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

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