Friday at the World Equestrian Center Ocala’s Winter Spectacular saw champions named in the Adult and Youth Equitation classes as well as the $15,000 Added Open and $15,000 Non-Pro 3’ Hunter Derby and $20,000 3’6”-3’9” Hunter Derby in WEC’s spacious Stadium arena.

Adult Equitation Titles

Lilly French and Coriano VDV were named overall champions in Adult Equitation after a consistent showing in the three classes. The duo won first and third in Adult Equitation and reserve in Equitation on the flat on their way to championship.

“I love it here in Ocala at WEC. It’s beautiful and the horses love it too,” Lilly said after her successful showing. “I’m a student at Miami University (Ohio), and this horse is owned by the University. I’ve been riding him for two years and showing him for about a year. He was a superstar. He’s kind of my heart horse. Our first trip was strong because it was pretty cool and crisp this morning, so we took off the spurs and the second trip went really well. And my coach told me that our flat work was the best we’ve ever flatted.”

The timing of the Winter Spectacular has allowed Lilly to spend her winter break from college at WEC Ocala. “We have six weeks off for winter break, so it worked out perfectly to come here,” she said.

The Equitation on the flat champions were Photoshop and Sarah Steadman.

“I think the flat work is the most important thing for jumping,” Sarah said. “I love it and its great practice.”

Sarah was pleasantly surprised by WEC Ocala. “We weren’t sure we were coming here in the beginning, but I’m so glad we did. We love it here,” she said.

Children’s Equitation

In the Children’s Equitation, Riley Malina and Abudabi became quick studies of each other in a short period of time to win the overall championship title. With consistent placings of second and third in Equitation and a win in Equitation on the flat, the title was theirs.

“We’ve only been together for one week,” Riley explained. “These were our first classes to show together. It was a lot of fun to show him. We are brand new to Kalanov Equestrian, and we’re having a lot of fun.”

Hunter Derby Highlights

The three Hunter Derby classes were the featured events of the day in WEC Ocala’s Stadium arena on Friday afternoon and evening.

The competition heated up with the $15,000 Added 3’ Open Hunter Derby, which saw a first round and 12 competitors returning for a handy round. Melissa Donnelly took Grand Tour to the first place check of $5,000 and a combined score of 177. The duo took advantage of all four option fences in Round 1 to earn a score of 88 after going fifth in the order. Their score held the top spot through to the handy round. In their second go, they had a flawless round and again taking advantage of all option fenced for a second-round score of 89, for a combined overall score of 177.

“My horse went in super relaxed and focused,” Melissa said. “We had a trot fence, and I just tried to make a teardrop turn to make that jump smooth, so I can track back and have time for the next jump. It’s really exciting to be the first Open Derby champion here at WEC Ocala’s Winter Circuit. It’s absolutely amazing to be here.”

Melissa noted that the 15 year old gelding would rather cuddle than work. “He’ll do anything for a mint,” she said.

It was a successful night for Melissa, who also showed Corlando 49 to the reserve award in the $20,000 3’6”-3’9” Hunter Derby.

In the $15,000 Added 3’ Non-Pro Hunter Derby, Laura Cho guided Westley to the win and the $5,000 first place check, earning 178 on the two rounds. Laura chose all four option fences in the handy round, which gave her two matching 89 scores from both go rounds for a 178 overall score.

"We kind of get bored doing the Hunter classes and I tend to pick at him," she said. "We like the Derbies, because I have to remember the courses and it keeps us both occupied. It was such a fun course," she said.

“We got him three years ago from Europe, and he was a jumper over there. I named him after a character in ‘The Princess Bride’ named Wesley. The character is known for saying the phrase  ‘As You Wish,’ and that’s really how he is. He makes it easy.

"We came over from our farm in Austin, Texas, and we'll be here for the first two weeks of the series. I have a daughter who is showing too and this is something we do together. She has to go back to high school, so we came over here while we could. We are very excited to be the first Non-Pro Derby champions here at WEC. We love it here!”

In the nightcap class, the $20,000 Added 3’6”-3’9” Hunter Derby, first time exhibitors William Coleman and Tropics not only won the class but dominated both rounds. Scoring a blistering 91 in the first go, the duo chose all four option fences to earn a 93 score in the handy round, for an overall score of 184, besting the reserve score by 19 points. They earned $6,000 for the win.

“My day job is eventing and my second day job is jumping,” William said. “The owner is actually Jill Grant (the ownership hasn’t transferred yet) and she got him from us, and wanted to do Hunter Derbies.I coached her and now she wants me to do Hunter Derbies too. I did my first Hunter class about two weeks ago and then I did this, so it’s pretty new to both of us. My wife knows way more about the Hunters than me and she was very instrumental in this.”

Willian and the ten year old gelding known as Toby have a history together. “We got this horse out of France as a four year old as an event horse. He just developed into a different horse than what we thought. He’s always been a good jumper, but the flat work just wasn’t his thing as an eventer. He jumped some 140 classes with me and some Grand Prixs, and won a couple and now he’s doing some Hunter classes. He’s kind of a jack of all trades and a bit of a chameleon – he can kind of blend in anywhere.

“He was a good boy, he wants to please. I guess it’s just another application of what you try to get them to do.  You want them to be relaxed and happy and obedient. Thankfully he was all of those things tonight.”

William spends about six months of the year in Ocala at his sponsors’ Okonokos Farm and trailered into the grounds for the class in the afternoon. “We’re located on the other side of town. We absolutely adore Ocala, and we feel really lucky to be here. And now with this place (WEC Ocala), it’s truly like a dream come true – I don’t think there’s anything like it in the world,” he said. “We’re thankful to WEC in cooperation with the National Snaffle Bit Association for putting these shows on. Our experience here has been seamless. It’s very exciting for our sport, and we’ll definitely be back as often as we can.”

The WEC Ocala’s Winter Spectacular continues this weekend through Sunday, January 10, and the 12-week series will conclude at the end of March. To learn more, visit worldequestirancenter.com, or follow the show schedule, entries and results at horseshowing.com.