New York, NY- The evening's competition concluded at the 2016 Rolex Central Park Horse Show with the $50,000 Engel & Völkers Puissance, which saw a tie for McLain Ward riding Evergate Stables' ZZ Top VH Schaarbroek Z and Andrew Kocher aboard Eagle Valley Partners' C'Havinia.
Seven entries started over the imposing Puissance wall set at a height of 5'3", and the competition continued up through four more rounds as Ward and Kocher jumped head-to-head at the final height of 6'9". Neither rider was able to clear the wall at that height, leaving them tied for the win.
Ward rode ZZ Top VH Schaarbroek Z in the Puissance competition after the gelding also competed in the Under 25 class with young rider Oliver McCarthy. It was a last minute decision to enter the class, but Ward already knew the horse well and got a little encouragement from longtime manager Lee McKeever.
"We had the horse here with my rider Oliver, and I have actually sold this horse a couple of times and bought him back a couple of times," Ward explained. "I have not ridden the horse in five years, but he is an easy catch ride. He is a wonderful grand prix horse who really knows his job."
Ward continued, "Everyone knows the story of Lee and I - we have been together 30 years - and when we were driving here tonight he said, 'Why don't you want to do the Puissance? Are you getting a little chicken?' I said we didn't really have a Puissance horse, and he said that horse could do it. I thought about it for a few miles, and I said, 'Do you think we can still enter?' He kept saying that I was afraid, and we went back and forth for about 10 miles, and so I told him to enter me in the class."
Ward is no stranger to Puissance competitions. In fact, he has won many (including seven times at the Washington International Horse Show), and noted that the highest he has cleared is a staggering 7'3".
"I also attempted to jump an 8-foot wall six different times, but never cleared it. I have no intention of doing that again!" Ward laughed. "The last round I thought looked quite big tonight. It jumped up a little bit in the last round (from 6'3" to 6'9"). It was interesting though, because I thought in the second to last round my horse jumped it better, and I thought in the last round Andy's horse jumped it better. So it was pretty even at the end. I thought it was a nice, exciting class with horses jumping very well."
Commenting on the Puissance class in general, Ward added, "It is a fun way to end the evening. It gets everybody into the competition, and I think the draw of this class is that it is something that everybody can easily understand - how high can you jump?"
For Andrew Kocher, this was his first time competing at the RCPHS and one of few times he has attempted the Puissance. "This is my first time here, so we are having a really good time and we were excited to get invited for sure," Kocher acknowledged. "That mare (C'Havinia) has never done anything like that. I have done the Puissance three times at Washington, and the first time was really bad, but this time I have been practicing for a few weeks. I didn't have a big enough wall, so I put some hay bales in there to stack it up. It was fun."
International Equestrian Group and RCPHS founder Mark Bellissimo enjoyed all of Thursday evening's competition and spoke after the event, thanking riders and sponsors.
"We had great competition tonight. It is interesting to see classes like that happen on a night like this, with perfect weather and a perfect backdrop, so I thank all of the participants for their great effort," Bellissimo stated. "We want to thanks Canadian Pacific - Hunter Harrison, Keith Creel, and Mark Wallace - they have been very generous supporters of the sport. Events like this are very complex and take a lot of support, and Canadian Pacific has been a great partner with us on this event and we really appreciate. We also have to thank Rolex, who is the title sponsor of the event since the first day. Also Land Rover and Adequan®, who have supported this event for three years. Those four have been stalwarts in making sure that this event has been successful, so I really want to thank them for that."
Mark Wallace, Vice-President, Corporate Affairs and Chief of Staff of Canadian Pacific, added, "It was great being here this week in New York. I was in Calgary last week for the CP International, and it was a different experience than this was under the lights in Central Park. It is a great event, and we have been a partner here for the last three years. It was fun to watch tonight, and McLain is a little bit a part of our family at CP. He has a close relationship with our CEO Hunter Harrison, so it was exciting to watch him win. Congratulations to everybody, and we are thrilled to be a part of this."
For more information, visit www.centralparkhorseshow.com.
Final Results: $50,000 Engel & Völkers Puissance
1 McLain Ward (USA) and ZZ Top VH Schaarbroek Z
1 Andrew Kocher (USA) and C'Havinia
3 Kevin McCarthy (IRL) and Tullibards Big B
4 Benjamin Meredith (AUS) and Elonie
5 Kama Godek (USA) and De Grande
5 Andrew Bourns (IRL) and Tztargazer
5 Ilan Bluman (COL) and Enzo