel, so there was one stride to bring her head in and ask her to jump, and she did it well,” said Sassmannshausen. “In the moment, it worked… it was one of those moments where it was either really going to work or it was not going to work! She’s so handy and she’s so good that she made it effortless there. The trot jump was great, and then I slipped inside to the two-stride, which most didn’t do. There was room to do it, but the two-stride was riding a little long, so the biggest thing was carrying my pace and finding something bold in so that I could do the two. Then I really hand-galloped as fast as I could to last jump to be as bold as possible.”
Sassmannshausen and Rosalita’s efforts were rewarded with 19 handy bonus points on top of the four high options and base scores in the 80s, bringing his total score to 327. Meagan Murray-Tenuta and Steel Away were just one point away for second place with a total score of 326, while Kathleen Caya and Eurythmix rounded out the top three.
For Sassmannshausen, the day’s win was written on the wall, literally. “Earlier this week I was reading a book about the law of attraction, so on my door four days ago I made a week of goals, and one of them was to win a grand prix, which I hope I win tomorrow, and the other was to win the derby, so I was able to check one of those off,” he laughed. “It was fun and cool to put it out there. I know I can do it, and I know the horse can do it, and the universe made it happen.”
Rosalita is a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare owned by Doris Donovan, who was in town to watch the victory with her family, making it an extra special day. For Sassmannshausen, Lamplight Equestrian Center is home, so he was thrilled to add another win to Rosalita’s resume. “Rosalita is very consistent; I know her very well, and I am able to string a lot of wins together with her,” he noted. “This year, stepping up to the International level, I tried to make sure when I was doing my scheduling that when there’s an International week, I want her here showing. I do think [Lamplight] is great for our younger horses as well because it’s a show they can come to that is so horse-friendly.”
Hunter action in the Grand Prix Ring kicked off Friday evening with the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby. Tina Judge-Boyle garnered the winning title aboard Afelix Dell A, while Ashley March placed second and third with MTM Lollipop and Santiago, respectively.