By Kelley Carlson
What a difference a year makes.
Shortly before the 2011 West Coast Equestrians Junior-Amateur Medal Final, local teen Alexandra Ladove found herself in need of a new horse. She was outgrowing her equitation mount, Littlewood, so she bought a Dutch warmblood gelding named Schubert. Although Alex had had little time to get to know Schubert, she still competed with him in the event, but things didn’t go quite the way she had hoped.
“(I) hadn’t figured him out,” Alex explained.
But with plenty of practice, additional competitions and assistance from trainers Lori De Rosa and Lindsay Ransom, it appears that Schubert is indeed the perfect fit for 14-year-old Alex.
The duo won this year’s WCE Junior-Amateur Medal Final, held Nov. 13-16 in Burbank, as part of the Los Angeles National Horse Show.
It’s the biggest victory so far for the Rancho Santa Fe resident, who has been riding for about half of her life. Alex first became interested in horses as a young child in Florida, when she was invited to the house of a friend who had a pony.
“I went over there, and my friend led (the pony) around,” she said in an interview. “I really liked it.”
At age 7, Alex began taking lessons, and it wasn’t long before she participated in her first show, in a walk/trot class. Since then, Alex has competed in numerous events, and at age 12 she won the prestigious Onondarka Medal Final, whose past victors have included equestrian greats such as Susie Hutchison, Lise Quintero and Francie Steinwedell. Another of Alex’s major victories was the CPHA 14 and Under Championship, which she also won when she was 12.
To be eligible for the 2012 WCE Junior-Amateur Medal Final, open to all ages, Alex worked on accumulating at least 10 points in WCE Junior-Amateur qualifying classes over the last year.
The medal final was divided into three rounds. The first consisted of a “power and speed” course of jumps, and riders were given a maximum of 50 seconds to complete it. Judges scored riders on their equitation — or horsemanship — style, and points were deducted if rails were knocked down or the horse-and-rider team exceeded the time limit.
“The class is about being able to ride a jumper round and take efficient tracks and make good turns, but also the rider has to look good and have a good plan,” judge DiAnn Langer explained in a news release.
“It came down to who was the most effective rider, yet was still under the time allowed,” judge Patricia Griffith added in a news release. “Rails were counted heavily against them, so riders had to be careful. It was a fine line between being very smooth and having a good time.”
Alex and Schubert earned 85 points and had a clear round — meaning no rails were knocked down — just under the time permitted.
Round two of the finals involved another jumper-style course, and horses and riders were given 79 seconds to complete it. As with the first course, points were deducted for rail knock-downs and time penalties. Alex scored 83 for the second course, after receiving a 4-point penalty for taking down one rail.
For the final round, the top 15 were brought back to compete over a speed — or jump-off — styled course. Riders started in reverse order of score, with Alex among the top three.
Once again, Alex scored an 85, and ended up leading the class from start to finish, winning by five points.
“She was the most consistent for sure,” Langer said in a news release. “Some of the other riders had to climb their way up into the ribbons, but she stayed on top the entire competition. She has beautiful style, and her rounds were smooth.”
As champion of the WCE Junior-Amateur Medal Final, Alex received a trophy, ribbons, customized saddle, flowers and a cake.
“I was so excited — I had worked so hard all year,” Alex said. “It took all year to get used to Schubert. He has a really long stride. I’m so happy it all paid off.”
The medal final wasn’t Alex’s only victory at this year’s L.A. National Horse Show. She also took first in the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search, ASPCA Horsemanship and Washington International Equitation classes.
“Alex is extremely focused and calm for her age,” said her father, Larry Ladove. “We think that she can achieve whatever she sets her mind to and look forward to her pursuing her dreams.”
The teen, who studies with the Laurel Springs School — an online private school that offers college prep academics — said she plans to resume competing at the end of January or the beginning of February, once the new show season begins.