he picturesque grounds of Live Oak International. Ph. Mark Astrom
In just seven days, one of the United States’ top-rated, boutique, show jumping events will open the doors to the fifth edition of its Live Oak International CSI3*-W in Ocala, Florida, February 26 – 28th, 2016.
Live Oak Plantation’s 25-year history of hosting combined driving competition was further enriched five years ago, when CSI-rated show jumping was added to the week’s schedule, making the event the only one of its kind to host a combined driving and show jumping event together on the same farm on the same weekend.
Combined driving champion Chester Weber organizes both events amid a busy schedule of competing internationally in his discipline, working with his sister Juliet Reid, who has served as president of the Washington International Horse Show for eight years. Together, the siblings’ efforts have more than paid off. In 2015, Live Oak International’s grand prix became a FEI World Cup Jumping Final Qualifier, and in 2016, Live Oak was kept in the World Cup Qualifying League with its inclusion in the new Longines FEI World Cup Qualifying League. Just seven East Coast events are included in the League, and Live Oak is the final event before the World Cup Final, making it a critical stop for many riders.
“It all comes together, from the driving competition to the oak trees and the whole feel of it.”
Last year, California-based rider Vinton Karrasch made the trip clear across the country to compete at Live Oak and secured a top-12 finish in the Grand Prix. For him, it was more than worth the trip.
“I think it’s one of the most beautiful events; both years I came, it was one of the most beautiful events of my year,” Karrasch commented. “It’s for sure a top, top class show. I love the whole facility, not just the ring, which obviously is of excellent international quality, but the whole facility is beautiful with how it all comes together, from the driving competition to the oak trees and the whole feel of it. What a nice change it was to go there from [California!]”
Indeed the facility is a nice change for riders coming from near and far to compete at Live Oak. For Venezuelan rider Angel Karolyi, who last year won the opening show jumping class of the week aboard Wings, jumping at Live Oak breaks up his winter circuit nicely.
“The competition is fun with the Leading Rider Bonus, and it’s a European-format type of show with a very nice schedule,” Karolyi said. “You can take a few horse to compete from 1.30m, all the way to the grand prix.
“During circuit, there are such big numbers down here [in Wellington] that it’s refreshing to compete against a normal number of riders at Live Oak. They throw a great exhibitors’ party on Saturday night after the grand prix. It’s just a great show with great entertainment and great sport.”
Further upping the game at this year’s Live Oak is its increase in FEI-rating, from a CSI2* to a CSI3*. The 2015 edition of the grand prix was memorable for its technicality and top-level challenge that it laid out for the riders, some of whom were green to jumping a 1.60m World Cup Qualifier track. However, with the new CSI3* rating, this year’s competition promises to be even better as it attracts an even higher caliber of horse and rider. Renowned course designer Leopaldo Palacios will return to Live Oak next week to construct this year’s courses.
With three days and four jumping classes culminating in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup Qualifier Grand Prix CSI3*-W on Sunday, February 28th, the 2016 edition of Live Oak International will once again be an un-missable stop on the show jumping calendar.
Tickets for spectators, and a livestream that will broadcast all classes, are available at this link.