In the first indoor competition of the 2016 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League season, an international and bicoastal field of 28 contested under the lights. Out of a jump off of eight horse-and-rider pairs, Audrey Coulter (USA) and Capital Colnardo rose to the occasion to claim victory in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Sacramento at the Sacramento International Horse Show CSI3*-W.
“It feels great—it’s really great to be here, back on home turf,” said Coulter, a native of California who currently splits her time between the States and Belgium. “I grew up coming to this show all the time, so it’s nice to be back and have a win. I thought it was a well-set course. It was tricky. It all came up very quickly indoors, and it was hard, but we had a great jump off, and I was really happy with how my horse jumped.”
The course, set by Guilherme Jorge (BRA), incorporated two combinations, a double and a triple, bending lines, and short turns off the rail. From the first fence—which multiple riders had down—it was evident the riders needed to maintain a quality pace and a defined track to record a clear round.
“Indoors, it’s a very interesting process to design, because you have the limitations of the size of the arena,” said Jorge. “So I really start with some ideas. Like for this course, I start with the position of the triple combination, and then the [line with the double combination], and then you start to place all the other jumps. But really, course design has a little bit of the inspirational part of it—also, with the technical part. Sometimes it is easier. Sometimes it takes longer.”
The first in the class to cross the timers without a single fault, Christopher Surbey (CAN), fresh off his speed class win the evening before, demonstrated his understanding of both the course’s and the arena’s challenges with a clear round aboard Arezzo (Querlybet Hero x Walzertakt). A few rounds later, Jenni McAllister (USA) guaranteed a jump off when she rode fault free with Legis Touch the Sun (Nekton x Capitol I).
Six more riders accomplished the same impressive feat to join the final round’s order: Guido Klatte Jr. (GER), Georgina Bloomberg (USA), Eduardo Menezes (BRA), Richard Fellers (USA), Audrey Coulter (USA), and Jessica Springsteen (USA).
“I thought the first round was tricky because everything came up quickly and jumps were concentrated in the center of ring,” said Coulter. “Right from the first jump, which was in an awkward place, you had to be really on it to get the right distance.”
For the jump-off track, with seven obstacles and eight jumping attempts, there were two parts of the course that offered inside turn options. The first option was immediately before the double combination, and the second option came in advance of the very careful skinny vertical.
No rider attempted to take both options, if he or she decided to even take an option. All faults recorded in the final round, including a refusal from Klatte Jr.’s mount Qinghai (Quidam de Revel x Cordalme), could directly be attributed to taking the tighter, inside turns.
But it was only Coulter, who not only took the inside turn to the skinny vertical but also shaved a tight turn off the rail to the second oxer, that managed a clear round under 40 seconds.
“I had coach Harrie Smolders watching on the screen in the warmup [during the jump off] and he watched people go and said that I could definitely make up time from fence one to two,” Coulter said. “That was the main place. Then to the double, I went around and turned tight and got a good jump, and we had a good gallop to the last jump.”
It was a milestone win for Coulter—who also won Thursday’s qualifier with the 11-year-old, Holsteiner stallion (Colman x Coronado)—as her first FEI World Cup™ qualifier victory.
“He was bought for Saer [my sister], not for me,” Coulter said. “He’s not my typical ride; he needs a lot more motivation. But I can adjust my ride for him. He’s such an incredible horse and he’s very straightforward when he’s on it.”
Riders from three different countries stood on the podium by the night’s end. Rio Olympian Eduardo Menezes clocked in just under a second slower than Coulter, showcasing his upcoming talent, the 9-year-old, Oldenburg mare Catalina (Chacco Blue x Converter).
“I don’t know if I want to take my Olympic horse [Quintol] for another championship,” said Menezes, when asked about qualifying for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Final. “Maybe I’m going to give him one year off. But I’m not so sure. I’m very pleased with this mare, and I’m going to do show by show, and we’ll see what comes.”
The third-place finisher Surbey also rode a mount new to this level of jumping and competing.
“I was obviously really happy with my horse,” Surbey said. “I think he handled the track well indoors. He’s quite a big horse so I wasn’t sure it’d suit him, but he did a good job. Now, a little, small break, and then we’ll jump the World Cup in Del Mar in a couple weeks. And then I think we’ll plan the rest of this year and then 2017.”
Kent Farrington mentioned, following his win in the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping New York, that he would need to find the indoor specialist in his string for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Final in Omaha. So in contrast to Gazelle, his winning mount in the large, grass field at Old Salem Farm in September, Farrington opted to ride Creedance, a 9-year-old, KWPN gelding (Lord Z x Notaris) for the second leg of the West Coast sub-league.
But as the horse passed the packed crowd against the rail, mixed in with the shadows from the evening class under the lights, he appeared to spook and not come forward, forcing an uncharacteristic first rail for Farrington, eventually landing the pair at 11th place.
Other early favorites also ended the night with at least four faults. Last year’s winner of the event, Samuel Parot (CHI), finished on a single rail in the first round, in addition to Karl Cook (USA) aboard Tembla, the victors from the first leg of the West Coast sub-league in August. The riders finished 10th and 12th, respectively.
Coulter noted that riding in the smaller, indoor ring was an adjustment after most of the year spent competing in large, outdoor arenas.
“Honestly, it went better than I thought it would,” Coulter said. “Last year was my first indoor season on him—he’s from Capital Stud in South Africa so I don’t think he was indoors very much at all. He would get a little nervous and tense because everything was so close and coming up so quickly. We worked on it a lot last year. I think he’s come a really long way in a year and handled it amazing.”
“I think he’s a really smart horse and he learns quickly,” she added. He’s such a special horse. I think he can jump anything, and he gives me all the confidence in the world. We’ve been working on the speed a little bit, because he wasn’t the fastest to begin with, but he picks up on it quickly. And this is our first major win and I’m very happy.
“Even though the indoor was new, he has all the ability and he wanted to do it right. He can really do anything.”
Coulter made her first Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final appearance in March 2016, at the Gothenburg Horse Show. With the experience under her belt, she expressed her hope of qualifying again this season, which will be held at the International Omaha, March 27 to April 2, 2017.
“I think it’s going to be tough to qualify because it’s on U.S. soil,” Coulter said. “I think it’s special to compete in the Final, and I think Capital Colnardo is a horse to angle for it. Last year, I didn’t think he was ready, but with how he’s handled his first indoor of the season, I would think to take him.”
Coulter will next try to earn World Cup™ qualifying points at the third leg of the West Coast sub-league at Del Mar CSI3*-W, on October 22.
“I think with any championship like the Longines FEI World Cup™ Final, when you’re riding with the best and watching the best, you learn a lot,” she said. “I’m very motivated this year because I had some bad luck last year—it was not my best. But I’m very motivated to go back.”
1. Capital Colnardo (Audrey Coulter), USA, 0 faults/39.85 seconds (JO)
2. Catalina (Eduardo Menezes), BRA, 0/40.84 (JO)
3. Arezzo (Christopher Surbey), CAN, 0/42.47 (JO)
4. Lilli (Georgina Bloomberg), USA, 0/46.40 (JO)
5. Flexible (Richard Fellers), USA, 4/39.74 (JO)
6. Legis Touch the Sun (Jenni McAllister), USA, 4/41.89 (JO)
7. Tiger Lily (Jessica Springsteen), USA, 4/43.74 (JO)
8. Qinghai (Guido Klatte Jr.), GER, 11/54.24 (JO)