It is now the end of week 8 of the 12 week tour at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida. This weekend is always a special one as the show makes a fantastic effort for the Nations Cup, and all the people of various nationalities who work in the industry here gather to support their Team. Surprisingly the weather has turned a little cold and while most are wrapped up as if they were skiing in the Alps, I think the horses are appreciating the break from the scorching sun!
I arrived here three weeks ago so my horses are feeling good and I am getting used to some of my new rides. The Nations Cup is without doubt my favourite competition and one that I generally aim to do well in. I think it's the greatest honour to be part of the national team in whatever sport you are in and there is always a feeling that you want to do your best not only for yourself but mostly for your team mates. We had quite a strong team on paper but the Americans were always going to be hard to beat as this is their Nations Cup and also a leg of the Furusiyya Nations Cup league for which they will ultimately want to qualify for the final.
Splendor who won two classes for me in Olympia before Christmas has had a nice break since and produced two classy rounds to be one of just five double clears of the competition - the other four coming from Reed Kessler, Daniel Deusser, Tiffany Foster and Ian Miller. Team Ireland all performed well but with it ending up a low scoring affair we finished fourth - just off the pace by a narrow margin. USA won on 4, Canada second on 5 and Germany third on 9.
Sunday's grand prix was a thrilling competition. The jump off was like watching a pony final at the Dublin Horse Show with each round looking unbeatable but surprisingly each rider caught the previous one! Kent Farrington came out on top with Blue Angel who pipped Beezie Madden with the deceivingly fast Cortes C by one hundredth of a second. My fellow Irish man Conor Swail produced two copy book rounds from the very talented Lansdowne to place third.
The show here in Wellington is improving every year. The competition is tough and nothing is easily won but with plenty of classes and different arenas. It really does provide a unique opportunity, as it creates something for people of all levels. From cross pole jumpers to GP events and everything in between, many families are enjoying the sport together which is what it's all about.
This weekend also saw the inauguration of the Children’s, Junior and Young Riders Nations Cup. It was a tremendous success and very well supported by teams from Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, USA, Canada and Argentina. Team USA won the Young Rider Nations Cup, while Brazil took double honours in both the Children’s and Junior Nations Cups.
It was inspiring to see the buzz it created and great competitive spirit amongst the riders. The level of coaching here is high. The signature classical seat that most American kids have, stems from the equitation training in which many jumper riders start, which I believe creates a super basis and foundation.
Four weekends left and plenty of work still to do - although it doesn't really feel like work in this amazing horse heaven!!