Bittar, Chipko lead pack at Foxfield

By December 1, 2011
Georges Bittar jumps a large red, white and blue crossrail on a chestnut horse.

Georges Bittar and La Toya 39 on their way to victory at the 2011 Foxfield Jumping Derby. (Maxine Evans Photography)

It was another beautiful weekend beneath the towering oaks at the Foxfield Jumping Derby, Oct. 8-9 at Foxfield Riding School in Westlake Village. Georges Bittar and La Toya 39 leapt off with the blue ribbon in the main event―the $5,000 Foxfield Jumping Derby. Tammy Chipko and Lisone took top honors in the Calabasas Saddlery Junior/Amateur Jumping Derby earlier that day.

Bittar is a professional who rides for Lebanon internationally and trains at the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center and the Sullivan Canyon Preservation Association. He won the Foxfield Derby in 2003 with Maserati Ramina. He keeps his family’s horses at the Flintridge Riding Club where they are longtime members. Of the 10-year-old Hosteiner-KWPN mare on which he won the Oct. 9 contest, he noted, “She is always in the winner’s circle and tries harder every time. My daughters show on her too, and she loves them and has put them in the winner’s circle.”

Chipko, who owns Shelbourne Stables in Hidden Valley, trains with Karen Healey. She won the Foxfield Jumping Derby in 2002 on Job.
In addition to Lisone, a 10-year-old Austrian Warmblood mare that has been successful in the meter forties, Chipko rode both classes on Viktor 79, a 9-year-old KWPN gelding that will make his grand prix debut at Thermal this season.  Viktor had one time fault in the Junior/Am Derby and had one rail in the Jumping Derby (finishing fifth and sixth).

Tammy Chipko and Lisone jump a bank.

Tammy Chipko and Lisone win the 2011 Foxfield Junior/Amateur Derby, sponsored by Calabasas Saddlery. (Photo by Buffy Oas)

Chipko says that in addition to riding jumpers she has been enjoying the hunter derbies. “The nice thing about Foxfield is they do a little bit of each. You have natural obstacles, which they are trying to incorporate more into the hunter world.” Indeed, the weeks leading up to the Foxfield Derby saw a frenzy of activity at facilities like Flintridge and El Sueno―anywhere riders could find natural terrain, which one rarely encounters outside eventing and foxhunting.

This year, Foxfield proprietors Nancy Turrill and JoAnn and William J. Postel brought in course designer Mike Nielsen of Windsong Farm in Huntington Beach. Previously, Tim Postel designed and Bill Postel built the course. Responding to USEF rules for classes of more than $1,000, they rolled the dice on Nielsen, who is R-rated. (Bill Postel continued as builder.) “It’s a complicated piece of land,” Nielsen said. “It’s one of those places―I’m familiar with it, because I rode the course once a few years ago, so I pretty much knew how it rode. The one thing I was really trying to do was make the course different than anything that had ever been done.”

Chipko said that goal was achieved. “They actually changed the course, which is usually pretty much the same every year. Mike changed a lot of the jumps out in the field, and it wasn’t quite so spooky for the riders,” she chuckled. “It’s always challenging, because most people aren’t used to jumping big jumps outside in a cross-country setting. The horses really love it, but it spooks the riders.”

The morning’s jumps rose as high as 1.10m (3’9”), the afternoon’s 1.25 (4’1”). The weekend also included the Foxfield Medal Finals. Katherine Civian won in the 18-26 category and was also the show’s Grand Champion with Brando. Reserve Champion was Sophie DeSelliers (on Mr. Brando!). Shannon Davidson, on Tobias, won the 27 and Over class. Anne Marie Mueller and Athabasca nabbed blue in the Nedra Diskant Memorial Equitation Challenge.

Three women under lantern-festooned tree.

JoAnn Postel and Nancy Turrill flank Postel's granddaughter Karli Postel. (Maxine Evans Photography)

“We would like to thank all the volunteers who work so hard each year to make derby weekend special,” JoAnn Postel said. “It’s amazing what the Foxfield family can do when we work as a team. The derby is always fun and exciting, but this year there was so much spirit it was better than ever. And the country fair was a huge success. The vendors offered a wide variety of goods from tack and clothing to jewelry to fine artwork and more. We had a ‘people jumping’ contest with the younger kids competing for prizes between the two derbies, and that was really fun. It’s been wonderful to watch this event grow over the years.”

The effort the host families have put in over the years has not gone unnoticed, or unappreciated by clients. “The Foxfield Derby is a very special event for me and my daughters,” Bittar said. “We train for it all year long with the hope to win. Also, the Postel family is wonderful. They are very hospitable and they make me feel when I show there that I am at home. For us it is a tradition to be there every year.”

For more information about the Foxfield facility and lessons, visit www.foxfield.com. For complete results for the Derby weekend classes  discussed in this article, visit www.foxfieldjumpingderby.com.

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