Will Simpson is Golden at the LA National
Burbank, CA. The audience cheered even more enthusiastically when Will Simpson entered the arena aboard Archie Bunker to contest the $50,000 Los Angeles National Grand Prix. The 2008 Olympic gold medalist did not disappoint as he piloted Archie Bunker to one of just four clear rounds during the featured class at the LA National (Nov. 12-16). Olaf Petersen, Jr. designed a challenging course for the 34 horse field that served as a West Coast League World Cup Qualifier. "This was a difficult course. This ring is so big compared to the European indoor arenas, but the course was as high a level."
Simpson got the ride on Archie Bunker (Linda Starkman, owner) this past summer when he was showing in Europe. "Iíve always like this horse. I watched John (Pearce) develop him and he has all the scope. He has balance, scope, and I donít have to worry about the width of the jumps. However, his biggest asset though is that he is smart."
While Simpson may feel that Archie Bunker is unusually smart, Simpson himself almost made a stupid error. "I had an adequate warm up, and I think I went in the ring still thinking about that. As I jumped the first fence I sighted in on the next jump. I had a real nice distance picked out and then I saw the number Ďeightí at the bottom of the jump. At the very last second I got back on it and jumped fence 2." Archie Bunkerís scope and calm demeanor helped Simpson avoid not only a rail, but going off course.
"The time was tight and after almost jumping the wrong jump I thought I was behind on the time so I had to kick it into gear. Iíve always known Archie Bunker was careful, scopey, and rideable, but I didnít know that he came with his own GPS," laughed Simpson.
Harley Brown led the jump off aboard Cassiato and they put in a careful, clear round (46.64 seconds). "I knew that Rich (Fellers) would be lots faster with McGuiness so I realized I had to go for the time," said Simpson of his jump off strategy. "I thought about the inside turn, but I didnít know the horse well enough and those kinds of turns can be disastrous." Simpson chose the safer route, but blazed around the course and stopped the clock in 43.20. Fellers followed, and as Simpson expected he took the inside turn. However, jumping through the combination later in the course McGuiness dropped the second element. With four faults and a time of 44.08, Fellers settled for fourth. Darrin Dlin and Catwalk were the only pair that could usurp Simpsonís lead. Despite a good effort, they settled for second after posting a time of 44.97.
For Simpson, the win was gratifying. "I didnít realize how much pressure there would be after the Olympics." Leading up to the Olympics Simpson noted, "It was a test of holding my breath for nine months. Then once I was on the team there was so much pressure on different levels. After the Games I got home, got the kids started in school, and I was glad it was over and I could let down. Then my mom said, ĎNo, no. Now youíve got to back it up. You have to go to work.í Moms have a way of putting things."
Riding into the Los Angeles Equestrian Centerís Equidome in front on an enthusiastic and expectant crowd, Simpson felt the pressure, but he rose to it and delivered a stellar performance.
Another stellar performance unfolded during the LA National at the opposite end of the spectrum. The Onondarka Medal Finals showcases the future, yet demands as much of the 12 and under riders as the grand prix demands of the jumper riders. Sydney Calloway sat down with her trainers, Lori DeRosa and Erin Duffy early in the year and identified her goals. "She is the hardest working kid," said DeRosa of her young student. "She is a good student and has the most supportive parents." The Onondarka Finals were one of Callawayís goals, along with being able to ride without stirrups for 20 minutes. With practice Callaway is able to easily ride without stirrups, and over three rounds and a work-off she found herself checking off ĎOnondarka Finalsí.
"I canít believe I won," said Callaway. "This is all kind of like I am dreaming." Don Simington of the famed Onondarka Riding Club was impressed with the riding skills demonstrated by the young riders. "This was a great class. There have been a lot of changes and the courses are much more challenging than years ago. You need to keep your eyes up and have a plan or you are in trouble." Callaway kept her eyes firmly focused on her plan and she wowed the judges with her consistent riding. "This is a wonderful class and all the riders were really good," said Jim Zulia, who presided over the class with John McQueen. "California has the best equitation in the country," added McQueen emphatically.
And Will Simpson proved the California also has the best jumpers.
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