Mr. Whoopy is the kind of horse who can sometimes get in his own way. His bucks and leaps between fences have become his calling card but have also been known to cost him valuable seconds in the ring.
“He tends to play a little bit when he shouldn’t, but that’s kind of his deal,” said rider Duncan McFarlane. “If you were to take away the play, maybe it would take away his jump. It’s kind of a trade with him, but it does pay off.”
It certainly paid off on Oct. 6 when McFarlane rode out the bucks to jump two clear rounds and win the $55,000 Land Rover Grand Prix of Sacramento CSI-W at the Sacramento International Horse Show (Calif.).
The 11-year-old Hanoverian stallion owned by Simone Coxe last competed at the Pfizer Million (N.Y.) on Sept. 9, where a rail and costly time faults earned McFarlane and Whoopy 12th place. Since then McFarlane has returned home to his base in Castro Valley, Calif., to focus on the fall line-up of World Cup qualifiers.
The Fresh Mix
During Thursday night’s $35,000 GGT Footing Welcome Grand Prix, McFarlane left Mr. Whoopy a bit too fresh and paid for it with a run-out at the third fence. So on the rest day at Sacramento he gave the popular stallion a bit longer and harder flat workout, and that extra riding made all the difference.
Watch McFarlane's rounds.
McFarlane was up against the West’s best riders, including 2012 Rolex FEI World Cup Champions Rich Fellers and Flexible. Fellers, Wilsonville, Ore., has become a bit of a celebrity since returning to his home region after an epic year that included the best American finish in show jumping at the 2012 Olympic Games.
While Fellers and Flexible jumped clear to qualify for the jump-off and finished a full 2 seconds faster than McFarlane in the second round, one rail down meant they placed fourth.
McFarlane’s partner, fellow grand prix rider Helen McNaught of Great Britain, also brought out her Pfizer Million mount, the 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding Lariccello, and nearly stole the show by pulling off an impossible rollback turn in the jump-off. Her fifth-placed finish after a single dropped rail later on course still meant that it was a banner evening for the pair’s Outwoods Farm.
The course, designed by Germany’s Heiko Wahlers, proved to be a very fair test with no significant trouble spots. Each fence fell at least once, and faults were evenly spread out throughout. Wahlers used the limited space of the indoor at Sacramento well, with a short turn to the triple bar, that rode in one stride to an oxer, creating one of many well-thought out challenges for riders.
Tiffany Sullivan has a deal with her trainer Sheri Rose that when Sullivan wins her first grand prix, Rose will quit smoking.
It hasn’t happened yet, but Rose nearly had to throw her cigarettes away after Sullivan finished in a close second place behind McFarlane.
Ten months ago the 33-year-old jumped at the opportunity to purchase Tristan, best known as Nicole Shahinian-Simpson’s mount who won the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games trials in Wellington, Fla.
Sullivan showed that her partnership with the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding is clearly maturing as the two smoothly navigated course Wahler’s 1.60-meter track.
“We didn’t do any inside turns because I’m still kind of a newbie at all this,” admitted Sullivan. “I just wanted to be efficient and clean. I thought the course was great. It was definitely big enough for me!”
Sullivan, of Los Angeles, was thrilled with Tristan.
“I’ve been working really hard to gear up for this show. Coming here is a big goal of mine,” she added. “I really wanted to get my first clean round in a 1.60-meter class here, and I did!”
Saer Coulter is fast becoming one of the United States’ elite riders with the help of coach Markus Beerbaum. Fresh off a summer of competing in Europe, Coulter, of San Francisco, brought her top horse, the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Springtime, closer to home in order to concentrate on finishing her degree in art history from Stanford University, where she is a senior.
Coulter was the pathfinder in the jump-off, laying down a quick, clear round that earned her third place.
“Markus always tells me after every jump, ‘butt in the saddle.’ It sounds ridiculous, but for me and the way I ride, getting my butt back in the saddle after every fence helps me reevaluate where I am,” said Coulter. “I’ve had a very hard year, jumping a lot of huge classes. He’s done a good job of preparing me to be in the big leagues, to ride against the hardest people, to jump the biggest courses.”
Coulter may be making a name for herself internationally, but she’s quick to credit the California circuit for giving her a solid start on the way to international show jumping, and she plans on staying in her home state through the winter circuit in 2013.