WEF 2018: Ones To Watch, Part 1

McLain Ward Ph. Mehgan Basco for NF.com

A new year means new talent, and from what we’ve seen so far, there’s no shortage in this 2018 show season. A bevy of up-and-coming partnerships are using these beginning months in Florida to gain experience and test their potential at the higher levels of the sport, and the future is looking bright indeed.

With a significant number of elite athletes having already made their perennial pilgrimage to the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Florida, eyes have turned to West Palm Beach for the first, big reveal of these much-anticipated pairings.

Over the course of the 2018 season, NF will connect with top riders, trainers, and grooms for their impressions on which athletes—equine and human alike—they believe are the ones to watch this winter in Wellington.

This, our first installment, has been curated by U.S. show jumper, Mavis Spencer, who is sharing her top picks for horses whose performances have impressed her thus far. Some are being campaigned by more experienced senior riders, others by the next generation of show jumpers, but all are worth keeping an eye on:

Ph. Meghan Basco for NF.com

Go Easy de Muze

Current rider: Darragh Kenny

Past rider: Previously ridden by the Netherlands’ Jos Lansink and Belgium’s Frank Schuttert

Breeding: Bay BWP gelding (Vigo d’Arsouilles x For Pleasure)

Age: 12

Personality: “He’s an amazing horse. It’s interesting. He’s quite simple to deal with and easy to be around. He has a good personality but a bit lazy to ride on the flat. In the stable, he’s a bit goofy,” said Kenny.

Under saddle: (way of going): “He’s a big horse and has a massive stride with loads of scope. It doesn’t feel like you’re jumping half as big as you are—he has so much ability. He’s very straightforward. He can be a bit spooky and a little sensitive for a big horse, but he’s very good.”

Stand out moment: “At the start of our partnership, he started very quick and very well. At Barcelona in the Nations Cup Final, he jumped amazingly, and then that Sunday, went out and won the Grand Prix. That was a huge result for him and for me.”

  • Results with Lansink:
    • Competed for Team Belgium at 2015 CSIO5* Nations Cup Final in Barcelona
  • Results with Schuttert:
    • 1st place 2016 Dutch Championships
    • 1st place 2016 Grand Prix of Eindhoven
  • Results with Kenny:
    • 1st place 2016 CSI4* Bolesworth 1.55m Grand Prix
    • 5th place 2016 CSI4* Bolesworth International Grand Prix
    • Competed for Team Ireland at 2016 CSIO5* Nations Cup Final in Barcelona
    • Competed for Team Ireland at 2016 CSIO5* Falsterbo
    • 3rd place 2016 CSIO5* Falsterbo Grand Prix
    • 1st place 2016 CSIO5* Barcelona Grand Prix
    • 3rd place 2016 CSI5* Dinard Grand Prix
    • 1st place 2017 CSI3* Montpellier Grand Prix

Fun Fact: “I never actually tried him. My client, Kerry McCahill, owns the horse and tried him for herself. She thought he was a bit big for her but really liked him, and they offered me the ride. We bought him and I never sat on him. I believed Kerry when she said he felt really good.”

What can we expect for the future: “He was out of for most of 2017 due to colic surgery. My main goal this year is to be on the Irish team for WEG—I know he has the capabilities [for] doing that. This winter, I’d like to do WEF Week 5 CSI5*, the Nations Cup in Ocala, the $1 Million Grand Prix in Ocala, and then the $500,000 Grand Prix at WEF. He won’t do a lot of shows, but the most important ones.” 

Ph. Meghan Basco for NF.com

HH Gigi’s Girl

Current rider: McLain Ward

Past rider: Previously ridden by Germany’s Katharina Offel and Belgium’s Celine Schoonbroodt de Azevedo

Breeding: Grey KWPN mare (Vingino x Celano)

Age: 10

Personality: “She’s a nice mare, she’s very talented,” Ward says. “It’s just about her gaining that last little bit of experience to have her peak at the highest levels of the sport.”

Under saddle: (way of going): “She’s still a little bit inexperienced right now but she’s gaining that experience every day—she’s an incredible jumper. She’s a smaller horse than Azur but I think has all the jump in the world.”

Stand out moment:

  • Results with Offel:
    • 7th place, 2017 CSI4* Wiesbaden in 1.50m Accumulator
  • Results with Ward:
    • 3rd place, 2018 WEF Week 1 $75,000 Rosenbaum PLLC Grand Prix
    • Competed at 2017 CSI4* Toronto, CSI5* Tryon, and CSI4* North Salem in 1.45/1.50m

Fun Fact: “We got her at the end of last summer and it’s the last horse Hunter [Harrison] purchased for me and he named [her] after his wife. So she’s got a special place in everyone’s heart.”

What can we expect for the future: Plans to compete at WEF 2018 for her to gain more experience. “We’ll try to do the best job to bring her up through the ranks and help her reach her potential.”

Jackson de Regor

Current rider: Nikki Walker

Past rider: Previously ridden by Egypt’s Abdel Said and Belgium’s Jorik Vervoort

Breeding: Bay BWP stallion (Vagabond de la Pomme x Querlybet Hero)

Age: 9

Personality: “In the barn, Jackson is super laid-back and sweet. Really a big pet! I think he is going to fit in well with the Adena Springs horses,” Walker said.

Under saddle: (way of going): “He is quite simple—a big equitation horse with a little extra sass! Quite lazy on the flat and perks up when he sees the jumps.”

Stand out moment: Watching the video of Abdel Said and Jackson from the 2017 Knokke Grand Prix.

  • Results with Vervoort:
    • Competed in CSIYH1*/CSI2*
  • Results with Said:
    • Brought stallion up to the 5* level
    • Double-clear at CSI5* Estoril 1.55m
    • 1st place 2017 CSI2* 1.45/1.50m Grand Prix at Sentower Park

Fun Fact: Jackson was recently named to the BWP studbook.

What can we expect for the future: “Hopefully, we will jump some big grands prix in the future. In the meantime, we are going to take our time to get to know each other during Wellington and form a solid partnership.”

Ph. Meghan Basco for NF.com


Current rider: Adrienne Sternlicht

Past rider: Previously ridden by Belgium’s Katja Haep

Breeding: Grey Holsteiner mare (Clarimo x Casall)

Age: 10

Personality: “She’s a funny mare—quite stubborn and adamant that things happen on ‘her schedule’,” said. Sternlicht. “She has her moments of sweetness, but generally, is not a very dependent horse—she’s just very confident in herself. That said, she’s completely attached to Cristalline. They traveled together this fall and though I think it’s somewhat unrequited love, the two of them get along very well.”

Under saddle: (way of going): “She has an explosive jump, a huge stride, and a very good mouth. She’s very brave at the fence. She can be a bit cold to my leg and sometimes jumps a bit inverted, so on the flat I really focus on keeping her forward and relaxed through her top line to continue to improve her shape and the arc of the fence.”

Stand out moment: “Funnily enough, I posted a clip of her from The Royal, which got a lot of social media attention. It was from a 1.45 jump-off class and every once in a while she completely explodes at the fence—the feeling is unbelievable!”

  • Results with Haep:
    • Competed in CSIYH1*/CSI2*
    • 1st place 2015 CSIYH 1* Bonheiden 1.20m and 1.30m
  • Results with Sternlicht:
    • 4th place 2017 CSI5* Spruce Meadows 1.50m
    • 6th place 2017 CSi4* Washington DC 1.45m Accumulator
    • 6th place 2017 CSI4* Pre-WEF Wellington 1.45m

Fun fact: “Her barn name is ‘Noosh’, short for Anuschka. She was named after her previous owner, Katja Haep’s sister, and it just kind of stuck. I changed her show name when I bought her to Pembroke, as I have a theme of giving my horses names related to my Alma Mater, Brown University.”

What can we expect for the future: “She is still relatively green at the 1.50m+ level, so I will use the winter circuit to continue to develop her. She has all the raw talent in the world, so I’m in no rush to prove anything or over-face her in any capacity. I hope,this summer, she’ll be able to jump some big grands prix, but we’re willing to take whatever time is necessary.”

Ph. Meghan Basco for NF.com

 Jasper Van’t Gestelhof

Current rider: Kent Farrington

Past rider: Previously ridden by Portugal’s Mario Wilson Fernandes

Breeding: Bay BWP stallion (Heartbreaker x Darco)

Age: 9

Personality: According to Farrington, “Jasper is an easy going stallion. He is very well mannered and doesn’t act like a stallion other than the occasional scream at a passing mare. He loves his time in the field and likes to roll in the dirt!”

Under saddle: (way of going): “He is a gentleman to ride. He can be a bit lazy, but again, very well behaved.”

Stand out moment: “We haven’t had him long enough for him to produce any outstanding moments but he shows a lot of promise.”

  • Results with Fernandes:
    • Competed in CSIYH1*/CSI2*
    • 1st place 2014 CSIYH1* Villamoura 1.10/1.20m
    • 1st place 2016 CSIYH1* Macon Chaintre 1.30m
    • 1st place 2016 CSIYH1* Le Mans 1.30m
    • 2nd place 2017 CSIO 3* Lisbon 1.45m
    • 4th place 2017 CSI3* Vichy 1.50m
    • 7th place 2017 CSI5* GCT Estoril 1.45m
  • With Farrington:
    • 11th place 2018 WEF Week 1 $8,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate 1.45m

Fun Fact: “His cheekbones aren’t even… the right one is shorter than the left! It makes you think the noseband is always lopsided.”

What can we expect for the future: “We will continue to produce and get to know him better during WEF, and hopefully, he can produce some outstanding moments in the future.”

Ph. Meghan Basco for NF.com

RMF Zecilie

Current rider: Jessica Springsteen

Past rider: Previously ridden by Ireland’s Denis Lynch, USA’s Kimberly Prince, and Germany’s Andreas Ripke

Breeding: Bay Holsteiner mare (Acolord x Canturo)

Age: 11

Personality: “So sweet!” Springsteen said. “She has such a lovely temperament around the barn and she’s so gentle with people.”

Under saddle: (way of going): “She can be a little strong at home, but in the show ring, she’s amazing. She has such a big canter and gives you an amazing feeling in the air. She’s so brave and game.”

Stand out moment: “She’s a very new ride for me. We just jumped our first grand prix together and she was great!”

  • Results with Ripke:
    • Competed in CSIYH1*/CSI2*/CSI3*
  • Results with Lynch:
    • 1st place 2017 CSIO5* Dublin 1.50m JLT Dublin Stakes
    • 2nd place 2017 CSIO5* Falsterbo 1.45m
    • 3rd place 2017 CSI5* GCT Berlin 1.45m
    • 3rd place 2017 CSI5* GCT Paris 6-bar
    • 3rd place 2017 CSIO5* Falsterbo 1.50m
  • Results with Springsteen:
    • 9th place 2018 WEF Week 2 CSI2* Grand Prix

Fun Fact: “She always stops when she comes out of the ring and waits for her treat!”

What can we expect for the future: “This summer she will aim towards jumping the Global Champions Tour for our new Miami team.”

Sari (previously Unicstar De L’Aumone)

Current rider: Karen Polle

Past rider: Sergio Alvarez Moya

Breeding: Bay SF mare (Ninio de Rox x Timorrak Des Isles)

Age: 10

Personality: “Very sweet, easygoing, and brave. But she has a sensitive, hot side too,” Polle said.

Under saddle: (way of going): “At home, she’s very calm and relaxed. At the show, she gets excited and more sensitive, and really, really fast!”

Stand out moment: She won two of the three classes for Youngsters in Aachen as an 8-year-old.

  • Results with Moya:
    • 4th place 2017 CSIO5* Spruce Meadows in 1.60 Table A
    • Competed on 2017 GCT Tour in table A
    • 1st place 2016 CSIYH1* Aachen Sparkassen-Younsters Cup
    • 2nd place CSI4* Wellington Grand Prix

Fun Fact: “Her name is Japanese, and is pronounced ‘Sah-lee’, And she has huge ears!”

What can we expect for the future: “She’s ready to go, so it’s really just up to me to figure her out and build a partnership with her. We’ve only done one show together so far. I hope we can start jumping some big grands prix this year and hopefully, we’ll win a lot of classes!”

Ph. Meghan Basco for NF.com

Hija Van Strokapelleken

Current rider: McLain Ward

Past rider: Previously ridden by USA’s Jennifer Gates and Egypt’s Nayel Nassar

Breeding: Grey BWP mare (Calido I x Azur Depaulstra)

Personality: “She’s a wonderful, big, grand prix mare, but she’s a little big for Jen—she just feels the size isn’t right for her,” Ward explained. “Nayel Nassar showed the horse last year with success at the Global Tour.”

Under saddle: (way of going): Ward describes her as ‘big, scopey, clever, and simple.’ “She’s really easy, light, very willing. She was great again in the grand prix on Saturday night. She’s a big horse, so she’d need a tall-ish rider.”

Stand out moment:

  • Results with Nassar:
    • 7th place 2017 CSI4* Wiesbaden in 1.50m Accumulator
  • Results with Ward:
    • 1st place 2018 WEF Week 1 $8,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate 1.45m
    • 8th place 2018 WEF Week 2 CSI2* Grand Prix

Fun fact: “They call her ‘Molly’—I call her ‘Hija’ [in the barn].”

What can we expect for the future: “I was given the horse to compete and to market, but I probably won’t have her very long. But in the meantime, I’ll enjoy her!”

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