Williams and Joppe K Score First Big Tour Win and Personal Best in Langley

Langley, BC — Jennifer Williams (USA) and Joppe K logged their first CDI3* win on Friday in the Touch of Class CDI Dressage show at Thunderbird Show Park. It’s news that will surprise exactly no one who has been following their career. They’ve been a formidable partnership since the start.

Williams discovered Joppe K as a coming five year old in The Netherlands in 2018 and was immediately taken by his willingness to learn. “Even when I tried him, he just really spoke my language and understood. We clicked right away,” she recalled.

The KWPN gelding was originally purchased as a sales prospect. Once imported to the U.S., however, it became apparent to Williams that Joppe K had more to offer.

“We quickly discovered that he was very special in the way that he learned and the way that he presented himself. The gaits were [always] nice, but as he developed strength, he started to show really super characteristics and movement and just had a really great knack for sitting and piaffes and all of that,” she continued.

“So we decided very shortly after the purchase that we wanted to keep him and develop him for the future.”

Come spring of 2020, they made their international debut in Wellington, FL and won the CDIYH Six Year Old Final—on a massive 85.600% score. The American rider and striking chestnut have been steadily climbing the training scale and dressage ranks since, earning a pair of top finishes—and an 85% for quality—in the CDIYH Seven Year Old Finals in Wellington in 2021 and podium finishes up to the CDI3* level in 2022 and 2023.

On Friday at the Touch of Class CDI at tbird, Williams and Joppe K danced to their career highest win and personal best score in the FEI Grand Prix CDI3*, sponsored by Wendy Christoff of Delta BC, earning a 70.087 from the judges.

“I feel like today he was really with me. It was a pretty mistake-free test. And he felt more like he does day to day in the training than he has yet in the international ring,” said Williams, who trains with Christophe Theallet and Oded Shimoni.

“I was really proud of just the ride-ability and I thought the changes were quite lovely—the two [tempis], the one [tempis]. He sat and kept the pirouettes very nice and tight and active. I was really happy with that. It was a consistent, quality test. He felt confident and happy throughout. And that was really what I wanted to accomplish today.”

At just nine, there’s plenty more to see from Joppe K, said his rider.

“Everything about him has been very easy mentally. He’s just a very happy horse that loves to work and loves to be a partner,” said Williams.

“He stepped up to the Grand Prix in August of last year as an eight year old and I think he scored a 73 nationally! It’s a big jump to go from national to CDI and our goal is just to keep making him feel confident and loving what he’s doing in the ring.”

And if they happen to qualify for the Pan American Games this fall, that would be okay too, smiled Williams.

Williams and Joppe K will next contest the Grand Prix Special CDI3* on Saturday at tbird.

CDI3* Grand Prix Results
Rider / Nation / Horse / E / H / C / M / B / Total

1. Jennifer Williams / USA / Joppe K / 68.804 / 69.783 / 69.783 / 70.978 / 71.087 / 70.087
2. Pia Fortmuller / CAN / Frieda / 67.500 / 66.630 / 68.913 / 68.696 / 68.696 / 68.087
3. Rochelle Kilberg / CAN / Florentino / 62.609 / 64.239 / 62.826 / 65.326 / 68.696 / 64.739
4. Sara Pocock / CAN / Connaisseur / 58.087 / 60.261 / 58.304 / 60.261 / 60.370 / 59.457

Double Take! Team Ireland Takes the CSIO5* Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Canada—Again

It was deja vu in the $400,000 CSIO5* Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Canada. For the second year in a row, Team Ireland jumped to the top of the leaderboard to close out the Odlum Brown BC Open CSIO5* tournament at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, BC.

Under a pristine blue sky and in front of a capacity crowd, the Irish Team led by chef d’equipe Michael Blake once again rose to the occasion, showcasing the incredible depth of their horse (and rider) power.

World no. 10 ranked rider Shane Sweetnam and James Kann Cruz led the charge, posting a pair of clear rounds. (The only other double clear on the day came from Canada’s own Erynn Ballard and Gakhir).

Daniel Coyle and upcoming mount Gisborne VDL were the drop score in the first round with 8 faults, but followed up with a clear in the second.

“I’m just getting to know the horse,” explained Coyle. “I have to learn how to ride him the best way for him. After I jumped the first round, I said to Michael, I need to do different strides [than we walked]. And Michael trusted that I knew how to get the best out of my horse. Thankfully, he jumped a beautiful round in the second round.”

Third to ride for the team, David Blake and Claude had a rail in the first round, but delivered Ireland’s third clear in the second, sparing anchor rider and world no. 8 Conor Swail and Nadal Hero & DB from having to jump in round two.

“Daniel and David didn’t cover themselves in glory in the first round [posting eight and four faults respectively],” said Ireland’s always competitive chef.

“Daniel, I said, you owe me one, so you better take care of that. And I got it [in the second round]. David spared Conor having to jump in the third round, and we were obviously of two minds as to who we were going to put in against the clock should it come to that.”

Finishing on a final overall score of just four faults, Ireland was tied with Canada until the final horse entered the Fort Grand Prix arena. With two foot perfect rounds from Ballard and Gakhir and a 4/0 from Mario Deslauriers and Emerson (Tiffany Foster and Hamilton were the drop score in both rounds on 9 and 4), it came down to Amy Millar and Truman.

If they could repeat their clear from round one, it would force a jump-off with Ireland. If they had so much as a time fault, Ireland would win. Unfortunately, Millar just touched fence six and it fell, giving Ireland the win.

Canada finished in second on a final score of eight faults, with the United States in third on a final score of 28.

“It was a sweet victory for us today because Canada had a really strong team,” said Michael. “We knew we would have to have a really strong team or else we couldn’t beat them. Thankfully, luck went our way today.

“I’d like to thank Chris and the Thunderbird team and I’d like to thank Longines because without them we wouldn’t have this great show we have today. To jump in the sunshine on this wonderful field, for me, it’s an honor.”

Added tbird President Chris Pack, “We couldn’t ask for better weather. We had a great turnout today. It’s tbird’s 50th anniversary. It was right down to the end and that’s all you can ask for any competition. We’re very appreciative of Longines and all the teams that came out to compete.”

Sunday’s Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Canada was the third and final leg in the North/Central America & Caribbean division of the 2023 FEI Longines Nations Cup™ series and the final chance for Canada, Mexico and USA to land a coveted spot at the Final in Barcelona this September.

Team USA finished the season with 280 points, winning earlier this year in Mexico and America. Sunday’s results leave Mexico and Canada tied on points (240), which is broken by the number of clear rounds jumped by each nation across the series. With seven clears, Mexico also secured their spot in the Barcelona Final.

$400,000 CSIO5* Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Canada
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Faults

1. James Kann Cruz / Shane Sweetnam / Gizmo Partners LLC / 0/0
1. Gisborne VDL / Daniel Coyle / Ariel Grange Pine / 8/0
1. Claude / David Blake / Hollow Farm / 4/0
1. Nadal Hero & DB / Conor Swail / Mannon Farm 0/DNS

2. Hamilton / Tiffany Foster / The Hamilton Group / 9/4
2. Gakhir / Erynn Ballard / Esperanza Imports LLC & Ilan Ferder / 0/0
2. Emerson / Mario Deslauriers / Wishing Well Farm LLC / 4/0
2. Truman / Amy Millar / Millar Brooke Farm Ltd & Overlund / 0/4

3. Kalinka van’t Zorgvliet / Karl Cook / Signe Ostby / 8/0
3. Edocenta / Charlotte Jacobs / North Star / 8/4
3. Karlin van’t Vennehof / Lacey Gilbertson / Seabrook LLC / 16/8
3. Landon / Kent Farrington / Haity McNerney / 0/8

Third Time’s the Charm for King & Cerolino

American Kyle King is not accustomed to taking the ‘conservative clear’ — he’s only done it twice in his career and both times with Ilan Feder’s 10-year-old Holsteiner Cerolino.

On Saturday afternoon at Thunderbird Show Park, it was the smart strategy in the 1.50m CSIO5* Paladin Cup. As the final of six horses to take the field for Peter Holmes’ (CAN) jump-off track, King watched as rider after rider pulled rails at speed. He knew the assignment: leave the rails up and go quick enough to not amass too many time faults. For someone as hardwired for speed as ultra-competitive King, taking the ‘safe route’ does not come naturally.

“It’s the second time [taking the slow clear] has happened to me in my life and it’s been on that horse twice,” laughed King. “I almost blew it the first time in Thermal… [so] I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t want to be in this position again.’”

With no double clears on the leaderboard, however, the steady clear was the wise choice. This time Cerolino left the rails up, crossing the timers in a steady 48.38 seconds. Santiago Lambre (BRA) and Chattanooga took runner up position with four faults in 38.37. Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Game Over settled for third with four faults in 39.39.

“[Cerolino] has a big, big stride, and so I can drop strides everywhere and he’s very agile. When I first started riding him I thought he was always going to be a little bit slow. But he’s not, especially in a field like this. Today was slow, but I was just trying to go clear. I thought he really tried for me and jumped super the second round.” 

Three of the six combinations to contest the short course had the ‘tbird Canoes’ jump down and when asked, King said he took extra care at the fence to ensure success.

“Even in the first round, I wanted to make sure I got really straight to it. It’s a little bit stuck in a funny position.”

Together for about a year, the pair has averaged 57% in clear rounds and top ten finishes at the 1.45m level in 2023 (Jumpr App).

“We bought him for one of my clients, who then ended up wanting to trade him out to another horse,” explained King. “While that was happening, Cerolino didn’t really do all that much. So [owner] Ilan Feder told me that I could produce him a little bit further… And he’s just been money ever since. He makes a cheque every show. He’s just really, really consistent.

“I’ve been a little bit unlucky this week —I should have won the other night. I had the time with one jump down. I had one jump down yesterday. It finally came out today.”

$38,500 CSIO5* Paladin Cup 1.50m

Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

1. Cerolino / Kyle King / USA / Ilan Ferder / 0/0 38.38
2. Chattanooga / Santiago Lambre / BRA / Hf Farms / 0/4 38.37
3. Game Over / Erynn Ballard / CAN / Ilan Ferder / 0/4 39.39
4. Chakkalou PS / Patricio Pasquel / MEX / Gestüt Lewitz / 0/4 41.92
5. Menko vd Wellington / Andrew Bourns / IRL / Andrew Bourns / 0/4 45.87
6. Zeusz / Santiago Lambre / BRA / Lévai Csilla / 0/4 47.72
7. Landon / Kent Farrington / USA / Haity McNerney / 3 86.51
8. Seringat / Patricio Pasquel / MEX / Ainhoa Manero / 4 77.23
9. Cadeau Z / Mandy Porter / USA / Risen Eq Holdings LLC / 4 81.26
10. Etundel de Marocy / Karl Cook / USA / Signe Otsby / 4 81.71

History and Hard Work Pay Off for Barisoff and Quincy in DIHP Canadian Hunter Derby 3’6”.

Patience paid off Saturday afternoon for Mariah Barisoff, who topped the $3,000 DIHP Canadian Hunter Derby 3’6” Open with her horse Quincy at Thunderbird Show Park’s Odllum Brown BC Open. 

The pair finished on a score of 102, just a half-point ahead of runners-up Ashley Arnold and Light My Fire (101.5). Sloane Betker and Crack finished third (101).

Trainer Eliza Hunt of Delta, BC-based Obsidian Hunter Jumper made a clean sweep of the podium, with riders taking first through third, as well as fifth.

The winning pair knows each other well but was light on recent experience. A recent nursing school graduate, Barisoff was making her 3’6” hunter derby debut; it was also her first show back after taking time off for school. She purchased Quincy as a green five-year-old in 2015, but the pair hasn’t competed a full season since 2019, when they ended the year making the trip to Toronto for The Royal Winter Fair and CET Medal Finals.

“This was our first show back at Thunderbird in my hometown, and this derby meant a lot to me,” Barisoff said. “I was quite nervous going in; we’ve been knocking the rust off a bit all week, and I was just hoping for a smooth round.

The pair received a base score of 85 points, adding 10 for taking the high options and an additional seven for handiness.

“I wasn’t going to do the inside option, but he was just behaving so well, and he really feels like a team player right now. So I gave it a go and it came out perfectly,” Barisoff explained.

Hunt attributed Barisoff’s success to extra time the rider had been putting into her preparation, improving the quality of her warm-up and hacking her horse in the mornings before competition.

“He’s a cheeky fella,” laughed Barisoff. “I’d describe him as a bit of a ‘jock.’ He knows he’s good at his job, and he doesn’t really want to practice. And because he’s an exuberant horse, he’s a very good jumper. But he keeps me humble. Even though you have a great round today, tomorrow might not be the same. He keeps me on my toes.”

Riding is in Barisoff’s blood. Her mother is a barrel racer and still competes today.

“My mom has ridden since she was 13,” said Barisoff. “When she got married to my dad, he bought a horse so they could go trail riding together. Once I came along, I kind of stole my dad’s horse and traveled with my mom. 

“I have a barn of Quarter Horses at home — Quincy is my only warmblood,” she continued. “So he lives at home with a barn full of rodeo horses! And me and my mom go through it together. We both take our flat lessons, and we go to our separate worlds. I love it.”  

$3,000 DIHP Canadian Hunter Derby 3’6” Open

Finish Position / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner  / Total Score

  1. Quincy / Mariah Barisoff / CAN / Mariah Barisoff / 102
  2. Light My Fire / Ashley Arnoldt / CAN / Jennifer Arnoldt / 101.5
  3. Crack / Sloane Betker / CAN / Sloane Betker / 101
  4. VDL Iglesias / Quinn Partridge / USA / Effortless Equestrian Farm / 94
  5. St Martin’s Lane / Chloe Mache / CAN / Chloe Mache / 89
  6. Lexington 70 / Petra Pinkerton / CAN / Petra Pinkerton / 86
  7. Talaro PS / Philippa Melski / USA / Mila Anderson / 84
  8. Old Times LS / Samantha Smith / USA / Red Gate Farm / 83
  9. Cyclone Z / Elspeth Longridge / CAN / Elspeth Longridge / 72
  10. Corona OS / Charlotte Reeve / CAN / Charlotte Reeve / 68

Fairy Tale Ending for Shawn Casady & NKH Cento Blue in CSIO5* Longines Grand Prix

The stars aligned for Shawn Casady (USA) Friday afternoon at Thunderbird Show Park, as the 28-year-old recorded the biggest victory of his career with NKH Cento Blue in the CSIO5* Longines Grand Prix. 

It took nearly a third of the class for a clean round to materialize over Peter Holmes’ (CAN) track, and it was Langley, BC’s own Samantha Buirs to lay it down with Chic D Emma Z. Once she did, World No. 10 Shane Sweetnam (IRL) followed suit with Out of the Blue SCF. But a trend it was not.

While fences fell in relatively equal measure, the last fence, the Longines vertical (‘unlucky’ 13) fell seven times. Just two more clears joined the jump-off: Canada’s Kara Chad with Igor GPH and the last pair in the ring, Casady and Cento Blue.

First to return over the short course, Buirs had an unfortunate refusal, costing her a chance at victory. Sweetnam laid down a clean round to put the pressure on, stopping the timer in 43.05 seconds. Elimination befell Chad and Igor, it was all down to Casady.

According to Jumpr App, Casady and KNH Cento Blue have performed with 4 faults or less 80% of the time in 2023, so it was only a matter of time before they had their turn in the winner’s circle. Today was the day, as they posted a clean round in 42.46 seconds.

“I didn’t see Shane’s whole jump off,” Casady explained. “[I was] just wanting to be double clear and consistent. For a big horse, he covers so much ground. I think that’s kind of where we were. We snuck in.

“I could have been fourth at the worst and it would have been a good day. I was just I was so proud of him,” he continued. “We were walking up to the ring together, and he knew we had a big a big day ahead of us.”

Casady, who grew up catch-riding ponies, didn’t acquire the ride on Cento Blue until his owner, Erin Davis-Heineking had an unfortunate injury, requiring shoulder surgery. She asked Casady to take on the ride and sent her horse to California, where the new partnership immediately started to win. After being named the U.S. team alternate for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of the United States of America, Casady was encouraged to go on to Thunderbird.

For the past two weeks in Langley, Casady has been living and working out of his RV, grooming on his own and enjoying having the time to really get to know Cento Blue.

“He’s very food driven. He loves attention. And if you’re anywhere in the barn, he has his head out of his stall,” Casady described. “Every time you go near where there might be a snack, he looks over and wonders if you’re going to grab something for him. But he’s polite about it. He knows not to be rude.”

Perhaps it was that strengthened bond and more intimate familiarization with his mount that helped propel the pair to their biggest win yet—and inspired Casady to a moment of reflection.

“I know [that] in order to be successful, you have to believe in it and be confident. But I also know to be humble and to make sure I’m, you know, dotting the I’s and crossing my T’s,” Casady said. “I’m really grateful for all the effort that’s gone into [the journey] and the people and horses that have believed in me. It’s just a really special moment for it all to come together.”

Patricio Pasquel Opens Odlum Brown BC Open with a Win in CSIO5* Nations Welcome

A huge week of international show jumping kicked off at the Odlum Brown BC Open Thursday with speed being the name of the game for CSI2* and CSIO5* competitors all day.

In the feature class of the day, the $38,500 CSIO5* Nations Welcome, world no. 8 Conor Swail (IRL) was third in the ring of the 39-horse starting list and first to post a blazing round with Count Me In, stopping the clock in 60.80 seconds.

From there, the rounds were fast and they were clean, but sadly not in combination. America’s Shawn Casady came close with NKH Cento Blue (60.94) and then Swail and his second horse Casturano laid down a clear in 61.43 to move into third.

The class seemed all-but over. Then in came Mexico’s Patricio Pasquel with nine-year-old stallion Chakkalou PS — second to last in the group.

The pair put the pedal to the metal, shaving turns and strides off the Peter Holmes-designed 1.50m course. Stopping the timers in 60.40 seconds, they took over the lead with one to go. When Ireland’s Jordan Coyle and For Gold pulled a rail, it was Mexico’s win. Swail would have to settle for second (and fourth), pushing Casady into third.

“It’s his first 1.50m win,” smiled Pasquel, who took over the ride in Chakkalou PS’s 7-year-old year. “This is one we’ve tried to build up his confidence since I’ve had him and now I feel him ready to move up to the bigger stuff. You have to be patient.

“He’s coming along really well. He covers a lot of ground, which helps a lot. He is very fast and, to be honest, I didn’t know if I had [Conor] but when I looked and saw I did, I was pretty happy because he’s really fast! Any day you beat Conor Swail is a good day!” he laughed.

Show jumping heats up Friday with the CSI2* Friends of tbird at 8:45am, the CSIO5* West Coast Cup at 12:15pm and the marquee event of the day the $235,000 CSIO5* Longines Grand Prix at 4:00pm. Tickets are available on tbird.ca.

It’s Game Over for Erynn Ballard in CSI2* Grand Prix

A top Canadian female rider led another victory gallop at Thunderbird Sunday afternoon, to close out the MLSJ Canadian Premier Week for 2023. 

Former leading female rider in the world, Erynn Ballard piloted Game Over with precision and tact to a double-clear, shaving 0.09 of a second off Conor Swail’s time to cross the finish in 38.70 seconds — a time that would hold up for the remainder of the class.  

A new partnership coming into Ilan Ferder’s sales stable, Ballard has competed Game Over less than a half-dozen times. She’s the first to admit sometimes horses just come into your life and there is an instant connection.

“Some of these horses appear in my life and it was like an instant match,” says Ballard. “I feel like this horse can make me fly. I believe so much in him. And he goes the way that I like — he’s forward. He’s a little spicy. He has a big opinion. And honestly, I just adore him.

I liked the course [today] when I walked it. I thought it was quite suitable for him. The tight time allowed also suits him. His feet always need to be moving. So you ride every round like it’s a speed class. And he also doesn’t have so much experience going fast. So the more he learns it, the better he gets. But he’s naturally fast. He doesn’t even have to go as fast as the others or do as few strides and he’s already faster. He’s just light in the air. He’s light off the ground. He’s really agile. And I think that we will see big things from this horse. I’m very excited about him.”

Ballard anticipates Game On becoming her true “second horse” to back up top horse Gakhir, a luxury that not all Canadian upper level riders manage to maintain.

“We rely on Gakhir so much. And he always steps up to the plate and he always gives us a result. But how nice would it be for him to have to have another horse so that he doesn’t have to be the one that we rely on all the time? It just shows how hard it is to get that horsepower and keep that horsepower. But when you have a horse that makes you feel like you can fly, you already are ahead of the game. So I have a team now and that’s really cool and really special.” 

It was truly an international field of competitors in the immaculate grass Fort Grand Prix Arena, with the top ten alone including riders from Canada, Ireland, Mexico, Korea and the United States. 

Ireland’s Conor Swail, the number 10 rider in the world, finished just behind Ballard in second place with a clean jump off round and a time of 38.79, with Patricio Pasquel of Mexico in third and Alicia Santa Rosa fractions of a second behind in 38.79.

This being Thunderbird Show Park’s 50th Anniversary, much discussion has centred around the idea of “legacy” over the past week. When asked what her legacy might be, Ballard very thoughtfully remarked, “In this sport I feel like there’s so much more to it than just riding. I hope people will remember me for being a great rider, but also a big influence in the sport and an influence to young girls that see me and they say ‘one day I want to be just like her.’ I think that Tiffany [Foster] probably feels the same way. So to have that for Canada — to have such a strong female presence and influence, I hope I’m remembered for things like that as well as for being the rider that I am.”

Game On, Erynn, Game On.

CSI2* $38,500 Grand Prix 1.45m 

Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Country / JO Faults:Time

  1. Game Over / Erynn Ballard / Ilan Ferder / CAN / 0:38.7
  2. Casturano / Conor Swail / Rider / IRE / 0:38.79
  3. Alicia Santa Rosa / Patricio Pasquel / MEX / 0:38.98
  4. Kadans Van De Mispelaere / Jaehee Jeon / KOR / 0:41.3
  5. Chicago CM / Eric Krawitt / Rider / CAN / 0:41.86
  6. Cerolino / Kyle King / Ilan Ferder / USA / 4:38.78
  7. Chic D Emma Z / Samantha Buirs-Darvill / Rider / CAN / 4:39.52
  8. NKH Cento Blue / Shawn Casady / October Hill Sales / USA / 4:40.27
  9. Howard Du Seigneur / James Chawke / IRE / 4:42.36
  10. Chili Pepper H M Z / Lillie Keenan / Rider / USA / 4:43.72

Nicole Bourgeois Finds Way to Top of 7Up Stables USHJA International 3’6” Hunter Derby

Nicole Bourgeois of Wilsonville, Oregon, captured the $25,000 USHJA International 3’6” Hunter Derby with Wayfinder owned by Hilary Sosne. 

Leading from start to finish with an overall score of 348, Bourgeois topped her closest competitor Samantha Smith with Pierre, by a full 22 points.

When asked about her strategy for the two rounds, Bourgeois was quick to praise Wayfinder and their partnership:

“My strategy in the first round was just have a really smooth round,” she commented. “He’s an amazing jumper. As long as I somewhat get him near the jumps, he will do his job. It’s really nice to have a horse that jumps that well. I’m lucky he’s not spooky, so I don’t have to worry about that. I spooked a little bit at the barrels because in the Derby on Thursday the barrels were trouble for some. He’s not spooky, but I was a little spooky at them. He didn’t care at all and he couldn’t have been better. I’m lucky that I have such a nice horse to ride.

“I was a little conservative on my second round. Normally, I kind of go guns blazing in my second round, especially lately coming from California where there are just so many in the class. I was lucky here. There weren’t quite as many in the class, so I had a little bit of more of a conservative approach in the second round. I didn’t jump any of the high options. I just was going for a nice smooth second round, which he gave me.”

Congratulations are also in order as Bourgeois is an aunt to a new pony rider — her sister Kendall had a baby Friday night. The next generation of tbird riders is born just in time for another 50 years.

©tbird/Kady Dane

Young Brit Charlie Jones Tops the $15,000 MarBill Hill U25 1.40m Grand Prix… And it All Started With a Girl

Charlie Jones (GBR) took top honours in Sunday’s $15,000 MarBill Hill U25 1.40m Grand Prix to cap the U25 division at Thunderbird Show Park’s 2023 Canadian Premier week.

When asked how he came to be here, from his native Warwickshire, England, the nephew of Olympic gold medalist Nick Skelton replied with a smile “Well, I met this girl…”

Jones, 24, and 8-year-old Montserrat are now based out of Calgary, with fellow international show jumper Bretton Chad (the girl) at Stone Ridge Farms. 

They had the luck of the draw on their side, going last in the nine horse jump-off. With only three double-clears in the second round, leaving the rails up already put them in the top three. Stopping the clock in 39.15 seconds put them three tenths of a second ahead of runners-up Virginia Bonnie (USA) and Heldorado on their 39.43. Canadian Lexie Ray finished in third with Cara 199, on a clean round and time of 42.17.

“[Montserrat] was right on it today. He’s a small horse so it’s not always so easy, but he has a big stride. He’s really sweet and is one of my favourites because he just is really hungry when he goes in a jump off. He really wants to win.

“He’s just 8, I’ve had him for a year. He’d done a few 1.30m classes in England as a 7-year old, and then we bought him from there. We competed here last year, and he won the 7-year-old Final here and then was second the next week. So he just loves that field!” 

The 1.40m Grand Prix was the final class in the week-long U25 division presented by MarBill Hill. Marion Cunningham and Bill Tilford of MarBill Hill Farm in Bradford, Ontario are big proponents of Canadian young riders and since 2017 have supported the U25 Young Riders Development series with competitions at Angelstone, Ottawa and Caledon (all Ontario) in addition to here at tbird.

“The U25 division is just a fantastic division,” remarked Jones. “You need it from when you’re coming out of young riders, especially to the age of 25. It’s a big step to go straight into CSI5* grand prix and big classes. So it’s a really good division to have at the 1.40m level, with good prize money. And this is one of the biggest tracks my younger horse has jumped to date as he’s just moving up to this level. Big thank you to MarBill Hill for this division.”

$15,000 MarBill Hill U25 1.40m Grand Prix

Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Country / Rd 1 Faults/JO Faults:Time

  1. Montserrat OS / Charlie Jones / Stone Ridge Farms / GBR / 0/0:39.15
  2. Heldorado / Virginia Bonnie / Nina Bonnie / USA / 0/0:39.43
  3. Cara 199 / Lexi Ray / Rider / CAN / 0/0:42.17
  4. Ielinea JTL / Jaydan Stettner / Rider / USA /. 0/4:38.45
  5. Carquilot / Francisco Pasquel Vega / Rider / MEX /. 0/4:39.69
  6. ESI Jet Set / Carly Stevens / Grant & Susie Stevens / CAN / 0/4:40.84
  7. Cabablue / Patricio Pasquel JR / Rider / MEX / 0/4:41.7
  8. Texas / Justine Cha / Christine Cha / CAN / 0/4:44.27
  9. Dustin 254 / Aren Ozker / Rider / CAN / 0/4:45.79
  10. Pesto Adelheid Z / Lily Van Elliot / Yvonne Van Duin / CAN / 1:83.58

Tiffany Foster Comes Full Circle with First 5* Star Grand Prix Win

It’s hard not to lead with a bit of a cliché following Tiffany Foster’s win in Saturday’s CSI5* MLSJ Grand Prix at Thunderbird Show Park.

“Hometown Hero” seems the obvious choice, Foster having grown up here and going on to represent Canada at the Olympics. (She’s currently is the highest placed Canadian rider on the FEI Longines World Rankings.) But you could also lead with “nestled in the foothills of BC, with Mount Baker peeking through the trees surrounding the grand prix ring, under a clear blue sky…” Or you could start with it’s her first CSI5* Grand Prix title. 

It’s all true. 

Clean rounds were in short supply over the maximum-built 1.60m course from Germany’s Olaf Petersen. 

Fifth in the ring, Canada’s Erynn Ballard posted the first clean aboard her Herning 2022 World Championship mount Gakhir, much to the delight of the capacity crowd (and Olaf, presumably). Then the waiting game began. Horse after horse racked up faults on the leaderboard as the class wore on and then Karl Cook (USA) and Kalinka Van’T Zorgvliet with a heartbreaking two time faults.

Fortunately, Foster (CAN) with Northern Light and Shane Sweetnam (IRL) with James Kann Cruz were also able to find a fault-free path in the first round, followed by Lillie Keenan (USA) and Fasther, who stopped the clock smack on the time allowed of 73.00 seconds. Had she been 73.01 she would have had a time fault. Now we have a jump off.

First to return, Ballard had no choice but to play all her cards and force the rest to chase her. It was not to be, with the tbird vertical followed by the final fence coming down.

Foster was next, riding the fine line between a more conservative clear and still putting the pressure on. Clear in 39.18 seconds moved them into the lead.

Sweetnam’s spectacular James Kann Cruz, a horse with a 71% top 10 finish rate at the height (Jumpr App), had an unfortunate early rail. Keenan’s proven campaigner Fasther — the pair have earned 13 podium finishes and over 324k euro in prize money since 2019 (Jumpr App) — had a very hard look heading to the first fence, followed up by a refusal at the tbird vertical. The win was Foster’s.

Her first five star Grand Prix title. 

“It still hasn’t quite hit me, but I’m so happy and I’m so happy that this happened here at Thunderbird,” said an emotional Foster.

Northern Light (‘Nora’) is not the horse that she generally uses for these larger classes.

“I’ve called on her a couple of times to step up and jump some of these big 1.60m classes,” Foster explained. “But in general, I sort of keep her in the 1.50m/1.55m slot. That’s partly because I am so lucky with my owners and I have other horses that can jump that height so easily in Figor and Hamilton. 

“She’s the kind of horse who doesn’t like to jump that big every single week, because I think she has to make such a great effort. So I have played with jumping really small rounds and just keeping her happy, comfortable and relaxed. I think that I’m figuring out the formula with her. She also likes a smaller sand arena.

“So if I continue with my strategy and place her in the right spots, I think that I should never say that she’s my ‘third’ horse again!”

Both Sweetnam and Keenan admitted fault for their faults on course. “I’ll take the blame for that [rail]. I just wanted to be tighter to the triple bar, and the distance didn’t really come up,” said Sweetnam.

“But I’m very happy with the way he jumped and it was great class.”

And Keenan: “My horse could not have done any more for me and I made a really stupid mistake. That’s how the sport goes when you’re trying to win, but I mean, with the mistake I made, with the fact that I ended up third, I don’t deserve to be third, but my horse deserves everything. So I’m just really, really happy and grateful that I got to keep going with him and looking forward to the next show.”

Course designer Olaf Petersen didn’t anticipate a big jump off, but admitted to a moment of nerves.

“I knew we had a very good group of horses,” said Petersen. 

“Also it was an Olympic qualifier and so today was really five star to the maximum build. I knew that we wouldn’t get more clear rounds. But the riders walked the course and they thought it was a little bit on the easy side. Then I got a little bit nervous, until I watched the first horses jumping.”

Show president and operations director Chris Pack summed up how the tbird family feels about bringing the Major League Jumping tour to the Park: “I think I speak for them when we say we’ve become fans. We’ve had three riders in the top ten in the world here this week. That’s never happened. This was our biggest purse for a Grand Prix, and for Tiff to win it at home is pretty cool. We had a great afternoon, lots of people. So we’re really appreciative of what Matt Morrissey and Keean White have started and brought to us and we’re really grateful to be a part of the circuit.”

CSI5* $414,300 Grand Prix 1.55m

Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Country / Round 1 Faults/Round 2 Faults:Time

  1. Northern Light / Tiffany Foster / Artisan Farms LLC / CAN / 0/0:39.18
  2. James Kann Cruz / Shane Sweetnam / Gizmo Partners LLC / IRE / 0/4:38.80
  3. Fasther / Lillie Keenan / Rider / USA / 0/4:44.95
  4. Gakhir / Erynn Ballard / Ilan Ferder & Esperanza Imports LLC / 0/8:37.07
  5. Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet / Karl Cook / Sign Ostby / 2:74.33
  6. Legacy / Daniel Coyle / Ariel Grange / IRE / 4:69.05
  7. Ariso / Jordan Coyle / Elan Farm / IRE / 4:70.92
  8. Oakingham Lira / Alison Robitaille / Alison Firestone LLC / 4:71.35
  9. Emerson / Mario Deslauriers / Wishing Well Farm LLC / 4:71.69
  10. Greya / Kent Farrington / Kent Farrington LLC / 4:72.10