Washington, D.C.—Oct. 25
Heading to the Washington International Horse Show, McLain Ward couldn’t shake the feeling that HH Carlos was due for a big win. Once he got there, that horse delivered in a big way, topping the $125,000 President’s Cup Grand Prix-W in front of a packed crowd.
The pair had a disappointing trip in the Grand Prix de Penn National last week in what he called a “post-[Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games] rut.”
So Ward was determined to put in two great rounds tonight for Carlos’ sake. When he walked into the ring for the first round, he gave the gelding a pat on the neck, picked up a canter and attacked the tough course designed by Anthony D’Ambrosio.
Ward and Carlos rode 21st in the star-studded line-up, and only the second pair to put in a clean round. Jessica Springsteen and Davendy S set the pace early on with a beautiful clear round that looked impossible to beat.
“I thought the course was very good tonight,” said Ward, who scored his fourth President’s Cup win this year. “When I walked it I thought it was a little on the soft side to be honest, which I think is a great sign. When you walk a course and it seems very complicated or hard, that’s an obvious test. But when a course designer comes up with a course that seems smooth and fair and you get a limited number clear, that’s always a sign of a good test.”
One fence in particular—a white Boeing vertical—sat on a slightly bending line after a demanding combination and caused the most issues.
“It was a distance problem more than anything,” said Ward. “It was a bit of an awkward bend and the horses weren’t getting their eye on it super quick. So you really had to line it up, and I tried to spin wide to the [first fence in the combination] and then be in line for the four strides [to the vertical], and it worked well.
“My concern when I walked the course was that if I didn’t get his eye on the fence, I would be late and desperate,” he added. “It was a question that had to be answered and the horses had to be pretty careful there; they couldn’t skim over it.”
2012 winners Reed Kessler and Cylana added their names to the good list, as did 2013 Rolex FEI World Cup champions Beezie Madden and Simon.
Springsteen came back to pilot Davendy to another quick, faultless round, which motivated Ward to push the envelope for his second trip.
“I saw [Springsteen] go in the jump-off and I went back into the schooling area and thought, ‘well, this is a task!’ ” said Ward. “[Carlos] really responded to it well; he turned phenomenally. He’s such a careful horse.”
But Springsteen wasn’t too disappointed to finish second behind Ward. Tonight served as her first grand prix with Davendy, and Springsteen sees a bright future with her 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Twendy S—Pachat II).
“I just got her in August and we clicked instantly,” said Springsteen. “She’s my type of ride: not hot, but she’ll take you to the jump and really be brave. I really like that in a horse! I was really happy with her tonight.”
She also took home a check for $15,000 as the Leading International Jumper Rider and swept the open jumper championship on Lisona and Davendy.
Both Madden and Kessler each dropped the Boeing fence in the jump-off to finish third and fourth.
“It was a good jump off for me because it wasn’t too running anywhere,” said Madden. “I just tried to use his turning ability to be faster [than Springsteen and Ward]. The [Boeing fence] rode a little steadier than I thought it would, and his momentum carried me a little deeper to the fence than I thought it would.”
All three riders are headed to Kentucky next week to compete in the National Horse Show in an effort to earn more points toward April’s Longines FEI World Cup (Nev.).
Follow along with the Chronicle as we bring you all the news from Washington here.
Full results from the competition are available here and you can watch a livestream of the entire competition for free here.
For a full report from the Washington International Horse Show, check out the Nov. 10 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.