Big Shoes to Fill: Who Will Replace the Show Jumpers Retiring this Year?

Flexible and Rich Fellers

This year, the retirement of some of the show jumping world’s premier equine stars has not gone unnoticed. Top international competitors Laura Kraut, Beezie Madden, Rich Fellers, and Rolf Göran Bengtsson will all have retired their top horses by the end of 2017. But long before the retirement ceremonies had been announced, these riders had already begun the process of developing a brand new string of competition horses in an effort to identify their next world-class show jumper:

Laura Kraut & Cedric

Laura Kraut’s Cedric enjoyed a bittersweet retirement ceremony on March 3, 2017 before the $150,000 FEI Nations Cup CSIO4* at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida. Among her string of successful horses, one in particular has made a splash this season. Confu, a 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Contact Me x Cambridge), delivered successful placings over the past year both nationally and internationally. In July 2016, Kraut and Confu won the coveted STAWAG prize at CHIO Aachen, then in September they earned 4th place the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Grand Prix at the American Gold Cup. Kraut is hoping to compete Confu in upcoming Longines Global Champions Tour events and other top-level international events.

After sustaining a leg injury at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Beezie Madden’s 15-year-old Belgian warmblood gelding Cortes ‘C’ (Optiebeurs Randel Z x Darco) has been retired to Madden’s stables in Cazenovia, NY.

Beezie’s longtime sponsor and owner of Cortes ‘C’, Abigail Wexner, has provided Madden the opportunity to develop a new equine partnership with the nine-year-old Holsteiner gelding Coach (Con Air x Corofino I). Purchased in the summer of 2015, Coach has already delivered some strong results and seems likely to step up to a top dog role in Madden’s string. Coach won his first 5* at CHIO Rotterdam in June 2016, and over the winter the pair finished 4th in the $216,000 Lugano Diamonds CSIO4* Grand Prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival.

Cortes ‘C’ & Beezie Madden

Beloved West Coast show jumper Flexible will enjoy his retirement ceremony at the Del Mar National before the $100,000 Grand Prix of Del Mar on May 6, 2017. At 21, Flexible is the oldest of the celebrity group retiring this year. While ending an over ten year partnership will no doubt be difficult, Flexible’s longtime rider Rich Fellers is currently excited about the prospects of a young mare in his stables by the name of Steel Bi. Although she is a long way from jumping 1.60 meter classes, Fellers says she shows early talent. “She is a winner but I don’t want to rush her because she’s very careful,” he commented, “Hopefully, she will be jumping 1.45M and 1.50M this summer.” While there’s unlikely to be a horse that will soon fill the place in his program left by “Flexi,” Fellers notes that the similarities between Flexible and Steel Bi are remarkable. “She reminds me a lot of Flexible because she’s light and fast, quick and careful.”

Rolf-Göran Bengtsson’s 18-year-old Holsteiner stallion Casall ASK (Caretino x Lavall I) will also be retired in 2017. In the past year alone, Bengtsson has piloted Casall ASK to two major wins on the Longines Global Champions Tour circuit at LGCT Paris and LGCT Valkenswaard. These results and other top placings contributed to the pair’s win of the 2016 Longines Global Champions Tour series championship. Casall ASK has been

Rolf Goran Bengtsson & Casall ASK

appearing on a farewell tour of select shows in 2017 in an effort to slowly step down from international competition, before he is officially retired at the LGCT Hamburg CSI5* in two short weeks. Bengtsson’s stable is full of potential mounts, but identifying one standout competitor seems to still be in the works. On a recent trip to Lanaken, which is known around the globe as a proving ground for young horses, Bengtsson had a successful showing on one of his lesser-known mounts. It seems that with two recent CSI3* wins with the nine-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Oaks Grove Carlyle, Bengtsson may be well on his way to developing another, great equine partner.

The next few years in show jumping will surely be interesting. As these top riders are searching for and developing their next superstar, new horse-rider pairs will be able to take the stage. This natural cycle of athlete exchange keeps the sport interesting and constantly evolving.

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