Rider Spotlight: “Derby Dustin” Has Found His Niche

Langley, BC — The nickname “Derby Dustin” implies a certain level of hunter derby success, and the feature class of the hunter division has brought out the best in Vernon, BC native Dustin Goodwin.

Goodwin captured the Amy Brattebo Real Estate Canadian Hunter Derby 3’6″ at tbird’s Canadian Open and will bring forward the exciting mare Reputation in the USHJA International Hunter Derby at this week’s Odlum Brown BC Open. Goodwin’s International Derby win total is nearing double-digits, and he boasts more than 25 USHJA National Derby victories in his career, despite stepping away from equestrian sport for eight years in his 20s.

“[A hunter derby] feels like a special moment,” Goodwin said. “When we show hunters, we want to to try to have 100 perfect rounds at a show and get as much out of our horses as possible. When I walk in the ring [for a derby], I feel more focused on creating the most beautiful [single] round I can.”

Goodwin has always had a passion for the hunter ring, but he wasn’t always sure he was meant to ride professionally. Another love for design drew him away from the saddle at age 18, as he pursued and attained a degree from the Ryerson University’s School of Fashion in Toronto. Upon graduation, he worked as an art director at a company in Vancouver, honing his craft in logo and graphic design, marketing, and social media.

The saddle called him back in 2012, but the experience has set himself up well to run his Goodwin Horses business.

“I loved my job [in design], but I still just wanted to ride,” Goodwin shared. “I do feel like what I went to school for and what my other life was is useful in our industry. There’s design in everything—your business cards, your logo, how you want your tack room setup to be, your drapes.”

Goodwin’s background is obvious at just a glance at Goodwin Horses’ logo design: It’s simple, well-balanced and scalable with a font that’s eye-catching but easy to read—and shaped well to suit embroidery on a saddle pad.

“For any sort of 18-year-old kid that asks me, ‘What should I do?’ I tell them to do whatever they’re thinking about doing,” Goodwin shared. “You need to learn about the world [outside of horses]. All of our customers live in that world. Sure, we spend the bulk of our time riding, but you need to be able to talk to people.

“When I first came back [to the sport], I thought it was a mistake [to have taken a break], because I felt so behind, but it really wasn’t. I caught up quickly, and I was right back in it,” he added. “It was worth what I got out of it to go and have other experiences.”

Goodwin spent nearly a decade working at Oz, Inc. in Canby, OR, before taking another leap and starting up his Goodwin Horses in 2021, a move initially sparked by a forced return home to Canada during the global pandemic. He began freelancing before business picked up at a brisk rate. He now bases out of Snohomish, WA at the Crooks family’s Clearview Farm; the business celebrated its two-year anniversary in November.

“It’s been a really great experience,” Goodwin said. “I knew that I wanted to come back to the U.S., because the hunter business so much stronger there, and that’s my passion. I also wanted to be as close to family and friends as I could be. Everything fell into place with the timing. It’s been busy from the start.”

Relatability

Thunderbird Show Park has played a role in Goodwin’s career since he was a teenager, when the current venue first opened for business in 1999. As a professional, it’s now a favorite destination among his clients.

“When I was 13, I was a very nervous rider and probably showing in the Pre-Child, maybe Children’s Hunter [divisions]. I was probably blacking out the whole time, because I was so nervous!” Goodwin recalled.

It was his childhood coach Claudia Cojocar who brought out Goodwin’s confidence, keeping him mounted on reliable horses and not over-facing him in unsuitable divisions. While Goodwin has established himself as a top professional—and loves producing young and inexperienced hunter prospects—he admits that nerves are something he’ll always deal with. However, those nerves have also enabled him to ride and manage his students smartly—and be a relatable coach.

“I just had so much trust in [Claudia] that I could remove myself from the nerves. I could follow her lead, and they’d never overtake me,” Goodwin expressed. “Then all of the sudden, I was doing all these things and feeling confident. She orchestrated that for me.

“I accept that I have to manage my nerves,” he continued. “I’m happy to ride green horses, but the key is knowing where you fit and being aware of your strengths and weaknesses.”

At tbird, Goodwin has continued to develop his strengths in the derby ring, and as his business has grown, so too has the caliber of his derby mounts. Imported in December, Kalli Heffner Gay’s 10-year-old Holsteiner mare Reputation is showing promise for all the right things, including Goodwin’s bucket list item—the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships.

“I definitely would like to try to go to Derby Finals next year. I have never gone, and it is definitely on my bucket list,” Goodwin said. “You have to put yourself out there to make it out there, and I’m trying to push myself to do it next year. This horse is brand new to me, and she’s just learning, but she’s just been incredible.”

Deja Vu for Friesen in MarBill Hill U25 1.40m

Langley, BC — Looking at the results of Sunday’s MarBill Hill U25 1.40m, you’d have to do a double take.

The results off the jump-off class were nearly identical to Friday’s speed competition, with the top two placings unchanged. For the second consecutive class, Charlie Jones (GBR) and Macho-Blue PS took a strong lead, only to be passed by Sutton Friesen (CAN) and Ilanca.

The winning jump-off time was 33.77 seconds, with Jones finishing in 34.72 seconds. Georgia Knight (CAN) finished third with Ero del Pierre with a time of 35.79 seconds.

“Today, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, just because the conditions were pretty wet,” said Friesen, 20, Kelowna, BC. “I watched a couple go, and they were going very fast in the jump-off. I know [Ilanca] can be very fast, but I haven’t gone all out like that with her. I was very happy with her.

Friesen was a tbird regular in her youth, but until 2023, she hadn’t competed at the venue in nearly four years while training with an American based stable. In the spring of 2023, she made a move to be closer to home and began training with Millar Brooke Farm and Amy Millar (CAN). She credits much of her improvement to the time Millar has put into her and her horse’s development.

I had [Ilanca] when I came to Millar Brooke, but she wasn’t trained the way she is now. Amy has put a lot of effort into her and making her what she is,” she said.

Both Ilanca and Friesen had easily identifiable weaknesses upon their arrival at the Millars’ stable. Ilanca had a tendency to jump too high into combinations, which led to back rails at oxers when jumping out of gymnastic tests. Friesen, meanwhile, needed to start her courses with more pace.

“I always try to go slow to the first jump, and then I’m kind of catching up the rest of the course, especially with [Ilanca], because she’s super careful,” Friesen detailed. “I would say that’s what I’m always thinking [about now when I’m on course].”

The training at home has quickly paid off. Friesen is seeing very tangible results, with two wins in the U25 division at the Canadian Premier alone.

“It’s been great ever since I started riding with them,” she said. “I love it.”

MarBill Hill U25 1.40m
Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

1. Ilanca / Sutton Friesen / CAN / Baystreet Equestrian / 0/0 33.77
2. Macho-Blue PS / Charlie Jones / GBR / Katie Harris / 0/0 34.72
3. Ero del Pierre / Georgia Knight / CAN / Georgia Knight / 0/0 35.79
4. Qualobet / Skylar Wireman / USA / Shayne Wireman / 0/0 35.87
5. Esi Jet Set / Carly Stevens / CAN / Susan Stevens / 0/0 35.99
6. Febvre de Lusse / Tanimara Macari / MEX / Tanimara Macari / 0/4 33.55
7. Apollo Z / Emmeline Adamick / USA / Hawk Hollow Farm LLC / 0/4 35.32
8. Adare Ya To / Sutton Friesen / CAN / Baystreet Equestrian / 0/4 35.4
9. C’Diam de Ste Anne / Emmeline Adamick / USA / Hawk Hollow Farm LLC / 0/4 36.23
10. Once Upon a Time des Sens / Oliva Combs / USA / Oliva Combs / 0/4 38.52

Ballard Records Milestone Victory in CSI5* MLSJ Grand Prix

Langley, BC — As Erynn Ballard (CAN) prepared to walk into the Thunderbird Arena for the jump-off of the CSI5* MLSJ Grand Prix, she verified her plan with her business partner, Ilan Ferder.

“I’m going fast, right?” she asked.

“You’re going to win,” he replied.

Ferder was right, and Ballard collected the first five-star Grand Prix victory of her career Sunday afternoon at Thunderbird Show Park’s Canadian Premier. Besting a seven-horse jump-off with the Rein Family LLC’s Nikka vd Bisschop—a horse she’s ridden for less than two months and has never jumped off with—she crossed the timers of Gregory Bodo’s (FRA) short course in 41.59 seconds.

It was fitting for a rider known for her catch-riding abilities.

“At 1.60m, it’s hard to go fast on any horse and be accurate and be careful and have your timing [right], but to do that on a horse you don’t know is a different level,” Ballard said. “But I think that she’s the kind of horse that is right there with you.”

On a day where clear rounds were hard to come by, just one other combination was double-clear; Grant Seger and Frieda finished second (42.35s). Nayel Nassar (EGY) and Igor van de Wittemoere had the winning time but ultimately finished third with a single rail (4/41.12).

“I think I had stride on my side today,” Ballard said. “I felt like I could use her stride all the way down to [jump] two. She’s quite handy. When I asked her to turn back to the combination, she was right there with me.

“I’m confident with how she jumps combinations. I can challenge her in and know I have scope coming out,” she continued. “And then the crowd wished [the rail] back in the cups for me [when we rubbed the last vertical].”

Multiple objectives were achieved Sunday for Ballard, whose main goal was to earn a Certificate of Competency for the Paris Olympic Games. That requires recording a score of 8 faults or less in a designated Olympic qualifying event at 1.60m.

“Heading toward the last two jumps [in the first round], I thought, ‘The good news is, even if knock these down, I’ll still get my certificate,'” Ballard shared. “Maybe that was the wrong thought to have cantering to the last jump, but it was also sort of a sense of relief.

“She was jumping so easy and riding so well, going the way that I needed her to go,” Ballard said, “and then the jump-off is just icing on the cake.”

Still, Ballard was hungry for the victory, particularly after finishing second in the CSI5* MLSJ Grand Prix at Monterrey (MEX) in the fall with another mount, Libido van’t Hofken. After her jump-off round, Ballard had to wait out the final result through four fast riders—Johnny Pals (NED), David O’Brien (IRL), Nassar, and Skylar Wireman (USA).

“I stood in the corner so I couldn’t see the TV, and I couldn’t see the ring,” Ballard revealed.

Ballard is aiming to make her first Olympic team this summer, and she’s excited about the opportunities partnering with “Nikka” could bring her. The mare previously jumped at the 2022 FEI World Jumping Championships (DEN) with Beth Underhill (CAN). Ballard was on that team as well with her longtime mount, Gakhir.

“I don’t have enough good things to say about the horse and how magical she is and how much she wants this the same as I do and her owners do,” Ballard gushed. “We’re off to a good start. She suits me, and I have a lot of confidence knowing that she’s done the job. She’s been to a Championship, so she knows the routine. She knows what she’s here for.”

For just a few extra moments Sunday evening, she was there to celebrate.

“It’s my first five-star [Grand Prix] win of my career. There are so many things I’m going to take away from this,” Ballard reflected. “I’m never going to forget this day.”

CSI5* MLSJ Grand Prix
Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

1. Nikka vd Bisschop / Erynn Ballard / CAN / Rein Family LLC / 0/0 41.59
2. Frieda / Grant Seger / CAN / Grant Seger / 0/0 42.35
3. Igor vd Wittemoere / Nayel Nassar / EGY / Evergate Stables / 0/4 41.12
4. Tornado / Skylar Wireman / USA / Skylar Wireman / Skylar Wireman / 0/4 43.7
5. Ladriano Z / Daniel Bluman / ISR / Over the Top Stables LLC and Bluestar Investments / 0/4 51.12
6. Zarkava Hero Z / Johnny Pals / NED / Johnny Pals / 0/8 42.78
7. El Balou OLD / David O’Brien / IRL / Chansonette Farm LLC / 0/12 45.17
8. Condara / Luis Larrazabal / VEN / Victoria Hertematte / 4 72.31
9. Casturano / Conor Swail / IRL / Conall Murray / 4 73.18
10. Truman / Amy MIllar / CAN / Millar Brooke Farm Ltd / 4 74.01

Nassar Makes the Right Call in CSI5* Winning Round 1.50m

Langley, BC — As Nayel Nassar (EGY) readied for the winner’s round of the CSI5* Winning Round 1.50m with Ivory TCS, he weighed his options.

There were two plays: Take the spookier route inside to the ATCO oxer two fences from home, or go quickly around. He determined that going around and utilizing his mount’s natural quickness was the smarter plan.

But as he navigated Gregory Bodo’s (FRA) shortened course, he loved the feeling he was getting from his horse. So he opted for Plan B and went inside. It worked out perfectly, ultimately resulting in the class win.

The winning time was 46.28 seconds. Kaitlin Campbell (USA) finished second with Connecticut (46.57s), followed by Nicole Walker (CAN) and Excellent B (47.42s).

“She can be a little spooky, and there was a lot going on in that area, so I originally planned to just run quickly around,” Nassar detailed. But then she gave me such a good feeling, and she jumped beautifully out of that double [before the turn] that I landed, and she was right there with me, [and] I could just sneak inside there. I think that was that was the right call.”

Nassar’s been making the correct decisions since Ivory TCS first caught his eye, before her previous rider Daniel Coyle (IRL) won three five-star classes of the same format with the mare in 2023, along with a CSIO4* Grand Prix in Wellington (USA). When Nassar first has an opportunity to acquire Ivory TCS, he passed, but after the mare’s outstanding 2023 season, he knew the timing was better to add the 11-year-old KWPN mare to his string. They’ve been competing together internationally since February.

“She’s just a real competitor. She won so much last year with Daniel. She’s the right age, and she’s totally my type of horse: She has a lot of blood,” Nassar expressed. “I had actually tried her quite a long period before I ended up buying her, and I’m glad I didn’t try her again, because I actually didn’t like her that much the first time I did. She was just very sensitive and a little tricky to steer…but she went on [and] had a brilliant season after I tried her the first time that it was hard to turn her down by the end of the year.”

“She’s been a great addition to our team, and it’s still early days, but, the early returns have been very, very positive,” he added.

On this particular occasion, Nassar and Ivory TCS produced clear efforts in both rounds of the winning round competition. While the 10 combinations that returned for the second round received a clean slate, a faultless score was ultimately required to advance, with 11 combinations jumping clear first rounds. You had to be quick enough, too, as Vanessa Mannix just missed out with Carmela Z, due to the clock.

Footspeed is for sure among Ivory TCS’ strengths, but according to Nassar, the mare’s greatest asset is an intangible: her try. The Jumpr stats back up the notion that the mare wants to give 100%: She’s averaging just 1.3 faults across all heights (1.35-1.60m) with Nassar, jumping clear rounds at a rate of 69%.

“She won so much last year. Daniel is an incredible rider, and I just hope to have even half the amount of success he had [with Ivory TCS],” Nassar said. “He jumped [the mare] in pretty big classes. I’d like to keep her at this level, around 1.50m, the occasional 1.55m. I think that’s her sweet spot, and she tries so hard every time that I don’t think it’s fair to ask her to try even more.”

CSI5* Winning Round 1.50m
Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

1. Ivory TCS / Nayel Nassar / EGY / Evergate Stables 0/0 46.28
2. Connecticut / Kaitlin Campbell / USA / Makenna Lemstra / 0/0 46.57
3. Excellent B / Nicole Walker / CAN / Nicole Waker / 0/0 47.42
4. Farinjo des Mec / Bliss Heers / USA / Bridgeside Farms LLC / 0/0 48.65
5. Goodbye / Bliss Heers / USA / Bridgeside Farms LLC / 0/4 45.27
6. Coolio 23 / Skylar Wireman / USA / Skylar Wireman / 0/4 45.63
7. Thomascourt Ballypatrick / Charlotte Jacobs / USA / North Star / 0/4 46.01
8. Castle OJ / Gabriela Reutter / CHI / Lumiere Horses Inc. 0/4 47
9. Cascalretto / Vanessa Hood / USA / Take Two LLC / 0/4 48.48
10. Jagger HX / Amy Millar / CAN / Team Eye Candy and Millar Brooke Farm / 0/8 48.42

Trelawny Trailblaizers Pick Up Where They Left Off in MLSJ Team Event

Langley, BC — The Trelawny Trailblazers ended the 2023 Major League Show Jumping season as the overall champions, dominating the league with 148 points—nearly 30 more than the runners-up, Team Roadrunners.

Entering the 2024 season, their roster appeared largely unchanged, with Daniel Bluman (ISR), Lillie Keenan (USA), Darragh Kenny (IRL), and Conor Swail (IRL) all returning to the lineup.

With the first leg of the new season underway at Thunderbird Show Park, the results haven’t changed much, either. The Trailblazers topped Saturday evening’s MLSJ Team Competition, besting the Northern Lights in the gold medal round.

The Trailblazers’ Charlotte Jacobs (USA) contributed immediately to her new team aboard her longtime partner, Rincoola Milsean, besting Vanessa Mannix (CAN) and Carmela Z in the jump-off, 37.49 seconds to 38.03 seconds.

Rupert Carl Winkelmann (GER) secured bronze for Helios aboard Quinn 33, out-dueling Matt Sampson (GBR) and Itoulon S.

“I think I felt a little bit of pressure. My horse didn’t have one rail in the team competition last year, first round and jump-off, and he’s very good at this level,” Jacobs said. “Going in today, I just wanted to do what we always do and stay competitive, and when I went in the jump-off, I knew the time was beatable, but I also knew I had to go for it.”

Bluman, Swail, and Jacobs made up the Trailblazers squad in Langley, and after the first round, the trio sat second behind MLSJ newcomers, the Archers. With an adjusted format, the second round—formerly a faults converted Table C format—debuted in 2024 as an additional Table A Speed round. Bluman with Corbie V.V. and Swail with Vital Chance de la Roque set their squad up for success with two clear efforts, securing their place in the gold medal round and putting them in the advantageous position of jumping last.

“We’re fortunate enough that we have a very strong team again this year,” Swail said. “I like [the new second round format]. Normally, you’ve got to just go as hard as you can go, but the mindset is different now. You can’t just do that; you still have to go and leave the jumps up, or there’s a big chance you won’t get into the top playoff.”

The duo put full trust in their newest teammate, and Jacobs delivered.

“It doesn’t come very often that you have a team where everyone is amazing. It’s cool, because you really, on paper, feel extremely strong,” Bluman said. “We respect each other as individual competitors, and then we are able to ride together. In other circumstances, we would never have the opportunity to ride together.”

It’s no secret that the Trailblazers will continue to hold court as the team to beat throughout the remainder of the season, which goes on a brief hiatus for the Paris Olympic Games before returning in August at Toronto. But with both Swail and Bluman ranking among the World’s top 10 jumping athletes at different points in the last two years, it’s not a foreign feeling—and no one is getting too comfortable at the top.

“We understand that we’re all very good at what we do, and we’re going in [to the MLSJ season] to win again,” Swail said. “We are the strongest on paper, but there are no graces to win because we look the strongest on paper. That means nothing. We’ve got to go in and keep backing up why we are the strongest.”

CSI5* MLSJ Team Event
Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

1. Trelawny Trailblazers
Rincoola Milsean / Charlotte Jacobs / USA / North Star / 0 37.49
Vital Chance de la Roque / Conor Swail / IRL / Conor Swail
Corbie V.V. / Daniel Bluman / ISR / Over the Top Stables, LLC & Bluestar Investments

2. Northern Lights
Carmela Z / Vanessa Mannix / CAN / Vanessa Mannix / 0  38.03
Atout des Trambles / Nicole Walker / CAN / Nicole Walker
Bonita vh Keizershof Z / Ali Ramsay / CAN / Ramsay Equestrian Inc.

3. Helios
Quinn 33 / Rupert Carl Winkelmann / GER / Eickendorf Horses Gmbh & Co. Kg
Copy Champ / Andrew Bourns / IRL / Bellwyn Farm LLC
El Balou OLD / David O’Brien / IRL / Chansonette Farm LLC

Goodwin Builds Winning “Reputation” in Amy Brattebo Real Estate Canadian Hunter Derby 3’6″ Open

Langley, BC — When Dustin Goodwin (CAN) was first introduced to the Holsteiner mare Reputation, he had to trust his instincts.

Reputation was a 1.45m Grand Prix horse turned exciting hunter prospect in Germany, and there was a line of interest. He had to put down a deposit—after only watching a video from his friend and agent, Marisa Metzger—just to travel abroad to try the mare. And when he got there, Reputation didn’t quite meet his expectations.

“She actually was way more difficult than I was hoping,” Goodwin recalled. “She has so much heart, I think [her previous owners] got a lot out of her, but to [jump 1.45m], they had to jazz her up quite a bit. I stepped around a little course a few times, and I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know.'”

But Goodwin’s instincts told him not to pass up the opportunity to bring the mare home. Reputation’s purchase came together quickly, and she was imported in December of 2023. At the Canadian Premier, the pair topped the Amy Brattebo Real Estate Canadian Hunter Derby Open in the mare’s first 3’6″ derby.

Their winning score was 112. Molly Graham and Cheers! finished second with a score of 106, followed by Light My Fire and Ashley Arnoldt and Light My Fire, who received a score of 105 from the judges.

“She’s so brave; she’ll jump anything,” Goodwin shared, “but when she’s really impressed [by the jumps], she’s over the standards. So, even when it’s a bit rogue and a bit out of control, the quality is so ‘Oh my god,’ [the judges] just reward her with good scores.”

The Canadian Hunter Derby is a one-round competition judged as a handy hunter class. Additional bonus points are awarded for jumping up to five high options on courses as well as for additional handiness and high performance displayed on course. The competition also serves as a qualifier for the Canadian Hunter Derby National Championship, held at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in November.

“This was her first bigger derby, and next week will be her first USHJA International Hunter Derby [at tbird’s Odlum Brown BC Open],” Goodwin said. “She won her last two USHJA National Hunter Derbies, and I think [derbies] will end up being her job.”

As the sensitive-yet-sweet mare has Americanized, Goodwin is glad he listened to his gut.

“She was a workhorse, and now she’s really into being spoiled. She’s a delight,” Goodwin said. “I honestly feel like she’s a horse of a lifetime. I’m so excited for what’s to come. I feel so lucky.”

Amy Brattebo Real Estate Canadian Hunter Derby 3’6″ Open
Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Score

1. Reputation / Dustin Goodwin / CAN / Kalli Heffner Gay / 112
2. Cheers! / Molly Graham / CAN / Olivia Aul / 106
3. Light My Fire / Ashley Arnoldt / CAN / Jennifer Arnoldt / 105
4. Black Pearl / Katrina Klimach / CAN / Katrina Klimach / 104
5. Corona OS / Charlotte Reeve / CAN / Charlotte Reeve / 100.5
6. Quincy / Mariah Barisoff / CAN / Mariah Barisoff / 99
7. Folklore / Olivia Aul / USA / Olivia Aul / 97.5
8. Diarado Dream / Emma Edwardson / CAN / Imagine Equestrian / 97
9. Fleetwood / Rodney Tulloch / CAN / Christine Maclean / 96
10. Heartvit ZH / Tracey App / CAN / Tracey Epp / 94.5

Pals Gets Motivated for CSI2* Wyndham St John Memorial Grand Prix

Langley, BC — Johnny Pals (NED) has been carefully managing Chacco’s Girl’s schedule, and he decided that if the jump-off got too large in the CSI2* Wyndham St John Memorial Grand Prix 1.45m, he’d save his mount for another day.

After jumping a beautiful first round clear, Pals’ friend Matthew Sampson (GBR) approached him ahead of a 10-horse jump-off.

“He said, ‘Johnny, you have to go for it.’ So we made a strategy to do it, and it worked out today,” Pals said.

Pals admitted, he wasn’t sure how fast he was going when he returned for the jump-off over Gregory Bodo’s (FRA) short track, but things went to plan, and he hoped it was good enough.

“I was fast enough to win the Grand Prix, so that’s good,” he said.

The winning time was 34.09 seconds. Conor Swail (IRL) finished second with My Lady Lavista (34.27s), followed by Kyle King (USA) and Ezio de Emeraud (34.73s).

“She’s a super jumper,” Pals said of his mount, a 13-year-old Oldenburg mare by Chacco-Blue. “She’s super sweet and wants to do a good job. She’s careful and has all the scope. I just fell in love with her.”

Pals has been paired with Chacco’s Girl since last fall; he now owns the mare in partnership with Karel Cox. Previously campaigned by Georgia Tame (GBR) up to the five-star level, the mare has jumped throughout Europe, but tbird’s Canadian Premier marked her first international competition in North America.

“[Another] good friend, Darragh Kenny said, ‘Come to America,’ so I made a plan,” Pals said. “I’d jumped all the shows in Europe already, so I wanted to do something new and see some new people, and I think it’s nice to do.”

Pals is now Canadian based until December, and when he returns to Europe, he’ll have a new base for his stable in Belgium.

“We have a big stable at home. We have a lot of horses, and [my wife] organizes everything at home,” he shared. “It’s very exciting. Next week, the horses move in [to the new stable].”

CSI2* Wyndham St John Memorial Grand Prix 1.45m
Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

1. Chacco’s Girl / Johnny Pals / Johnny Pals / NED / 0/0 34.09
2. My Lady Lavista / Conor Swail / IRL / Cherokee Show Horses Inc. / 0/0 34.27
3. Ezio de Emeraud / Kyle King / USA / Patricia Vasey / 0/0 34.73
4. Billy Lincoln / Gabriela Reutter / CHI / Lumiere Horses Inc / 0/0 35.77
5. S&L Quatro van de Meerputhoeve / Mario Deslauriers / CAN / S&L Farms / 0/0 36.29
6. Atomica des Sequoias Z / Kyle Timm / CAN / Rein Family LLC Same / 36.55
7. Com Es Ta / Tiffany Foster / CAN / 3 Roosters / 0/4 39.02
8. Fasole du Seigneur / Conor Swail / IRL / Hot Horses LLC / 0/6 48.89
9. Catinka 25 / Vanessa Mannix / CAN / Vanessa Mannix / 0/8 40.90
10. Conrad 155 / Rupert Carl Winkelmann / Eikendorf Horses Gmbh & Co. KG / 0/12 35.72

“Stan’s the Man” in CSI5* Uryadi’s Village Qualifier

Langley, BC — Conor Swail (IRL) has always felt at home at Thunderbird Show Park. The County Down, native was based out of Ontario when working his first North American job at Lothlorien Farm, and he’s made winning a habit over the course of the last decade at tbird.

But his mount Casturano lived even closer. Before being paired with Swail, the talented 11-year-old gelding—affectionately called “Stan”—was developed by Fort Langley-based Sam Buirs-Darvill (CAN), just minutes down the road from the tbird venue.

So when the pair came flying toward the final fence in a 9-horse jump-off in the CSI5* Uryadi’s Village Qualifier 1.50m, a few extra cheers carried them home as they crossed the timers fastest. “Stan” has some extra fans in Langley.

“It’s great to have a bit of local support. Stan just lived here, just across the road at Judy’s (Judy Wise, Buirs-Darvill’s mother) for several years,” Swail shared. “It’s great that the horse has been produced very well, first by Sam Buirs, and, thankfully I was able to take on that ride and continue his development. He is a wonderful horse.”

The pair claimed the second five-star victory of their partnership with a winning time of 35.47 seconds over Gregory Bodo’s (FRA) short track. Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Libido van’t Hofken finished second (35.77s), followed by Daniel Bluman (ISR) and Ladriano Z (36.2s).

“When I got [Casturano], the horse had a lot of quality, and where he would go after that, I wasn’t sure. Now that he’s been with me for a while, he seems to really be learning and understanding how to manage the height [of the fences] better.” said Swail, recalling Casturano’s early tendencies to over-jump. “He’s not being as extravagant as he used to be. He’s learning how to jump better, and that’s making it easier to jump the bigger jumps.

“At the moment, he’s not showing any signs of stopping,” he added, “no matter what level we go to.”

For tbird’s biggest week of the season—and lone five-star event—riders have brought out their best mounts, some with eyes toward starting off the 2024 Major League Show Jumping season on the right foot and others hoping to peak their mounts for the summer’s Paris Olympic Games. Twelve athletes representing five different nations punched their tickets to Bodo’s jump-off, but after the Canadian trio of Amy Millar, Mario Deslauriers and Vanessa Mannix elected to save their horses for another day, a jump-off of nine remained.

The win was secured early. First to jump, Bluman set an impressive standard with his championship partner, Ladriano Z. Utilizing Ladriano’s massive step, the pair left out to the jump-off’s third fence—a widely set oxer—and cut a sharp angle to the final oxer home, just past the ingate.

Swail immediately followed, and he upped the ante. Swiftly getting across the arena to the combination and taking every risk to the final two fences as he tossed the reins away, he showed off what has become a trademark display of midair core strength and balance—and faith in his equine partners. At Thunderbird especially, the move has been tough to beat, and on this occasion, it held through seven additional five-star combinations.

“I’ve been on a great run in the last three or four years, and I’m really enjoying that,” said Swail, currently the World No. 18. “That’s the most important thing for me at the moment—benefiting from the great horses I have. I don’t want to stop. I don’t like taking weeks off. These horses give me so many chances to win, and they’re so competitive, and they want to do everything for me. It’s fun times.”

CSI5* Uryadi’s Village Qualifier 1.50m
Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

1. Casturano / Conor Swail / IRL / Conall Murray / 0/0 35.47
2. Libido van’t Hofken / Erynn Ballard / CAN / Sofia Popescu / 0/0 35.77
3. Ladriano Z / Daniel Bluman / Over the Top Stables LLC and Bluestar Investments / ISR / 0/0 36.2
4. Cool Quarz / Shawn Casady / USA / Morning Star Sporthorses LLC / 0/0 36.88
5. Quality Star Z / Bliss Heers / USA / Bridgeside Farms LLC / 0/0 38.53
6. Northern Light / Tiffany Foster / CAN / Artisan Farms LLC / 0/0 38.95
7. Elka de la Pomme / Ashlee Bond / ISR / Ashlee Bond / 0/4 36.87
8. Cantucchini / Grant Seger / USA / Grant Seger / 0/4 40.99
9. Condara / Luis Larazzabal / VEN / Victoria Huertematte / 0/8 39.2
10. Truman / Amy Millar / CAN / Millar Brooke Farm Ltd / 0/WD
10. Emerson / Mario Deslauriers / CAN / Wishing Well Farm LLC / 0/WD
10. Kingston / Vanessa Mannix / CAN / Vanessa Mannix / 0/WD

Frisen Bookends Podium in MarBill Hill U25 1.40m

Langley, BC — Early in the starting order of the MarBill Hill U25 1.40m, Charlie Jones (GBR) took more than six seconds off the leading time, making a strong statement.

It quickly became apparent that it was going to take a big effort to best the Birmingham, England native and Katie Harris’ Macho-Blue PS. More than halfway through the class, Sutton Friesen (CAN) came closest to his 65.23-second time, but she was still nearly two seconds behind the mark with Adare Ya To (67.5s).

But she also had a second chance.

With just four riders left to contest Colm Quinn’s (IRL) speed track, Friesen swept to the top of the class with her second mount, not only taking the win with Ilanca, but also crossing the timers almost two seconds faster than Jones (63.85s). Jones settled for second, with Friesen bookending the podium with Adare Ya To.

“[Both of my horses] are really quick. [Ilanca] is super careful, so I can challenge her a bit, too—especially to the verticals, which is really handy,” Friesen shared. “She jumped amazing today, and she’s pretty much game for whatever I ask her to do. I had a plan to do a couple of the leave-outs, and she was perfect.”

Friesen and Ilanca have been partnered for the better part of the last year. Normally partial to geldings, Friesen decided to sit on the mare when she was brought out as an “extra” horse at a trial, even though Friesen was at the farm to look at other horses.

“We got along right away. She gave me a really good feeling, and I loved her instantly,” she said. “I think that when you’re riding a mare, it takes a little bit longer to connect with them, but once you do, you have a best friend for life.”

Friesen felt that connection really start to come together over the winter in Florida. It’s been a trust building process, but Friesen is now heading toward her biggest goal—August’s North American Youth Championships (NAYC)—with confidence.

“I’ve been wanting to do that for a really long time. I just haven’t had a horse,” Friesen said. “I’m really excited to feel like I have a good horse that will help me get to that level.”

In the meantime, she’s enjoying a Langley homecoming.

“I grew up about three hours from here. I used to come [to tbird] all the time when I was younger, and it is really my favorite show,” Friesen expressed. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It’s nice to be back.”

MarBill Hill U25 1.40m
Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

1. Ilanca / Sutton Friesen / CAN / Baystreet Equestrian / 0 63.85
2. Macho-Blue PS / Charlie Jones / GBR / Katie Harris / 0 65.23
3. Adare Ya To / Sutton Friesen / CAN / Baystreet Equestrian / 0 67.5
4. Qualobet DW / Skylar Wireman / USA / Shayne Wireman / 0 68.05
5. Esi Jet Set / Carly Stevens / CAN / Susan Stevens / 0 69.87
6. Nico 1427 / Kylie Martens / CAN / Kylie Martens / 0 71.28
7. Kristalic / Charlie Jobes / GBR / Morning Star Sporthorses / 0 71.36
8. Ecolano vs Romano / Georgia Knight / CAN / Georgia Knight / 4 66.62
9. Febvre de Lusse / Tanimara Macari / MEX / Tanimara Macari / 4 67.01
10. Canberre / Sloane Betker / CAN / Sloane Betker / 4 71.16

Bond Logs Winning Miles in CSI2* Qualifier

Langley, BC — Work and play converged for Ashlee Bond in the CSI2* Qualifier, as international competition kicked off Friday at tbird in the Fort Grand Prix Arena.

Bond stepped the 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding Tangassini up to international 1.45m competition for the first time, and the chestnut proved to be a quick study, besting a 17-horse jump-off. The winning time over Colm Quinn’s (IRL) short track was 36.95 seconds.

William Martin (CAN) finished second with Ricore Courcelle (37.7s), followed by Conor Swail (IRL) and My Lady Lavista (37.98).

Tangassini, affectionately called “Hank,” was purchased from Ilan Ferder for Bond’s client Kennedy Chang at the end of 2023, and Bond has been tasked with giving the gelding experience before her student takes the reins at the end of the 2024 season. While in her job description, riding Hank hasn’t been the most arduous task on her to-do list.

“I’m getting him ready for her to take over at the end of the year, and, I’m having fun doing it,” Bond said.

“He’s very easy to ride. [He has] a lot of blood, a good mouth, [and he’s] really comfortable,” she added. “He’s a cool guy.”

Small in stature—standing under 15.2h in height—Hank passed his latest test with flying colors after jumping nationally throughout the winter in Florida. While Bond admitted that she didn’t take every risk available on course, she felt confident enough in the young horse’s capabilities to jump at angles and out of stride.

“He’s very catty and clever, and you can slice and make pretty tight rollbacks, and he’s naturally very quick,” Bond detailed. “I didn’t push him, but I just allowed him to kind of go out of his own rhythm. There were a couple of places where if I was really trying to go all out, I could have done [fewer strides]. But it was his first time doing this—it’s the biggest class he’s ever done, his first international 1.45m—and he gave me everything and pulled out the win today. I was very impressed with him.”

After growing up in California, Bond moved her operation to Wellington, FL in 2021. The Canadian Premier marks her first time back at tbird since the move.

“I haven’t been here in two years, but I am happy to be back. It’s my favorite horse show,” Bond said. “The management is top notch, and the facility is wonderful, and the footing is great. They just put the horses and the riders first, and it really shows in the quality of the show they put on.”

CSI2* Qualifier 1.45m
Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

1. Tangassini / Ashlee Bond / ISR / Ashlee Bond / 0/0 36.95
2. Ricore Courcelle / William Martin / CAN / Lesley Martin / 0/0 37.70
3. My Lady Lavista / Conor Swail / IRL / Cherokee Show Horses Inc. / 0/0 37.98
4. Panter JVH / Nicole Walker / CAN / Nicole Walker / 0/0 38.81
5. Christian’s Cash / Bliss Heers / USA / Bridgeside Farms LLC / 0/0 39.00
6. S&L Quatro van de Meerputhoeve / Mario Deslauriers / CAN / S&L Farms / 0/0 40.81
7. Genial de b’Neville / Mario Deslauriers / CAN / Luja LLC / 0/0 42.33
8. One Edition / James Chawke / IRL / Vanessa Mannix / 0/4 37.56
9. Luikan Q / Ben Asselin / CAN / Attache Stables / 0/4 38.4
10. Pepita vd Rollebeek / McKayla Langmeier / USA / Rafferty Farm LLC / 0/4 39.09

X