Parker, CO - A crowd of spectators gathered to watch spectacular show jumping at the much-anticipated $30,000 Nutrena Summer in the Rockies III Grand Prix in the Kathy and Brad Coors Family Grand Prix Arena at the Colorado Horse Park on a perfect Colorado Saturday afternoon.
In the first round of the event, 19 horse and rider combinations battled it out over international course designer Alan Wade's track, attempting to progress to the jump-off round. Ten would make the cut.
"It was a build-up over the week," said Wade about his strategy in creating the course. "In the Welcome we went up for the second round. We were a little bit bigger again today. Then, they went up again in the jump-off. It was more about show jumping than pure speed."
"I try to give a balance so that you don't just suit one horse," Wade continued. "You try to suit the best overall combination of horse, rider, scope and nimbleness - that they're able to turn left and right and that they're able to move up across the ground. You just try to test everything."
The first to go clear within the 89-second time allowed was John Pearce from Bermuda Dunes, CA, and Johnny B Good, owned by Forest View Farm.
Three more clean rounds in a row followed from Bryn Sadler and Showcase 81 LLC's 18.2 hand grey Holsteiner, Cincinnati. Then, Mark Mead of Longmont, CO, and Balthazar, a Belgian Warmblood owned by Marianne Marshall, had a speedy clean round and Kristen VanderVeen from St Charles, IL, and Bull Run's Eternal went fault-free. Caroline Beecherl from Dallas, TX, followed suit riding her own S&L Zeppelin.
A few rounds later Pearce returned on Chianto, who also advanced to the jump-off. The Danish Warmblood superstar with his own Facebook page is owned by Forest View Farm and has a list of wins as long as your arm.
The next clear round came from Matt Cyphert from Lantana, TX, aboard Lochivar, winner of the 1.40m Open Jumpers on the opening day of Summer in the Rockies III.
Sadler returned on her second mount, Bon Giorno, and earned another chance at the short course, as did Armando Hassey and Taggert Enterprise's Eminem and Bjorn Ikast and the fabulous Colorado, owned by Bovee Limited Liability.
VanderVeen and Bull Run's Eternal were the first of the second-rounders to leave all the rails in their cups, stopping the timer at 44.665. The performance from VanderVeen, who has been a consistent winner at the Summer in the Rockies series, and the huge-strided Belgian Warmblood seemed improbable to beat.
Then Pearce came back for the jump-off round with his long-time partner, the 16-year-old Chianto. The pair effortlessly flew around the course, laying down a blazingly fast, clean round that timed out at 42.066, over two seconds ahead of VanderVeen and Bull Run's Eternal.
Pearce and VanderVeen's jump-off rounds would produce the only double clears of the goup. Pearce had the fastest four-fault time with Johnny B Good to earn the third place prize, while Cyphert and Lochivar placed fourth.
"I thought it was big, actually, but it rode nice," said VanderVeen. "There wasn't anything that trapped anyone. It was definitely a lot bigger than we've been jumping. My horse just did the Grand Prix last week and he didn't do the Welcome again this week. So this was his first class out - so I thought, 'I hope he's on his A-game.' He was. I'll take second any day. We were double clean and that was what we're shooting for."
"I don't want to run him too much over little jumps," said Pearce about Chianto. "He doesn't need to do that at this stage in his career. He's pretty much a Sunday horse now. I did him in the Welcomes the first couple of weeks because he hadn't jumped since Thermal - not a jump. I used those classes as a warm up. I don't jump the horse at home anymore. I just keep him really fit and happy."
"He's a great horse," Pearce shared. "Like I've said, he's my Pegasus. I can't count how many grand prix events he's wonfor me. One of the reasons he's so sound and so fresh is because I don't go to the well with him. I don't jump a 1.60m with him every weekend. At that age they can't do that anymore. I would still take that horse right now and drop him at any competition in the world and feel very comfortable. That's how much I think of this horse. He feels great and I feel blessed. This was a walk in the park for him. He was smooth as glass and flawless. He was beautiful to ride today."
"We ran fast in the jump-off and the footing held up," VanderVeen said. "The course designer this week has been really good about galloping and turning, not just one or the other. It has tested the footing. It's held up fantastic."
"I thought it was a good course," Pearce said. "It was a little bigger. He built a very nice encouraging course the opening day for the Welcome - which I am a strong believer in - and built a lot of confidence in the horses and riders. He didn't do anything too trappy - he had some subtle difficulties, no doubt. It kept it really fair for everyone."
"I was very happy how it turned out," said Wade. "It was fair to the less-experienced ones, those who were just having their first starts in grand prix. The better horse and rider combinations came to the top."
558. $30,000 Summer in the Rockies Grand Prix
1. 753/Chianto/Forest View Farm/John Pearce
2. 963/Bull Run's Eternal/Bull Run Jumpers One LLC/Kristen Vanderveen
3, 755/Johnny B Good/Forest View Farm/John Pearce
4. 808/Lochivar/Matt Cyphert/Matt Cyphert
5. 699/Eminem/Taggert Enterprises LLC/Armando Hassey
6. 641/Cincinnati/Showcase 81, LLC/Bryn Sadler
7. 639/Bon Giorno/Showcase 81, LLC/Bryn Sadler
8. 679/Colorado/Bovee Limited Liability Partnership/Bjorn Ikast
9. 1494/Balthazar/Marianne Marshall/Mark Mead
10. 805/S & L Zeppelin/Caroline Beecherl/Caroline Beecherl
11. 961/Bull Run's Le Conte/Empire State Equine Sales, LLC/Kristen Vanderveen
12. 675/Royal Flush/Bjorn Ikast/Bjorn Ikast