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Sunday morning’s $32,000 Legacy Hunters & Jumpers CSI3* 1.45m Classic saw an entirely female jump-off, with four ladies going head to head for the top prize. As the first to go, Nicole Haunert (USA) and My Lady Levista, owned by Cherokee Show Horses, ultimately were crowned the winners.

Haunert, of San Diego, CA, has been partnered with My Lady Lavista for nearly four years now, and to see the 10-year-old mare (Mylord Carthago x Levisto) progress to this level and earn a CSI3* victory is quite meaningful.

“We bought her from one of my closest friends, and business partner actually, when she was 6 and she’s always been opinionated,” Haunert said of the enthusiastic mare. “We just let her be who she is, but yes, she’s spicy and hot. She has her opinions but never not a moment does she not try. Everything she does, she tries hard at.”

Since the beginning, the horse has been competitive, but she’s really coming into her own at a higher level. The mare won the West Coast 7-Year-Old Finals, then they stepped back and didn’t ask her to jump as big during her 8-year-old year. Now stepping into two- and three-star action, she’s proving she is ready.

“She’s such a winner,” Haunert continued. “I think I have to be a little faster, but I think [it will come] in good time. This is good progress so I’m really excited. I am still a little careful with her because she’s just stepping into three-stars. I’m just not ready to take any chances. We protect her a little bit too much sometimes.”

Haunert, first of the four pairs, toed the line between quick and risky, but still protecting My Lady Lavista. Her time of 45.73 seconds was a fast one, but she thought she would get beaten.

“I was a little careful to the black-and-white [jump]; I walked it and I thought for sure there was a seven [striding] and then I jumped in the eight, so I thought someone was going to get me there,” she explained of her jump-off. “I think someone did do seven but they had it down.”

My Lady Lavista LFK 1989
Nicole Haunert (USA) and My Lady Lavista in their winning presentation, pictured with Shelly Karron of Legacy Hunters & Jumpers. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The rest of the riders coming after Haunert did have rails down on course trying to catch her time. Ali Ramsay (CAN) actually had the time with Godfather B Belesbat, owned by Britt Scheifele, but with one rail for second place. Vanessa Mannix (CAN) and Valentino D’Elte finished third.

“I love jumping on this field; it’s fantastic,” Haunert said of being out on the grass again. “They’re always monitoring it, and I am blessed to jump on grass quite a bit being from Southern California. I have to say this is one of my favorites. My horses all jump fantastic, and our client horses jump fantastic, whether they’re young, green, old, seasoned, or unseasoned. It’s phenomenal. They’ve done an amazing job, but they do take really good care of it and it really shows. I’ve not had a horse that doesn’t like this field.”

The season so far has been an excellent one with the still-young mare My Lady Lavista, with some stellar results and some big moves in the right direction. “We’ve been close a couple times,” Haunert said of scoring a win. “She’s just stepping into this level and it’s early in the year and we have a very big season ahead of us, but she’s been in the ribbons almost every class. She’s pretty special. She’s a dream come true. When you buy them at 6, it’s such a journey but she’s she’s never disappointed once.”


Ashley Kaplan had to move some things around in her schedule so she could show during hunter week, but she’s certainly glad she did, because she’s going home a winner. Aboard Walland, owned by B R Farms LLC, she captured the $5,000 Marshall & Sterling 3’6” Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic with scores of 89 and 85.

“He’s a newer one of mine,” Kaplan said of the 8-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Cornet Obolensky. “I’ve had him almost a year and I really only started showing him in October. This weekend was really good, which was nice. I had two more in the division; one of them I’ve had for just over two years and the other one is my oldest daughter’s horse but she’s off at college. We competed in the AOs last year together and now she’s mine. I showed her out east last week. They’re both wonderful mares and special to ride.”

Ashley Kaplan and Walland in their winning presentation, pictured with Daran Lockhart of Marshall & Sterling. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Kaplan was division champion with Walland as well as reserve champion with C’est Jolie, coming in first and second in all but one class.

“Riding in the Grand Prix Arena was really fun,” she expressed. “I really wanted to do it so I made it work with my schedule. It was tiring, but it’s so fun to ride in different rings than we normally ride in. I feel like it makes me ride better actually.”

Kaplan shares the sport with her two daughters, one of which doesn’t live at home anymore but is still returning to DIHP in a few weeks to join her family.

Ashley Kaplan and Walland. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“My two daughters ride; I have one that does small and medium ponies and then my oldest is a younger AO now,” Kaplan shared. “She’s going to show during week 8 on her spring break. It’s fun, it’s a nice time for us to be together and have girl weekends. I get to spend a lot of time with them which is nice.”

Kaplan, of Los Angeles, CA, doesn’t have too far to travel to get to horse show with the team at Balmoral Farm, but even if she was from far away she’d still think the travel time was worthwhile.

“The rings are so nice, they do a good job with the facility, and they try to make sure everyone is taken care of,” she said of what she likes about DIHP. “It’s not too far away from us. These weeks focusing on hunters are nice; they took the time last week with the ponies on the grass, so that was special.”


One month ago, James Chawke had no proof that his new acquisition Daido Van’t Ruytershof Z would be worthwhile, but now he’s got three wins under his belt to say she might be something promising. The mare has won three out of four classes since Chawke started showing her, and in the fourth occasion she had the fastest time with just one down. On Sunday, she snagged a third win in the $25,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic, which has a winner’s circle that Chawke frequents.

“She’s been super,” he said of the 10-year-old Zangersheide mare (Dieu Merci Van T&L x Bamako de Muze). “She won on Wednesday and then on Thursday I jumped her in the 1.45m. She had one down but if I knew her better I probably could’ve done that better. I think she would’ve been first or second. And today I thought she was super.”

James Chawke and Daido Van’t Ruytershof Z. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Over Peter Holmes course, only four out of a starting 35 entries jumped clear, and Chawke got to jump second to last, allowing him to see a bit of what needed to be done. He unseated Mathijs Van Asten and Hieke, owned by Vani Khosla, who claimed second. Shawn Casady took third with Castelissimo, owned by Tiffany Sullivan.

“She’s definitely very careful, and very brave,” Chawke continued of Daido Van’t Ruytershof Z, a horse he tried in Italy back in late 2023. “She always jumps across so she gets the back rail very easily, which I maybe didn’t realize when I tried her. She’s maybe more scope than I thought. She does it very easily. After the last two weeks I like her more than I did at the start. I think she’s gonna be a very useful horse.”

The course had a few long runs between fences, but Chawke didn’t mind anything about the way the jump-off was put together, mainly because the horse is so quick regardless. “Actually it was a good practice because it was a double of verticals I knocked down in the speed the other day, so I tried to ride a bit differently and she was good,” he explained. “She’s so quick across the ground. Mathijs’ round he was so smooth and neat; I wouldn’t be surprised if I did a few more steps than him but she’s very very quick. She’s quite nifty to turn, and she’s good at the rollbacks.”

James Chawke and Daido Van’t Ruytershof Z in their winning presentation, pictured with Daran Lockhart of Marshall & Sterling. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The horse will now have two weeks off after her stellar performance, but Chawke hopes to bring her back in the final two weeks of Desert Circuit and perhaps jog her for the FEI division the final week.

Chawke doesn’t have a full-time home base, but rather he and his wife, Jacqueline, and their son travel from show to show. “I have a home in Ireland I see about two weeks a year,” he joked. “I really like it here. I did well in Wellington for so long, 10 years at least. When Vanessa [Mannix] wanted to come out here I didn’t love the idea but now that we’ve been here I wouldn’t be so keen to go back to Wellington. I really enjoy it out here. The show is great, the facility is good, and the competition is good. To win you still have to be fast. It’s great to bring horses along too, so it shuts me with a lot of horses learning to move up and do their jobs.”

Chawke echoes what most say about jumping on the grass, and he feels the surface has gotten better with time.

“I really like the grass,” he said. “I thought my horses jump really well on it. They seem very comfortable. Gamble jumped on it last year and this year and I thought he was better this year. He’s not the most sure footed and he was definitely more comfortable here this year. It’s nice and spongy. They can get into it a little bit.”

Show jumping resumes Wednesday, February 21, with CSI3* and National action back in the Grand Prix Arena.


Grace Lurie and Champagne Flight. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The focus in Hunter 4 and 5 was on the Child/Adult Hunt & Go Derbies again, and there were three separate winners on Sunday afternoon. In the EquiFit 2′-2’3″ Child/Adult Hunt & Go Derby, Grace Lurie and Champagne Flight emerged victorious with a score of 170.

In the Modern Horse 2’6-2’9″ Child/Adult Hunt & Go Derby, there were two winners: Patty McNerney with Navigator B with a 167.9 and Elizabeth Bohlin and Idea-K with a 166 score.

Photo by High Desert Sport Photo | Press release Desert International Horse Show

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