Gold for Gold: Alec Lawler Tops $138,600 Staller CSI3* Grand Prix

California native Alec Lawler’s first FEI Grand Prix in Traverse City did not disappoint. Lawler, 30, made it back for the second season in a row, but this time with his partner For Gold, and topped the $138,600 Staller CSI3* Grand Prix.

“He’s the nicest horse I’ve ever had,” Lawler said of the 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding. “He’s as careful, scopey, and intelligent as they come. He really understands the game: to jump clear rounds. I’ve never had a smarter horse than him, so it’s really special. I’ve been able to be more competitive than I ever was before.”

Alec Lawler and For Gold. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Mauricio Garcia Ballesteros’ (PUR) first-round course whittled down the field to six as they kicked into jump-off mode. Olympic team silver medalist Beat Mändli (SUI) set the pace to beat with Dsarie, owned by Grant Road Partners LLC, in 39.30 seconds, putting the pressure on the rest of the field. Lawler, fourth to jump off, took a similar path to Mändli, but with a quicker pace to slide into first in 37.28 seconds. Last to go, U.S. Olympian Margie Engle, looking for back-to-back grand prix wins, piloted Jackofhearts, owned by Gladewinds Partners, LLC, to a double-clear round in 39.50 seconds, claiming third place.

Despite the depth of the jump-off roster, Lawler knew he had a trusty partner to take him to the top. “My horse has a nickel’s worth smaller stride than [Beat’s],” he continued. “So trying to do the same steps as him kept me at a little faster pace. I don’t think it was one particular spot on course, my horse is just a little bit quicker.”

Beat Mändli and Dsarie. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Lawler acquired For Gold several years ago from a Dutch colleague, Rob Schipper, who helped produce the gelding (For Fashion x Heraldik). “One day, he called me and said, ‘Now’s the time; You have to buy him.’ So I was able to lease my horse [at the time] and buy him and bring him over. It’s been a slow-building process for us, but he’s just been as consistent a horse as I’ve ever had.”

Margie Engle and Jackofhearts. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Lawler isn’t leaving Traverse City anytime soon. As a member of the Desert International Horse Park (DIHP) Roadrunners, he looks forward to competing in the Major League Show Jumping (MLSJ) tour as it passes through Flintfields Horse Park in August and September. My barn, Meadowgrove Farm, and I are here for five weeks with clients, and my personal horses will stay here with a big goal of being on the DIHP team for the MLSJ. I’m really excited about that. It’s a huge opportunity for me, and I’m thankful that the DIHP put me on the team.”

Ticket proceeds from the Staller Grand Prix were donated to Horse North Rescue in the amount of $1,335 as part of Traverse City Horse Shows’ new charity ticket program. Throughout the spring, summer and fall, each of the 12 Sunday grand prix events will benefit a local charity. All proceeds generated from general admission ticket sales will be donated to each week’s charity.

Proceeds from the Charity Ticket Program to benefit Horse North Rescue. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

CSI3* competition continues during week three of Traverse City Spring, presented by Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel, with the $138,600 Serra Traverse City CSI3* Grand Prix taking place Sunday.


Final Results: $138,600 Staller CSI3* Grand Prix

1. FOR GOLD: 2011 HOLST gelding by For Fashion x Heraldik
ALEC LAWLER (USA), Lawler Show Jumping LLC: 0/0/37.28

2. DSARIE: 2008 KWPN mare by Veron x Ahorn
BEAT MÄNDLI (SUI), Grant Road Partners LLC: 0/0/39.30

3. JACKOFHEARTS:  2012 DWB gelding by Toulon x Baloubet Du Rouet
MARGIE ENGLE (USA), Gladewinds Partners, LLC: 0/0/39.50

4. ELUNA CL Z: 2012 ZANG mare by Emerald x Nabab De Reve
ELIZA LEHRMAN (USA), Five Way Farm LLC: 0/0/41.49

5. DEZ OOKTOFF: 2008 KWPN stallion by Colandro x Lys Rouge
ROBERTO TERAN TAFUR (COL), Roberto Teran Tafur: 0/4/38.71

6. FOREVER SFN: 2010 KWPN gelding by Azteca VDL x Nonstop
KELLI CRUCIOTTI VANDERVEEN (USA), Springpaarden Fonds Nederland: 0/8/37.33

7. LIVESTREAM 2: 2010 OLDBG gelding by Lordanos x Landadel
LISA CARLSEN (CAN), Lisa Carlsen: 1/83.77

8. MAHAREES ROCK: 2010 ISH mare by OBOS Quality x Ballysimon
GABRIELA REUTTER (CHI), Lumiere Horses Inc: 4/76.45

9. TACHINI Z: 2009 ZANG gelding by Toulon x Burggraaf NV
MICHAEL MORRISSEY (USA), MD Stables: 4/77.35

10. MANHATTAN VAN’T LEEUWERIKENHOF: 2012 BWP gelding by Emerald x Kashmir Van Schuttershof
FILIP DE WANDEL (BEL), Five Way Farm LLC: 4/78.31

11. KIRSCHWASSER SCF 2010 BWP gelding by Amaretto D’Arco x Nabab De Reve
FREDDIE VAZQUEZ (PUR), Freddie Vazquez: 4/78.54

12. ROYCE: 2004 OS stallion by Cafe Au Lait x Grandilot
MARGIE ENGLE (USA), Gladewinds Partners, LLC: 4/79.71


Sophia Bruny Guides Ultimate Grace to Low Junior/Amateur Jumper Championship

Southern California’s Sophia Bruny arrived at Traverse City Horse Shows in style. With Elizabeth Bruny’s entry Ultimate Grace, the young rider bested a field of 32 juniors and amateurs for a classic win and earned championship honors in the Sugar Run Farm and Gajoch Family Low Junior/Amateur Jumper division.

Sophia Bruny and Ultimate Grace. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

With two rides in the division, Bruny went early in the order aboard Ultimate Grace, a 15-year-old Warmblood mare by Chin Chin, and set the pace with a double-clear effort and a jump-off time of 31.527 seconds. Maya Nayyar and her own Narco VA came close to the leading time, just a fraction of a second slower in 31.646 seconds to finish the runner up. Narco VA and Nayyar also accepted reserve champion honors.

“‘Grace’ is my only mare,” Bruny said of her winning mount. “I’ve had her for about a year, and I won my first Low Junior [Jumper[ class [with her]. She can do it all. She’s amazing. She’s big, so she has an enormous stride, and that helps me in the jump-offs. And for such a big mare, she turns on a dime. Just point and shoot, and she’s going. I think if I wasn’t riding her, she could do the course by herself with no problem.”

Bruny aspires to return to indoors this season to compete with Grace in the Low Junior Jumper finals at the end of the year. “I did it last year, and she was a machine,” the rising senior in high school continued. “So hopefully, we’ll qualify for those again and maybe zones as well. We’ll just keep knocking on the door in the Lows.”

Sophia Bruny with Cindy Cruciotti. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Bruny’s second mount in the class, Halifax Van De Conyenberg, also placed in the top 12 and is the former international ride of her trainer, Kelli Cruciotti VanderVeen. Cruciotti VanderVeen piloted ‘Hippo,’ owned by Banner Farms LLC, in CSI5* competition, even winning a CSI5* Two Phase in December before passing the reins to Bruny.

While Bruny hails from the West Coast, she spends most of her time out east competing. “I’ve been here once before, two years ago,” she said of Traverse City Horse Shows. “I loved it then. I got to ride in the big ring once for the Children’s Jumpers, and I loved it. Coming here this year, they’ve made so many great improvements to the facility. It’s lovely, the ring rides incredibly, and the course today was phenomenal. Only great things to say about it; it’s amazing.”


Riley Hogan Rises to the Top in Traverse City Hunter Derby

Riley Hogan didn’t let a fifth-place finish in the first round of the Traverse City Hunter Derby discourage her. With a score of 88 in round one aboard her trusty partner Wengen, owned by Kate Preston, she knew she had impressed the judges but had to be bold in the handy round to move up in the final placings.

Riley Hogan and Wengen. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“I wanted to be as handy and smooth as I could,” Hogan reflected on her handy round strategy. “I knew I was in fifth, but I also knew [our scores] were all really close together. I did ‘Carl’ in the equitation last year, so I knew he’s really handy. He was super and followed me all the way around. He’s a great partner.”

Their boldness in the handy round was rewarded with a score of 92 for a two-round total of 180. With four to go, the pair’s round proved effective in securing the win. Kelsey Epperson, who took the high score in round one, finished in second place with Tulio, owned by LTJ & Company LLC with a score of 178. Epperson also claimed third place with the Lashier Properties LLC entry Didgereedoo VDL on a total score of 177.5.

They are a seasoned pair but competed primarily in the equitation through Hogan’s final junior year. “I tried him here at GLEF,” she said. “My trainer, Don [Stewart], really liked him, and I showed him last year in all the equitation and won the USHJA Jumping Seat Medal Finals on him. I’m an amateur now, so it feels really cool to be able to show him. I don’t own him, but he’s kind of my baby. It all came full circle.”

Riley Hogan and Wengen. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Along with the win, Wengen was awarded the Platinum Performance Hunter Horse of the Week. Wengen, a 9-year-old Warmblood gelding by Casdorff, carried Hogan through numerous equitation finals and is doubling as a top hunter in Traverse City.

“It’s different,” Hogan remarked on competing as an amateur for the first time. “It’s a lot of fun though, too. It’s nice to watch all the other kids in the barn go and watch from the sidelines.” Hogan now rides for Oklahoma State University’s equestrian team, where she studies Sports Media but plans to keep horses in her life long term.

“This is the third year I’ve been, and I just love it,” said Hogan regarding Traverse City Horse Shows. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the summer. The footing is always great. I love the hunter ring being down here; it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great place to be.”

Week three of Traverse City Spring features World Champion Hunter Rider (WCHR) competition, as well as the $100,000 WCHR Central Hunter Spectacular, all in preparation for the Traverse City Hunter & Derby Finals taking place in September.

Final Results: Traverse City Hunter Derby

1. Wengen / Riley Hogan / Kate Preston / 88 + 92 = 180
2. Tulio / Kelsey Epperson / LTJ & Company, LLC / 91 +87 = 178
3. Didgereedoo VDL / Kelsey Epperson / Lashier Properties LLC / 88.5 + 89 = 177.5
4. Moonwalk / Hillary Johnson / Copper Fox, LLC / 89 + 88 = 177
5. Etiquette / Elise Iafrate / Elise Iafrate / 90 + 83 = 173
6. Blue Monday / Hillary Johnson / Stephanie Battershall / 83 + 86 = 169
7. Quateroy / Caroline Olsen / Dianne Desroches / 82.5 + 84 = 166.5
8. Camelia / Karli Schroeder / Karen Howey / 81 + 85 = 166
9. Nabisco / Elise Iafrate / Elise Iafrate / 84 + 69 = 153
10. Coastline / Ehrin Rittmueller / Kimberly Blasko / 69 + 78 = 147
11. Barilla / Kristie Lynn Dobbs / Treesdale Farms / 80 + 50 = 130
12. Constellation / Anna Schierholz / Anna Schierholz / 79 + 49 = 128