Show Jumping

McLain Ward is the World #1 Again and He Wasn’t Even Trying

©Cara Grimshaw/FEI

In June 2016, USA’s McLain Ward reached the number one spot on the world rankings for the first time in his impressive career. This month, he reclaimed the top slot after winning all three rounds of the World Cup Final in Omaha, Nebraska last week.

Here’s the thing, show jumping’s favorite perfectionist never actually aimed at being #1 in the world.

Explained Ward after capturing the title for the first time last year:

“While it wasn’t a goal, it’s certainly something I wouldn’t have minded reaching. I’m certainly very proud to do so and proud of the people around me and the people who’ve helped get me there—the owners, the horses, all the different parts that make it happen.

“To stay number one in the world, you have to compete probably a little more than I like to compete. I like to give my horses a rest. I like their careers to last a long time. I like my home in Brewster, NY (laughs). I’d like to be able to spend a little more time with my daughter now,” continued Ward.

“So even though I keep a pretty aggressive schedule, really, the way the system is, if you’re not competing minimum three times a month in a 5 star event, it’s very hard to maintain that. You have to be very hot, so to speak, which we were in Florida [2016]. He had a hell of a streak.

“It was certainly a nice thing. I would like to get back there at some point. But I try to focus more on the major championships and building towards that and maybe some major Grand Prixs more than that ranking. I have always felt that if you’re in the top five or ten in the world you’re all about the same on any given day.”

What’s perhaps even more impressive than his current ranking is Ward’s phenomenal consistency at the top level of the sport. The two-time Olympic gold medalist has been in a fixture in the world top ten since September 2014 and the world top five since February 2016.

“I always harass my good friend Kent Farrington that he normally has 110 classes to my 70/75, which he doesn’t take too lightly to. He tells me he works harder than me,” laughed Ward.

“I’m going to set the schedule that I think is right for my horses, for me, for my backers to what’s in the best interest of the horse first and the sport second. That’s how we set our schedule. Like I said, our major aim is major championships, the rest is icing on the cake.”

Farrington, it’s worth noting, is currently #2 in the world. He’s a mere 20 ranking points behind with 100 results to Ward’s 78. Not that anyone’s counting…

File Under