There are times when every rider is forced to take time off. Maybe the weather’s too terrible to ride. Or your horse is a bit off. Or, perhaps, you somersaulted over a jump last week trying to take the Beezie distance and broke your leg. Whatever the reason, if you’re like most equestrians, you’ll be dying to get back in the tack. But when you finally get to, you’ll probably be a little rusty and uncoordinated.

McLain Ward feels your pain.

The world #5 show jumper gives his horses a long rest in the winter. Despite the fact that there are shows every week of the year on the calendar, in just about every city, and buckets of prize money to be won.

“My horses don’t show from Toronto [the first week of November] to Florida [the beginning of January],” says the double Olympic gold medalist. “Rothchild didn’t get ridden from the Grand Prix in the Thermal [September] until we arrived in Florida. I think they need it. The circuit is so stressful now—the travel and what we’re asking from them. I think it really clears their head.”

There’s just one catch with Ward’s strategy. Sometimes he starts the Florida winter circuit with a horse that is “a little out of sync, or not quite fit enough yet.”

“I have to say every year I come here [to Florida] and I start the first week or two and I go home a little upset,” says Ward. “I feel rusty and I moan at my wife that I’m out of sync and I’m never going to win again. Normally, a few weeks later things round a little bit into form and it goes okay.”

McLain! He worries just like us!

Here’s the thing: He has infinitely fewer reasons to do so. Let’s take a brief recap of the past few months.

Ward ended the 2015 season winning four FEI classes in Toronto.

With victories in the McKee International Jumper Challenge, the Longines World Cup Qualifier, the International Canine/Equine Challenge AND the Big Ben International Challenge at the Royal Winter Fair, you could say he went out on a high note.



By the third week of competition in 2016, he was back in the winner’s circle.

Two weeks in, as Ward predicted, things were indeed going “okay.” Aboard HH Carlos Z, he claimed the $35,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, Florida.



He went on to capture two more FEI classes at the Wellington Masters.

A week later, McLain Ward and HH Carlos Z won the $35,000 Welcome Stake at Deeridge Farm.



AND the $50,000 Longines Qualifier.



Come the first 5* show of the season, you guessed it, he won that too.

Back at WEF the following week, he and Rothchild jumped to victory in the $380,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI 5*.

10/02/2016 ; Wellington, florida ;  ; Sportfot


Ward sat out Week 6 of WEF.

Presumably to give someone else a chance.



Then returned to win—again—in Week 7. TWICE.

He captured the $35,000 Douglas Elliman 1.45m Classic with HH Carlos. Then took home the winner’s purse in the $380,000 Suncast CSI 5* Grand Prix with HH Azur.

24/02/2016 ; Wellington, florida ;  ; Sportfot


Ward didn’t win last week.

But you can bet he will again soon.

“In the long run, year in and year out, that [strategy] normally pays us back,” says Ward of giving his horses the winter off. This season, it’s done so in spades.