Conor O’Regan (IRL) kicked off his international run at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF) with a win Friday in the $38,700 Elk Rapids Marina CSI3* Welcome Stake aboard Mendini DR, owned by Dynomite Ranch, LLC. The Irishman bested a 13-horse jump-off, eight of which jumped double-clear, taking home victory with nearly a second to spare.
O’Regan had an advantage, being the very last in the order for round one, which welcomed 33 entries. Returning last for the jump-off, though he didn’t get to see many of the rounds due to training clients in other rings, he understood the assignment.
Samantha Schaefer (USA) led with Bonnie Vie LLC’s James Bond HX, and they ultimately claimed second place after O’Regan’s blazing clear effort in 36.80 seconds. Third place went to Martien Van Der Hoeven (USA) and In A Hurry, owned by Pine Hollow Farm.
“I got her at the end of her six-year-old-year, so it’s been five years,” O’Regan reflected on his partnership with his winning 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Hunters Scendix x Cassini). “It’s been a good five years just building and developing her into what she is today. She’s not your typical, conventional jumper, she has her own style. She’s not the biggest horse in the world with the biggest stride but she’s got a big heart and she always wants to jump the jumps clean and try her best all the time.”
Mendini DR’s best proved to be good enough Friday, and also that the partnership is one that is reaching its prime. Two pairs jumped quicker, but had a rail down on their way.
“She’s definitely a careful horse but it’s about allowing her to use that front end and get out of the way,” O’Regan remarked on the mare’s unique way of going. “Once I do that, I know that she’ll always try to make the back rail and that’s a big help. She never goes too high; she always does what she needs to do to get across and most of the time she leaves the jumps up.”
Based in Upperville, VA, O’Regan is in Northern Michigan piloting two mounts in the FEI division during the second week of GLEF, both of which have the chops to contend in Sunday’s CSI3* grand prix. He’ll decide between the two depending on how they feel.
“[Mendini] was so good today, so maybe I’ll leave her on that and I’ll see how I’m feeling,” he said of his plan for the rest of the week. “And then I have another really nice 10-year-old who is just starting to come into his own. He’s jumping the national grand prix tomorrow.”
Show jumping continues through the weekend with Saturday’s $30,000 Traverse City National Grand Prix, followed by Sunday’s $145,100 CSI3* Grand Prix of Michigan.
Hailey Guidry Captures T.H.I.S. National Children’s Medal 14 & Under
Equitation during GLEF II continued Friday morning with the T.H.I.S. National Children’s Medal 14 and it was Hailey Guidry, age 13, of New Orleans, LA, who took top honors with Cornet’s Sunshine, owned by Honor Hill Farm LLC.
“We have had him for about three or four months now,” Guidry said of the 10-year-old Westphalian gelding, known as ‘Sunny’ in the barn. “He started off as a jumper and slowly got into the equitation. We have connected really well. He’s a very sweet guy. He’s always happy; you never see him mad.”
The top four riders came back to test and vie for the win. Guidry came back on top with a first-round score of 87 and she was joined by Brooke Hagerty, Eva Mackenzie, and Lesly Moore, who finished second, third, and fourth, respectively.
“My plan was to have a nice round,” she reflected. “I saw everybody was going inside from [fence] one to [fence] five. I thought it was a nice turn so I did it and rolled back to [fence] three. It was a bit long, but it worked out. It ended up being a good round.”
Like many young riders, Guidry has big goals to qualify for the major equitation finals at the end of the year. “I have already qualified for [ASPCA Maclay Finals] and I am very excited for that,” Guidry shared. “I am hoping to finish in the top 10 or 25. I hope to keep qualifying for all of the big finals.”
Equitation stars continue to converge in Traverse City with T.H.I.S. Equitation Tuesdays and additional qualifying classes offered throughout the week. “It’s a very nice place; I really enjoy it,” Guidry commented. “It’s so pretty here. Everyone is so kind and always amazing.”