Parker, CO - Week one of the Colorado Summer Circuit continued Saturday with fantastic jumping in the $25,000 Summer in the Rockies I Grand Prix. Nineteen incredible pairs, like Olympian John Pearce and his WEG mount Chianto, gave the audience a real thrill over the Hector Loyola-designed course. As he had all week, the FEI 'I' designer gave riders a technical track over 13 obstacles and 16 jumping efforts. While the field included experienced horse and rider combinations, only four advanced to the jump-off, with only one able to finish double clear.
Taking home the blue ribbon with that clean jump-off performance was Colorado native and fan favorite, Mark Mead of Longmont, Colorado. While Mead was obviously thrilled with his horse's performance, the fans at CHP were also very excited, congratulating him with cheering and applause. Bjorn Ikast, perennial winner at CHP and third place finisher today, had an endless amount of positive things to say about his opponent saying, "I'm very happy for Mark. He's a great guy and horseman. He is definitely one of the guys I admire here at the show."
Mead rode Balthazar, the 11-year-old Belgian gelding, by Utrillo van de Heffinick out of Romina C, owned by Marianne Marshall. The pair has earned ribbons in other Grand Prix throughout the last year and was ready to lead the victory lap.
Like many riders, Mead thought it was a technical track. "[The course] rode better than I thought it would. Parts worried me, like the triple combination, but I just kind of held my breath and kicked a little bit," said Mead.
The longtime professional has been a frequent competitor at The Colorado Horse Park for its 20 years. "I'm always here. I've been at these shows since day one. It's home," said Mead about CHP. "They've made such good improvements. We enjoy coming here; we're all very excited!"
Second place rider, Susan Griffis attributed her success to the talents of her nine-year-old mare, Wurion. "The triple combination was a test for a lot of horses, and my horse did that one all on her own. She was quite lovely." Wurion is a Dutch Warmblood, by Furore out of a mare by Catango, who is fairly new to the Griffis family.
In third place, was Bjorn Ikast, who is no stranger to the winner's circle. His horse Brave Heart is a young sixteen years old, and has 27 championships under his belt. Ikast explained that there is no secret to his success. "All you need are good horses, a good team behind you, and to always remember that there is no 'I' in team," he said.
Ikast raved about the course reporting, "I love Hector; he's a very good course designer. He put up a very challenging course today and I loved it. It was very technical. You had to be on your A-game."
Big prize money, lovely courses and stellar customer service are what the Colorado Summer Circuit is becoming known for. Brian Curry, Vice President of CHP, commented on the event, "Our goal is to create an exciting sporting event that both the riders and audience enjoy. Today was fantastic. It was a beautiful day with Colorado blue sky, a ring that looked beautiful and great jumping!"
The Summer Circuit will continue through July 22 with a total of more than $1,000,000 in cash and prizes. For more information on the events at CHP, visit www.coloradohorsepark.com. Also, check out all of the Flying Horse Photography photo galleries on Facebook, and look for exciting new video footage on the CHP's Youtube channel.
Results--$25,000 Summer in the Rockies I Grand Prix
Mark Mead - Balthazar
Susan Griffis - Wurion
Bjorn Ikast - Brave Heart
Allison Kroff - Washington
Nick Gogen - Sancerre
John Pearce - Chianto
The Colorado Horse Park would like to recognize their generous sponsors: Parker Adventist Hospital, Parker Hospital Foundation, Littleton Equine Medical Center, Platinum Performance, Griffis Residential, Guaranty Bank, Murdoch's Ranch and Home Supply, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Suzy Sweitzer, Gesco Nursery, Bessemer Trust, Holiday Inn, Super 8, Hampton Inn, Norstar Industries, Nutrena, Pfizer, Grand Meadows, A Bit of Tack, Horse Connection, Equine Comfort Products, Days Inn, Sidelines, Comfort Suites, Chronicle of the Horse, Jump 4 Joy and Wild Ranch.
All photo credits: Flying Horse Photography