Benson's return to compete at the Las Vegas National CSI4*-W
What does it take to be called a road warrior? Would 36 driving hours done over three days with 2 overnight stops qualify? Kayla Benson, amateur rider, and Trey Lawson, Trainer at Oak View Stables in Olive Branch, Miss., made the journey to attend this year’s Marshall & Sterling Insurance USHJA National Championship with two horses and Kayla’s mom. The USHJA National Championship took place November 14-20 in Las Vegas, Nevada. While Kayla and Trey did all the driving on the way there, Trey’s brother, Phillip, flew out to help with the drive back home to Olive Branch.
Kayla rode Corville Z last year in her first Finals. This year she brought “Z” and also Reba. Juggling two horses in the same division, which only had 18 total entries, left little turnaround time between rides. However, Kayla notes she’s done this before at other shows. The biggest challenge at this one? “Everything is indoors. Even the stables are underneath the parking garage. The horses didn’t see daylight for days.”
Reba found the arena’s stadium seating distracting and could not get through her rounds. Kayla confessed that she did not set “Z” up correctly for his first class where he had some refusals. But “Z” rallied and placed 5th in the $1,000 1.10M Adult Jumper Speed-II class and 13th in the $1,000 1.15M Adult Jumper Grand Prix-II class. Kayla said, “Z is typically solid once he’s settled in.”
This year there were rider swag bags, a VIP lounge, and more vendors. “The show was better this year. I think they’ve only been at this hotel/show facility for a few years,” Kayla added. The venue website boasted, “Held annually at the South Point Hotel and Casino, the Las Vegas National Horse Show is the ‘Place to Be’ to wrap up the show year.” Produced by Blenheim EquiSports equine event management company, “the South Point is home to a sprawling 500,000 sq. ft. equestrian center and 1,200 climate controlled stalls.”
Though she didn’t have the placings she had hoped for, she found encouragement from several FEI riders who reminded her that just qualifying and then being selected to attend is an honor. “I’m lucky to have these experiences,” she adds. She gives credit to Rose Marie Lawson (owner of Oak View Stable), Pam Hill (owner of Corville Z), Trey Lawson, her mom (Dottie Benson), and her boyfriend, Sam Varner.