hen Karen Polle got the call that she'd be competing at the World Equestrian Games on her longtime mount With Wings, the news put her one step closer to her goal of putting Japan on the map in show jumping. It was also a reward - a deliberate recognition of the eight years of hard work the pair has put in to develop their skills and their partnership.
"I’m really excited. Getting selected for a championship team like WEG or the Olympics is a huge career and life accomplishment so I’m really proud of that,” says Karen. “I’m especially happy that I get to go with Wings because I’ve had him for eight years now so we’ve really worked towards this for a long time. I’m extremely happy.”
Photo by Erin Gilmore.
Karen and “Wings”, a 15-year-old KWPN gelding, have grown up together on the international circuit. Beginning in the Low Junior jumpers, the horse-and-rider slowly moved their way up to eventually become a well-known combination on the elite level.
“My biggest classes were his biggest classes. Every time we achieve something new, it means that much more because I’ve had him for so long,” she says. “We’ve been through so many ups and downs together, so when we do have those times where it comes together, they’re that more special.”
In a sport of ups and downs, Karen and Wings have been up more than they've been down in the past few years. After their breakout season in 2017 when they secured back to back victories at WEF in the $130,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup and the $380,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix CSI5* – their first victory at the five-star level – the duo hasn't looked back. Now with top-three placings in major classes such as Spruce Meadows’ Queen Elizabeth II Cup, the Versailles Rolex Grand Prix, and Dublin’s Anglesea Serpentine Stakes, Karen and Wings will likely put in a solid showing at WEG relying on their incredible athletic ability as a pair, and their long-standing bond.
Photo by Tori Repole.
With the opening ceremonies of WEG just days away, Karen’s top priority is to keep Wings happy, healthy, and relaxed.
“The biggest thing with Wings is to keep him happy because he is a bit temperamental and opinionated,” says Karen. "My grooms and I just spend all day, every day making sure ‘the King’ is happy. That just means lots of turnout time and not too much fussing over him, but just enough pampering.”
A team fit for a King, there’s no question Wings will be plenty pampered and rested to perform his best at WEG. And in preparation for herself, Karen is just staying focused on the task at hand and staying in the moment.
Photo by Tori Repole.
“I’m just keeping focused on everything I’ve been working on and what my trainers have been working on over the past year,” explains Karen on how she’s preparing for the Championship. “It’s so special because it’s the culmination of so many years of hard work and not giving up, and always coming back again.”
Feature photo by Tori Repole.
Slideshow by Erin Gilmore.