“There’s a lot of tears up here,” laughed HITS organizer Tom Struzzieri sitting aside the top three winners of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping in Thermal.
He was talking about winner Ashlee Bond, who couldn’t keep her eyes dry as she recounted delivering her first child just four months ago.
Ashlee had good reason to tear up, and so did the show promoter. Talking about second place finisher Audrey Coulter and third place rider Lane Clarke, Tom recounted how he felt each was part of the HITS family.
He remembered Ashlee as a 7-year old pony rider at his shows, Lane and his farrier parents as long time HITS supporters and sitting at press conferences with Audrey and her younger sister Saer several times.
“How lucky am I?” he asked. “This is an interesting group we have sitting here.” Ashlee stated when described as a “kid,” but she and Lane are early 30-somethings, Audrey is 25 and they represent a generation of Jumpers that’s come of age at the HITS Desert Circuit in California.
“This place catapulted my career,” said Ashlee, describing the experience of tackling her first big league tracks against big league riders on her first big league horse, Cadett 7.
“I went to my first World Cup Finals (in 2009) off of that, and that propelled me to Europe.”