“#BestOfBlenheim – A Closer Looke” with Claire Marie Diamond and Peggy Munkdale
Throughout the 2022 Blenheim EquiSports show season, alongside photographer Amy McCool, we’ll be taking “a closer looke” at many of the best of Blenheim, from riders and trainers to the individuals that are integral to the shows’ success – and perhaps even to a few horses!
During the June Classic III, we caught up with Claire Marie Diamond, 13, and Peggy Munkdale, 53. While they are significantly different ages, they both had similarly significant show weeks!
While the American Tradition of Excellence Equitation Challenge, presented by Whitethorne LLC, was largely dominated by junior riders, there was one talented amateur who rode her way into the top 10: Peggy Munkdale!
Tell us a little bit about Look At Me.
Peggy: “Lucy” was purchased by my trainer, Nicole Norris, in the summer of 2020. He had only competed in the young jumper divisions, but Nicole thought he would make an excellent equitation horse. I leased him last year and again this year to compete in the equitation/medals, and he just gets better every time out. We have a great partnership and for a little horse, he has a big heart, a large stride, and a lot of scope. I was really impressed with him this week on our first time out in the big field.
How does it feel to have been the highest-placing amateur in the American Tradition of Excellence Equitation Challenge?
Peggy: I was very excited to make the top 10 and to be the top-placing amateur. I have always enjoyed the equitation ring, and at 53, I still enjoy competing against top riders of all ages. California has a strong group of junior riders, and it was great to be included in such great company. Thanks again to Georgy Maskrey-Segesman] for putting on this special event; it was a really great learning experience for everyone.
What’s the best advice that you have received or the best that advice that you would give to fellow amateur riders?
Peggy: When I compete, I actually look at it as another lesson from my trainer. I like to walk the course, then go over it with Nicole and then walk in the ring and take it jump by jump. I pull all the things we work on at home and apply it to each class. I also like to keep things simple.
Who is your biggest influence?
Peggy: My biggest influence is my trainer, Nicole Norris. I have ridden with her for over 20 years, and we have been good friends for 40. She knows me inside and out, so she is really good at getting me to the ring. She has been a huge support for me over the years and has helped me achieve my goals in all three rings (hunters, jumpers, and equitation).
What’s your favorite thing to do outside of horses?
Peggy: I am an avid skier, so I spend as much time as I can in the mountains during the winter. I also enjoy pilates and puzzles; it relaxes me after a busy day at work. (I am a finance/HR manager for small business. I have a nice group of clients in various industries and located throughout the U.S.)
What’s your favorite horse show memory? And/or what is your favorite Blenheim memory?
Peggy: My favorite show memory was winning the 2008 1.30m Junior/Amateur Prix De Nations at Spruce Meadows on my Amateur-Owner Jumper “Runaway.” It was great to end up in the final four and to have the opportunity to show my horse as well as the other top three horses. To come out on top of the podium with a gold medal and hearing your national anthem play was a pretty special day for me and my horse.
As for Blenheim, it will now be my 10th place finish in the Whitethorne American Tradition of Excellence Equitation Challenge! To participate in a class that includes interaction with the judges, course designer, and a mental skills coach is such a great opportunity and really helps us all prep for medal finals.
Claire Marie Diamond
Claire Marie Diamond was selected as a #BestOfBlenheim – A Closer Looke featured rider before competition began at the June Classic III, but she earned even more of a spotlight thanks to an impressive victory in the $5,000 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby Championship – West!
Tell us a little bit about Stoneledge Special Request.
Claire: I’ve had “Bam Bam” for about three years now. It’s been such a fun experience getting to learn and grow with her! She has made a huge impact on my riding career. She is definitely not the fanciest pony at the ring, but she has the biggest heart!
Who is your biggest influence?
Claire: I can’t say a person in particular because everybody around me influences me – the grooms, trainers, riders, and show staff continue to inspire me every day.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not riding?
Claire: I love art and reading!
What’s your favorite horse show memory so far?*
Claire: I think the most memorable memory is when I won the $1,500 Pony Derby, Pony Hunter Classic, and Large Pony Champion last weekend at Blenheim!
*question asked prior to the $5,000 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby Championship – West, and that win is now added to the list!
What are your current goals?
Claire: I hope to be top 10 at Pony Finals and have a successful indoors.