2011 Select World

Hunt Seat Equitation

She simply focused on the pattern.

Laurel Champlin has been determined to win a Select world championship in hunt seat equitation with her big gray gelding Skys Blue Eyes, aka “Skyler.”

“I started coming to the (Adequan Select World Championship Show) three years ago, this is my fourth year,” she told the Journal. “The first year, I didn’t make the finals in the hunt seat equitation. The second year I was first in the prelims, and the next year I was second in the prelims – and then something happened in the finals and I didn’t place!”

When she left the show last year, she thought she might give up on Skyler. But her daughter, Cassie, said, “I bet you $100 you don’t.” Laurel qualified a younger horse to the Select, but when he was injured, she turned back to Skyler.

“Actually, I thought I had him sold over the summer,” she said. “I’m thankful to AQHA that they extended the qualifying period and that’s how I got qualified. I went to Oregon … and here I am.”

Once again, she made it to the finals. But this time, she said, she “forgot about the trophy,” and just “focused on the pattern.

“I wanted (to win) more than anything in the world, but (more than that, I wanted) just to do the pattern right and know that I did it right as my own personal achievement,” Laurel said.

 “This year, I was determined to go out and ride my heart out, just do it and not think of anything else.”

It worked – she finished at the head of the 2011 class: “I can’t stop smiling; I’m so excited!”

Skyler is a 1999 son of Skys Blue Boy and out of Delast Delight by Deck Of Stars. Laurel started showing him as a 3-year-old, but the horse tore a suspensory ligament. Laurel rehabbed him herself over two years and brought him back slowly.

“We started showing him again and he started winning again – he has a very elevated, long, lofty trot,” she said. Laurel rode him to the 2008 Select world championship in hunter hack.

Laurel enjoyed the pattern for this year’s finals: “I loved (that it had) no cones. I thought it was wonderful that we could use our own mind and think about the pattern and not stop-start.

“The most challenging thing for me was the lead changes. Skyler jumps and does more of a hunter lead change, and, for me, (the key to riding it) was just realizing I needed to go forward and push through those changes. And just be aggressive in the sitting trot.”

From Gardnerville, Nevada, Laurel and her husband, Doug, have three daughters: Christa, Cassie and Cassidy, and five grandchildren. Most of the family shows horses: Doug shows Haflingers and miniature horses; Christa won the 1997 youth hunt seat equitation world championship and Cassidy, now 15, won the 13-and-under novice all-around at the All American Quarter Horse Congress.

Laurel says Claire “doesn’t ride that much, but she does other amazing things.” She was part of the team that came in second in last year’s season of the T.V. show “Amazing Race.”

“I am one of those people who started in 4-H and then started in Quarter Horses,” Laurel added. “I remember watching Laurel Walker-Denton, who is a judge here (at the Adequan Select World), and I remember she was my idol!”

Laurel was a professional at one point, then stopped showing to have her family and wait the required years before going back to amateur status – and that was more than 20 years ago.

Laurel Champlin and Skys Blue Eyes

Laurel Champlin of Gardnerville, Nevada, showed Skys Blue Eyes to the 2011 Select world championship in hunt seat equitation. (Journal photo)