We have just completed the 12 week Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida.
Team Karlswood had a total of 25 horses and 13 staff in our group for the duration. The pace is fast here, with classes on in multiple arenas at the same time. Organisation is key and I’d like to thank all my staff and background team who made sure everything ran so well.
As a group myself and my three students have had an incredible circuit, which I believe is largely due to the extraordinary group of people who make it happen behind the scenes. Michael Kelly and Ross Mulholland are, apart from being two of my closest friends, a major contributing factor towards any success we have. They both help me coach the students, flat the horses and compete and do all to a top standard which I firmly believe sets Karlswood apart from other coaching yards.
It’s a long time to be away from home and it really is a different world out here - not necessarily America of course but just this equestrian world of Wellington. It’s fairytale stuff- like Disney World for horses! We try to stay somewhat grounded and focus on our goals and targets. I always wanted to use the circuit to build up the horses and riders so they are ready after this to compete, and the hundreds of rounds we have all done should have us in the groove when we all return to Europe.
I’m proud of the accomplishments of my students. Nikki Walker had two younger horses to develop and she produced them both to a higher level successfully as well as winning the $25k classic in Ocala last week with Deko.
Emily Short used the circuit to get used to some of her new horses as well as move up to the bigger level with Coco, which they did extremely well - fourth in a young rider Grand Prix, second in a ranking class in Ocala and second in a $130k Grand Prix in Wellington.
Lillie Keenan also developed her younger horses and formed a successful new partnership with a new ride, Be Gentle. Super Sox, whom I competed in Olympia just before coming to Florida has really developed over the past number of months and catapulted Lillie into the big league, where she will hopefully have the opportunity to be considered to be a part of a senior American team later this summer. Sox and Lillie were double clear and placed third in a five star Grand Prix at Wellington and had the same result in the $1million Great American Grand Prix in Ocala last weekend.
All my horses improved throughout the circuit. I think our plan of not overusing them worked well, so that they are fit to jump when we get home as opposed to needing a long break due to over jumping them over the winter. My new horses Calisto, Crespo and Sam Du Challois all proved themselves with solid performances. Calisto was second in a 1.50m and seventh in the World Cup in Live Oak. Crespo stepped up to jump a few Grand Prix classes well and had a number of good placings in the ranking classes throughout the circuit, as well as winning a 1.45m class. Sam du Challois has proven a great find. One of the highlights for me of the circuit was being last to go in the Nations' Cup in Wellington and jumping clear with Sam to help the team secure victory, and also making it my 105th appearance on the senior team.
Saphir had multiple placings in ranking classes and stepped up to 1.50m level well, producing a great clear in the Suncast final.
Good Luck has been sensational. He was always an amazing jumper long before he came to me but the biggest change has come in his rideability. He is much straighter to the fences, a lot easier to collect, and jumping a 1.60 m course feels like 1.30m on another horse - it’s all so easy for him. We did three major Grands Prix and were clear in all of them finishing eighth, fourth and the biggest result came last weekend when we were double clear in the Great American Million Dollar Grand Prix to finish second.
It was a great course built by Ireland’s Alan Wade, who is one of the most popular course designers in North America. He got the right result with only three double clears, which meant a podium finish for those who made no fault over the two testing rounds. We will all take a few easy weeks before our European tour kicks off at the end of April.
Check out the great video that Noelle Floyd made: A Day In The Life