Corpus Christi School eighth grader Fiona Sewell took first in the 54th Annual Onondarka Medal Challenge at the Del Mar International Horse Show, near San Diego, on Oct. 22-23.
The young rider trains at Far West Farms in Malibu, under instructor Nick Karazissis. Fiona won a $10,000 Michael Nyuis Scholarship, a CWD saddle, horse blanket and cooler, and her name will be etched in the silver trophy that transfers from winner to winner.
Her mom, Lisa Sewell, said the scholarship will go towards school and continued training, but “Fiona is almost more excited about the new saddle and blanket, as she needs new equipment.”
Fiona was asked what the competition, which featured 12-and-under equitation riders, entails.
“It is an Equitation Class that judges the rider on their form and their mastery of the course,” Fiona explained. [Equitation refers to a rider’s position, and in competition, the rider, rather than the horse is evaluated.] “The riders are given a course verbally and they must remember each detail of the course and then ride it.”
The two-day competition has one round on day one and a second round on day two. The 15 riders with the highest scores compete in round three, and then the top eight compete in round four.
Fiona was in second place going into round four, called the “work-off ” round. “We are so proud of Fiona,” said her mom and her dad, Bill, who were congratulated and told by other competitors and barn officials that this award is extremely prestigious in the horse world.
Lisa Sewell said her daughter was two when she first rode a horse at the pony rides in Griffith Park. “After that she would ask to ride during summer vacations in Oregon or anytime she saw a horse,” Lisa said.
When Fiona was about five, she began taking lessons at a local barn in Malibu with Janice and Drew Leonard. She then began riding at the Rancho Sea Air in Mal- ibu, where Elizabeth Taylor trained for her role in National Velvet. When Fiona met Karazissis about three years ago, she switched to Far West Farms.
“My mom drives me to the barn, usually four to six days a week,” Fiona said. “I usually do three days of flat work and two or three days of jumping.
“I would like to be there every day with my horse Karl,” she added.
The family leases Karl, an 8-year-old Hanoverian [Warmblood], who is 18 hands. “He is a gentle giant who loves to cuddle,” Fiona said. “He loves Swedish fish and bananas.”
For high school, she would like to attend a school with an equestrian team, but says she likes Palisades High and Oaks Christian. The Alphabet Streets resident added that her favorite subject in school is science. “It comes easy to me and I like it.”