Rising talent soaked up the spotlight on the Sunday afternoon, the final day of Horseware Ireland sponsored Week 10 at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL. The Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix Series concluded competition in the International Ring with the highly anticipated $50,000 Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix Series Final after four weeks of U25 competition.
Eighteen-year-old Augusta Iwasaki (USA) and Fresca topped the field in the season finale, while Summer Hill (USA) rode away with the series title on La Belle SCF.
Andy Christiansen Jr.’s (USA) final track of the week produced five fault-free efforts across the first phase to ensure an exciting jump-off. The series standings experienced a shake-up as series leader Ashley Vogel (USA) had a miscommunication in the triple combination and ultimately chose to retire from the competition. Hill who has held second place in the series rankings leading up to the day, earned herself the last slot in the jump-off with her long-time partner La Belle SCF. Joining her in returning for the short course was Iwasaki, Zayna Rizvi (USA), Eva Fisherman (USA), and Daniel Geaney of Ireland.
In a nail-biting jump-off, Iwasaki, a Southern Methodist University (SMU) freshman managed to produce one of only two clear courses across both phases with Iwasaki & Reilly’s 13-year-old KWPN mare (Carambole x BMC Nassau). Geaney boasted the remaining fault-free finish, but his time of 40.26 seconds on JP Stables BV’s 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding Nixon Van D’Abelendreef (Diamant De Semilly x Toulon) was four seconds too slow to beat Iwasaki’s lightning fast finish of 36.98 seconds.
Geaney settled for second while Zayna Rizvi (USA) secured the third-place position as the fastest four-falter with the Optimus Agro NV’s 13-year-old Belgian Sport Horse mare Exquise Du Pachis (Vagabond De La Pomme x Ogano Sitte). Iwasaki is decidedly new to the Under 25 series making her debut in this 2023 season as she balances competition and attending school as part of the SMU Equestrian Team.
“It’s been a really crazy time,” Iwasaki explained as she gathered her things to head to the airport after the win. “I honestly don't know how everything just fell into place so perfectly, but she's an incredible horse and we trust each other. I am on spring break this week so my dad drove her down from Ocala and has been taking care of her for me; I can’t thank him enough.”
The match is a relatively new partnership but one that has been defining for Iwasaki as she makes a name for herself in the jumper ring.
“I got this horse last summer from Roberto Teran, and I can't thank him enough because she's been amazing for me,” she gushed. “Today’s course was definitely technical, but I could tell as soon as I started jumping around the schooling area that she was ready.”
While an unfortunate rail kept Hill and her own 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Diktator Van De Boslandhoeve x Baldini) from taking the class title, their fourth-place finish paired with a prolific season earned them the overall series winner award – a title she has been diligently working towards.
“This series has been a really good opportunity to step up in the FEI classes without competing against the big guys, so it's really a good steppingstone for sure,” explained Hill. “It's a competitive group of horses and riders, and the course designers do a good job. It pushes you and gives the riders something to strive for, so I've really enjoyed it.”
The 24-year-old rides professionally out of her family farm in Kentucky and works under the tutelage of Olympian Daniel Bluman (ISR).
“I’ve been riding horses for Daniel for the past two years and just last season he started helping me full time,” she explained. “He does as much as he can for me either in person or from afar, so that’s been amazing.”
As the overall series winner, Hill received a Hermès saddle, a $10,000 Hermes store credit, and an invitation to a to-be-determined tour or show in Europe with equine flight expenses covered by the Dutta Corp. Competition at the 2023 Winter Equestrian Festival will resume Wednesday, March 22 with international and nationally rated hunter, jumper, and equitation competition.
Private Practice Takes Center Stage in Adequan® 3’3” Amateur-Owner 18-35
Martha Ingram and Private Practice concluded Week 10 at the Winter Equestrian (WEF) by dazzling the judges on Sunday with a tri-color worthy performance in the Adequan® sponsored 3’3” Amateur-Owner Hunter 18-35 division.
Ingram and Private Practice, a 2010 Holsteiner gelding by Lordanos owned by John & Stephanie Ingram, swept the over fences classes of the division with four wins on scores of 86, 87, 94 and 95.
Ingram was all smiles after her big win, “I got him in during COVID, so it’s been a few years now and it feels great to win. I haven’t done as many shows this winter, so it hasn’t technically been one of my most stellar circuits. This is one of the largest divisions so I’m glad to be in this position and I just love this animal.”
Of Private Practice, a horse Ingram fondly calls “Peter”, she said, “Ultimately our success comes from him; at this height too, you can really be slow and have the easier distances which seems to be better for us because he’s a like a little Ferrari with so much scope and stride. Again, I think our success comes from a combination of practice, his natural talent, and then the preparation while I’m gone also plays a huge part.”
When Ingram isn’t collecting championship ribbons, she is settling into a marketing role with her family’s Nashville Soccer Club.
“I have worked out a schedule we stick to every year incorporating both work and the horses,” said Ingram, 26. “I have Private Practice and Quimby right now, so I don’t want to over show them either. I’ll always ride but it’s nice to have a balance between work, friends and the horses.”
Anna Koenig and Constantin Earn First-Time Championship in Horseware Ireland Adult Amateur 18-35
Anna Koenig and Constantin picked up a WEF 10 championship ribbon on Sunday in the Horseware Ireland Adult Amateur Hunter 18-35 division. From a group of 22 horses brimming with talent, the tricolor marked their first championship title together.
Constantin is a 2014 Holsteiner gelding by Calido I Koenig owns herself and has been bringing along since the horse was six. The time they took to develop a partnership is paying off as they won two classes over fences with scores of 85 and 86, along with a second-place finish a day earlier on a score of 83.
Koenig described her rounds as, “I was looking for smooth rounds with him. We haven’t shown the last couple weeks so today I wanted to keep everything flowing and have a nice round and enjoy Week 10 at WEF. He took me nicely around the course and knew where he was going.”
This duo has been partnered together now for three years. “I’ve been bringing him along and up the levels. I’ve done some derbies with him too and we have a solid relationship. We trust one another. I think his expression helps impress the judges; he happily goes around with his ears pricked and he loves jumping. He’s just fun to look at.
“Honestly, I was not expecting to be champion after not partaking in the flat portion, but I’m thrilled with how the weekend has gone,” said Koenig. “It’s a great feeling and I’m very proud of us as a team.”
Petronella Andersson Makes Winning Plan in $78,000 CaptiveOne Advisors CSI4* 1.50m Classic
Sweden’s Petronella Andersson and Odina Van Klapscheut claimed a Week 10 win at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) on Sunday in the $78,000 CaptiveOne Advisors CSI4* 1.50m Classic. A solid and challenging track designed by Andy Christiansen Jr. drew in a competitive field of fifty-eight horse-and-rider combinations.
Ultimately, eleven pairs advanced to the jump-off with the winning time of 37.21 seconds going to Andersson and the Stephex Stables owned Odina Van Klapscheut, a 2014 Belgian Warmblood mare (I Am Moerhoeve's Star x Landor S). Second place went to Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Holliewood coming in at 39.28 seconds and third went to Lillie Keenan (USA) aboard Chili Pepper HMZ clocking in at 41.22.
Andersson’s plan of execution certainly paid off considering they shaved off two seconds in the jump-off, landing them with a win. “This horse is only nine and this is her first time in America jumping this height, so the first round I was just looking for a clear and though she was feisty. I was very happy with her.
“I knew she could be very quick in the jump-off, but you never know with a competitive class like this,” said Andersson, who has been relying on the ringside help of four-time U.S. Olympian Beezie Madden this season. “We made a plan and it certainly worked out today.”
According to Andersson, there wasn’t one specific place the mare made up some time, but rather, “It’s never about how many strides you do because she’s such a quick mover, it’s more about finding a great pace where you don’t need to slow her down. I think we had quite a fluid jump-off and we probably made up some time a little bit everywhere because I never had to add or leave out.”
This cracker of a mare came into Andersson’s string as a seven- year-old. “She’s turning nine this year and she’s always been a great horse. The Belgian Championships was her first show with me which she also won, so expectations have always been quite high with this mare. It was a wonderful feeling today for my team to have this win.”