For each week during the Winter Equestrian Festival, there is a “Saturday Night Light” class that is open to the public and hosts a big show jumping (usually) or occasional hunter class. These vary in difficulty and prize money, and every year I’ve previously visited I’ve been lucky enough to go for the $500k WEF Finale Grand Prix… which is massive and filled with the best of the best.
This year I went during week 10 instead of 12, and therefore the Grand Prix was much smaller. It was during the same weekend as the HITS $1 million as well as a big Paris Grand Prix, so many of the top riders had left. In 2013 I was lucky enough to see Reed & Cylana, Beezie & Simon, Mclain and Antares to just name a few superstar pairs. This year there were some top riders riding but they were taking around their younger/greener horses. You readers can go ahead and smack me when I tell you that we left the class early around 10:30pm because we didn’t have dinner and were starving. Still, there is always much to see and learn from watching a Grand Prix… even if it is smaller.
The course was really, really difficult for a CSI 3*. The triple combination took out half of the field of 40+ and it was the first time in my life I saw a shortish bending line from a vertical to a water jump. Can you imagine collecting your horse up for a tall vertical and then speeding up for an open water… on a bending line?!? Bananas!
From where we were sitting we had a great view of the triple combination, and although there were no falls or anything close it really did do damage during the night. The announcer said at one point that he thought the riders wanted to take that jump back out and burn it, and I think he was absolutely right.
Big name rider wise, the must sees of the class were Ben Maher, Lauren Hough, Peter Wylde, McClain Ward, Margie Engle, Laura Kraut and Jessica Springsteen. Ben Maher took the class, but my favorite to watch was Peter Wylde. He treated the first round like it was an equitation course. Where other people were galloping to make up time (which was tight) he was just cutting turns and cruising around like it was no big deal. It was really inspirational to watch! Added bonus, he’s currently showing some in the hunters… take that who think hunters are easier than doing the jumpers 🙂 All those perfect distances and tight rollbacks do help in the jumper ring.
We left through 3/4 of the riders and obviously were gone for the jump off, but it was a nice little grand prix to watch and get photos of. I’m always slightly disappointed with how my camera does in that ring for dark night classes, but I do the best with my equipment and got some decent shots all things considered.