If Saturday’s night’s Grand Prix in Wellington was decided by most inspired jump-off track, Adrienne Sternlicht (USA) was the clear winner.
Of the 45 riders to contest the $132,000 Adequan® Grand Prix CSI 3* at the Winter Equestrian Festival, 16 qualified for the jump off, including Sternlicht and her 10-year-old Bavarian Warmblood mare, Cristalline.
Staring down a horse race with a slower footed, lofty-jumping mount, the 24-year-old rider and her trainer, Olympic team gold medalist McLain Ward, decided they “had to get a bit creative.” Their solution: jump the hedge on the rollback from fence two to three and set up a direct ride around a gazebo.
“We actually didn’t plan that when we walked,” said Sternlicht.
“McLain told me that at two Olympics, he should have jumped the hedge and didn’t, so surely I could risk it in a three star grand prix. So I did! It was a unique experience for me and for my horse. She’s super brave. She actually responded better than I anticipated. We have to keep learning together.”
The daring move thrust them into the lead.
Sternlicht’s time of 39.36 seconds held until the 12th horse and rider—Darragh Kenny and Cassini Z—contested the jump off course. In a blistering performance, the Irish rider and 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding were a full second faster, crossing the timers in 38.21 seconds.
Jessica Springsteen (USA) and RMF Swinny du Parc were the only other pair to come close to the time. They finished two hundredths of a second behind Kenny in 38.23 seconds to take second place.
“I think the two girls’ horses have quite a big stride,” said Kenny. “One to two, definitely Adrienne got there pulling at the end. For me, it was running the whole way. I think my horse just kept running in all of the lines, so just gradually over the length of the course he made up the time. He’s very, very careful, so I don’t really have to worry about the jumps as much as the turning.”
Sternlicht was ultimately relegated to third. But there’s little doubt she rode away with the most buzz-worthy moment of the Saturday Night Lights Grand Prix.