Young and Hungry: Michelle Berry Beats Out Professionals to Claim $30,000 1.40m Open Classic
Thirteen years old is not the age when most junior riders find themselves winning open classes against the best professionals on the West Coast, but that’s exactly what 13-year-old Michelle Berry did Sunday morning in the $30,000 Brown Advisory Open 1.40m Classic.
Aboard the Professional Maintenance Systems entry Mecho Van’t Kiezelhof, a ride she acquired over the summer, the young athlete bested 58 professional, junior, and amateur entries with the fastest time in the jump-off class for the win.
“It felt incredible,” Berry said of her win. “I had no expectations today as I was in an open classic against amazing riders. I was definitely worried about Luis Sabino, Eric Navet, Cassio [Rivetti], and Elisa [Broz]; they’re really good riders. I was just hoping for the best.”
The best was what she put forward and it was plenty. Jumping 40th in the order, she navigated a clear round with the 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Echo Van’t Spieveld x Puccini), then secured a jump-off time of 28.702 seconds, unseating leader at the time Broz with Tinkerbell, who ultimately took second place in 29.025 seconds. Navet claimed third with Signe Otsby’s Cadillac Jack in 30.063 seconds.
“His barn name is ‘Mike’ but we call him ‘Michael,’” she remarked about her winning mount, a horse she acquired from Kaitlin Campbell and Shane Sweetnam. “He’s really an amazing horse. He’s so fast and he tries his heart out every single time he goes in the ring. Any distance I’m unsure of he really helps me cover it up and helps me jump the fence perfectly, so if you’re deep he backs himself up and helps us clear it. He’s really awesome.”
Many of the athletes in Sunday’s class had several mounts, including Broz who scored all three rides in the top 12, but for Berry, she only had one shot. She made it count, partly due to the expert training she had on the ground in Everardo Hegewisch.
“I’ve been training with him since I was 9. He’s really helped me through the sport and he’s an amazing trainer,” Berry said.
Berry, of San Diego, CA, has attended Desert International Horse Park for the majority of her years in life so far. “I first came here a long time ago, and the improvements here are amazing,” she shared. “I love the grass field and the VIP. My favorite part of showing here is definitely the arenas. I love the [Grand Prix] Arena. It’s super fun to ride in, it’s so competitive here, and it provides really nice competition.”
With plans to stay the remainder of the season at DIHP, Berry has her sights set on jumping a grand prix before the end of the USEF calendar year. Fortunately for her, DIHP is jam-packed with grand prix action from the National level to FEI, so her options are wide to cross the bucket-list item off before she turns 14.