Four months after having her first child, American show jumper Ashlee Bond is back in the winner’s circle.
Riding Chela LS, the new mother captured the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Qualifier at HITS Desert Horse Park on Saturday. It’s an emotional win for Bond after nearly losing the 13-year-old mare to a staph infection in her hocks last year.
“I’m very overwhelmed. I’m trying not to cry. It’s been a really long road with Chela. She’s been out for a year and a half, she’s almost died twice, she had a staph infection so to have her back is unbelievable,” said the 31-year-old rider.
“That’s probably why that’s so emotional—and having a baby four months ago, I’m feeling really out of shape and a little heavier than normal. Getting back in, I’ve been feeling really rusty up until actually yesterday I started to feel better. Then today, in the first round, I was like, ‘Okay, maybe I’m getting all the kinks out.’ So it’s just being in this field and being able to have a good day today was a really good feeling.”
Of the 23 starters, four were clear in the first round. Bond was the only rider to post a double clear.
“I’m not really there yet to lay it down in a jump off so I had to go clear and go decently fast. I didn’t think I was going to win today. It worked out, it happens sometimes when you’re lucky but it was just building. I’m building. I’m getting my feet wet again.”
Her return to the show ring marks in a new start and fresh outlook for the Californian rider.
“Having a baby puts everything into perspective,” said Bond.
“Show jumping was my entire life, and now it’s my daughter and my husband and my family and this is second. If anything, it takes a little bit of the pressure off. You realize what life is really about. Yes, this win means so much, but at the end of the day, if you have a rail but then you go home to your amazing family and it’s okay.
“I think in the end, it will help me to ride better, oddly enough. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m excited to have our daughter here. And hopefully by next year, she’ll be understanding this and it’ll be a joy if she wants to ride and do the ponies. I’m really looking forward to making it a family affair.”
The qualifier served as the last stop on the Western North American League. Egypt’s Nayel Nassar continues to top the rankings for the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals in Omaha, Nebraska, on March 29 –April 2. Two of the top four finishers in Saturday’s qualifier will join home in Omaha. Those are second place finisher Audrey Coulter and fourth-place Karl Cook. (Third-place went to Lane Clarke, an Australian equestrian.)
The final leg of the North American League—East will take place at Live Oak International in Ocala, Florida, March 9–12.