Top show jumper McLain Ward has joined forces once again with top show jumping owners the Harrison family of Double H Farm.
Double H recently purchased Carlos VHP Z for Ward to ride; the 12-year-old bay gelding was previously ridden by Nick Dello Joio, Danish rider Emilie Martinsen and Belgian rider Nicola Phillipaerts. Carlos VHP Z (Chellano Z–Sara van het Parelshof, Voltaire) won the Longines Grand Prix of Falsterbo (Sweden) with Philippaerts in 2012 as well as individual gold at the European Young Riders Championships in 2011.
With Dello Joio, Carlos VHP Z was third in the $50,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty Grand Prix on Jan. 18 at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.). Carlos VHP Z is a half-brother to Saer Coulter’s grand prix horse Don VHP Z (Diamant de Semilly–Sara van het Parelshof, Voltaire).
“It’s an opportunity for us to be helpful to McLain in acquiring some world-class horses for him to hopefully compete at the [Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games] and the Olympic Games, and it’s an opportunity for him to bring his expertise and passion and skills to the Double H Farm team,” said Hunter Harrison.
Harrison was part of the ownership team of Ward’s famous mares Goldika and Sapphire from 2003 to 2006, a span which included Sapphire’s team gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. They parted ways amicably in 2006, with Harrison giving Ward time to find a way to keep Sapphire and Goldika in his barn. Sapphire went on to win team gold again at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong and team silver at the 2006 World Equestrian Games for Ward and Thomas Grossman of Blue Chip Bloodstock.
“I was always pulling for McLain. We watched Goldika and Sapphire like they were part of the family all that time,” Harrison said.
At the end of 2013, Ward decided to end his partnership with student Katie Dinan. Dinan’s family’s Grant Road Partners had owned Ward’s 2012 London Olympic Games ride Antares F and the young star Super Trooper van de Ness. Also last year, Double H Farm parted ways amicably with Rodrigo Pessoa, who had been riding for them.
“McLain came available and I don’t think there’s any better rider or horseman in the business,” Harrison said. “He was short of horses and I might have been a little long on horses. It’s just a good fit for our team at the right time. We’ve always maintained a very respectful relationship even during the days we weren’t together.”
“We always had great respect for each other and a good relationship. Last fall, we talked about some mutual goals and felt that since it had been a good partnership at one time there was no reason it couldn’t be again,” Ward said.
Ward joins U.S. rider Quentin Judge and German rider Daniel Duesser in riding for Double H Farm. He’s taken over the rides on HH Fleur and HH Ashley, which had both been Pessoa’s rides and adds Carlos VHP Z to that strong. “Carlos is a really good horse; we felt he’ll be a nice addition to the string when the opportunity presented itself,” Ward said.
With the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games on the horizon in August, however, Ward and Harrison are also shopping. “We’re in the market. Our goal is to try and win another medal. However we get that done, that’s the goal,” Ward said.
In the meantime, Sagamore Farm’s Rothchild is still Ward’s go-to horse. “Right now the horse [for the WEG] would be Rothchild, but we’re still six months out and things can change for good and for bad. We’re going to stay on course with Rothchild and have him as prepared as we can,” Ward said.
“Between the Harrisons and my other two great sponsors—Debbie Dolan Sweeney and Brian Sweeney of Sagamore and Ellen van Dyke Holtgers’ family, who have been great supporters of the team for years—I have three very nice groups of people who do this for the right reasons of sport supporting me,” Ward said.
“That was very interesting to me as I look into the next 10 to 15 years of my career, which are probably the prime of my career. All three of those groups of people were people that I wanted to do this with. I felt we have a similar mindset,” he continued.