Washington D.C.—Oct. 27.
Reed Kessler knew she was lucky to draw last in the order of go in the $100,000 President’s Cup CSI-W, but she also realized it would take more than luck to win the class at the Washington International Horse Show.
“It’s always nice to go last and know what you have to beat,” said Kessler, 18. She rode carefully in the first round on Cylana to make it into the jump-off with eight other riders. The original field of 28 competitors from around the world was whittled by Anthony D'Ambrosio's course, which was extra challenging due to the narrow confines of the Verizon Center arena.
In the jump-off, rider after rider raised the bar. Margie Engle jumped the first clear round on Indigo, but soon Matt Williams, an Australian rider based in Wellington, Fla., took the lead by finishing in 36.15 seconds on Watch Me VD Mangelaar. He picked up a serious gallop to a vertical in the middle of the arena that made the crowd gasp, but the rail stayed up.
Williams' mount, a 9-year-old gelding, has had the past seven weeks off, which left him with plenty of energy in both rounds. "He was really on his job," said Williams.
Next on course, Paulo Santana, shaved a full 2 seconds off Williams’ time on his Taloubet, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Baloubet Du Rouet—R-Ming).
“He is better in the outside ring for sure because he is too hot,” explained Santana. But after riding around the arena at the Verizon Center all week, Taloubet started focusing. “After three or four days…he doesn’t see so many places to go.”
After Santana jumped around, several riders took rails while trying to gain some time on him, and it looked like Santana might take the win, but Kessler and Cylana, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare, weren’t going to give in without a fight. Kessler knew she'd have to test Cylana’s speed, and it paid off. She posted a time of 32.62 seconds, almost 2 seconds faster than Santana.
Watch Kessler and Cylana's round:
“I thought it developed beautifully,” said D’Ambrosio. “I’m not surprised to see riders on fast horses find out faster ways. I think it unfolded in a very nice way where it developed for the crowd.”
He added that both novice and experienced horsemen in the crowd could enjoy the suspense and excitement.
“The confines of the rings are a challenge to me as well as the riders. Doing that in a very narrow ring isn’t the easiest job, but having some experience over the years in the indoors—it was very gratifying seeing the horses jump so well and gallop around,” said D’Ambrosio.
Kessler, of Lexington, Ky., has been coming to Washington since she was riding ponies. “It’s great to be all the way to the President’s Cup. It’s one of my favorite shows. My family always does well here. I love it. I’m used to the schooling area now,” she joked, referring to the cramped area dotted with pillars in the underbelly of the Verizon Center.
For full results visit www.wihs.org.