Katie Monahan Prudent had never competed the Thoroughbred The Jones Boy overseas when they landed in Gothenburg, Sweden, to contest the inaugural FEI World Cup Final in April 1979.
“I can still hear it in my ears,” said Prudent, 25 at the time, remembering the intense atmosphere of her warm-up for the “sudden death” final jump-off against Austria’s Hugo Simon on Gladstone, in the huge multi-level Scandinavium Hall. Simon and Prudent had traded wins over the first two days of competition and finished the last day tied in points, necessitating a final jump-off.
“The schooling area was sort of under the arena and they had what they called the ‘Swedish bomb,’ where everyone would stomp their feet as hard as they could—and there was not an empty seat in the house!” she recalled. “So before you went in, there were thousands of people stamping their feet wildly.”
The Jones Boy, already a sensitive, high-strung character, gave his all despite the loud, unnerving circumstances. “I knew going into the jump-off I had no chance,” said Prudent, “but it didn’t matter, because getting to that point was such a thrill and honor.” Gladstone went clear then “Jonesy” ticked the penultimate fence, a skinny on flat cups, giving the Austrian the win in the first ever World Cup Final.
The three major indoor shows on the East Coast, plus five outdoors on the Florida circuit, served as qualifiers for that inaugural World Cup Final, and Monahan sat in an impressive third in the standings behind Norman Dello Joio and Conrad Homfeld. But the Americans agreed that the tight indoor in Sweden presented some challenges as they were fresh off more open turf. And at 17.1 hands, Jonesy impressed everyone with his tactful rounds in the small indoor.
Coming second to Simon, who was then 36 years old and already an Olympic veteran, and whom Prudent admired as one of the best riders in the world, also wasn’t so bad since the main competition sponsor, Volvo, gave new cars to the top three finishers—and not just a one-year lease that’s common these days.
“Suddenly it’s over. Simon, Katie Monahan and Eddie Macken, winners of the Volvos, are drag racing around the ring as the crowd goes mad,” reads the original article in the May 4, 1979 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.“European observers, most of whom had not seen [Monahan] in action before, were considerably impressed. Her strength belies her relatively slight appearance and she is a very tenacious competitor mentally.”
George Morris trained Jonesy as a youngster before giving the ride to Prudent, who rode with Morris out of his Pittstown, N.J., farm, Hunterdon.
“He was a very hot, very sensitive, high-strung Thoroughbred,” she said. “He had a tremendous jump; he was very scopey. I had won some things on him, but mostly he was hard to handle. He was a nice, kind horse—very sweet and loving in the stall, but he just was high-strung. He was always a little bit too tense to go fast in the jump-off and and leave the jumps up, but he was a great horse. And saying that, I was also young and didn’t have the skills to handle a horse that was so sensitive. But we qualified for the World Cup and it was just the most exciting event we’d ever done. None of us went to Europe very much in those days.”
But thanks to what she learned by getting the hot Jonesy to the podium in Gothenburg—and beyond—Prudent continued to build on the impressive international resume that she’s known for today.
“He taught me at the time that to make a difference with a horse that’s difficult, you have to spend a lot of time with them,” she said. “You have to be willing and able to spend time with a horse, and in our fast-paced lives now sometimes we forget we have to spend more than the allotted hour with them. I spent a lot of time with The Jones Boy.”
That includes after the World Cup Final. The U.S. horses were set to leave at midnight, shortly after the competition ended. Jonesy didn’t have enough time to properly cool down before the 19-hour trip home. “He hadn’t let down from the stimulating nerves, and he got very ill,” explained Prudent. “It was an illness that made all the skin fall off of his hind legs.”
Jonesy contracted purpura hemorrhagica, an auto-immune response that causes inflammation of the blood vessels, resulting in swelling of the extremities. He spent the next two years in a vet clinic, where veterinarians performed skin grafts over time to patch the skin back on to his hind legs, and Prudent never gave up hope.
She and his caretakers’ devotion to his wellbeing meant that he fully recovered from the condition, and he and Prudent even went on to win the Grand Prix of Tampa (Fla.) after his comeback, among other top grand prix placings.
Prudent’s horse of a lifetime gave her more lasting memories than many of the international stars who would succeed him. “The emotions of that Swedish bomb…” she said, trailing off. “When you’re young it sort of goes by as fast as lightning, and those are the things that I remember most. It was just so thrilling—everything about that World Cup. It was the first one, the first time.”