Via Volo made some news in 2012. – Photo by Keara

Although it flew by, 2012 was another great year on the jumper circuit. Some obvious highlights include the World Cup final, the Olympic selection trials, the Olympics themselves, and of course, the million dollar classes.

Before I dive into the highlights on the international stage, I want to remind everyone of the incredible resource that became ever so prevalent in 2012: the live stream.

Show jumping is an incredibly dynamic sport that is constantly evolving whether it be in the riding style, the types of courses, or the types of horses, so it is fun to watch. Also, if you are paying attention, watching a class can be nearly as good as auditing a clinic. Why was that round successful while the other incurred 20 faults? Why did the rider chose to add/leave out? What worked for that horse, and why was it different for that other one? What is that crazy bit and why is it being used? It doesn’t matter if you live in the middle of nowhere, my homework for any show jumping fan is to tune into a live stream, pay close attention, and then ask yourself: What have I learned and how can this improve my knowledge of the sport and/or my riding? The availability and quality of live streams increased in 2012, and the trend is sure to continue.

Alright, so what were the major trends seen in show jumping? Following the trend that Amy pointed out in our 2011 Hunter/Jumper review, the domination of the youth in the sport has continued.

Reed and Cylana in the BMO Nations Cup. -Photo by Keara

A name to remember: Reed Kessler.

If you didn’t know her name before 2012, you sure do now. Not only did she co-win the US National Championship with Margie Engle, but she had both of her horses right in the thick of things throughout the selection trails, and was eventually named to the team with Cylana after a nearly flawless performance at Spruce Meadows in June.

In case you missed this great interview, here are some of Reed’s first impressions after having been named to the team:

From Spruce Meadows, Reed went on to have a great first Olympics as the youngest ever show jumping athlete at just barely 18 years of age. After the Olympics, she didn’t slow down one bit. Great results in Gijon, Lexington, Calgary, Washington, Toronto, Paris, and Geneva, left her in the Top 50 on the Rolex Rankings that came out at the end of November. Reed is the real deal.

Another young athlete that really burst onto the world stage in 2012…

Olivier Phillipaerts and Cabrio, the 2012 CN International champions -Photo by Keara

19 year old Olivier Phillipaerts of Belgium. Wow.

With the stunning silver stallion Cabrio, Olivier jumped his way to victory in one of the worlds most prestigious classes, the $1 000 000 CN International at Spruce Meadows. Showing the poise and confidence of a much more seasoned competitor, Olivier finished the two gruelling rounds with only 2 time faults – American veteran Beezie Madden finished second, and Olivier’s father, Ludo, took third. It should also be noted that Reed Kessler produced the only fault free performance in the first round, and would go on to finish 5th. A seriously impressive performance by both “kids”.

Here is the press conference:

Really, I should also mention Olivier’s twin brother, Nicola, who also was very prevalent in some of the largest classes at Spruce Meadows and elsewhere. The Phillipaerts twins are a talented duo.

Also, while on the subject of the young “phenoms” of the sport, we should not forget Katie Dinan, one of McLain Ward’s students, who had quite the season with some Grand Prix wins. Having entered her freshman year at Harvard, Katie is still in the saddle and logging big wins, the most recent being the $50,000 Holiday and Horses FEI World Cup Qualifier in Wellington.

Katie Dinan and Nougat du Vallet. -Photo by Keara

With her natural talent being moulded by one of the greats of the sport, we have certainly not seen the last of Katie on the International stage.

Speaking of McLain, the kids didn’t have all the fun in 2012.

McLain Ward and Antares F. -Photo by Keara

McLain Ward rebounded from both a shattered knee cap and the retirement of his super mare, Sapphire, to be named to the US Olympic team on the flashy grey, Antares F. Upon returning from London, McLain didn’t waste any time before scooping up one of the largest cheques in show jumping, winning the Pfizer Million on Antares. Canada’s Jill Henselwood took second place on George, with Johnathan McCrea and Colorado rounding out the top three.

Here is McLain’s first round in the Pfizer Million:

Then, who could forget about one of Reed’s and McLain’s Olympic teammates, Rich Fellers and his brilliant chestnut stallion, Flexible? There is a reason why Flexible is nominated for the USEF International Horse of the Year.

Rich Fellers and Flexible. -Photo by Keara

Not only did they dominate the US selection trials, lead the team into London, and finish as the highest placed American pair, but they also ended the United States’ 25 year drought in the World Cup, winning the 2012 final in a nail biting jump-off with Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat.

Here is his jump-off round in the World Cup final and the awards ceremony:

Another one of the sports most prestigious classes, the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen, was won by Great Britain’s Michael Whitaker on the dark bay stallion Amai. After 28 years of trying, Whitaker finally topped the class after a stellar jump-off performance. Germany’s Thomas Voss came second, and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum third.

Here is Michael’s jump-off round:

Finally, before I jump into the topic that I have been avoiding, the FEI Nations Cup Super League was won by the powerful Germans, with France second, and Ireland third.

2012 Super League Results

Alright, it’s time to talk about:

Olympic Overload

Packed stands, London 2012. -Photo by Patricia

Is it just me, or were the Olympics a lot like Christmas? A lot of buildup and excitement just to have it fly by at warp speed, leaving us wondering if it really happened. Well, that’s how I feel anyways! All 2011 there was speculation, and then once 2012 hit, it seemed to explode.

Team USA: Rich Fellers (Flexible), Beezie Madden (Via Volo), Reed Kessler (Cylana), and McLain Ward (Antares)

Team Canada: Ian Millar (Star Power), Eric Lamaze (Derly), Jill Henselwood (George), and Tiffany Foster (Victor)

Ian Millar, Captain Canada, headed for his 10th Olympic games at the age of 65, with Star Power. They would finish 9th, Millar’s highest individual placing to date.

A big lead-up story= Lamaze. Which horse? Named with Derly, alternate with Verdi. Derly? Yep, he stuck it out with Derly and put in a very respectable performance, but that wouldn’t be where Canada got most of the attention at the games…

Fostergate. Heartbreakingly, just minutes prior to her ride in the second round, Tiffany Foster was disqualified from the Olympics due to hypersensitivity on one of Victor’s front legs. Due to Equine Canada’s lacklustre response, Eric declared that he would not ride for the country until they showed her more support; they finally did.

And, of course, our new Olympic champions:

Individual final results.

Team final results.

Surprises? Yes! No one expected Germany and France to be completely out of it. In fact, we had them pegged as favourites for the gold and silver respectively. We all knew that the British were strong, and with the home crowd backing them up, they were unstoppable on their quest for gold. And how about the Saudi team? Bronze medalists, but the celebration was somewhat clouded by the doping controversy leading up to the games. Any hard feelings aside, they certainly proved that they are serious players in the sport.

The team medalists. -Photo by Patricia

For the individual, Steve Guerdat was no big surprise. Nino had been going wonderfully, and they finished second in the World Cup final earlier in the year. Taking silver, Gerco Schroder is always a threat, and Cian O’Connor took the bronze after just barely squeaking into the games. The biggest surprise induvidually? Beezie Madden and Via Volo refusing out in the first qualifying round. This was shocking and heartbreaking all at once. Although Beezie would rebound and put in some solid rounds for her country, the 2008 bronze medalist was completely out of the running for an individual medal on the first day of competition.

Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonets. -Photo by Patricia

A team wrap-up video can be found here:

and an individual one here:

No, the London Olympics were not memorable ones for either the Canadian and American teams, but they weren’t expected to be. Both teams found themselves in rebuilding mode after losing some key horses, and as far as developing horses and riders to excel in future events, mission accomplished.

Aside from the competition arena, 2012 was also about saying goodbye to, arguably, two of the best horses the sport has ever seen.

In a touching ceremony at the Devon Horse Show, Sapphire, the big chestnut mare that, under McLain Ward, has too many victories to count, was retired from competition.

Here is a wonderful tribute video from the USEF:

And, of course, the little stallion that could, Eric Lamaze’s Hickstead, was honoured at Spruce Meadows. In an emotional ceremony, a life sized bronze statue was unveiled that will have a permanent home on the grounds of Spruce Meadows.

Here is a preview of an upcoming tribute – note that it is a flash video, so it will not work on iPhones etc:

I think I will leave it there. No, that wasn’t all that happened in 2012, but really, there was a lot going on! What were your favourite moments? Did I miss anything that you loved? What are you looking forward to in 2013? With this sport there is always a lot to look forward to, with a lot of exciting pairs to keep your eye on…but I’m going to save that for another post!

All the best in 2013,