When the Canadian Team takes the field at the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final in Barcelona, Sept. 28- Oct. 1, the squad will include veteran team member Chris Pratt and Concorde, his 10-year-old chestnut Dutch Warmblood gelding.
Pratt, 48, was originally a Toronto native who started his business Performance Horses Unlimited in Terra Cotta, ON, before riding full-time at Susan Grange’s Lothlorien Farm beginning in 2004. He was named to Nations’ Cup teams for the 2005 Spruce Meadows Masters in Calgary, AB, and the 2006 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL, where he delivered two clear rounds aboard Mustique to clinch the win for Canada. Later that year, Pratt made his major games debut at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, riding Rivendell. In 2007, he pulled up stakes and moved to sunny California.
Over the past few years, Pratt and the Dutch Warmblood gelding Cruise have been a familiar sight leading the grand prix victory gallops at the HITS Thermal tournaments and Del Mar shows on the west coast, where he is now based at Epic Stables in Cardiff, CA. The pair were also members of the fourth-place Nations Cup team at the Final in Barcelona in 2011.
In 2016 alone, Pratt won four grand prix during the HITS Desert Circuit riding three different horses, including the $350,000 CSI5* Grand Prix. Riding Concorde, he took home the win in the $100,000 Grand Prix of Del Mar. This year, Pratt ‒ who has been campaigning a number of horses in Europe over the summer ‒ led the Canadian fourth-place team effort riding Concorde at the CSIO5*-NC in Gijon, ESP, on Sept. 2nd, tying for fifth overall.
Horse Sport spoke with Pratt about his recent stint in Europe. “I have horses based with a long-time partner in the business, Jan Verellen, in the south of Holland. We own some horses together and work at supplying the North american market with nice horses for all the divisions.
“The horses I’ve been competing are owned by different clients and breeders, both American and European. I’m finding the quality and structure of the European shows is really lending itself to the development and enjoyment of North American riders. We have a program where riders can come for training for several weeks or months, and attend some really nice shows for a fraction of the cost of the North American shows. They can bring their own trainers and horses and we can provide all the necessary travel planning and infrastructure. We even have provided horses to lease in the past.”
Pratt’s long-time, reliable partner, Cruise, is now enjoying life away from the ring. “Cruise was second in a grand prix earlier this year. After that, I decided it was time for him to retire sound and happy at 16 years old,” Pratt said. “He still gets ridden every day, and is at the stable where his owner, Susan Geleibter, keeps her horses, so he’s quite spoiled!”
Poised to fill his horseshoes is the promising young Concorde, for which Pratt has high hopes. “Concorde is an extremely talented horse, but still a little inexperienced at the top level,” he said. “There aren’t so many big competitions left in California, so thats why I sent him to Europe for the summer. He’s a very brave, careful horse that has always tried his hardest.”
Pratt is looking forward to the Nations Cup Final, buoyed by good performances in team competition lately. “Personally, I have experience jumping in Barcelona, where I jumped clear and had four faults with Cruise several years ago. And coming off our clear and four-fault result in Gijon three weeks ago, I feel confident we’ll be an asset to the team.”
He concluded, “I’m really proud to be a Canadian rider and look forward to representing the team.” He loves the SoCal lifestyle, however, adding, “California is an amazing place to live ‒ and surf!”