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This One’s on tbird: Fifty Free Weeks of Horse Showing Kick Off at April Season Opener

Langley, BC – For professional Holly Grayton, the start of the 2023 show season at Thunderbird Show Park will forever be synonymous with a big win—in the show office!

She and her husband Alex Grayton own and operate Grayton Farms out of Calgary, Alberta and migrate to Langley each year, compiling a lot of entries for their stable.

At the April Season Opener, they’ll have one less entry to pay for. Holly’s mount Baron Genius will compete for free, thanks to a new initiative in honor of Thunderbird Show Park’s 50th Anniversary: tbird Picks Up the Tab.

Every Friday during each of tbird’s 10 major show tournaments, five exhibitors will be chosen at random to receive a free entry at the horse show. Throughout the course of the season, tbird will pay for 50 entries total.

This week, in addition to Grayton, Jordyn Wilkins (Cornet Flight), Riley Bate (Danton), Austyn Thorsteinson (Notable) and Heidi Seidelhuber (Shadowfax) were winners when the random draw was conducted Friday. The group is represented by a range of professional, junior and amateur riders across a variety of divisions: Wilkins is entered in the Children’s Jumper division; Bate will contest the Low Children’s Jumpers; Seidelhuber is entered in the Small/Large Working Hunter; and Thorsteinson is set for the Short Stirrup.

Grayton and Baron Genius will compete in the Open 1.20m this week—all on on tbird’s tab.

“It’s just so nice,” Grayton said. “Baron Genius is a horse I’ve had forever, and sometimes I feel guilty bringing him on the road, because it’s just for fun. When tbird picked up the tab this week, it took all that guilt away.”

Every horse entered at tbird is automatically added to the draw each week. Check back next Friday to see who tbird picks up the tab for next!

I. Zapo Takes Statement Win in Odlum Brown Ltd Grand Prix

One could say the odds were in Kyle King’s (USA) favour Sunday at Thunderbird Show Park.

Bringing forward four horses for the Odlum Brown Ltd. Grand Prix, he was the busiest rider on course. But his winning mount not only surprised him; the horse also made a believer out of his owner.

Besting a seven-horse jump-off that included his student—and Friday’s Welcome winner—Brooke Morin (USA), King rode Greg Tomb’s I. Zapo to the 9-year-old gelding’s first career grand prix victory, crossing the timers of Joey Rycroft’s (CAN) shortened 1.40m course in 39.81 seconds. Morin settled for second behind her coach (41.47 seconds), with Katie Kruger (CAN) and her longtime mount Goodwill VB third (42.88).

“[I. Zapo] honestly showed me a lot of character today,” King said. “Last to go, I was just really excited to feel the kind of step that he has. He has a stride like Secretariat, and on the big grass field, I could really let him open up.”

I. Zapo has had a few different riders in the last year, as Tomb originally purchased the gelding to be his personal horse. But when work pulled Tomb away from the saddle more than he’d envisioned, he turned the reins over to King. Ultimately, Tomb decided the best course of action was to sell the horse, so King sought to get I. Zapo miles with a younger rider. Along with King, talented 20-year-old (and King’s employee) Jarne Francken (BEL) rode I. Zapo, earning strong results in tbird’s U25 division at the Canadian Premier CSI5* in May.

“I really like his character. He likes the sport, he wants to do it, and he has a lot of scope,” King said of I. Zapo. “He’s now been good for three different riders.”

With a breakout win now on his resume, I. Zapo’s plans are changing.

“I think as of today, he might be off the market,” King said. “I just got off the phone with Greg. The horse changed our minds for us.”

King had plenty to celebrate, as he and Morin shared the top two placings for the second time this week. While Morin was able to learn from her coach’s jump-off in Friday’s Welcome, this time around, King had the advantageous position in the starting order.

“I was rooting for [Brooke] today in the jump-off, and I honestly didn’t know if I could catch her,” King said. “I had one of my top horses Etalon in there as tune-up class, and I gave it a good shot, but we had a cheap rail in the jump-off. I didn’t think I’d be able to catch her on a young horse, but I knew once I landed off the second to last jump that we could just keep on ticking. It was a lot of fun.

“I’m excited to see what [I. Zapo] can really do.”

$20,000 Odlum Brown Ltd Grand Prix

1. I. Zapo / Kyle King / USA / Greg Tomb / 0/0 39.81
2. NKH Carrido / Brooke Morin / USA / Strasburg Morin, Inc. / 0/0 41.47
3. Goodwill VB / Katie Kruger / CAN / Caledonia Stables / 0/0 42.88
4. Etalon / Kyle King / USA / Christine Maclean / 0/4 40.02
5. Verdi de Laume / Denise Youell / USA / Farpoint Farm, Inc. 0/4 46.13
6. Crown Royal / Hayley Mercer / CAN / Hayley Mercer 0/4 47.12
7. Coffee To Go / Kyle King / USA / Spruce Meadows Ltd / 0/8 48.75
8. Casturano / Samantha Buirs-Darvill / CAN / Meredith Ellis / 1 88.48
9. Argus van Orshof Z / Georgia Hunt / CAN / Georgia Hunt / 4 83.54
10. D’Artagnan / Zoe Conlee / USA / Zoe Conlee 4 83.86

Refreshing Win for Courchaine and Lemonade BF in CSJ 6-Year-Old Showcase

At Bosch Farms in Red Deer County, Alberta, Femke Courchaine (CAN) and her team have made a habit out of breeding winners, particularly in tbird’s young horse divisions.

On Saturday at the Western Family, Courchaine rode two homebreds to wins in the Crooks Show Jumping Young Horse Showcase, topping the 4-Year-Old class with Nacho Libre BF and the 6-Year-Old Showcase with Lemonade BF.

“We breed between four and 10 foals a year. There must be 15 horses at this horse show that we bred,” Courchaine said.

Lemonade’s win, earned by way of a two-horse jump-off, kicked off the day’s feature competition in the Fort Grand Prix Arena. Last to contest Joey Rycroft’s (CAN) shortened 1.25m track, efficiency proved the key to victory, as Courchaine and her mount got the better of pathfinders Samantha Buirs-Darvill (CAN) and Maria 111. Ayla Martinoff (CAN) rode A Crown Royale to third as the fastest four-faulters of the first round, which caught many combinations at the end of the course.

“When I walked the last line [in the first round], it seemed like it would ride as a gappy seven [strides], but by the time we finished the course, [the line] got very quiet on us,” Courchaine said. “With all the galloping [on course] and most of the distances quite far apart, when we finally had a line [at the end], it was hard to bring your horse back together.

“[In the jump-off], between the first two fences, we were just very direct,” she added.

Lemonade is familiar with tbird, having won at the venue as a 5-year-old. The grey (Carambole—Vanilla Shake) sat out her 4-year-old season while in foal.

“We’re going to see how far we can go with her,” Courchaine said. “We breed, we train, and we usually sell [our horses]. We really enjoy coming out to tbird.”

$1,750 CSJ 6-Year-Old Showcase

1. Lemonade BF / Femke Courchaine / CAN / John van den Bosch / 0/0 40.52
2. Maria 111 / Samantha Buirs-Darvill / CAN / Bryony Reid / 0/0 42.92
3. A Crown Royale / Ayla Martinoff / CAN / Ayla Martinoff / 4 77.36
4. Diamondo SZ / Kendra de Wilde / CAN / Belle Song / 4 79.21
5. Choco de Nyze Z / Ashley Papalia / CAN / Ashley Papalia / 4 83.18
6. King du Petit Marais / Brooke Hartwick / USA / Brooke Hartwick / 4 83.20
7. Gaby de Vesquerie / Gareth Graves / CAN / Justine Ness / 4 83.53
8. Qing Kunta / Christie Peter / USA / Christie Peter / 4 85.82
9. HHS True Blue / Bianca Ciarla / USA / Hailey Ciarla / 6 91.09
10. Pauly D / Liz Ashton / CAN / Ben Asselin / 16 85.25

King Impresses With ‘Beyond Her Years’ Syrah du Pieroux Z in Crooks Show Jumping 7-Year-Old Showcase

Kyle King (USA) has high hopes for his 7-year-old mare Syrah du Pieroux Z, and Saturday at Thunderbird Show Park’s Western Family, the chestnut Zangersheide (Silver Deux de Virton H D C—Elize de Brinco) showed yet another dimension in winning the Crooks Show Jumping 7-Year-Old Showcase, the day’s feature in the Fort Grand Prix Arena.

Just three combinations were able to navigate Joey Rycroft’s (CAN) first round 1.35m track without fault, and none did so with the ease of Syrah, who caught eyes with her professionalism. With the advantage of returning last in the jump-off, King made up his time and then some following a swift left turn to the penultimate vertical.

Their winning time was 35.33 seconds—a full four seconds fastest. James Brennan (IRL) finished second aboard Amy Berman’s New York (39.74 seconds), with Laura Jane Tidball and Ruby third (40.41).

“I thought I was a little slow with the first right turn [in the jump-off], and I kind of [took a risk],” King said. “She’s just so scopey and brave. We turned up [to the penultimate fence], and [the distance] showed up. I saved three seconds there, I think! Then I was able to cruise all the way home. She’s very brave and very capable of jumping off a short turn.”

King has been developing Syrah since the end of her 5-year-old season; he purchased the mare, in partnership with Stuart Belkin, at the recommendation of friend and colleague Niko Goyette in Europe.

“She’d had a foal at a young age, and [Goyette] had been developing her and called me and thought I should buy her,” King recalled. “It happened to be good timing for me.”

The pair has capitalized on the opportunity to jump young horse divisions at a myriad of venues, taking wins from Langley to Thermal (USA) and San Juan Capistrano (USA). At tbird, the locally based-King appreciates the opportunity to develop his up-and-coming mounts on the expansive grass field that characterizes the Fort Grand Prix Arena.

“What an opportunity to get out on the field with these horses. It’s incredible,” King said. “I feel happy that I’m a local here, and I try to take full advantage of the young horse divisions here. It’s nice to see that the support [for them] is getting bigger and bigger each year.”

With eyes toward a big future, King is focused on keeping Syrah confident and successful. He plans to keep the mare in the 7-year-old division for the remainder of the year before progressing to some 1.40m classes in 2023.

“She’s been stepping through the age classes with ease. She’s very scopey—a ‘beyond her years’ kind of mare,” King said. “We have high hopes for her to compete at highest level.”

$1,750 CSJ 7-Year-Old Showcase

1. Syrah du Pieroux Z / Kyle King / USA / Kyle King / 0/0 35.33
2. New York / James Brennan / IRL / Amy Berman / 0/0 39.74
3. Ruby / Laura Jane Tidball / CAN / Thunderbird Show Stables / 0/0 40.41
4. Cantana / Kyle King / USA / Kyle King / 4 75.33
5. Gare du Lyon / Gareth Graves / CAN / Gareth Graves / 4 78.39
6. HHS Sandy Lane / Hailey Dyck / CAN / Hailey Dyck / 4 81.93
7. Colorado M / Quinn Partridge / USA / Elizabeth Smith / 5 84.50
8. Phancy Girl / Kayla Paulson / USA / Kayla Paulson / 6 85.15
9. Leonardo / Hope Enders / CAN / Hope Enders / 8 80.19
10. Comme Tu Vex Z / Ashley Papalia / CAN / Ashley Papalia / 8 82.81

Ashley Arnoldt ‘Lights Up’ DHP Canadian Hunter Derby

Jennifer Arnoldt’s Light My Fire has found his calling in the hunter ring.

The 10-year-old Hanoverian stallion was imported from Germany in March 2021 as a jumper, but after showing up to 1.35m in North America, his rider Ashley Arnoldt thought his talents might be better suited elsewhere. Now a top Amateur-Owner hunter and the reigning Western Canadian Hunter Derby Champion, Light My Fire and Ashley added the DIHP Canadian Hunter Derby (Open 3’6″ section) at the Western Family to their growing resume.

The duo received a score of 103 from the judges. Sloane Betker finished second and third aboard Kensington (102) and Crack (101), respectively.

“He’s the most perfect hunter,” Arnoldt said. “He’s super cool. He jumped up to 1.40m in Europe, and he was bought to be a jumper. I jumped him up to 1.35m, but I thought he could be a hunter, and from that first day [in the hunter ring], he never looked back.”

Just how cool of a customer is “Lenny”? The chestnut also has a “side job” as a breeding stallion at Arnoldt’s family’s Dreamscape Farm in Langley. Arnoldt competes as an amateur, while her mother runs the breeding operation. Dreamscape Farm stands 13 stallions, including Light My Fire.

“He’s just so easy and so simple,” said Arnoldt, 21. “He can go from breeding to the horse show and then go right back to breeding.”

The Canadian Hunter Derby is held in a unique one-round format, where riders receive a base score before bonus points are added for high performance options and handiness.

“When I walked the course and [saw] the first jump, I wasn’t sure whether to go right and take a wider turn or challenge [ourselves] with a handier turn,” Arnoldt said. “We took the [harder turn], and he nailed it. I knew from then that we were going to have a good day!”

Friday’s class served as a qualifier for the Canadian Hunter Derby Finals, which will return to the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, ON—canceled in 2020 and 2021—after being staged at the Royal West in Calgary, AB last year. Arnoldt and Light My Fire finished second in Calgary and have their sights set on moving up one more place on the podium.

“I’d love to be Western Champion again and head out [to Toronto] and compete,” Arnoldt said.

Rodney Tulloch bookended the podium in the 3’3″ section, open to junior and amateur riders, along with professionals aboard Green 3′ and 3’3″ and Young Hunters. His top mount was Gabriel IV, who received a winning score of 111. Kassidy Keith finished second with Celebrate (108), with Tulloch and Carson third (106).

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

1. Light My Fire / Ashley Arnoldt / Jennifer Arnoldt / 103
2. Kensington / Sloane Betker / Sloane Betker / 102
3. Crack / Sloane Betker / Pat Beattie / 101
4. Island View / Denise Tidman / Denise Tidman / 100
5. Arctic Bay / Sonja Sward / Sonja Sward / 98
6. Africa ZF / Samantha Smith / Rachel Ash / 97
7. Cleverboy / Stephany Powers / Debbie Boyle / 95
8. Hamilton / Brianne Hujber / Brianne Hujber / 93.5
9. Bugatti / Jennifer Tims / Jennifer Tims / 91
10. Limited Edition / Drew Croasdale / Drew Croasdale / 85

$3,000 DHP Canadian Hunter Derby 3’/3’3” Junior/Amateur/Green

1. Gabriel IV / Rodney Tulloch / Donna Rooney 111
2. Celebrate / Kassidy Keith / Sarah Appel / 108
3. Carson / Rodney Tulloch / Rodney Tulloch / 106
4. Talaro PS / Philippa Melski / Mila Anderson / 104
5. Dolce’ Dacapo / Dustin Goodwin / Jordan Pierson / 103
6. Naltaire / Rodney Tulloch / Karen Iacoviello / 101
7. Fanta / Chloe Mache / Chloe Mache / 100.5
8. Corona OS / Charlotte Reeve / Brooklyn Deacon / 100
9. Momma Citta / Ruby Wall / Ruby Wall / 95.5
10. Look at Me / Elizabeth Lawson / Chloe Lupul / 95

Student Beats Coach in 1.40m Welcome

Heading into the jump-off for the 1.40m Welcome at Thunderbird Show Park’s Western Family show, 19-year-old Brooke Morin (USA) knew she had a tough act to follow. Second to jump over Joey Rycroft’s (CAN) shortened course, Morin’s coach Kyle King (USA) had set a tough standard and was leading the class.

But after his round, King turned his attention to his student and gave her insight on which she’d capitalize.

“He told me a few places to be more efficient, and I took that into consideration. I was happy he told me that!” Morin exclaimed.

She rode Strasburg Morin’s NKH Carrido to the top of the class with a winning time of 37.57 seconds, relegating her coach to second (38.25 seconds) aboard I. Zapo. Katie Kruger (CAN) finished third with Goodwill VB (38.54).

“[King] told me that [between the first two jumps], I could leave out a stride to be more efficient,” Morin explained, “and from the third-to-last to the second-to-last [jump], I could get more of a gallop and be more fluid [than he was].

“I was really happy with my turn from [jumps] one to two. I took his advice, and it worked out well,” she added. “I got a gallop to all the places that I could.”

Morin (Orange County, CA) is spending her first summer season in Canada and entered the Western Family off of her first five-star 1.50m competition at Spruce Meadows, where the pair took three top 10 finishes. Jumping successfully at the level translated to a strong boost in confidence on course.

“It went so well [in Spruce]. I was so happy,” Morin said. “It definitely gave me more confidence to be out on a big field, jumping big courses. I was confident, but [the course] was not easy, for sure.”

Morin has been partnered for “Cody” for two years, and the two have climbed the levels together, from the junior jumpers to the international show jumping ranks. After the Western Family, the gelding will remain in Canada to stable with King, while Morin will spend some time at home in California before returning to tbird in August.

“Cody is just the most amazing horse I’ve ever ridden,” Morin said. “We have a really good connection. He trusts me a lot, and I trust him. It’s all gone pretty well.”

$5,000 1.40m Welcome

1. NKH Carrido / Brooke Morin / USA / Strasburg Morin Inc. / 0/0 37.57
2.  I. Zapo / Kyle King / USA / Greg Tomb / 0/0 38.25
3. Goodwill VB / Katie Kruger / CAN / Caledonia Stables / 0/0 38.54
4. Chafleur / Laura Jane Tidball / CAN / Katie Harris / 0/0 40.62
5. Jericho / Laura Jane Tidball / CAN / Thunderbird Show Park Ltd / 0/0 44.54
6. Coradina Z / Zoe Conlee / USA / Zoe Conlee / 0/4 37.28
7. Chic D Emma Z / Samantha Buirs-Darvill / CAN / Samantha Buirs-Darvill / 0/8 36.77
8. Coffee to Go / Kyle King / USA / Spruce Meadows Ltd / 4 78.85
9. Havana / Kassidy Keith / CAN / Cheryl Keith / 4 79.83
10. Crown Royal / Hayley Mercer / CAN / Hayley Mercer / 4 80.07

Manifesting her Dreams: Ella McCaw Captures MarBill Hill U25 League 1.40m

Chief is taking Ella McCaw (USA) to heights she never thought possible. Sunday afternoon at Thunderbird Show Park, the pair jumped to the win in the $15,000 MarBill Hill U25 League 1.40m during Thunderbird Show Park’s West Coast Classic.

Clear rounds weren’t abundant in the difficult class, with only McCaw and Thursday’s U25 winner, Hayley Mercer, navigating the course fault free. “I think he really knew today was a big day,” McCaw said of the 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Verdi x Argentinus). “He really tried his heart out to jump clean and gave his best effort ever. He took me around my first 1.40m and he was the best.”

McCaw improved with each round aboard Highland Stables, LLC’s Chief in the U25 division. Thursday she took home a top 10 finish, moving into fifth place on Saturday, and taking the win Sunday to close out a stellar week.

The pair has been together for close to a year and a half thanks to a connection from her trainer, Lauren Crooks. This week saw their debut in the MarBill Hill U25 League. McCaw scored the win after Mercer, aboard Crown Royal, dropped two rails on the short course, relegating her in second. Third place went to Sonny Brigade and Jennifer Clark as the fastest four-faulters.

“My mom, my grandma, and my sister all rode and I’ve followed in their footsteps,” McCaw said of her journey through the sport. “I’ve been riding since I was four or five, and I’ve been showing at Thunderbird the last 10 years moving up the ranks. I did my first .70m here and now all the way up to the U25. It’s the best feeling ever, especially to have Chief with me. He’s my main man and he’d do anything for me. I feel like anything’s possible that I never thought I could do, especially winning a U25.”

With big goals to move into senior classes, McCaw focuses on having fun while also trying her best. “I just love to ride and have fun,” she continued. “Winning is so fun and I would love to do some bigger classes like the Welcome and Grand Prix classes in August. I rode today with crystals in my pocket that I bought at the crystal shop in Fort Langley. The crystals are supposed to wash away negative energy and help manifest your dreams, so I had those in my pocket today and it worked!”

Points from this week’s MarBill Hill U25 League will contribute to overall standings, and riders will compete for top honors in the MarBill Hill U25 Final at tbird in the fall.

$15,000 MarBill Hill U25 League 1.40m

1. Chief / Ella McCaw / USA / Highland Stables, LLC / Highland Stables, LLC / 0/4/48.82
2. Crown Royal / Hayley Mercer / CAN / Hayley Mercer / 0/8/51.35
3. Sonny Brigade / Jennifer Clark / CAN / Jennifer Clark / 4/85.86
4. C’Diam De Ste Anne / Jarne Francken / USA / Patti Kits / 4/90.39
5. Princessa / Shaelynn Enders / CAN / Joyce Enders / 4/90.45
6. Casino / Emmeline Adamick / USA / Emmeline Adamick / 5/91.62
7. Golden Power W / Ashley Arnoldt / CAN / Jennifer Arnoldt / 17/95.15
8. Enzo / Jarne Francken / USA / Seabright Investment Consultants Ltd / 31/113.97

King Is Crowned in Grand Prix 1.40m

Nine pairs jumped clear in the $20,000 Grand Prix 1.40m Sunday afternoon at Thunderbird Show Park. Hometown hero Kyle King (USA) made up one third of that lineup. With three attempts to top the class come jump-off time, King sealed the deal with the final horse on course, Dustin 254.

“He was probably my most experienced horse in that class today but I was not expecting him to be the fastest,” King said of Dustin 254, a 15-year-old Westphalian gelding (Dollar Du Munier x Falkenhof’s Lancer). “He was my last horse to go and I thought I was even a little conservative at the beginning but he stepped up the last few jumps and we ended up winning it.”

King’s first ride, Sig Chiari, set the pace to catch in the jump-off on a double-clear effort in 42.37 seconds. Samantha Buirs-Darvill (CAN) caught him with Chic D Emma Z in 40.27 seconds, but he still had two shots to reclaim the lead. He fell just short with Kerri Volek’s Ittolo in 41.39 seconds, then put it all on the line with Dustin 254, owned by Aren Ozker, securing victory in 39.27 seconds. Buirs-Darvill claimed second place honors and King’s mount Ittolo took third.

Sunday’s win was proof that good things can come from less than ideal situations in this sport. “I owned this horse for a couple years with Stuart Belkin and I had some good results on him,” King said of his past with Dustin 254. “About a year ago I sold him to a client, Aren Ozker, a young rider with U25 dreams. Unfortunately, he had a slip on his other horse about a month ago and broke his foot, so I took him [Dustin 254] back over.”

Ozker was present to watch his horse win the biggest class of the week, hopefully a strong omen for the future when he is back on board.

For King, the week served as an ideal opportunity to gain more mileage on his younger mounts. “It turned out to be quite a marathon for me; I had six in the Welcome the other day and had four jump off, and today I rode five and had three in the jump-off, so it was a lot of work. But it was a nice course, a typical Peter [Holmes] course on a beautiful field with good footing. It was really nice to get all the younger horses and inexperienced horses into the big ring.”

Coming off wins up to the CSI5* level over the past year, King feels confident in his current string of horses. With a farm just down the street, tbird is like home to King and his entire operation.

“My string is great; I feel awesome,” he expressed. “I was at Spruce Meadows [in Calgary] but it made more sense with this string I have right now to come home and try to develop some young ones. It worked out perfectly. All my young riders are doing great, the weather’s been nice here, and this is my local spot. It’s a great show.”

The Western Family kicks off Wednesday with another week of national competition on the west coast of Canada, culminating in Sunday’s $20,000 Odlum Brown Ltd Grand Prix.

$20,000 Grand Prix 1.40m

1. Dustin 254 / Kyle King / USA / Aren Ozker / 0/0/39.27
2. Chic D Emma Z / Samantha Buirs-Darvill / CAN / Samantha Buirs-Darvill / 0/0/40.27
3. Ittolo / Kyle King / USA / Kerri Volek / 0/0/41.39
4. Milton / James Brennan / IRL / Crooks Show Jumping, LLC / 0/0/41.51
5. Sig Chiari / Kyle King / USA / SIG International, Inc. / 0/0/42.37
6. Casturano / Samantha Buirs-Darvill / CAN / Meredith Ellis / 0/0/44.67
7. Be Aware / Lynn Macyk / CAN / Lynn Macyk / 0/0/45.29
8. Quibbela Bee / Jenna Brownjohn / CAN / Natasha Muckova / 0/0/47.33
9. Jericho / Laura Jane Tidball / CAN / Thunderbird Show Park Ltd. / 0/4/48.10
10. Havana / Kassidy Keith / CAN / Cheryl Keith / 4/86.15

Keith Captures MarBill Hill U25 League 1.40m

Kassidy Keith is making waves with Cheryl Keith’s Havana. The pair, proving their incredible bond established over six years, sped to the win in Saturday’s $5,000 MarBill Hill U25 League 1.40m.

Over Peter Holmes’ speed track, the young athletes adapted their game plans to ride for the quickest first-round time in an effort to jump clear. Only four were able to do so, and the quickest ride was awarded to Keith, who scored a clear ride in 73.33 seconds aboard the 10-year-old mare (Cardento x Judgement). Just off the winning time and in second was Carly Stevens with VIP Des Majuros in 73.60 seconds, and Stevens also claimed third with Dento, both owned by Grant & Susie Stephens.

“She is naturally fast and I can leave a stride out when I need to,” Keith said of Havana’s strengths in today’s class. “I left a stride out in the line across the middle; it was an option and I did eight instead of nine. I did the same thing to the combination. She’s always game to do whatever I ask. Today’s course fit her because it was flowing and it allowed me to do some inside turns and leave a couple strides out to help me win.”

Continuing the trend of long-term partnerships, Keith has had Havana since the mare was only four years old and has developed her into the top horse she is today. “We have built a partnership,” she continued. “I’ve jumped a couple CSI5* classes on her, and I just finished showing at Spruce Meadows in the CSI2*. We’ve just gone from the 1.0m jumpers together all the way up. We have a really good partnership and, while I have a girl helping me, but I do most everything on my own.”

At 10, Havana isn’t slowing down. Last year, Keith captured the MarBill Hill U25 Championship aboard the mare as well as a CSI2* Grand Prix. “She’s got bigger things to come,” Keith continued. “I’m going to show FEI on her in the fall and hopefully eventually make Nations Cup teams on her.”

Like most competing at the West Coast Classic, Keith considers tbird one of her favourite shows. “I’ve been showing at tbird since I was really little,” she reminisced. “It’s a great facility to have right in our backyard and it allows us to bring all the clients, plus my young horses all the way to grand prix horses. There’s something for everybody and they really put on a great show. They have great hospitality, great staff, and they’re always so friendly.”

U25 athletes will compete one last time Sunday at the West Coast Classic in the $15,000 MarBill Hill U25 League 1.40m.

$5,000 MarBill Hill U25 League 1.40m

1. Havana / Kassidy Keith / CAN / Cheryl Keith / 0/73.33
2. VIP Des Majuros / Carly Stevens / CAN / Grant & Susie Stevens / 0/73.60
3. Dento / Carly Stevens / CAN / Grant & Susie Stevens / 0/78.99
4. Fenelon WF / Kassidy Keith / CAN / Cheryl Keith / 0/82.06
5. Chief / Ella McCaw / USA / Highland Stables, LLC / 8/81.00
6. Golden Power W / Ashley Arnoldt / CAN / Jennifer Arnoldt / 8/84.32
7. Texas / Justine Cha / CAN / Christine Cha / 9/94.72
8. Naxos 27 / Dylan Jordan / CAN / Mariam Ameli / 15/92.20
9. Cora / Alexa Hagenson-Doull / CAN / Alexa Hagenson-Doull / 16/84.05
10. Sonny Brigade / Jennifer Clark / CAN / Jennifer Clark / 19/100.88

Out with the Old, In with the New: Tulloch and Goodwin Top tbird Hunt & Handy

Juniors, amateurs and professionals alike took to the various sections of the $10,000 tbird Hunt & Handy Saturday afternoon in the Grand Hunter Arena at Thunderbird Show Park. Held first at the 3’6” fence height, followed by the 3’ to 3’3” fence heights, competitors tried their hand at a track designed by Kirsten Rodel meant to include elements of a classic hunter round and a handy hunter round in one. Taking the wins in the 3’6” Open section and the 3’-3’3” Junior/Amateur/Green section, respectively, were Rodney Tulloch and Dustin Goodwin.

Tulloch convincingly snagged the top spot in the $10,000 tbird Hunt & Handy 3’6” Open aboard Jembey Van’t Eigenlo. Tulloch and Christine MacLean’s 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Echo Van’t Spievield x Odermus R) put in a score of 91. Second place went to Light My Fire and Ashley Arnoldt for owner Jennifer Arnoldt on a score of 88, while Sloan Betker and Pat Beattie’s Crack took third with a score of 86.

Tulloch’s mount has not always excelled in the hunter rings, however. “He used to do the grand prixs with Gary Brewster,” Tulloch said of Jembey Van’t Eigenlo. “Gary thought the 1.45m might be a little much and maybe he needed a change of pace. He still, every once in a while, thinks he’s a big jumper so we have to be a little careful and manage him. But he just goes forward and always jumps the jump, and you know he’s got the scope. He’s not a classical hunter, but he’s a really fun derby horse.”

“Jembey” isn’t a mount that Tulloch gets quality time with at home. “I always get the catch rides on him because he lives in Kelowna and I live in Calgary,” Tulloch commented. “We just meet at the horse shows. He is such a lovely, straightforward horse. He is really fun to ride and the jump gives you such a good feel.”

The course for the day was designed to encourage the horses to jump well, and Jembey wasn’t the only horse to jump in stylish form and take home a high score. “You had to have a good gallop,” Tulloch remarked about the course. “The turns were really nice, and it just set the horses up to jump well. It really was a lovely course.”

When Tulloch isn’t showing Jembey, his owner, Christine MacLean, shows him in the Adult Equitation classes.

Tulloch will compete with Jembey during next week’s Western Family and the first two weeks of the Summer Fort series at tbird in August before focusing the gelding on bigger prize money. “John Anderson at Rocky Mountain Show Jumping is having a big series with $100,000, so we’re aiming for that,” Tulloch concluded.

As the 3’/3’3” section got underway, Goodwin wowed the crowd early on. Just 11th in the order of 42 with the 6-year-old Dolce’ Dacapo (Westphalian by Diacontinus), he scored a perfect 100. While other scores were still high, none could catch his ultimate victory in the class. The closest effort was that of Tulloch with Gabriel IV, owned by Donna Rooney, taking a score of 98 and second place. Third place honors went to Jordan Scott’s Black Pearl with Katrina Kilmach aboard, scoring a 97.5.

“I actually just met this horse this week,” Goodwin commented about Dolce’ Dacapo. “He’s a young sales horse that the owner offered me the ride on. I showed him in the Green 3’3” Hunters this week and he was champion, and today was his first derby. He’s young and he’s only been to a handful of horse shows, so he has a pretty special brain and seems really well suited for this. He was just a trooper out there.”

Dolce’ Dacapo sports an excellent record for hunter derby classes so far, scoring a perfect 100 in his first ever hunter derby. “I think it’s all about the horse,” Goodwin remarked on what led the pair to their high score. “He has some lovely qualities. He’s really beautiful to look at, he’s a beautiful mover, he’s a great jumper, and he has lovely expressions, so all those things come together and that’s really what it’s all about, those special qualities.”

Goodwin has been competing at tbird since 1998. “I grew up in Vernon, BC, and I basically grew up showing at tbird. I love coming here. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place. It’s really well run and everyone is so nice here. It’s so nice to have this in the Pacific Northwest; we’re very lucky.”

The West Coast Classic concludes Sunday with the $20,000 Just World International Grand Prix 1.40m in the Fort Grand Prix Arena.

$10,000 Tbird Hunt & Handy 3’6” Open

1. Jembey Van’t Eigenlo / Rodney Tulloch / Christine MacLean / 91
2. Light My Fire / Ashley Arnoldt / Jennifer Arnoldt / 88
3. Crack / Sloane Betker / Pat Beattie / 86
4. Kensington / Sloane Betker / Sloane Betker / 85
5. Casallord / Sofia Schliessler / Kim Ryzak / 84
6. Bugatti / Jennifer Tims / Jennifer Tims / 83
7. Clarimero T / Kate Walkington / Kate Walkington / 82
8. Quitello / Maggie Nealon / Maggie Nealon / 80
9. Ivanhoe F / Nyha Leclerc / Nyha Leclerc / 77
10. Arctic Bay / Sonja Sward / Sonja Sward / 76

$10,000 Tbird Hunt & Handy 3’/3’3” Junior/Amateur/Green

1. Dolce’ Dacapo / Dustin Goodwin / Jordan Pierson / 100
2. Gabriel IV / Rodney Tulloch / Donna Rooney / 98
3. Black Pearl / Katrina Kilmach / Jordan Scott / 97.5
4. Darwin / Quinn Partridge / Gillian Baird / 97
5. Out Of The Blue / Georgia Hunt / Ellen Brown / 95
6. Celebrate / Cheryl Keith / Sarah Appel / 92
7. Cuba Libre Z / Sohpie Tupper / Brooke Tupper / 91
8. Dramatic DSF / Sarah Dinwoodie / Sarah Dinwoodie / 89
9. Casalito’s Boy / Kalima Ngobi / Kalima Ngobi / 88
10. Candelo Edel / Thea Muller / Thea Muller / 85