Osuna Ranch rider is Grand Champion at National Horse Show

Caroline Ingalls and her horse, Concerto
Caroline Ingalls and her horse, Concerto, were named Grand Champions of the entire Amateur-Owner Hunter division at the National Horse Show.
(Shawn McMillen Photography)

Rancho Santa Fe native Caroline Ingalls and her horse, Concerto, were named Grand Champions of the entire amateur-owner hunter division at the recent National Horse Show held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. The oldest indoor horse show in America brings together some of the country’s top hunter riders and their horses.

Ingalls was also champion in her age group of the division, amateur-owner hunter ages 18-35. Ingalls and Concerto were following up on a 2019 National Horse Show amateur-owner championship and perhaps only the pandemic year prevented a three-peat.

Caroline Ingalls and Concerto.
(Shawn McMillan Photography)

“It was definitely his biggest win and my biggest win as well,” Ingalls said.

Ingalls, 29, has been riding in Rancho Santa Fe since she was 8 years old, starting at the Rancho Riding Club. She moved to the Osuna Ranch at age 16, training at Hap Hansen Stables.

Concerto, who was born in Germany, is her 10-year-old Westphalian Warmblood. Ingalls has had him since 2016 and he has been training and competing with her ever since.

“He’s been doing great, he’s just been continuing to get better,” Ingalls said of her sweet yet competitive horse. “He completely rises to the occasions in the big horse shows.”

Throughout the year she has been competing with Concerto in California in the local circuit. This last month has been a busy one as she was back east for three weeks to compete, first in Harrisburg, Penn., and then on to Lexington.

The prestigious National Horse Show was held for decades at Madison Square Garden, always on the first weekend of November. The competition has special meaning in Ingalls’ family as her mother Kate Williams competed in the New York City show and won in saddle seat.

The show is now held at Alltech Arena of the Kentucky Horse Park, the headquarters of the US Equestrian Federation, a huge indoor stadium with hunter fences built high and beautifully adorned with flowers and foliage. The arena had multiple screens, the competition was live-streamed out all over the world and there was lots of media in attendance. “It’s a much different environment than what we competed in throughout the year,” said Ingalls of venues that were smaller and outdoors.

Concerto wasn’t nervous but Ingalls was.

“The first day in Kentucky I was feeling nervous and tentative because I had won two years ago and it is a very special horse show to myself and my mom,” she said. Ingalls said she made a really small mistake on that first day and she was sitting in third place on the final day of competition. On that day, she went all in.

“I just went all Michael Jordan mindset,” she said. “I didn’t come all that way to not give it my absolute everything—I gave it everything that I had.”

The very talented and hard-to-beat rider in the lead had a few bobbles on the second day which opened up the door for Ingalls and Concerto.

“I was on my game and it worked out,” she said. “When I was done I was pretty certain it was the best I could do. We scored two 91s, which is really, really high. The rest of the event, nobody came close to that...It was pretty exciting.”

In addition to the Grand Champion and division title, Ingalls also came in third in the $50,000 National Horse Show Hunter Classic —by winning her division, she was invited to compete against professional hunter jumpers. She was thrilled to do a press conference sitting alongside her hunter idols Laena Romond and Patricia Griffith, who had finished first and second.

Ingalls, who completed her master’s degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia in 2014, is now working at HBG Design in San Diego, a company she said is very supportive of her equestrian career. During the pandemic, she was riding five to six days a week but now that she is back in the office she is at Osuna Ranch training three days a week.

She lives close by in Carmel Valley and she loves the beautiful setting at the Osuna, with its adobe and long equestrian heritage.

“I’ve been riding with Hap for more than half of my life, we’re definitely all family at this point,” she said of the stables. Concerto is family too and her dream is to own a ranch home for him to retire in the backyard.

Following her big Grand Champion victory, Ingalls came back west and competed in the desert with her new baby horse, a five-year-old Holsteiner named Big Country.

“We made a lot of mistakes and didn’t do very well but we learned a lot!” she said.

In just one week she went from riding high at the top of her division in the whole country, loaded with ribbons, trophies and cash prizes to losing big with Big Country.

“That’s just what is so humbling about riding,” Ingalls said. “You’ve got to make mistakes to get better. The only way I’ve gotten to the top is by making a ton of mistakes and learning from them.”

She is looking forward to what comes next, training and growing with Big Country and, hopefully, continued success with Concerto.