Nayel Nassar and his longtime partner Lordan brought home a big win for Egypt when they clocked the fastest clear in a six-horse jump-off to win Sunday’s $135,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Las Vegas, presented by Walter Oil & Gas Corporation. As the last to go, Nayel knew he had to put the pedal down to beat Wilhelm Genn and Buggati’s time of 35.73. They turned and burned, crossing the timers in 34.57 seconds to win.
"Lordan's jumping really great right now. This is his third week in a row and he's on fire. He'll get to enjoy a well-deserved holiday in the field after this. I'm very happy that he's feeling so good at the end of the season as a 14-year-old."
Nayel first met Lordan on a cold December day in Hungary. Lordan was only six at the time, but Nayel saw something special in the diminutive Hanoverian (Lordanos x Landor S) gelding. "I went over there in the winter of 2010 and I tried maybe 30 horses that day in a tiny indoor ring… and it was freezing cold. But he was one of the first ones they brought out and he really stood out for me," Nayel says.
Photo by Andrew Ryback.
Lordan was – and still – is a quirky horse with "a little buck and play in him," but he’s been a "tremendous partner" for Nayel. They competed at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games and two FEI World Cup™ Finals, and this is their fourth international win this year.
Eight years later after their first meeting, Nayel knows the horse like the back of his hand. Following his big win in Las Vegas this past weekend, Nayel’s excitement and love for Lordan was palpable during the press conference – it’s obvious that even a long partnership like theirs is nothing like a stale marriage. Here’s why.1. They still surprise each other.
"Sometimes he’ll surprise me with his temperament that day," Nayel explains. "Sometimes he’ll be a bit more fresh or lazy, and it’s all about trying to get him in the right gear for the ring. I’ve learned when to carry a whip and when not to. He does surprise me by how good he is sometimes, obviously in show jumping there are a lot of downs too, and there are times he surprises me because he’s not as good. And when that happens, we look into his preparation and his physical state to find out what we can do to get better."
2. They travel the world together.
While Nayel calls San Diego his home base, he’s all over the map – usually with Lordan in tow.
"I bounce around a lot. We’ll be in San Diego for a few months, Florida for a few months, and Europe too. And of course for competitions, we go all over the world."3. Nayel learns from the best to be a better pilot for Lordan.
Nayel based with Belgian Olympic show jumper Gregory Wathelet for three months at the end of 2017, where he was able to get feedback from one of the best riders in the world.
"He’s a rider I really look up to. It was extremely helpful having him look at my horses from the ground and give me his perspective, and he was great to bounce ideas off of. I’m hoping to go back this summer. I got a lot of confirmation from Gregory, which was helpful as a young professional. It gave me a good sense that I’m on the right track."
Photo by Andrew Ryback.4. They’ve got their warm-up routine down to a science.
"We jump three or four verticals, up to 1.40m max. Then two or three little oxers, progressively wider each time. Then we put a boot on – his boot is not a pressure boot or weighted boot. His boot is just a normal hind boot for protection. We’ve never had to go to a pressure boot or anything like that with him. Then we jump two or three bigger oxers. After that, I like to jump maybe one more vertical to get his eye up, and then we go in the ring! If we get a light touch (on the rail of the last warm-up fence) that’s great, but he doesn’t usually touch fences in the warm-up ring. That’s the routine. That’s been our routine for the last five or six years since he started jumping grands prix."5. Lordan’s short but quick stride is still a thrill to ride.
Lordan is notably shorter-strided than most other horses in any given class, but Nayel has learned to use it to his advantage.
"I walk my courses in meters which is different than most people here, but that’s how I learned to walk over in Europe, and so I have kind of a ‘Lordan conversion chart’ in my head where I know, 'Okay here it’s feasible to put in another stride because there’s enough space between fences,’ or ‘No this is a little too tight,'" Nayel explains.
"He has incredible foot speed. He ends up doing more strides over a whole course than most horses, but he often ends up being a second or two faster than them. It makes no sense in my head, but I’ve learned to trust just how quickly he turns and how fast he eats up the floor."6. Lordan has learned to read Nayel’s mind (almost).
"I just have to think about where I want to go, and he goes there. There are a lot of horses that learn to read the course over time and anticipate where they’re going, and sometimes that works to your disadvantage because they cut the turn a little early or they turn over the fence and have it down. But we have a strong partnership to be able to go fast over big courses."
7. Lordan and Nayel put the work in together.
The science behind a long lasting relationship is based on the amount of effort one puts in to make it work. For Nayel and Lordan, the pair have had their ups and downs, but know when to take some time and focus on what needs to be adjusted in training. During the jump-off in Las Vegas, they put their practice to the test to edge out the competition.
"Luck of the draw helped me out in the jump-off. I was in the pole position coming in. I knew Wilhelm had set a hard time to beat on a horse with a bigger stride than mine. I just had to be tidy in the turns," he explains. "I always relish the pressure and I think Lordan could feel that I was getting tingly walking in there. He tried his heart out."
Feature photo by Erin Gilmore for NoelleFloyd.com.