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Pennsylvania National Horse Show BIG Jump Ward McLain

Only three of 31 horses came away clean in the $25,000 Pennsylvania National Big Jump. McLain Ward and Bluechip Bloodstock’s veteran campaigner Goldika 559 were the sole competitors to have the winning double clear rounds. Brianne Goutal, 20, aboard Ralvester edged Michael Morrissey, 23, on Crelido; both took rails down in the jump-off, but Goutal did it about a half second faster.

Even winning, Ward admitted, “It was a very difficult course.” “I was surprised as how strong it was,” said the Olympic Team Gold Medalist “The triple came up early—even for as fast and careful as Goldika is. She’s an amazing horse, incredibly competitive. I just have to wind her up. I feel lucky to have had her for the past six years. I take nothing for granted.”

The triple combination, to which Ward referred, dashed the hopes of 10rider and one horse simply refused. Riders had to jump the 4’9”x 5’ wide triple bar, regroup in two strides for the first, airy 4’11” vertical. The third element, another airy 4’11” vertical was a mere single stride away.

Like all the courses Michel Vaillancourt has devised for the Championships determined at this show, the rider must read the course and guide the horse. This means having a plan but being flexible enough to make minute adjustments instantly should the horse jumps a little bigger than usual or not jump as big, to move the horse forward or restrain it.

Ian Miller, nine-time Canadian Olympic Team member and owner of a two-fault round offered this explanation: “It’s a really good course. You walk it, but the problems are not obvious. That’s the art of good course design.”

Ward and the rest20of the Grand Prix riders will have several more opportunities to test their skills on Vaillancourt’s puzzles as the Pennsylvania National Horse Show continues through Saturday. Ward and Goldika return for the North American League Open Jumper Speed Final Friday. Ward will ride another horse, but he’s got his eye on the $75,000 Budweiser Prix de Penn National the last night of the show. This is one of the few Grand Prix’s Ward has yet to win and, for him, “winning never gets old.”


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