World Cups in Their Future
Macella O'Neill Wins Her First World Cup Qualifier
Burbank, CA. Macella OíNeill and Murkas Rockstar (Kimberly Butts, owner) outran Jill Humphrey on Lou Bega (Leone Equestrians, Inc., owner) to win the $50,000 Grand Prix of Los Angeles. The World Cup qualifier was held during the L.A. International Jumping Festival, September 17 -21 at LAEC. "I was the second to come back in the jump-off," said OíNeill. "Jill Humphrey jumped a beautiful first round and a beautiful clean second round. My horse is fleet-footed. Heís a horse you can gallop around. If you donít interrupt him, heíll jump around. I really didnít have a strategy. The course didnít give you many options."
Both the grand prix arena at LAEC and course designer Guilherme Jorge are favorites for OíNeill. "I love the course designer," she said. "I always understand the questions he asks. He designs very fair courses. He asks the horses to be crescendo horses. The degree of difficulty seems to build."
The number four fence, a plank, caused trouble. "It was a visual question," she said. "The rider needed a careful horse." From there, the course built to the last line. Riders went diagonally across the ring to 10, a wide oxer. They had to get the horses back for 11, a tall vertical set right next to the crowd. There was a short distance to fences 12 A and B, both oxers.. The final fence was a black vertical right on the in-gate. "The final fence was by the out gate," she said. "It was an easy fence for horses to lose concentration. The course was hard to jump clean but easy to jump. The time allowed was tight. I feel a tight time allowed was another component. If you choose not to make the time; you can still get a check and still get a ribbon. The course demanded a fairly obedient, schooled horse."
OíNeill acquired Murkas Rockstar, a twelve-year-old Selle Francais, in February of this year from Peter Charles, a two time Olympian. "He is a very dear friend," she said. "I rode the horse several times and loved him. I told Peter that if he was ever going to sell the horse I wanted to buy him. Iíve taken him in nine grand prix and weíve placed in the top five in seven. The horse is phenomenal. That horse is a winning machine. Heís phenomenally, consistently successful. Iíd like to thank the owners Jim and Kimberly Butts and Peter Charles."
When OíNeill and her partner Charlie White started Diamond Mountain Stables in 1983, she promised her parents she would only train horses for five years. Twenty-five years later, she believes the ranch deserves partial credit for her success. "The horses love it," she said. "It has a magical feel. Most of the open horses do double days four or five days a week. One of those is on the trail. In the U.S. Cavalry manual it said the average horseís work day should be six hours. They have a biomechanical need to be in motion, like land sharks. Itís fantastic for their systems to be out in the hills, going up and down and stepping over logs. We live in a really hilly area. We can accomplish in twenty minutes on the trail what it would take an hour and a half working on the flat in a ring. Itís important for the horses. Everyone says our horses are so good minded, so cheerful, and so happy; they have never seen such a happy grou p of horses."
Karen Healeyís students captured both the USEF Zones 8-9-10 Junior and Adult Equitation Finals: Tina Dilandri on RSVP (Highpoint Farm LLC) won the Hunter Seat Medal Regional Finals; Lauren Hester riding K2 won the Adult Equitation Regional Finals. Arizona trainer Becky Warner found RSVP, Dilandriís equitation mount, four years ago. Warner gave Dilandri her start and the fundamentals. Three years ago, Dilandri moved to Healeyís barn. "Weíve been working on getting her to take chances and go for the 90s," said Healey. "She needed to be aggressive with her ride and to be not just better but really better than. She got a 90 in the first round. He was a little fresh so we didnít pull out all the stops. For the second round, he was dead on; she had an aggressive forward ride and scored a 94. Going into the work-off she was way ahead."
While the first two rounds were relatively straightforward, there were inside options, and Dilandri took advantage of those options. "There were options that let you make your test stronger," she said. "At the work off, the most difficult part was halting between markers, dropping my irons, doing a counter canter and then three changes of lead followed by a hand gallop to an oxer with an inside turn to a four (stride). All my fences were great. Now I know what I need to do for back east."
Dilandri leaves September 25th for equitation week at Capital Challenge, and sheíll end her year at the equitation finals in Harrisburg and Syracuse. "My goal is to do well at the finals, and eventually qualify for the World Cup and try out for the 2012 Olympics," she said. "I love hunters as well as jumpers and equitation, but I love equitation more than anything. You have to be so precise and so efficient. I like to make the whole thing beautiful and flowing."
Lauren Hester has been with Healey throughout her career. Her horse, K2, just returned to the ring after a long lay-off. After the first round she was in fourth place with an 83. A score of 88 in the second round put her in first place going into the work off. "Weíve always had trot jump issues so we practiced a million of them and then there werenít any," she said. "We cantered to the first, turned and halted between two and three. Then we picked up the canter to the oxer. After the four, there were two simple changes of lead; others did it in four strides but I thought it looked rough so I took five steps."
Like Dilandri, Hester has exciting plans. She leaves on October 20 to spend a year riding in Germany. "Iíll spend three months with Peter Bulthius and then go to a couple of different barns," she said. "I plan to ride with Meredith (Michaels-Beerbaum). Iím shipping my jumpers over; my equitation horses are for sale. K2 will go to Harrisburg and Syracuse with Carly Anthony."
For all three riders, the International Jumping Festival was an important career step. OíNeill won her first World Cup qualifier; Dilandri and Hester are hoping for World Cups in their futures.
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