Stephenson and Deister Z Have Quick Success in MarBill Hill U25 Grand Prix

Olivia Stephenson thrives off a fast pace—and not just in a jump-off.

Stephenson, 16, rode Deister Z to the win in Sunday’s MarBill Hill U25 Grand Prix at tbird, besting a four-horse jump-off.

She acquired her mount as a birthday present—just last week—and Deister Z himself was imported less than two months ago. Needless to say, things have come together quickly.

“This class was probably one of the biggest tracks I’ve ever jumped,” Stephenson said. “Last week, we jumped in [the U25 division], but we didn’t do the Grand Prix, because we didn’t want to show too many days in a row. This was a bigger, harder track today. I was pretty nervous going into the first round, [but] in the jump-off I was a lot more confident.”

Peter Holmes’ (CAN) 1.40m track proved challenging, and just two riders had produced clear rounds more than two-thirds through the start list. But when Kassidy Keith (CAN) and Aren Ozker (CAN) delivered back-to-back clears at the tail end of the first round, it doubled the jump-off field to four.

Still, clear rounds remained a rare commodity over the short course. Stephenson was the first to jump double-clear, and ultimately no one would catch her. Ozker and Dustin 254 finished second (51.71 seconds), with Stella Chernoff (CAN) and Connador third (4/47.62).

“Stella went before me and had a rail. I was just wanting to go for a clear round, and I just stuck with the plan [trainers] Dayton [Gorseline] and Lisa [Carlsen] told me to do,” Stephenson said. “He was very good.”

Stephenson first met Deister Z in June, when the gelding was at tbird with international show jumper Gareth Graves (CAN) to sell. Having only recently been imported from Greece, Deister Z was in need of some fitness, but Stephenson and the chestnut immediately connected. She took Deister Z to a show in Calgary and showed once more at tbird before the partnership became permanent.

“One of reasons really liked him from the start was that he has such a good canter. He has so much natural impulsion,” Stephenson said. “His stride is so adjustable, and he has just enough blood. He’s easy to ride [and] so sweet in the barn. We call him a Breyer horse: He has such a cute face, with white on his face and white stockings.”

According to Stephenson, horse and rider have become equally attached.

“He loves our horses. He’s very attached to them, [and] some days he thinks he should have a companion all the time,” Stephenson said. “He has his routine: He sleeps every morning from 8 to 10 after his breakfast. He’s so sweet. My little sister (12 years old) takes him on hand-walks.”

Olivia Stephenson (CAN) and Deister Z stand for the winner’s presentation. Photo ©tbird/Quinn Saunders

$15,000 MarBill Hill U25 Grand Prix 1.450m

  1. Deister Z / Olivia Stephenson / CAN / Gareth Graves / 0/0 51.48
  2. Dustin 254 / Aren Ozker / CAN / Aren Ozker / 0/0 51.71
  3. Connador / Stella Chernoff / CAN / Stump Lake Ranch & Cattle Co Ltd / 0/4 47.62
  4. Fenelon WF / Kassidy Keith / CAN / Cheryl Keith / 0/4 49.17
  5. RK Vincent Santa Monica / Austin Krawitt / CAN / Austin Krawitt / 4 90.32
  6. Gogolinus / Jarne Francken / CAN / Brylee Dickie / 4 92.34
  7. Cella / Taylor Winther Blair / CAN / Sorine Winther / 8 90.93
  8. Edesa’s Filippo T Z / Katie Kehring / CAN / The Kehring Family / 8 92.81
  9. Concelo / Ava Wong / CAN / Ava Wong / 9 93.61
  10. Viva la Vida / Cassie Gorseline / CAN / CAN / Lisa Carlsen / 12 88.74

Morin Gets Milestone Victory in CSI2* Paladin Risk Solutions Grand Prix

Brooke Morin (USA) walked under the tower and into the Fort Grand Prix Arena for the CSI2* Paladin Risk Solutions Grand Prix knowing that in order to win her first international Grand Prix, she’d have to beat her coach.

“I was going to be happy either way. Kyle was going to win if I didn’t! I actually said that to him going into the ring,” Morin, 19, detailed.

Kyle King (USA) was leading the class aboard SIG Chiari and had set a stiff standard. Knowing his track had worked well, his advice to his student was to try to ride a similar track.

She did, for the most part. But a decision to leave out a stride with “Cory” midway through Peter Holmes’ (CAN) short track would set her apart and to the top of the leaderboard. Morin recorded a milestone victory, crossing the timers in 49.62 seconds. King settled for second (49.88 seconds), with Jeffrey Fields (USA) and Sherlina Ale third (50.71).

Brooke Morin (USA) and NKH Carrido take a victory lap beside coach Kyle King (USA) and SIG Chiari. Photo ©tbird/Quinn Saunders

“I did the seven [strides] in the bending line to the paint oxer. Kyle did eight, and that might have helped me,” Morin said. “I was worried a little about the turn afterward. I had to get a good pace for that seven, and I didn’t want to land too far out. Cory was just so game. He knew what I was asking. He knew what he was supposed to do.”

Traveling at speed and has seemingly come easily to Morin, who also finished second this week in the CSI2* tbird 1.45m. She credits that confidence to her mount. Despite commuting to Canada from her California home to show and train with locally-based King—sometimes not riding her horse for weeks at a time—there is little rust to rub off when she and Cory reunite in the show ring. According to JUMPR app, the pair finish in the top 10 71% of the time in international competition at heights from 1.40m to 1.50m.

Brooke Morin (USA) and NKH Carrido. Photo ©tbird/Quinn Saunders

“The fact that I’m so comfortable on Cory helps me a lot. When I first started doing the jumpers, you wouldn’t see me going as fast as I did today!” she exclaimed. “[Cory] loves [that pace]. He can also be kind of a lazy boy, but he gets excited [in the jump-off]. He has the best stride ever. It can be huge, and it can be small. He’s so adjustable. It’s just the best feeling.”

Morin and “Cory” have been partnered since the spring of 2020 and jumped their first international classes in June at Spruce Meadows. Morin’s first international win came at tbird’s Summer Fort Classic CSI3* in the Uryadi’s Village Cup 1.50m. Sunday’s win marked her first FEI grand prix win.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I can’t even describe it,” she said. “This is my dream, and it’s finally coming true.”

Brooke Morin (USA) and NKH Carrido stand for the winner’s presentation. Photo ©tbird/Quinn Saunders

 $50,000 CSI2* Paladin Risk Solutions Grand Prix 1.45m

  1. NKH Carrido / Brooke Morin / USA / Strasburg Morin Inc / 0/0 49.62
  2. SIG Chiari / Kyle King / USA / SIG International, Inc. / 0/0 49.88
  3. Sherlina Ale / Jeffrey Fields / USA / Sahana Ganesan / 0/0 50.71
  4. Deejay / Braden James / CAN / Stump Lake Ranch & Cattle Co Ltd / 0/0 50.74
  5. King-Boy / Rachel Fields / USA / The Kehring Family / 0/0 57.12
  6. Chardonnay / Robert Blanchette / IRL / RTS LLC / 0/4 49.93
  7. Flinton M / Kendall Bourgeois / USA / Cameron Brown / 0/4 53.35
  8. Kadans van de Mispelaere / Jaehee Jeon / KOR / Brother Fortune Equestrian Ltd / 0/4 53.35
  9. Uccelo de Will / Joie Gatlin / USA / Chandler Meadows / 0/4 53.89
  10. Driek / Jaimie Ackerman / CAN / Jaime Ackerman / 0/EL

Ackerman Rides to ‘Dream’ Victory in CSI2* tbird 1.45m

Langley, BC – As amateur rider Jaimie Ackerman (CAN) crossed the finish timers in the jump-off of the CSI2* tbird 1.45m, her first reaction was one of sheer disbelief.

“It’s a dream. You just don’t expect to go into a CSI2* FEI class when you’re [also] working a full-time job and pull off something like that,” she said.

But that doesn’t mean she wasn’t going to give it her best shot. Last to go in an eight-horse jump-off, Ackerman and Driek flew home past the timers of Peter Holmes’ (CAN) short course in 40.29 seconds—nearly three seconds faster than then-leading Brooke Morin (USA) and NKH Carrido (43.23). Jaehee Jeon (KOR) and Kadans van de Mispelaere finished third (43.72 seconds).

“He was unbelievable,” Ackerman said. “There were some questionable long distances there, but he was very good!”

Horse and rider were equally committed as they rounded the turn past the ingate and sighted in on the jump-off’s third fence. They took a bold, long distance at that oxer and carried their forward momentum toward the double that followed, getting down the line in one less stride than their competitors. They only pulled away from there.

“I really was committed. That oxer was a hair longer than I wanted it to be, but my horse was golden and took over for me,” Ackerman detailed. “Off that canter, all I saw was the 8 [strides to the double]. I didn’t want to interrupt him too much. It made the double tight, but he backed up and jumped it phenomenally.”

A Vancouver native, Ackerman works full-time as a chiropractor and owns two clinics in the area, offering a variety of physio-massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, and counseling services. But when she acquired the now-14-year-old KWPN gelding Driek three years ago, it set her on the trajectory to international show jumping competition. She made her international debut just one year ago; she’s now won two FEI classes in the last three weeks at Thunderbird Show Park. According to JUMPR App, she and Driek have had 4 faults or less in 73% of their starts at 1.45m.

Jaimie Ackerman (CAN) and Driek. Photo ©tbird/Quinn Saunders

“I got him in 2019 at this horse show. It’s our three-year anniversary!” she said. “My plan [at the time] was to get into some High Jr/Amateur classes and some local grand prixs. [Driek] had some FEI experience, and the dream [was] to step up to that.”

The pair have proven to be a most competitive match.

“I don’t think I’ve ever ridden a horse so game. He’s always looking for [the next jump]. He loves the job more than any horse I’ve ever sat on,” Ackerman said. “It’s a joy to see a horse having fun with it too. I can point him to almost anything, and he’ll give a solid effort, like he did today!”

Jaimie Ackerman (CAN) and Driek. Photo ©tbird/Quinn Saunders

$15,000 tbird 1.45m

  1. Driek / Jaimie Ackerman / CAN / Jaimie Ackerman / 0/0 40.29
  2. NKH Carrido / Brooke Morin / USA / Strasburg Morin / 0/0 43.23
  3. Kadans van de Mispelaere / Jaehee Jeon / KOR / Brother Fortunate Equestrian Ltd / 0/0 43.72
  4. Crown Royal / Hayley Mercer / CAN / Hayley Mercer / 0/0 44.02
  5. Goodwill VB / Katie Kruger / CAN / Caledonia Stables / 0/0 44.37
  6. Coffee to Go / Kyle King / USA / Spruce Meadows Ltd / 0/4 41.73
  7. Lavallino Ter Klomp / Jennifer Waxman / USA / Lost Lake Farm LLC / 0/8 46.06
  8. Havana / Kassidy Keith / CAN / Cheryl Keith / 0/12 43.12
  9. Chardonnay / Robert Blanchette / IRL / RTS LLC / 4 71.25
  10. Carnlea Premier Balou / Robert Blanchette / IRL / RTSC LLC / 4 73.05

Partridge and Chaperone Make it a Double in Foxstone Stables USHJA International Hunter Derby

After topping the Canadian Hunter Derby at the Summer Fort Classic, Quinn Partridge (USA) and Chaperone upped the ante and recorded their second straight derby victory at Thunderbird Show Park, this time in the Foxstone Stables USHJA International Hunter Derby.

Partridge and Emma Lorimer’s 12-year-old gelding topped the premier event of tbird’s World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) week. Their winning score was 368. Nicole Bourgeois (USA) finished second and third with Mc Queen (363.5 points) and Wayfinder (351), respectively.

“Two for two!” Partridge exclaimed. “Not bad!”

While last week’s victory was via a one-round competition, on this occasion, the two-round format of the USHJA International Hunter Derby played to Partridge’s advantage. She and her mount returned for the handy sitting in third before setting themselves apart in the second round.

“In the first round, I thought [Chaperone] was a little impressed, which sometimes carries over to my nerves. [It did], which obviously reflected in my score and is why we didn’t return [for the handy] on top,” Partridge explained. “Overall, I was pretty lucky in that first round and was happy to come back and do the handy.”

Course designer Meghan Rawlins’ tracks efficiently spanned the expanse of the double-ring Grand Hunter Arena, with an array of beautiful, eye-catching jumps that encouraged stylish jumping.

“It’s so wonderful to jump in this double ring and have all this space. Meghan Rawlins did a fabulous job of utilizing the space without over-exerting the horse,” Partridge said. “[The courses] showcased those that could jump big jumps well, like with the haybales in-and-out combination.”

As the Latin adage goes, good things tend to come in threes. Partridge is hoping so, as she and Chaperone head next to the USHJA International Hunter Derby Northwest Regional Championship in Wilsonville, OR.

“Anywhere you can showcase a good hunter is a great opportunity,” she said.

Quinn Partridge (USA) and Chaperone stand for the winner’s presentation. Photo ©tbird/Quinn Saunders

$25,000 Foxstone Stables USHJA International Hunter Derby

  1. Chaperone / Quinn Partridge / USA / Emma Lorimer / 169/199 368
  2. Mc Queen / Nicole Bourgeois / USA / Barbara Lovre / 169/194.5 363.5
  3. Wayfinder / Nicole Bourgeois / USA / Hilary Sosne / 152/199 351
  4. Copacabana / Dustin Goodwin / USA / Hannah Scheuer / 165/184 349
  5. Light My Fire / Ashley Arnholdt / Jennifer Arnoldt / CAN / 154/177 331
  6. Carnet / Emily Cake / CAN / Emily Cake / 154/173 327
  7. Pierre / Samantha Smith / USA / Jennifer Riley / 157/167 324
  8. Lestat OLD / Ashley Arnoldt / CAN / Jennifer Arnoldt / 146/169 315
  9. Clarimero T / Kate Walkington / CAN / Kate Walkington / 149/155 304
  10. Africa ZF / Samantha Smith / USA / Rachel Ash / 159.5/140 299.5
  11. Casalito’s Boy / Kalima Ngobi / CAN / Kalima Ngobi / 144/141 285
  12. Verdict / Joie Gatlin / USA / Alexis Meadows / 172/97 269

Winther Blair Rides Homebred to Victory in MarBill Hill U25 1.35m

Taylor Winther Blair (CAN) made her U25 debut just one week ago with Cella at the Summer Fort Classic. In the first U25 event of the Summer Fort Festival, she and her homebred mare Cella topped the MarBill Hill U25 1.35m.

Besting a six-horse jump-off, Blair and her 9-year-old Canadian Warmblood mare crossed the times of Peter Holmes’ (CAN) shortened course in the most jubilant of fashions, with a winning time of 40.46 seconds. Kassidy Keith (CAN) and Fenelon WF (41.06 seconds), with Stella Chernoff (CAN) and Connador third (41.52).

“I just kind of went out there planning to be efficient, and everything just showed up exactly how I wanted it!” exclaimed Winther Blair, 19. “That’s the best my mare has felt out there [in the last] three weeks [at tbird]. She came out ready.”

Taylor Winther Blair (CAN) and Cella. Photo ©tbird/Quinn Saunders

Holmes’ jump-off wasn’t just a speed test, as the final fence continued to pose a technical question as a careful plank vertical. That is where Winther Blair believes she got the winning edge.

“It was easy to add one up: It was a tall skinny vertical with a plank on top,” she said. “I landed off the oxer [before it] and kicked [Cella] up into my hand, and off we went. We found it exactly how I wanted it!”

Winther Blair and her mother Sorine Winther have produced Cella together, with help from Lisa Carlsen and Dayton Gorsline at shows. Cella is by the stallion Cabardino and out of Ganadora Negra, a former mount of Winther.

“We bred and raised her. She was actually born in the middle of my mom and stepdad’s wedding ceremony, so she’s an official part of our family,” Winther Blair said. “My mom had her [to show for] a couple years, and I took over when she was a 6-year-old.

“This is both my and her first time at the height,” she added. “She’s 15.3h: She’s little but mighty! She has the biggest step out of any horse in the barn.”

About to begin her third year of undergraduate study in biology at the University of Northern British Columbia, Winther Blair has her eyes on getting accepted to veterinary school—and continuing to produce her exciting homebred partner.

“I stayed [close to] home to keep riding!” she exclaimed. “We’ll come around [to tbird] again in September. I’ll fly in and out. I’ll go to school during the week and show on the weekends!”

Taylor Winther Blair (CAN) and Cella stand for the winner’s presentation. Photo ©tbird/Quinn Saunders

$5,000 MarBill Hill U25 1.35m

  1. Cella / Taylor Winther Blair / CAN / Sorine Winther / 0/0 40.46
  2. Fenelon WF / Kassidy Keith / CAN / Cheryl Keith / 0/0 41.06
  3. Connador / Stella Chernoff / CAN / Stump Lake Ranch & Cattle Co Ltd / 0/0 41.52
  4. Viva la Vida / Cassie Gorseline / USA / / 0/0 42.81
  5. Fair Play D’Esquelmes / Nyah Chernoff / CAN / Stump Lake Ranch & Cattle Co Ltd / 0/0 43.07
  6. Texas / Justine Cha / CAN / Christine Cha / 0/0 44.27
  7. Edesa’s Filippo T Z / Katie Kehring / USA / The Kehring Family / 4 74.6
  8. Deister Z / Olivia Stephenson / CAN / Gareth Graves / 4 77.54
  9. Naxos 27 / Dylan Jordan / CAN / Miriam Ameli / 8 69.54
  10. Concelo / Ava Wong / CAN / Ava Wong / 8 78.15

Blanchette and Carnlea Premier Balou Take the Win in Stride in CSI2* tbird Speed 1.40m

Langley, BC – Robert Blanchette (IRL) has his eyes set on the CSI2* Paladin Risk Solutions Grand Prix Sunday at the Summer Fort Festival for his up-and-coming 8-year-old, Carnlea Premier Balou.

So when he entered the ring for the CSI2* tbird Speed 1.40m, he didn’t want to let too much out of the tank. That comfortable pace was still enough to win the class—by nearly two seconds.

Blanchette and “Balou” crossed the timers of Peter Holmes’ (CAN) track in 65.82 seconds. Kyle King (USA) finished both second and third with SIG Chiari (67.19) and Ittolo (68.5), respectively.

“My plan was to just go at a comfortable pace, and we just got some smooth lines, and that was enough,” Blanchette said. “He’s a very careful, fast, brave, scopey horse. He’s got it all.”

Blanchette has not been partnered with the Irish Sport Horse gelding for long, having imported him in February. But by the time the horse was ready to try international competition for the first time, he was ready to win—the pair topped the CSI2* tbird Welcome 1.40m in May. Since then, the gelding has taken on his first ranking classes, made his first international Grand Prix start, and completed his first summer season at Spruce Meadows.

“He picks things up very quickly. In the barn, he’s perfect, and in the trailer, he’s perfect. He’s very sweet and professional,” Blanchette said. “My daughters can give him a bath, but he’s also got a tough streak inside, which I think you need to be competitive.”

Blanchette is known for his forward riding, and as he develops Balou, he’s teaching the gelding to be comfortable in a “freer” contact.

“Until he came here [to the U.S], he’d never done a jump-off. He’d only done young horse classes as a 7-year-old,” Blanchette explained. “I give him a bit more freedom than he’s used to. When horses come in from Europe, they can be very collected, so I give him a bit of freedom, and sometimes he thinks he’s completely free, but he’s not completely free! We’re still at that stage where I don’t have to control everything, but he still has to listen. It’s an in-between stage.”

But Blanchette believes that outside of experience, the nuances in ride-ability hold the final key to having a special horse on his hands.

“[The longterm plan] is world domination, I’d say!” he exclaimed. “Anything less and we’ll have to change our plans. He’s got everything: He’s very scopey, he’s very brave, [and] he’s very careful.

“There’s nothing that I can see that would hold this horse back.”

Robert Blanchette (IRL) and Carnlea Premier Balou. Photo ©tbird/Quinn Saunders

$8,800 CSI2* tbird Speed 1.40m
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

  1. Carnlea Premier Balou / Robert Blanchette / IRL / RTSC, LLC / 0 65.82
  2. SIG Chiari / Kyle King / USA / SIG International Inc / 0 67.19
  3. Ittolo / Kyle King / USA /Kerri Voleck / 0 68.5
  4. Flinton M / Kendall Bourgeois / CAN /Cameron Brown / 0 70.73
  5. EZ Ace / Justin Prather / CAN / Bradon Equestrian Ltd / 0 74.16
  6. Concolue / Nicole Haunert / USA / Cherokee Show Horses Inc / 0 76.12
  7. Sherlina Ale / Jeffrey Fields / USA / Sahana Ganesan / 0 77.14
  8. Camalita / Nicole Haunert / USA /Blue Gate Stables LLC / 0 77.23
  9. CMS Garadice Shore / Karianne Boyce-Lockhart / USA / Karianne Boyce-Lockhart / 0 77.23
  10. Larima / Rachel Fields / USA / The Kehring Family / 0 81.21