East Dorset, Vermont — Kirk Webby of New Zealand won the $30,000 Mount Equinox Grand Prix, Presented by Hand Motors, riding his 2008 Olympic mount, Sitah, on Sunday, July 26, to conclude the fourth of six weeks of competition at the Vermont Summer Festival Horse Show in East Dorset, VT.
The grand prix course set by Kenny Krome presented some unique challenges for the riders. The time allowed was the first stumbling block. Originally set at 92 seconds, it was adjusted to 95 seconds after two horses had gone. Had it been left at the original 92 seconds, only four riders would have made it home inside the time allowed. Even after it was adjusted to 95 seconds, six horse and rider combinations still incurred time penalties. The other challenge was a massive triple combination set very close to the corner that came down a total of eight times and resulted in the fall of one rider.
After the initial round of competition, only four riders were penalty-free to advance to the jump-off: Kimberly Mulligan with Butterfly Rouge, Darragh Kenny and Gael Force, Ken Berkley aboard Carlos Boy and Webby with Sitah.
First back for the jump-off, Mulligan of New Canaan, CT, and Butterfly Rouge were conservative to turn in a clear round in a time of 40.79 seconds. Ireland’s Darragh Kenny, winner of back-to-back grand prix events during weeks two and three, was next into the ring. He turned in his usual fast and clean performance, shaving almost two seconds off of Mulligan’s time to finish in 38.65 seconds with Gael Force. Berkley of Flemington, NJ, and Carlos Boy were the next combination to try their luck and, since they had barely made the jump-off with a first round time of 94.93, shocked the crowd by being faster than Kenny, stopping the timers in 37.93 seconds.
Last to go, Webby surprised everyone by sneaking in an extra stride between fences one and two. His reason for doing so became evident as he turned the little mare tightly to fence three and then made an inside cut to the double combination at fence four. The inside cut, which no other rider had attempted, gave Webby the advantage he needed, and he and Sitah sped through the rest of the course in 36.60 seconds to win the class and claim the winner’s check of $9,000.
“I’ve had this mare for three or four years,” said Webby of Sitah, a 14-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare that stands a mere 16 hands. “She won a Grand Prix here two years ago, and she is the horse that I took to the Olympics last year. She is actually coming off a long break. The others in the jump-off were big, scopey gallopers, but she is pretty cunning. We’ve been around the world together, and I really know her.”
Webby, who placed all three of his entries in the top 12, continued, “I always feel that she can win, always. She knows what the jump-off is all about. She is not the most technically correct jumper or the most beautiful one, but she has a big heart and that is all that matters, really.”
Having represented New Zealand at last summer’s Olympic Games, Webby hopes to once again represent his country at next year’s 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, KY, with Sitah. The pair’s familiarity with each other was the key to their success in Vermont.
“Everyone did six strides and I did a choppy seven because I knew that I could sneak inside the triple bar and save myself a few seconds,” said Webby of his jump-off plan. “I was a little bit lucky but she did it pretty easily. We’ve been here for two weeks now and it has been a really nice horse show. I brought a bunch of clients and 16 horses and they all love it up here. It’s a great area. And it’s always good to win!”
The Vermont Summer Festival continues with the fifth week of competition, the Manchester & The Mountains Horse Show, highlighted by the $30,000 Manchester & The Mountains Grand Prix, on Sunday, August 2, 2009. A special guest, Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, will be in attendance to present the ribbons and prizes to the horse shows smallest horse show competitors, the leadline contestants, during the $30,000 Manchester & The Mountains Grand Prix.
Running through to August 9, 2009, the six-week Vermont Summer Festival is the largest “AA” rated hunter/jumper horse show in New England, as well as the richest sporting event based on purse in the state of Vermont, offering more than $750,000 in prize money. Visit our website for more information on the 2009 Vermont Summer Festival, e-mail or call (802) 362-9023.
$30,000 Mount Equinox Grand Prix, Presented by Hand Motors
|1||Kirk Webby||New Zealand||Sitah||0:0||36.60|
|2||Ken Berkley||Flemington, NJ||Carlos-Boy||0:0||37.93|
|3||Darragh Kenny||Ireland||Gael Force||0:0||38.65|
|4||Kimberly Mulligan||New Canaan, CT||Butterfly Rouge||0:0||40.79|
|5||Marshall Field VI||Salt Point, NY||Calypso VB||1||95.28|
|6||Mary Lisa Leffler||Brookeville, MD||Gerona 92||1||95.91|
|7||Maria Schaub||Rumson, NJ||Stedet’s Leroy||3||97.00|
|8||Kirk Webby||New Zealand||Hennessey||4||91.62|
|9||Sloane Coles||The Plains, VA||Louisiana||4||92.13|
|10||Danielle Torano||Fort Lauderdale, FL||Capitano||4||92.25|
|11||Mark Leone||Franklin Lakes, NJ||Great American||4||92.98|
|12||Kirk Webby||New Zealand||Cosmopolite S||8||92.59|