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Public Library Bans Beloved Children’s Horse Classics for Being “Too Godless” 25 May 2024, 5:00 pm

GOTHAM, ILLINOIS—A small, public library in Southern Illinois has added two horse classics to its list of verboten titles, and the names of these universally beloved children’s books may surprise you.

The 19th-century Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, and the 1948 King of the Wind, by Marguerite Henry, are among the thousands of titles that no longer fit the parameters of the public institution’s new, faith-based curriculum.

“Satan was in that library, I have no doubt,” said Pastor Neil Aiken, who was hired this spring as a special consultant by his parishioner, the library’s director. So far, Pastor Aiken has ordered the removal of more than 3,800 tomes as part of his community-wide, ‘Gotham for God’ initiative.

“We’re expected to believe that horses can develop friendships with one another? That they can understand complex concepts like suffering and courage? That they have intelligence of any kind, let alone the ability to communicate with humans on some higher plane?

“There’s only one higher plane I’m interested in, and that’s glorifying God,” Aiken continued. “The rest of it, is… how should I say this? Horsefeathers!”

According to Gotham Public Library’s own mission statement, “People of all races, religions, and walks of life are encouraged to foster their love of reading inside these doors.” When reminded of this fact, Aiken remained defiant.

“To every season, turn, turn, and sometimes godliness demands hard choices,” he said. “We don’t need to fill our children’s heads with notions about smug, self-aggrandizing farm animals who carry on inner monologues.

“After all, there’s not a lot of talking critters in the Bible, except, of course, for the Serpent who talked to Adam—and we all know how that turned out!”

The pastor recently purchased a 10,000-square-foot home for his third wife, Candy, outside his Gotham mega-church using proceeds from Sunday services and sales from his ‘God is Love’ neon koozie line. He said it was his mission to ensure that all the books in the library’s collection were representative of the community’s religious values—and his own.

Aiken summarizes these as, “humility,” “fidelity,” and “temperance.”

“It takes place on Sunday afternoon, after services, and Candy and I hope you can make it,” Aiken added wryly. “Bring a dish to pass and some beverages for you and yours—we’ll supply the koozies.”  

More satire from Nina Fedrizzi:

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The post Public Library Bans Beloved Children’s Horse Classics for Being “Too Godless” appeared first on Horse Network.

All Signs Point to Casturano 25 May 2024, 2:31 pm

Casturano came to Canada by way of Fairway Farms and a fortunate phone call.

“He was in North Germany as a young horse with a very good professional that I deal with,” recalled BC-based trainer Judy Wise. “He told me, ‘This horse is a freak,’ and we bought him sight unseen.”

When the bay Holsteiner arrived in Langley in 2020, she was immediately taken by his kind demeanor.

“He came off the truck and played with my Bernese Mountain dog in the arena,” said Wise. “He’s the most kind, salt of the earth, human- and animal-loving horse that you’ve ever laid your hands on.”

Casturano’s tendency to “jump a little bit too high” made him a less than ideal candidate for amateur rider Meredith Ellis, the client he was purchased for. Wise handed the reins to her daughter Samantha Buirs-Darvill instead.

Between 2020 and 2022, Buirs-Darvill developed the Casturano to the 1.50 level. It was there he caught the eye of Ireland’s James Chalke and found his way into the string of world no. 18 Conor Swail.

In March 2023, just a month after purchasing the horse, the pair took second and first in their first two international appearances in Thermal, CA. A month later, they won their first Grand Prix, a 1.60m 3* in Wellington, FL,.

“My daughter brought him up to [the FEI] level, which was not easy, because he was green and very careful, and he jumped too high as a young horse. Now he’s learning to carry across [the jump], and I think he’s one of the top horses that Conor will have in the future,” said Wise.

Swail seconds that opinion.

Since taking over the reins, he and Casturano have jumped to 23 podium finishes, including three Grand Prix wins—most recently, taking the victory in the CSI4* Kentucky Individual Grand Prix in April.

“I’d say maybe in the beginning he was going very high, so I would have wondered if we could have jumped at the highest level with him because you can’t jump a 1.60m [course when your horse is jumping] 2.10m. That was a question.”

It’s one Casturano seems to have answered.

Of their four 1.60m appearances to date, they’ve won two and average just 0.6 faults, according to their Jumpr Stats.

On Friday, the pair was back in the place where Casturano’s North American career started at Thunderbird Show Park, and, with Judy Wise cheering from the sidelines, collected their third 5* win to date with the 1.50m Uraydi’s Village Qualifier.

Twelve pairs advanced to the jump off of Gregory Bodo’s 1.50m track. Second to return, Swail set the time to beat in a speedy 35.47 seconds that proved uncatchable. Only Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Libido van’t Hofken came close, crossing the timers in 35.77. Daniel Bluman (ISR) and Ladriano Z rounded out the podium in 36.2.

“Now that he has been with me for a while, he seems to be really learning and understanding how to manage the height better. He is not being as extravagant as he used to be. He is learning how to jump it better and that’s making it easier to jump the bigger jumps,” said Swail.

“He is a very confident horse and he learns very well. At the moment, he is not showing me any signs of stopping no matter what level we go to.”

You can bet, Wise and Buirs-Darvill will be following—and cheering—along.

“He’s like my young son,” said Wise. “Yeah, I’m very proud of him.”

The post All Signs Point to Casturano appeared first on Horse Network.

Rolex Introduces a New Series, Because Reasons 23 May 2024, 8:02 pm

Being a show jumping fan is not for the feint of heart.

Between the Longines FEI World Cup, the Longines Global Champions Tour, the newly launched Longines League of Nations and the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, not to mention Major League Show Jumping, you need a degree in logistics just to keep track of the 5* calendar.

Because the season? It. never. stops.

And apparently the addition of new series doesn’t either.

On Thursday, the Rolex Series was officially revealed at the CSIO Roma Piazza di Siena. The Rolex Series unites six of the most respected equestrian shows in the world: CSIO Roma Piazza di Siena, Jumping International de La Baule, the Jumping International de Dinard, the Dublin Horse Show, the Brussels Stephex Masters, and the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, USA.

What that means for fans and athletes is not entirely clear.

Unlike the Rolex Grand Slam, which links The Dutch Masters, CHIO Aachen, CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and CHI Geneva, no bonuses have been announced for winning multiple legs of the Series.

It is perhaps a way for Rolex sponsored events to stand out in the increasingly busy 5* calendar and, according to the press release, “further enhances Rolex’s commitment to equestrianism and its mission to unite and inspire.”

One might argue that what would truly unite and inspire is one single show jumping series, like the NFL, NBA or PGA, with an off- and pre-season. But given the unlikelihood of that ever happening, what’s one more series among many?

We’ll be following along, Rolex Series.

The post Rolex Introduces a New Series, Because Reasons appeared first on Horse Network.

Ninja Cows and Trust 23 May 2024, 1:04 am

Just when green horses begin to settle and learn, something unexpected jumps in the way.

That’s a big part of training youngsters: getting them used to all the strange smells, sights, sounds, and events in the human world.

We were warming up at a walk along the Killer Bird side of the arena. True’s settled most of his differences with the birds now, and they’re less active in winter. But he was tense, distracted, constantly checking an area some 300 yards away from the arena.

I softened my own muscles, breathed rhythmically, used my low-slow voice, and encouraged my little buddy to drop his head and relax his neck. To bring his awareness back to me, I practiced a little arena embroidery of the type discussed in the chapters on attention in Horse Brain, Human Brain.

True confessions? OK, I also made the mistake of repeating the mantra of annoyance (“nothing’s there”) knowing full well that horses can smell risks that escape riders completely. But hey, old habits die hard.

All of a sudden—because everything happens with young horses all of a sudden—True leaped straight up off all four feet. Higher than ever before.

He landed with his legs splayed toward the four corners of the earth, head and neck like a stone giraffe. His eyes were big as saucers, and he blew so hard you could have heard him wherever you live. Then he started running backward, rearing, and trying to spin.

Trooper has never displayed such fear… not even of bicycles or balloons, goats or birds.

He bolted to the farthest corner of the arena and stopped, pressed up against the fence, trembling. Now, one of my rules based on the way equine brains work is to respect a horse’s fear… whether I understand it or not.

Clearly my teammate was terrified of something I could not sense. I continued speaking to True and asked him with the gentlest of calf pressure to take one step forward. He responded by running in reverse and hopping around on his hind feet, pausing occasionally to blow again.

I dismounted. Yes, I know, this is heresy in many training philosophies because it rewards the horse for bad behavior. But no one, horse or human, can learn in terror. Best to move to ground training for a few minutes, then remount and try again.

I didn’t need to add to True’s trauma by pushing him around.

I adopted the most relaxed demeanor possible, continued trying to calm him, and allowed him to look, smell, and listen in place. Obviously, the day’s training plan had been hijacked.

I watched, too, and soon three cows appeared at the property line. To me, they looked like ants at the 300-yard distance, but Mr. Trooper let me know the errors of my assumption.

I discovered later that these were Black Angus cows, new to the neighborhood. Google later told me that Black Angus cattle range in size from 1300 to 1900 pounds. Each!  Evidently, they had escaped their property and wandered over to murder my baby.

True and I spent the rest of our session walking back and forth in that farthest corner of the arena, moving closer to the homicidal Ninja Cows on an angle, one inch at a time. After 30 minutes or so, he brought his head back down into the Earth’s atmosphere, and I ended our work at that moment with praise and strokes.

The cows were long gone, but not in True’s mind.

Over the next two weeks, it took six daily sessions of about an hour each to get him to even approach the area where those three cows had appeared momentarily. I stuck with him every step of the way, for support and reassurance, but I let him do the approaching.

When he wanted to stop, we stopped; when he wanted to take a couple steps forward, we stepped forward. When he wanted to run backward, I stopped him and we waited there. It doesn’t help a traumatized horse to be pressured into a fearful place.  

There are a lot of lessons here:

  • First, with babies, training interruptions occur frequently. Those that cause genuine fear have to be addressed at the horse’s pace, not the human’s.
  • Second, calming techniques of the kind described in chapter 18 of Horse Brain, Human Brain are helpful.
  • Third, horses have fantastic memories—three cows were in True’s life for 15 minutes and have never reappeared, but oh boy does he ever remember them! Equine memory is in many ways stronger and more pure than human memory.
  • Fourth, on tough days, look for a good stopping point that will reward even the smallest tidbit of good behavior. Sometimes, one small step forward is a worthy lesson for the day.
  • Fifth, True is not going to be a cow horse.
  • And sixth, the depth of a training lesson is more important than its surface.

Let me expand on that last item a bit.

On the surface, I was asking True to move toward the Ninja Cow Location (remember, they weren’t there any more… though their scent was). I wanted him to get over the cows, to learn not to be afraid of them. That will come with time and practice. 

But the more important part of the lesson forms in the deepest recess of the horse’s mind.

That is to build the horse’s trust, in himself and in me. To reduce his fear of new things in general. To encourage him to follow my lead even when every neuron of his prey brain tells him to run away.

In training, we are faced every day with this decision between surface and depth. Take the extra time to consider the horse’s noggin, to recognize that he is captive in a human world but with a very non-human brain.

With that understanding and knowledge, it’s easier to train for depth. 

Does it take longer to train for depth (trust, human leadership) than to train for the surface goal (approach cows)? Yes. It takes more time, effort, knowledge, and skill.

Is it worth all that? Definitely.

Related reading:

Brain-Based Horsemanship is a weekly column that chronicles Janet Jones, PhD, and her journey with True, a Dutch Warmblood she trained from age three using neuroscience best practices. Read more about brain-based training in Jones’ award winning book Horse Brain, Human Brain.

A version of this story originally appeared on janet-jones.com. It is reprinted here with permission.

The post Ninja Cows and Trust appeared first on Horse Network.

Q&A: Do I need to own my own horse to be successful at the rated level?  20 May 2024, 11:37 am

Q: I’m just starting out in the sport and want to compete seriously, but I’m getting lots of mixed advice. Do I need to own my own horse in order to be successful at the rated level? 

A: As a trainer, I don’t really have superb lesson horses that could compete at the higher levels successfully. But I do lease a lot of great horses to and for my clients.

Leasing gives pretty much the same kind of experience as owning, except you don’t have the huge up-front expense, and you don’t have to worry about owning and paying on a horse into their retirement. But you can ride daily, and show when you and your trainer feel it’s time. You can also treat and enjoy that horse like it’s your own.

As a trainer, I don’t know how you would ever get good enough to ride at a top show without lots of time in the tack. For me, you can’t do that without owning or leasing.

Riding is not like soccer, where you can practice any day of the week. You need a horse to participate in the practice. So, with that in mind, I’d have to say, do you have to own? No. But if you don’t own, then you do have to lease (and in my experience, a full lease, not a sharing, partial-lease arrangement—that never works well for anyone!).

There are, of course, exceptions to these thoughts: some people get opportunities to use horses as part of an exchange or barter. But I don’t think you can exclusively ride in a lesson program without a horse of your own, and expect to have the skills to compete at top shows. For me, as a trainer, I would say it’s either not allowed or not going to happen!

As a judge, I still don’t see how you can show at the rated level without an owned or leased horse.  But since I can’t know the background of each rider that walks into my ring, I can’t really comment further than that.

As a mom, I would say there’s no possible way. At times, I’ve had the thought in my head that my daughter can just ride what’s given to her, as she’s a trainer’s kid that has ridden her whole life. But doing that never worked in reality.

For one thing, you lack the love and emotion that seeing the horse you own every day gives you. For me, that’s the main reason to do this sport. The connection you have with your own horse, the responsibility for caring for him/her, and the bonds of love you develop are always what keeps you coming back for more. It’s also what makes you want to be better, and that’s something you can only get from a horse that’s your very own.

Maybe it’s something that can’t be described until you get to that point, but then you realize it all. Can you get good riding once/twice/three times a week in a lesson situation or using someone else’s horse? Yes. Do you get the whole riding experience that defines why we really do this sport? No.

From a mom’s perspective, I would (and will) bend over backward always and forever to see that smile that comes over my kid’s face when she looks at her own horse or pony. The drive and compassion that a four-legged animal can give your child—you can’t replace that with anything!

Dana Hart-Callanan is a successful hunter, jumper and equitation coach, an ‘R’ judge, and a sales broker. In this column, she answers common questions about A-level sport. Send your questions to news@horsenetwork.com for consideration in a future column.

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Christian Kukuk & Checker 47 Are Crowned Kings at LGCT Madrid   20 May 2024, 10:28 am

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

It’s a fitting idiom for German rider Christian Kukuk’s performance with Checker 47 on Sunday, May 19 during the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Madrid.

Fourth to go in the eight-horse jump-off in front of a sold-out crowd at Club Campo de Villa de Madrid, Kukuk put his foot on the gas and didn’t let off.

He and the 14-year-old grey Westphalian gelding stopped the clock at 45.85 seconds, nearly a second ahead of the Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten & Beauville Z N.O.P. Belgian phenom and LGCT Shanghai winner Giles Thomas, 25, rounded out the podium on Ermitage Kalone during the 10-year-old Selle Français stallion’s CSI5* debut.  

“Honestly, I am a really big fan of this show. To win in front of this incredible crowd here, the atmosphere is outstanding,” Kukuk, 34, said. “I came here with a good feeling.

“I knew the jump-off was going to be fast, so I tried everything. I took all the risk to the last, I said to myself, ‘Just go full-speed,’ and I kept galloping home.”

Gallop home, he did, after solving the riddle of course designer Santiago Varela Ullastres’ flowing, scopey, and expansive track, which made the most of Club Campo de Villa de Madrid’s undulating grass field. Checker 47’s impressive foot speed and long stride proved unbeatable in the nine-effort jump-off, which culminated with a thrilling, roll-back turn to a delicate final vertical.  

Their take-no-prisoners approach is a recipe for success that’s worked before for Kukuk and Checker 47, who also took home the $500,000 CSI 5* Rolex Grand Prix during the ‘Saturday Night Lights’ finale of the winter circuit in Wellington, Florida in March.

It’s also not the first Global Champions Tour win for the pair, who were victorious in the LGCT Grand Prix of Riyadh in October, just weeks after helping Germany to team gold in the 2023 FEI Nations Cup Final CSIO5* in Barcelona.

Though he’s been used relatively lightly so far this season—jumping just nine rounds at 1.60m in 2024—Checker 47 has still managed to post some impressive Jumpr numbers. At 1.60m, he dropped an average of just 1.4 faults in 22 rounds in the last 365 days, jumping clear at a stellar 59%. What’s more: at the same height, the grey gelding finishes in the top-10 70% of the time.

In other words, while the German combination may be slightly less well known than, say, Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) & King Edward, or Martin Fuchs (SUI) and Leone Jei, Kukuk & Checker 47 are well placed in their company. They sit at #6 among the top 10 horse-and-rider combinations by prize money so far this year, and are hanging onto the #1 spot in prize money won over the past 365 days.

In fact, by the same metric, Kukuk & Checker 47 have earned a cool $124,000+ more than King Edward, the best horse in the last quarter-century, and have accrued a total of $2,434,404 in career earnings over their four years together.

With another $110,000+ coming their way for this weekend’s win in Spain, the pair’s 2024 season is already off to a rollicking—and lucrative—start.

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Seize the Grey Seizes the Day 18 May 2024, 9:24 pm

Seize the Grey was simply perfect in the Preakness.

The $2 million Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of the Triple Crown, played out to a packed house at Pimlico on Saturday.

Seize the Grey, trained by racing legend D. Wayne Lukas, would be the one to earn rave reviews at the finish of the 1 3/16-mile main track test for 3-year-olds, which was run over a muddy strip.

Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan, the favorite after the scratch of Grade 1 Arkansas Derby winner Muth, was denied his chance for Triple Crown glory after finishing a game second.

But there was no doubt who this day was all about.

Under 25-year-old Jaime Torres, Seize the Grey, owned by MyRacehorse, burst from the gate and then led his seven rivals through early splits of :23.98 and :47.53.

Mystik Dan, who went off as the mutuel choice, was guided to the rail early by Brian Hernandez, Jr., and sat just off the pacesetter.

As the field navigated the turn for home, Seize the Grey was still game on the front end as Mystik Dan and Catching Freedom looked to reel in the handsome son of Arrogate.

Their efforts would be in vain as Seize the Grey crossed the wire 2 ¼ lengths in front of Mystik Dan, with Catching Freedom a further head back in third. Tuscan Gold rounded out the top four.

The final time for the race was 1:56.82.

Bred in Kentucky by Jamm, LTD., Seize the Grey, who went off at 9-1 in the Preakness, arrived at the race in winning form after taking the Pat Day Mile Stakes (G2) on May 4 at Churchill.

With the Preakness triumph, the colt is now 4-0-3 from 10 starts.

The victory makes 88-year-old Hall of FamerLukas the oldest conditioner to ever win a Triple Crown race.

It marks his 15th career Triple Crown win and seventh career Preakness victory, the latter tied for the second-most of all time—one behind Bob Baffert.

Seize the Grey paid $21.60 for the win.

A Grade 1 race for 3-year-olds first run in 1873, the race is named in honor of Preakness, who won the Dinner Party Stakes at the opening of Pimlico in 1870.

The Preakness has been run in its traditional spot between the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes since 1931, with 2020 as the only exception, when the races were run in the fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Triple Crown will conclude with the 156th Belmont Stakes on June 8.

There have been 13 Triple Crown winners since 1919 and 23 horses have swept the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but failed to win the Belmont Stakes.

This is the final Preakness before a $400 million Pimlico reconstruction project begins early next year. The race will be held in Baltimore again next year in whatever state the track is in before moving to Laurel Park in 2026 with a return to Pimlico slated for 2027.

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The Enduring Record of William Fox-Pitt 17 May 2024, 1:43 pm

It’s official. William Fox-Pitt has retired.

The British Olympian, 55, made the news official at Mars Badminton Horse Trials last Sunday. And he ended his career the way he started it—as a contender.

Fox-Pitt, second going into the final phase, had a chance of becoming Badminton’s second-oldest winner. But six fences down on Grafennacht dropped him to 13th place as a Badminton history that began 35 years ago reached its inevitable conclusion.

“This is my last Badminton. It has been a great week, I have really loved it, and it has been a great send-off,” said Fox-Pitt.

“There are no kind of tears and sobbing. I am very matter of fact about it, and I think it’s the right thing.”

While Fox-Pitt’s competitive career has come to a close, his eventing legacy will long live on. Because when it comes to hardware, there aren’t many medals or accolades missing from his considerable collection.

Let’s review the highlights:

Fox-Pitt was the first British rider to achieve World No. 1 status in eventing. It’s a feat he achieved in 2002 and repeated in 2009, 2010 and again in 2014.

He won 14 CCI5* titles. He is also the only rider to have won five of the seven events in the world.

Fox-Pitt holds the record for most wins (six) at Burghley (1994, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011)—and on six different horses. He’s a two-time winner at Badminton (2004 & 2015) and Pau (2011, 2013) and three-time Kentucky champion (2010, 2012, 2014). He won Luhmuhlen (2008). The only two 5*s he didn’t win are the Adelaide Equestrian Festival (AUS) and Maryland Five Star (USA).

Fox Pitt is a five-time Olympian. He contested the 1996 Atlanta, 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing, 2012 London and 2016 Rio Games, winning two team silvers (Athens & London) and one team bronze (Beijing). His best individual finishes were 12th in 2008 and 2016, the last less than 10 months after suffering a traumatic brain injury that left him in a coma for two weeks.

He has a complete set of World Equestrian Games medals. In four appearances, Fox-Pitt never finished off the team podium, earning bronze in 2002, silver in 2006, gold in 2010, and silver in 2014 with the British team. He also holds two individual medals from WEG, a silver in 2010 and a bronze in 2014.

He twice contested the World Cup Final (2005 and 2008) and finished just off the podium in fourth in 2005 with Ballin Coola. It’s the only major championship in which he doesn’t hold a medal.

He also has a complete set of European championship medals. And it’s his biggest collection of all. In nine appearances since 1995, Fox-Pitt won 11 medals, including six team golds (1995, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009). He also laid claim to three individual medals, earning silver medals with Cosmopolitan II in 1997 and Tamarillo in 2005 and bronze in 2013 on Chilli Morning.

For 30+ years, Fox-Pitt has been a name synonymous with international eventing. And will continue to inspire generations for decades to come.

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King Edward Is the Best Horse in a Quarter Century 17 May 2024, 12:21 pm

What makes a good horse great?

An elite level of natural-born athletic talent, to be sure. A knowledgeable program and partner with whom he or she can learn, grow, and receive the best of care.

But when it comes to a show jumper like King Edward—a horse who, by the numbers, is better than any other equine athlete in the last 25 years—there is the open question of still something more.

Maybe it’s his keen intelligence and understanding of the task at hand. Maybe it’s that notorious sensitivity, or his working-dog-like drive to succeed at a task he was bred to do (not unlike a border collie tending his flock of sheep).

Whatever the source of the magic, that lightning in a bottle, it’s something that World #1 Henrik von Eckermann of Sweden is glad to have found, and is likely even more eager to hold onto.

And with good reason.

Over the course of his four years under von Eckermann’s saddle, King Edward has achieved more than any other horse on the world stage: winning more than $4.3 million dollars and climbing 43 podiums, nearly half of those as wins. Of those 22 victories, all but one have been at the 1.60m level and above.

League of His Own

So just how effective is King Edward at the championship, 1.60m height? Unparalleled, in a word.

Because, by the numbers, the gelding has pulled off a full Secretariat-in-the-Belmont: he’s virtually left the rest of the field in the dust to become the highest earning horse of the last quarter century—and by a wide margin, according to Jumpr Stats.

McLain Ward’s legendary partner HH Azur is a close second ($4.17 million), but finishes more than $100,000 shy of King Edward’s current total. What’s more: HH Azur’s career spanned three years longer than the gelding’s current age of 14. (Related aside: she won the CSI5* Rolex Grands Prix of ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Geneva in 2022 at age 17!).

Also part of the elite $3 million-dollar 1.60m+ club? Kent Farrington’s (USA) Gazelle (around $3.8 million) and Ben Maher’s (GBR) Explosion W (just under $3.2 million), both of whom are now retired.

Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) & King Edward winning the indvidual gold medal at the ECCO FEI World Championships in Herning (DEN) 2022. © FEI/Leanjo de Koster

In fact, of the top-10 earners at the championship height over the last quarter-century, only three horses, according to age, can be considered serious contenders to catch King Edward.

Two of these include his contemporaries, the 14-year-old Killer Queen Vdm under Daniel Deusser (GER), and the 15-year-old Monaco N.O.P. under Harrie Smolders (NED). Yet both are currently more than $1 million shy of King Edward in earnings, making overtaking his legacy, at this stage, an unlikely scenario.

Slightly more promising: Martin Fuchs’ Leone Jei, a horse that’s batting a thousand in his own right and is two years King Edward’s junior. At age 12, he’s amassed just under $3 million in prize money and earned 12 wins—giving him the edge on King Edward who, at the same age, had earned just over $1.2 million and had six wins to his name under von Eckermann.

But things change dramatically when you compare their stats.

During his 12-year-old season, King Edward jumped 34 rounds at 1.60 and higher, where he was clear at 70% (1.60m) and 86% (1.65m); he averaged less than a single rail at both heights. The gelding also finished in the top-5% at 54% (1.60m) and 86% (1.65m), respectively.

Compare that to Leone Jei who, at 12, has jumped considerably more rounds at those heights (72). But his numbers are significantly lower by these measures: he’s clear at 51% (1.60m) and 43% (1.65m), and drops an average of 2.15 faults. Similarly, he finishes in the top-5% at 43% (1.60m) and 25% (1.65m).

Not shabby, by any stretch, but still not good enough to unseat the King.

Although King Edward has now logged more than 80 rounds at the top heights with von Eckermann to date, he’s maintained his unprecedented accuracy, dropping an average of just 1.05 faults at 1.60m and higher. Two years later, he still finishes in the top-5% at 62% at 1.60m, and a whopping 83% of the time at 1.65m—and he’s not done yet.

By most standards, only individual Olympic gold still eludes von Eckermann and King Edward at this point, and you can bet they’ll be looking to remedy that problem in Paris this summer. That medal would be a glittering, final jewel for an already legendary crown.

Fit for a king, indeed.

The post King Edward Is the Best Horse in a Quarter Century appeared first on Horse Network.

A Friendly Assessment 15 May 2024, 2:16 pm

I like to assess my horses’ progress every few months, as described previously in this column.

Each time, I consider in detail what the horse has and has not learned, where she is in mental and physical development, any problems that have cropped up, and her performance strengths and weaknesses.

This process helps me identify which areas need improvement, so I know what to focus on next. But there’s another form of assessment that’s even more fun.

Invite a horse-savvy friend to come see you and your buddy every six months or so. That’s long enough for the friend to see a difference that you probably wouldn’t notice. Don’t ask any questions; just wait to see what they notice.

A friend of mine who hadn’t seen True in a year visited us recently.

“He’s so much bigger!”

Those were the first words out of her mouth. I hadn’t noticed that.

I see True every day, and the tiny gradual changes in his size are easy to miss. Plus, you know me—always focused on the mind more than the body! But after she pointed it out, I had to agree.

True has grown another inch in height, to 17 hands barefoot, and he has grown several inches in width. He’s six years old now. The average horse grows until age 5 to 7, depending partly on breed.

Dutch warmbloods, like True, tend to mature late, so his skeleton will grow and solidify at least to the age of 7. He’ll continue to put on muscle beyond that age, given the proper exercise. Which I will be certain he gets!

“His conformation is textbook!”

I search for horses with excellent conformation because it aids long-term soundness. But like most babies, True’s immature body grew in all sorts of odd directions.

For a long time, he had a youngster’s hay belly. Next to that hay belly, his legs seemed spindly. At times, his croup was higher than his withers…or vice versa. Sometimes his head looked too large for his body. At other times, his neck was too short for his shoulder. After a while, you stop looking and just teach the cute little knucklehead.

But now True has grown into his body and a friend has opened my eyes. Yep, all the parts fit together into a cohesive whole.

“He floats when he trots!”

Thank you, we work hard on that. With long sloping pasterns, True’s always been smooth, but now he carries his 1400 pounds like a feather.

When he was three, True trotted under saddle with too much hock action. It was as if he thought he was competing to be a five-gaited Saddlebred. With lots of careful flatwork, his trot has gone more into the horizontal than the vertical, so that his hind legs travel forward and back instead of up and down.

His back is round most of the time now, too, giving him the ability to step under his belly for impulsion and power. Riding most of the time without benefit of video, I can feel this improvement but can’t see it. When a friend notices without being asked, I know we’ve made progress.

Now, it could be that my friends only want to flatter my ego and show their appreciation for my horse. But I doubt it. They aren’t the sort for idle flattery.

After all, they’re perfectly willing to point out that True still grabs a rein in his mouth every now and then. Or spins, bolts, and bucks like a rodeo bronc when he’s scared. And braces against the bit the first time each session he is asked to back up. (After that, he’s fine; it’s as if he must make his opinion known just once before softening his mouth and poll to back in a fluid, obedient manner.)

So I think my friends are being honest in mentioning the good, the bad, and yes even the ugly.

Try it sometime. Invite a friend out and bask in the warmth of someone who can see the progress you’ve been working toward for so long. It’s satisfying. Even True seemed to arch his long neck a little more from the praise!

Related reading:

Brain-Based Horsemanship is a weekly column that chronicles Janet Jones, PhD, and her journey with True, a Dutch Warmblood she trained from age three using neuroscience best practices. Read more about brain-based training in Jones’ award winning book Horse Brain, Human Brain.

A version of this story originally appeared on janet-jones.com. It is reprinted here with permission.

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The U.S. Dressage Team Olympic Short List Ranked 14 May 2024, 2:58 pm

US Equestrian has named the eight horse-and-rider pairs selected to the U.S. Dressage Team Olympic Short List ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games this summer.

The Magnificent Eight, as they shall be known from here out, are the pool from which the team will be selected. Each is required to compete in a minimum of two CDIs between May 8 and June 25, 2024, including at least one of three Observation Events in Le Mans CDI4*, Hagen CDI3*, and Rotterdam CDIO5*.

Let’s breakdown the contenders:

The Veterans

©FEI/Richard Juilliart

Steffen Peters & Suppenkasper

Based in California, Steffen Peters (60) is by far the most seasoned championship rider on the short list. He’s contested five Olympic games prior, taking home team silver in 2021 (with Suppenkasper) and team bronze medals in 2016 and 1996. His highest individual finish was fourth at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Steffens is also a four time World Equestrian Games veteran, six-time World Cup Finalist and two-time double gold medalist at the Pan American Games. In short, he’s been there and won that.

Related: Steffen Peters on Mopsie, Meditation and Letting Go

With Suppenkasper (Spielberg x Upanoeska), aka Mopsie, he’s won 59 international classes since 2018, including multiple 5* classes in Wellington, FL. Their overall average of 72.883% puts this pair at the top of the U.S. Dressage Grand Prix 12-Month Ranking and into the lead for Paris 2024 contention.

© FEI/Shannon Brinkman

Adrienne Lyle with Helix & Lars van de Hoenderheide

Adrienne Lyle is the only other rider with Olympic experience on the short list. She’s also the only rider with two mounts.

Twelve-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Helix and 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding Lars van de Hoenderheide, both owned by Zen Elite Equestrian Center, are new to the new mother’s string (Lyle had daughter Bailey last fall). But they’ve wasted no time climbing the ranks.

In 13 international appearances since March, they’ve only missed one podium. In that short time, she’s climbed into second with Helix (72.418%) and fourth with Lars van de Hoenderheide (71.753%) on the U.S. Dressage Grand Prix 12-Month Ranking.

Related: Adrienne Lyle Is Putting in the Work, Work, Work

Lyle was part of the silver medal winning team in Tokyo with longtime mount Salvino. She’s a World Equestrian Games team silver medalist (2018) and World Championship and World Cup veteran with experience, if not long-time partnerships, on her side.

The Contenders

©FEI

Anna Marek & Fire Fly

Anna Marek’s star is on the rise. Making her championship debut at the 2024 Pan American Games in Santiago, Marek and Fire Fly (Briar Junior x Arieka) were the highest placed American pair, helping USA to team gold and individual silver.

They went on to ride for USA at the 2024 World Cup Final in Riyadh in April, finishing ninth individually. The 14-year-old KWPN gelding, owned by Janet Simile, has been under Marek’s saddle since 2022.

Katherine Bateson-Chandler (second from left). ©FEI/Susan Stickle

Katherine Bateson-Chandler & Haute Couture

It’s been 14 years since Katherine Bateson Chandler was part of the U.S. team with Nartan at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, KY, where the team finished fourth.

This year, she’s back in team contention with a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Haute Couture (Connaisseur x Destiney) owned by herself and Jennifer Huber. This pair has grown steadily more consistent and higher scoring over the past three seasons.

In 2024, they’ve podiumed in five of 10 international appearances and only twice finished below the top five. She’s currently fifth on the U.S. National ranking with an average score of 71.415%.

Anna Buffini & Fiontini

Anna Buffini has been coming into her own these past three seasons.

Buffini made her championship debut in 2022 at the FEI World Cup Final in Leipzig and qualified again for 2023 in Omaha, NE, where she finished sixth in the Freestyle. Both championships were contested on FRH Davinia la Douce.

For Paris 2024, she’s shortlisted on with 14-year-old Danish Warmblood mare, Fiontini (Fassbinder x Rapitala). Previously campaigned by disgraced Danish team rider Andreas Helgstrand and Patrik Kittel, the Danish warmblood has competed in three CDIs to date with Buffini, all at Del Mar, CA.

This pair averages 71.025% to slot into seventh on the U.S. Dressage Grand Prix 12-Month Ranking.

The Rookies

©Susan J Stickle

Endel Ots & Zen Elite’s Bohemian

Endel Ots may not have championship experience, but his mount more than makes up for it.

Developed by Denmark’s Cathrine Laurdrup-Dufour, Zen Elite’s Bohemian (Bordeaux x Sunshine) finished fourth individually at the Tokyo Games and took home three medals at the 2021 European championships. The 14-year-old Westphalian gelding, (Bordeaux x Sunshine), now owned by Zen Elite Equestrian Center, is among the elite few horses to have achieved a 90% or better in a Grand Prix freestyle.

The gelding was originally purchased as an Olympic hopeful for Dong Seon Kim. When the Korean rider stepped back from top sport, the gelding went back on the market, landing with Ots just before the Olympic ownership cut off date in mid January.

While the partnership is new, it’s gelling quickly. Ots and Zen Elite’s Bohemian have yet to finish off a podium, winning the Grand Prix Freestyle in their last appearance at TerraNova Equestrian. They are currently ranked third, with an average score of 71.789, on the U.S. Dressage Grand Prix 12-Month Ranking.

Fun fact: Ots routinely uses hypnosis the night before his tests.

©Susan J Stickle

Marcus Orlob & Jane

Jane was developed by owner Alice Tarjan since age three and with great success. The pair has won every international Intermediate class they’ve ever entered. When Tarjan decided to take a step back from FEI competition, she handed the reins of the 10-year-old KWPN Dutch Warmblood mare (Desperado x Zandra) over to her coach Marcus Orlob.

Orlob and Jane made their Grand Prix debut in March and went on to win the CDI3* Grand Prix Special at TerraNova Equestrian Center in Myakka City, FL in April. In 13 appearances together they’ve only once finished outside the top 6, earning an average score of 69.650.

Final team selection will be announced by June 25.

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Mystik Dan & Team Are Packing Their Bags For the Preakness 13 May 2024, 10:07 am

It came down to the wire—again—for the 150th Kentucky Derby winner, but the good news was worth waiting for.

This weekend, Mystik Dan’s trainer, Kenny McPeek, announced that the colt will contest the Preakness Stakes at Pimilco Race Course this Saturday, May 18.

As the top finisher in the closest Run for the Roses in more than 50 years, McPeek said he worried about the short turn-around between races. But after speaking with his owners—and watching his horse’s workouts this week—Team Mystik Dan elected to keep Triple Crown hopes alive.

“All systems go,” McPeek said.

It’s been a minute—six years, in fact—since a horse has won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. That thoroughbred was Justify, who went on to win the Triple Crown in 2018. Only two Derby winners in the past four years have continued on to the Preakness, and Pimlico has clearly taken notice. This year, the venue sweetened the pot, increasing the purse from $1.5 million to $2 million in addition to other incentives.

Even still, a repeat victory could be a tall order for Mystik Dan. Though some top-level riding from jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. helped the colt narrowly fend off Sierra Leone and Forever Young in the Derby, he performed poorly in the second of two races he ran on a similar, two-week timeframe last November.

The short turn-around is a gamble that’s also being taken by the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Just Steel, who finished 17th in the Derby and is the only other horse from Kentucky who will travel to Baltimore this season. Both will have an even bigger fish to fry, though, in the form of the current favorite, the Good Magic-sired Muth, trained by Bob Baffert.

Muth was ineligible to run the Derby due to Baffert’s track suspension at Churchill Downs, extended through 2024 after his horse, Medina Spirit, failed a drug test after winning the Kentucky Derby in 2021. (In 40 years of training, Baffert’s horses have failed 30 drug tests; Medina Spirit’s win was ultimately revoked by the track.)

Will Muth have the edge? Can Mystik Dan stay the course in Maryland? Find out this weekend!

The 149th running of the Preakness Stakes will take place on Saturday, May 18. Post time is set for 6:57 p.m. EST, with coverage beginning on NBC (and live-streaming on Peacock) beginning at 4:30 p.m.

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Caroline Powell: “I truly never expected to be in this position ever again” 12 May 2024, 1:22 pm

In 2023, Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier finished Badminton Horse Trials in the UK in last place—with a jaw dropping 135 penalties.

This year, they’re leaving as winners!

Logging her 16th completion at the iconic 5* event, the New Zealander captured her second ever 5* title on Sunday, 14 years after her first in Burghley.

“It has been a phenomenal week,” said Powell.

“Badminton is such a special place. Just walking into the main barn sends shivers down my spine! I truly never expected to be in this position ever again. I didn’t even watch those above me jump but I could hear the ooh’s and aah’s and then Suzie came racing down telling me I’d won…I didn’t believe her!”

The stands in front of Badminton House were packed to the gunnels with spectators this morning to watch the trot up on the final day of the Mars Badminton Horse Trials and they were treated to a display of fit, keen horses in the morning sunshine.

Only Harry Mutch (GBR) and HD Bronze failed the inspection of the ground jury, with 37 of the original 67 starters advancing to the show jumping phase.

The show jumping course looked technical, big and square. During the morning session, there was not a single clear round, with some true cricket scores notched up. The trend continued going into the afternoon session. The first clear didn’t come until the fifth horse into the arena.

U25 champion Bubby Upton caused the loudest cheer of the afternoon when she jumped clear within the time on Cola, finishing 10th overall.

“He was truly phenomenal,” said a tearful Upton, who suffered severe spinal injuries after a fall on the flat last August that initially left her paralyzed.

“When I look at the whole past eight months and take into perspective what we’ve gone and done this week, it’s a win for us.”

The biggest move of the week came from Alexander Bragg (GBR) and his 14 year-old mare Quindiva.

Languishing in 51st place after dressage, a stellar cross country round brought the pair up to 10th place going into the final phase. An excellent show jumper, Quindiva previously qualified for the Horse of The Year Show, the mare gave every fence air and jumped into the lead.

The pair stayed there until Caroline Powell (NZL) and Greenacres Special Cavalier, lying sixth overnight, became the third and final pair to jump clear within the time.

Five more followed.

Sarah Ennis (IRE) and Grantstown Jackson arguably had the ride of the day across country but a frustrating five rails dropped them out of the top 15. Emily King (GBR) and her normally superb show jumper, lowered two rails to finish fourth overall, and Lucy Latta (IRL) and RCA Patron Saint also had two fences down. It was still enough to give the Badminton first-timer second place behind Powell as the top two came in to jump.

“I wasn’t too sure how he would come out today—he has never jumped a track that big or run for that long but he was jumping beautifully in the warm up and he really, really tried for me. I feel we have half an eye on a team place later in the year,” said Latta.

William Fox-Pitt’s final Badminton appearance of his career did not garner the fairytale ending he hoped, after he and Graffenacht lowered six rails on course.

“She may be by Grafensoltz, the same sire as Lordships Graffalo [Ros Canter’s 2023 Badminton champion] but she doesn’t quite match him in the show jumping department,” he commented.

Last to return, Tim Price (NZL) had two rails and change in hand heading into the arena and his round got off to a promising start. Vitali looked relaxed, balanced and full of energy over the first couple of fences, but it didn’t take long before the poles started rolling.

Collecting 20 faults, Price ultimately finished in eighth place, two behind wife Jonelle on Grappa Nera, her Pau ’22 winner, handing the win to Powell.

Third placed Alexander, a qualified farrier, commented, “Today has been one of the most exciting shuffles I can ever remember at Badminton. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be brought back for a podium place but I was there watching the final few jump.

“It was a bit like being at an auction; you stand there pretending nothing is happening, but your heart is beating like a drum. You don’t want the others to have a rail down…but you do really!”

The next five star on the 2024 eventing calendar will be held at Luhmühlen CCI5*-L, Germany, June 13th–16th.

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Yuri Mansur’s Miss Blue-Saint Blue Farm Lands First 5* Grand Prix Win in Hamburg 11 May 2024, 5:30 pm

Yuri Mansur, The Man with the Yellow Hat, added a new five star feather to his colorful cap on Saturday.

And it’s a Brazilian-bred mare making his dreams come to fruition.

The CSI5* Longines Grand Prix of Hamburg saw 53 combinations contest Frank Rothenberger’s 1.60m course. Fourteen found a clear path to advance to the jump off.

Among them were world no. 3 Steve Guerdat, fresh off a 5* win in Fountainbleau two weeks prior, world no. 13 Harry Charles and Romeo 88, Olympic eventer Sandra Auffarth on Quirici H and world top 50 riders Philipp Weishaupt (no. 42) on Coby and Emanuele Camilli (no. 49).

Second to return, Guerdat set the time to beat early with a double clear in 44.33 seconds on 11-year-old Westphalian mare Lancelotta. But he left door open. Several combinations posted faster times, but none managed to leave all the jumps in the cups.

Mansur and Miss Blue-Saint Blue Farm, however, closed it. Slicing into the double and galloping to the last, the pair crossed the timers in 42.96 to take over the lead. Auffarth followed with a faster time (41.89) but felled a rail to drop into seventh.

The Longines Grand Prix of Hamburg marks Miss Blue-Saint Blue Farm’s first 5* Grand Prix win and Mansur’s second. His won was the The Longines King George V Gold Cup in 2017 at Hickstead on Babylotte.

“It means a lot to me. This is like a dream come true,” said an elated Mansur.

The Brazilian bred mare (Chacco Blue x VDL Zirocco Blue) has only one year and 16 rounds experience at the 1.60m height (Jumpr Stats).

Miss Blue-Saint Blue Farm made her 1.60m debut at LGCT Miami in April last year. By June, she landed her first podium finishes at the height, taking second in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of Switzerland and first in the Coupe des Nations BarriEre at La Baule, FRA and the 1.55m Turkish Airlines Prize of Europe at Aachen, GER.

Related: Mansur: “This Is the Biggest Win in my Career”

Mansur has showed the mare lightly so far in 2024, jumping just 8 rounds at 1.50m or above. The pair’s Jumpr clear round average across all heights is 69% this year, up from 59% the year prior. They are averaging just 1.3 faults versus 2.4 in 2023.

Mansur is the third highest ranked Brazilian rider on the World Rankings.

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Moving Day at Badminton Shakes Up the Leaderboard 11 May 2024, 3:10 pm

The Mars Badminton Horse Trials cross country course shook up the dressage results in a big way on Saturday.

The only rider from yesterday’s top three to finish in the top 15 was former world no. 1 Tim Price (NZL) who had a wonderful ride on Vitali, making all the direct routes look easy. The pair finished 10 seconds outside the time and stand at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the day on 31.7 penalties.

“The ground was a little bit more holding than it walked this morning, but he finished happy and appears to be recovering well, so we look forward to tomorrow,” said Price.

“He just gives me everything. You can tell with these horses that have campaigned at the five star level that they continue to improve, to understand themselves under the rigors of stamina and that’s what I loved about today. He was pushing at the start but in a fresh way and at the end he was pushing in a rhythmic, low but keen way and I just love that feeling.”

The New Zealander and his wife, Jonelle, were two of only eight riders to take the direct route at the Sustainability Bay, fences 17 and 18.

Fence 17 was an upright rail, followed a stride later by a narrow step down into the water. The horses ran through the water, then had a tight turn up the hill to the left and were confronted by a large tree trunk situated at a seemingly impossible angle, its enormous roots helping back the horses off the fence.

One of the biggest smiles of the day came from William Fox-Pitt, whose lovely mare, Grafennacht gave a peach of a ride. Making what was an exceedingly challenging course look like a hack in the park, the pair came home in the second fastest time of the day, to lie second, just 1.3 penalties behind Price.

“She gave me a great ride—I was optimistic that she would as she always does! I’ve never had a horse at this level who hasn’t had a single cross country fault. How lucky am I to have a mare like her in my swan song years?!”

Fox-Pitt’s first visit to Badminton was in 1989. Saturday could very well be his final appearance, according to the five-time Olympian.

Related: William Fox-Pitt Says 2024 Badminton Will Likely Be His Last

Ireland’s Lucy Latta lies in third on RCA Patron Saint. Born eight years after Fox-Pitt’s first visit to Badminton, Latta, a former pony and junior team medalist, made her Badminton debut this week and delivered.

“He wants to do it; he wasn’t phased by the crowds and was locked on to the course right from the start—he literally looks for the flags!”

An amateur rider who is a brand manager for White Claw canned drinks company, Latta has only one horse but she is bred for the job. Her grandfather, William Powell Harris, competed at Badminton and her cousin is the prolific Irish rider Elizabeth Power, who has helped Latta with her preparation.

“She was incredible,” enthused commentator and Badminton veteran Nick Gauntlett.  “No scary moments, it was just pure class. I’m gutted that she was one second outside the time but she just kept riding with maturity way beyond her years.”

Defending champion Ros Canter, leading after dressage, retired Izilot DHI after activating the MIM pin at the entry to the Badminton Lake. Izilot appeared overawed by the crowds and atmosphere so discretion appeared to be the better part of valour.

Thursday’s leader U25 champion Bubby Upton and Cola also fell victim of a MIM pin when jumping the Silver Birch rails at fence 21, but continued to complete the course, and are now lying in 18th place

Forty-one horses will advance to show jumping on Sunday.

Price has only a time fault in hand as the overnight leader. It’s a position he’s well familiar with. Price has led six CCI5*s going into the final day, reports EquiRatings, and went on to win four of them on four different horses (Burghley 2018, Luhmuhlen 2019, Pau 2021, Maryland 2022). Vitali is the first horse of Price’s poised to repeat the feat (EquiRatings).

“He just turns himself inside out when the going gets tough. I’ll remember that for tomorrow. Hopefully turning yourself inside out might get the job done,” said Price.

Tune in to Badminton TV Sunday to see if they can continue their form.

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Dalera BB Is Back, Back Again *Updated* 10 May 2024, 1:53 pm

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl’s TSF Dalera BB is back in FEI action this week at Pferd International München, Germany.

Making their second competitive appearance of the year—the last was in January—the reigning Olympic, World Cup and European champions did what they do best in the CDI5* Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special. Win.

In Friday’s Grand Prix, von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB were the only pair to crack the 80% mark on the day, scoring an 82.131 from the judges and keeping their win streak alive. This pair had won every international class they’ve entered since the Tokyo Games in 2021.

Watch their winning round:

Ingrid Klimke and Franziskus FRH took a distant second in 75.609%. Anabel Balkenhol and High Five FRH finished third on 73.174%

In Saturday’s Grand Prix Special, it was rinse and repeat.

The pair took the win with a 83% score, again the only combination to crack the 80s. Klimke slotted into second with a personal best score of 76.426%. Sönke Rothenberger and Fendi moved up into third on 75.106% to complete the all-German podium.

Five star dressage wrapped with the Grand Prix Kür on Sunday, won by Austria’s Christian Schumach and Amplemento with a personal best of 77.3%.

Watch the Pferd International München on demand at ClipMyHorse TV.

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Ros Canter Ranks Badminton Cross Country More Enjoyable Than Child Birth (Maybe) 10 May 2024, 1:22 pm

Those who anticipated a world beating test from Ros Canter and her Pau CCI 5*L winner, Izilot DHI, were not disappointed.

The pair entered the arena like they owned it and brought off the most beautiful display, scoring 25.3 and finishing a full two points ahead of her nearest rival, yesterday’s leader Bubby Upton.

“He is a wonderful horse, one of the best in the world and an absolute pleasure to ride,” said a delighted Canter. “He has a spooky streak and certainly noticed the camera on the ground at A but he has grown up a huge amount—much more than we expected, and seems to be really enjoying himself.”

Canter now has a 30% chance of becoming a back-to-back Badminton winner, according to EquiRatings’ Eventing Prediction Centre, while Upton and Cola’s win chance rose six points to 9% after the completion of dressage.

New Zealand’s Tim Price completes the top three after dressage on a mark of 27.7, putting him ahead of USA’s Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF and a long way off their personal best. At Burghley last year he and Vitali produced a record-breaking score of 18.7.

“We have seen what he can do and we would love that kind of test time and time again but life’s not like that—they are a living, breathing animal!” said Price. “He warmed up really well, more relaxed than Burghley, strangely enough, but there is an electric atmosphere here, it is early in the season, he’s a very fit horse and it’s a lot for them.”

Price has yet to win at Badminton and would love to see his name on the trophy alongside that of his wife, Jonelle. His best result to date was a third in 2017 on Xavier Faer.

Great Britain’s Emily King, daughter of two-time winner Mary King, has slipped herself between Martin and fellow American Tiana Coudray, scoring 29.2 with Valmy Biats. Coudray’s score of 29.8 was the only other sub 30 score.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s cross country, Upton said, “I have walked the course several times today and my plans have definitely changed since my initial thoughts. I’m not very good at walking long routes, and haven’t done so yet—there is only a plan A for me but I will definitely acquaint myself with them before we set off tomorrow!

“I have done more biking than walking this year (due to her spinal injury and operation), which is a bit unsettling. I usually like to know each blade of grass on the course personally!”

The recent sunshine has dried the course out significantly but may create holding going.

“I think I would be a rich person if I had a pound for every time someone has asked me about the ground this week,” Canter commented. “The ground is the same for all of us—I will stay in my own little bubble. He is an exceptionally brave horse, really honest as well, but it’s an unknown for me and him going into tomorrow in terms of stamina and going 11 minutes 19. I’m going out with the intention of going fast and clear but I am going to listen to what he is telling me because I know I have a world class horse for the future.”

The biggest laugh of the day was when Canter was asked: “Do you think you enjoyed childbirth more than going cross country at Badminton?” Her reply: “Today it’s going cross country at Badminton, but by tomorrow morning I may have changed my mind!”

Asked the same question, Tim Price quipped, “I thought childbirth was pretty straightforward, isn’t it?!”

Sixty-seven horses will start the cross-country phase on Saturday. Catch all the action on Badminton TV.

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On the Trail in Golden Slippers 10 May 2024, 10:07 am

Sasquatch finally has hoof boots!

You might recall from last week that True’s feet are very hard to fit because they are wider than they are long. Not to mention, BIG. And with a giant flare on the right front that grows out in the middle of his trim cycle.

So I’m happy to report that True (now nicknamed Sasquatch, or Sassy for short) has finally been fitted with hoof boots. Because he’s barefoot year-round, boots are a useful backup in case of unexpected hoof problems and good protection for an easy trail ride.

My preference was a plain black boot. But of course the only boots that fit Sassy are the Blings—shiny gold metallic outers, with four big studs that look like giant sequins. Around the barn, we call them True’s “golden slippers.” To play the role of a wealthy basketball star, the only other thing he needs is a rhinestone-covered grille on his front teeth!

True has been ridden around the ranch on dirt driveways for two years now, and one day a few months ago we accompanied a friend down some local dirt roads. (These “roads” haven’t seen a car in years; don’t worry.)

But he doesn’t have any experience heading off across country.

So last week three of my friends, riding three of True’s friends, accompanied us on our first Bling-assisted excursion. I had already worked True in the arena for 45 minutes, so this “trail ride” was really only a cooling-out walk.

The plan was to create the perfect entry to trail riding for a young horse—trusted friends, short distance, no sudden explosions, and an overall calm experience. We got three out of four.

We all walked a mile away from the ranch on dirt roads, then headed off on a soft path through sage brush and juniper trees. The biggest danger was big prairie dog holes, but they were few and far between—easy to see and maneuver around at a walk.

True watched everything, his head swinging right then left, ears moving. But he remained calm.

I let him look as much as he wanted to and tried to keep the reins long enough to give him some freedom but not lose control. He observed his buddies, who were walking calmly, and followed suit.

Placidity continued until we turned back. Suddenly, the mare in front of True spooked, skittered, and crow-hopped up the trail ahead of him. I was very curious to see how he would react. He did… well, nothing.

He just stopped, with the other horses behind him, and watched his palomino friend crow-hop up the trail—quick swerve to the right, two bucks, a bit of trot, quick swerve toward the fence, turned back by the rider, then two more hops and done.

I was so proud of Trooper for not reacting. When the palomino came to rest, he waited for me to ask him to move forward, then did so calmly. What a guy!

On our second boot-testing ride, we cut across country without a path. This time, we were with only one other horse and rider, but it’s an older horse True knows well.

All went smoothly until we approached one of the ranch turnouts from the back side. The horses in it decided they had to “greet” True and his friend by running and bucking inside their large turnout. True got excited and danced around. It worried me because if he took off, I would not be able to see the large prairie dog holes amidst the dry grass. He could easily step in one at a gallop and break a leg.

So my friend and I turned our horses back the way we had come to avoid any surprises. The first few experiences of anything new should be calm and positive for the horse, not scary or risky. True settled down in only a few steps, and we walked the long way home without incident.

Boring? Maybe, but what a great experience for a young horse! Easy, positive, calm. These are the kinds of trail experiences I want him to have.

We’ll keep at it, a little farther each time.

Related reading:

Brain-Based Horsemanship is a weekly column that chronicles Janet Jones, PhD, and her journey with True, a Dutch Warmblood she trained from age three using neuroscience best practices. Read more about brain-based training in Jones’ award winning book Horse Brain, Human Brain.

A version of this story originally appeared on janet-jones.com. It is reprinted here with permission.

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U25 Champion Bubby Upton Floats into Lead at Badminton 9 May 2024, 1:51 pm

The big news, coming into the 75th edition of the Badminton Horse Trials, is the withdrawal of the world no. 1 Oliver Townend (GBR) and his sole entry, Ballaghmor Class.

Townend was the live contender for the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, having won Burghley last year with Ballaghmor Class and Kentucky a fortnight ago on Cooley Rosalent.

“I’m absolutely gutted,” said the Brit. “He had an abscess earlier in the season and missed a couple of runs. After his final gallop, and with the possible soft ground, we don’t feel he’s at his normal 5* fitness.”

It’s all systems go for the remaining 82 competitors. After a long, wet winter and spring, sunshine greeted those competing the first day of dressage.

Taking the lead on a score of 27.3 is Britain’s two-time Under 25 champion, Bubby Upton riding Cola.

That Upton got to Badminton this year at all is a fairytale onto itself. The 25-year-old finished eighth in her Badminton debut last year, but suffered severe spinal injuries after a fall on the flat last August. Initially paralyzed on her right side and told that she was unlikely to walk again, Upton’s recovery has been nothing short of miraculous.

“I was thrilled with him,” said Upton of her round on Cola.

“He was absolutely amazing. I was kicking myself about our last flying change because that is normally his really secure one and I just took him a bit for granted. Riding under the [entrance] arch again was a feeling like no other, it just feels so special to be here.”

The event has begun well for the American contingent, with all four riders finishing in the top 15.

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF became the first combination to crack the sub-30 mark, riding in the day’s first session. Their 29 score slots them into second on the overnight leaderboard. According to Equiratings data, eight of the past 11 Badminton winners finished in the top 5 after dressage.

Martin attributed the result down time for the 17-year-old Trakehner. Tsetserleg (AKA Thomas) travelled with Martin to Kentucky, then flew from Indianapolis to England, where he stabled with the American Olympian’s good friend Kevin McNab.

“Being a slightly older horse, and a seasoned campaigner, he probably benefitted from having a slight break,” said Martin. “I travelled over on Saturday and have had a couple of days being screamed at by Bettina Hoy—pretty scary but very constructive.”

The final sub 30 score of the day, 29.8, came from USA’s Tiana Coudray and Cancaras Girl.

“She is not a natural dressage horse and just before we went into the arena she had a bit of a meltdown and as I came under the arch, I thought, ’This is going to be a LONG six minutes!’ explained a tearful Coudray, who last competed at Badminton 10 years ago.

“I still don’t know how it happened but once she entered the arena she just tried so hard. It’s been a long time coming, with a massive team behind me, adding a fraction of a mark here and a fraction of a mark there but it all paid off today.”

Cosby Green (USA) and Copper Beach are lying ninth overnight, with Meghan O’Donoghue (USA) in equal 13th on her ex-racer, Palm Crescent.

The general feeling was that the Ground Jury were quite ungenerous with their marks today, with very few 8s being rewarded. The only 9 of the day went to Martin, for his medium walk.

Friday sees the world no. 2 take to the stage as Ros Canter brings her Pau winner, Izilot DHI to the arena. As defending champion, Canter is the Equiratings favorite with a 21% win chance on Izilot DHI.

Other five-star winning horses in the field include Jonelle Price’s Grappa Nera (Pau 2022) and Gemma Stevens’s Chilli Knight (Bicton 2021), which will also compete in the second half of dressage (Equiratings).

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Did You Know? Polo Was Once an Olympic Sport 9 May 2024, 11:09 am

If I had a dollar every time I uttered “Huh, I didn’t know that,” while researching stuff I’d be a very rich woman indeed.

Hopefully, what I present to you today, will have you uttering the same words.

Polo, the hardcore game of stick and ball, was once an Olympic sport, which makes sense as it was how cavalrymen of old trained for time on the battlefield. You don’t even have to stretch your imagination too far to believe that if you’ve ever seen a game. There is no faffing about out there.

The sport being of military origin is how it ended up being on the Olympic roster in 1900, 1908, 1920, 1924 and 1936. However, it’s also how it got the boot from the Games.

Until 1948 only men were allowed to compete in equestrian events as the Games were only open to military officers, not the rank and file. But as tanks and other motorized things pushed the need for horses to the wayside, the number of polo teams declined, which made it difficult to find enough officers to fill the quota.

It’s also an expensive sport and time-consuming endeavour.

First, you need an enormous field for the game to take place. Second, you need a lot of stabling. (At the 1936 Games, with five teams playing, stabling for a minimum of 125 horses was required.) Third, teams have to transport approximately 25 horses to the Olympic venue.

All that aside, polo was a well-attended sport. During the 1936 Munich Games, a crowd of 45,000 people gathered to watch the final match between Argentina and Great Britain. An impressive number even by today’s standards.

100 Years Later

With the 2024 Olympic Games landing back in Paris, the French Federation suggested polo as a demonstration sport, as a 100-year tribute.

Unfortunately, polo was beaten out by the likes of breakdancing, surfing and climbing. As sad as that is, on paper it makes sense. The new sports have a huge following of both athletes and fans in the tens of millions, while polo, bless, doesn’t even have 25,000 players in the world.

There are a few other factors that played into polo getting the thumbs down from the Olympic powers that be.

Firstly, and this should come as no surprise, Argentina owns the game of polo, and they were as unbeatable then as they are now. In fact, Argentina’s first-ever Olympic gold medal was won in polo. The IOC felt it was unfair.

Secondly is the fact that polo is the only team sport where team members are ranked at different levels, and this does not fit into the Olympic criteria.

And thirdly, polo is the only sport where amateurs can pay professionals to play with them, which is all kinds of crazy as far as the IOC is concerned.

Now

If you’re lucky enough to be going to the Paris Games this summer or just Paris in general, you can visit the polo field that was used in the 1924 Games. It is found at the Golf de Saint-Cloud on the Green Course at hole three, the original clubhouse is still there marking the historical reference.

This was considered one of the most beautiful polo fields in France, located in the parishes of Garches, Rueil-Malmaison and Vaucresson, just outside of Paris, with a view of the Eiffel. 

The days of polo and the Olympics are long past, but at least horses are still in the Game(s).

Sources

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