One of the gorgeous Celle Stallions

Over 61,000 fans came to Spruce Meadows on Friday to take in the Mercedes Benz ‘Evening of the Horse’, and I don’t think a single one left disappointed. Umm, wow! Of course the show jumping was great, I’ll get to that in a minute, but the Celle Stallions were a huge treat and the fireworks were amazing. Furthermore, the weather was perfect for a night outdoors- we could not ask for anything more.

Before I dive into the competitions, I had some time on my hands (you will find out why in due time), so I did make it through Equi-Fair. Although it certainly is not as large as it once was, there was a lot of good stuff! From clothes to art to tack, it was all there and I saw a few great deals. Personally, I had to rip myself away from a pair of open front boots that, no I don’t probably don’t need, but really really really want! I did pick up a pair of spur straps and a couple other smaller items, but those boots are going to be calling all weekend.

Alright, there were two classes in the International Ring:

$100,000 1.60m Encana Cup

Kent Farrington and Uceko. -Photo by Keara

I hope you were able to join HJU’s live chat for this one, it was a great class! I tried to join in for a bit, but it is tough holding onto your phone while standing out in the field taking pictures. Although I was shooting the first and then the last 2 jumps, it just wasn’t happening! Oh well, hopefully you were able to tune in and enjoyed the competition!

So, what happened?

Well, 34 pairs took to the challenging course designed by Leopoldo Palacios, with only 4 achieving a clear in the first round. This was a Masters course, no question about it! It was big, it was technical, and only the best combinations of the night made it through unscathed.

Lamazestalkers – did you see how they had to get Coriana into the arena?

Oh Coriana. -Photo by Keara

Firstly, they had another horse enter the arena in front of her, and then they backed her in without Eric in the irons. Finally, when she was in (still not looking happy about it), Eric was tossed up and he quickly got her going forwards. Silly girl. She was still very spooky and full of it tonight, but jumped quite well. Once again, it was the stupid last jump that got her- she came down on the back rail of the final oxer. Darn!

She jumped well! -Photo by Keara

Okay, Lamaze tangent over, back to the class! Once again, the four that made it into the jump-off were an international bunch: Kent Farrington (USA), Hans Dieter Dreher (GER), Shane Breen (IRL), and Juan Carlos Garcia (ITA). With a quartet like that, we know that it was going to take a very fast clear to win…

Shane Breen and Cos I Can (fantastic name!). -Photo by Keara

Shane Breen and the fantastically named, Cos I Can, went hard and posted the quickest time of the night, 37.11 seconds, but unfortunately would have a rail. They finished third.

Hans Dieter Dreher and Magnus Romeo. -Photo by Keara

The first flawless run in the jump-off came from Germany’s Hans Dieter Dreher aboard Magnus Romeo. I honestly thought they had it- he took some daring turns and Romeo jumped his heart out from some interesting spots.

But then, a little grey horse entered the arena…

Yes I mean Uceko! It is no secret that I drool over Uceko every time I see him. I see a lot of nice horses at Spruce, but Uceko takes it for being my favourite horse on the circuit. He is gorgeous, quick, agile, powerful…the list goes on. Oh ya, he also has a great rider who is presently on quite the streak!

Kent rode into the arena knowing that he had to be fast to take the win…we knew it was possible from Shane’s time, but all the rails had to stay up.

Could the little grey do it?

Good boy Uceko! -Photo by Keara

Yes!! Oh man, I am so excited for this pair! I should remind you, Uceko is only 9- at this rate, he is going to be nearly unbeatable in a couple years (he is nearly unbeatable now!). Honestly, who couldn’t like him?! Judging from our Facebook page, I think we got some more of you on team Uceko- now we can all swoon over him together (and hey, Kent is not bad either!).

Alright, lets talk the second class of the night….

$50,000 ATCO Electric Six Bar

This class is basically a question of, how high can you go? Last year the final fence reached an incredible 2.05m, what would be the final height this year?

Horse: “Thank goodness I’m a statue, that jump is insane!”
Keara: “Umm, buddy, that’s not even the final height….”

The class drew 11 entires that we prepared to test their limits under the lights, in front of a packed crowd. Now, I’m not going to lie, I was getting concerned during the first round! Strangely, a number of pairs came to grief and failed to advance into the series of jump-offs. Uh oh! My fears were premature though because three very talented duos made it to the bitter end.

Robert Whitaker and Catwalk. -Photo by Keara

No, that’s not the final fence- I didn’t get a decent picture of it due to the increasing darkness, but it will be up on Facebook. Anyways, out of those three, 2 would clear all the fences of the fourth jump-off and finish tied for first! The final fence height? 1.99m! No, not as high as last year, but the course designers increase it to try and find a winner, not to knock everyone out.

Who were our high jumpers?

Robert Whitaker (GBR) and Harrie Smolders (NED)! -Photo by Keara

As co-winners, they have to share the purse……

But, hey, if you can’t reach it, it’s mine! -Photo by Keara

Haha, kidding aside, a big congratulations to them- not many riders have the guts to face fences like that! Catwalk IV (Robert) and Exquis Walnut De Muze (Harrie) were stars!

Video – Spruce Meadows Friday (showing the winning rides). It’s a flash video, so it won’t work on iPhones, iPads

Well, that’s it for now!

Saturday brings the always exciting BMO Nations Cup, so stay tuned for updates and, as always, keep checking the HJU Facebook page for pictures!

Keara