Sarah Johnstone Speeds to Victory in Ottawa

Ottawa, Ontario — Sarah Johnstone of Toronto, ON, sped her way to victory in the $10,000 Modified Grand Prix held Saturday, August 14, at the National Capital Show Jumping Tournament taking place at the Nepean National Equestrian Park in Ottawa, ON.

A large starting field of 34 entries saddled up for the event, with 18 jumping clear to advance to the jump-off. In the shortened jump-off round, speed became the name of the game, and the leader board changed often as the times got faster and faster.

In the end, no one could catch Johnstone, who stopped the clock in 38.22 seconds to stay ahead of runner-up, Jill Henselwood of Oxford Mills, ON, who crossed the timers in 38.48 seconds.

“He’s a super fast horse on his own, so it is about letting him carry his own pace,” said Johnstone of her winning strategy with Leonidas, a 13-year-old Hannoverian gelding owned by Trish Crang. “When you put pressure on him, that’s when he starts to get a little bit nervous, so I let just him carry his natural pace, and he does his job.”

At the age of 19, Johnstone was one of the youngest competitors in Saturday’s $10,000 Modified Grand Prix. She attributed her success to her partnership with Leonidas, who she affectionately refers to as ‘Leo.’

“I have been riding him since I was 16, and I get along with him; I love his personality and his little quirks,” said Johnstone, who works as a rider for the Hayes family in Orangeville, ON. “This summer he has been unbelievable. I’ve learnt so much from him. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to ride him.”

Despite qualifying four horses for the jump-off, Jill Henselwood had to settle for second with George, an eight-year-old Hannoverian gelding owned by Juniper Farms. She also took fourth place riding IV Ever with a time of 39.18 seconds.

“I call them the Twin Towers because they are both so tall,” said Henselwood, who also qualified Bordino as well as her 2008 Olympic team silver medal horse, Special Ed, for the jump-off. “George is ADD. He will be checking out a kid in the crowd holding a balloon, and only realize at the last second, ‘oh, this is where you want me to go?’ But he jumps with a dynamic effort every time.”

Squeezing in between Henselwood’s mounts for third place was American Olympic gold and silver medalist Leslie Howard of Westport, CT. Riding Jeans Glove Varnel, a 13-year-old selle francais mare, Howard stopped the clock at 39.04.

Local favourite Karen Matthews Sparks of Ottawa, ON, took fifth place with a time of 39.21 seconds riding Ferraro K, an eight-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Brookstreet Stables.

Johnstone will be hoping for back-to-back victories when she competes in Sunday’s $75,000 Brookstreet Grand Prix, beginning at 2 p.m., riding Starlet. She will face stiff competition from Henselwood and Howard, as well as nine-time Olympian Ian Millar, whose two children, Jonathon and Amy, will also be competing.

The two-week National Capital Show Jumping Tournament runs from August 11-15 and 18-22 at the Nepean National Equestrian Park, conveniently located at the 417 Queensway and Moodie Drive. Admission for Sunday’s $75,000 Brookstreet Grand Prix beginning at 2 p.m. is $10 per person, parking included, with children two and under admitted free.

For more information on the National Capital Show Jumping Tournament, please visit

$10,000 Modified Grand Prix – Final Results for Saturday, August 14
1. Sarah Johnstone Toronto, ON Leonidas 0:0 38.22
2. Jill Henselwood Oxford Mills, ON George 0:0 38.48
3. Leslie Howard Westport, CT Jeans Glove Varnel 0:0 39.04
4. Jill Henselwood Oxford Mills, ON IV Ever 0:0 39.18
5. Karen Sparks Ottawa, ON Ferraro K 0:0 39.21
6. Keean White Cambridge, ON Bethsabee 0:0 39.30
7. Margie Gayford Sharon, ON Winston 0:0 40.81
8. Keean White Cambridge, ON Pepper Gold 0:0 41.44
9. Jonathon Millar Perth, ON Euro Boy 0:0 42.97
10. Beth Underhill Schomberg, ON Quelqu’un de la Musardier 0:0 43.04
11. Jennifer O’Neill St. Lazare, QC Woodstock van de Withoeve 0:0 43.99
12. Beth Goodwin Ocala, FL Zorro 0:0 44.48

Photo:  Sarah Johnstone and Leonidas sail to victory in the $10,000 Modified Grand Prix on Saturday, August 14, at the National Capital Show Jumping Tournament in Ottawa, ON.  Photo Credit – Michelle C. Dunn