John Holmes and his game chestnut Gideon had plenty of good news at the Plymouth Rock Hunter Jumper Classic. They started the week of June 21-25 with victory in the $7,500 Welcome Stake and finished it by taking home the top prize in the $25,000 Grand Prix. The show was a first-time “AA” competition held at Fieldstone Equestrian in Halifax, Mass., and jumpers competed on the grass grand prix field.
While only seven riders contested the grand prix on June 25, the four riders in the jump-off put up two double-clear rounds, and it was a race to the finish. Holmes went first in the jump-off with his second mount Zilano M, which he said gave him an edge when he went last on Gideon.
The pair left out strides in multiple places to finish 2 seconds faster than DJ Volandre of Norwell, Mass., and Tequila.
“I was lucky to have a horse earlier [in the jump-off] and got to see the jumps and turns,” Holmes recalled. “I knew from [fence] 1 to 2 was a flat-out open run, which is exactly what we did with Gideon. I had the opportunity to slice back tighter to fence 13 with Gideon because he’s a more experienced horse. After that, I kept running, and the jumps kept coming up right on target.
Watch Holmes and Gideon in the jump-off.
Holmes, of New Hope, Pa., imported Gideon, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Hamlet, as a 6-year-old stallion and ended up gelding him. They have progressed from low amateur-owner jumpers to the high amateur-owners.
Holmes said, “He’s been more successful as a gelding. When it’s convenient, I try to place him in the smaller 1.40-1.45m grand prix. He’s quick across the ground and equally as quick in the air. You’re not going to beat him running across the ground. You can sometimes beat him in the turns because he is somewhat hot and erratic in his turns. On an open field like this where you can open up and run, there can be an option to leave out two strides. He turns over his feet that quickly.”
Holmes, who works as a land developer, plans to follow up his win at Fieldstone by heading to the Lake Placid Horse Show (N.Y.) this weekend. “This really fit the schedule well. It’s a beautiful field, and it’s a pleasant, laid-back show,” he said. “I’ll show at the first week of Lake Placid. Then I head home. I have to get back to work so I can afford this sport of kings!”
Despite days of rain, the footing held up. Holmes noted, “I like showing on the grass in the summertime; it’s a real pleasure. I’ve got to give the Clawson family a lot of credit. For the amount of rain they had, the turf had no effect at all.”
The win marked the first at grand prix for Holmes and Gideon; this was only their second time competing at that level. “He’s been a really competitive amateur horse for me. This win means a check for $8,000!” he said with a laugh. “It’s always great to win a jump-off, and it means a lot when you go last and there’s somebody to run after. DJ was really fast, and Tequila has a reputation as extremely fast. To come to his backyard and beat him by 2 seconds feels really good.”