Colby Russey and Crouching Tiger Race to the Win

Wellington, FL - Children's jumpers kicked off their weekend of competition today at the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). Thirty-two entries went to post today in the Equine Tack and Nutritional Children's 14-17 Jumpers, and Colby Russey and her mount Crouching Tiger topped the leader board in today's jump-off class.  

Russey, of Cooper City, FL, has been riding Crouching Tiger for two years and just began competing in the Children's Jumper ranks this year.  Russey has had the ride on "Tiger," a 15-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, for two years, and has developed quite a partnership with him.  

The first round in today's class consisted of nine numbered obstacles, and the most challenging part of the course was a short approach to an oxer followed by a bending line to a pair of double verticals.  Several riders also had trouble with the last fence in the first round, which was a skinny vertical by the in-gate.

Russey described Crouching Tiger in one word: "fast."  "He likes to go, and he loves jumping. He loves all of it," Russey said of her bay gelding (below left).  Russey proved this when she crossed the timers in the jump-off in a blazing time of 36.31 seconds."My strategy was just to keep him going," Russey explained of her jump-off ride.

Of future plans Russey noted, "My goals are to do my best. I want to get out there and do as well as I can."  She also hopes to continue her riding endeavors after she ages out of the junior ranks. "After this I plan on riding on an NCAA equestrian team in college," Russey acknowledged.  

Other top finishers today included Michael Balaz on his horse, The Air Up There, who finished second, as well as Victory Gallop, with owner/rider Lydia Cleary, who finished in third place.  

The feature event for the Equine Tack and Nutritionals Children's 14-17 Jumper is the NAL/WIHS Children's 14-17 Jumper Classic, which will take place on Sunday, March 14.

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The 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of top competition running from January 13 through April 4. WEF is run by Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC, and Wellington Equestrian Partners and held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. All 12 shows are "AA" rated and Jumper Rated 6, and more than $5.5 million in prize money will be awarded.

Photo Credits: Colby Russel and Crouching Tiger Win the Children's Jumper 14-17© 2010 Randi Muster/Mustphoto, Inc., Official Sport Photographer of the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival.