Usually, when a rider describes their winning ride in a jump off, you can count on them rattling off three things in the press conference (or some combination thereof):
Their stride count (“I did seven strides from one to two”), the ground speed of their horse and/or that of their closest competitor (“My horse is faster across the ground than [second place finisher]”) and whether they caught a forward distance on a turn back or a long gallop (“I was lucky to see a flowing distance through the corner”).
All of which is relevant information, but reveals little about the amount of effort, difficulty and skill that goes into training for high level competition to the average non-horse person. And that’s a problem if we ever want to shake the notion that “the horse does all the work.”
Enter Kevin Babington.
Victor in the Shires Equestrian $10,000 Welcome Stake at Silver Oak Jumper Tournament in Halifax, Massachusetts, Babington and Mark Q produced two tidy turns in the 17-horse jump off to stop the clock 1.5 second fasters than runner ups, Amber Harte and Cafino (40.327s versus 41.827s).
But it’s what he said about the ride after that was so extraordinary.
Because Babington’s response wasn’t just what happened on the course. He gives insight into what was happening before they ever set foot in the ring—while breaking down the critical right turn to the second to last fence that caught out many of the returning pairs.
Explained the Irish rider:
“The right turn is a little harder for [Mark Q] so I’ve been working on that a lot. When I walked it for the first round I thought, ‘OK that’s going to ride two holes bigger than it is—even with a little room to get back to it going away from the gate.’ I think it was definitely the biggest jump on the course today. He really sat down before the turn, even before I asked him to spin back, so I was really happy with that.”
Those few lines reveal more about the strategic challenges of show jumping, the hair trigger responsiveness of the horse and the split second thinking that goes through a rider’s mind on course than most accomplish in an entire press release—all in under 100 words.
Or to paraphrase for non-horse people: show jumping is hard, yo!
And that’s how you win the press conference after you win the class. And grow the sport.
Babington also won the $2,500 Open Jumper 1.40m on Call Me Ruth.