If you were to wager on the $25,000 Land Rover Puissance at Washington International Horse Show (related aside: why isn’t that thing?!), USA’s Aaron Vale and Finou 4 were the safe bet.
The defending champions jumped their way to victory in the WIHS puissance in 2016 and 2017. On Friday night, they didn’t disappoint.
In a five round, head-to-head battle against Andy Kocher (USA) and Blaze of Glory II, Vale and the 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding sealed their third consecutive win, clearing a 6’11 ½” wall of (faux) brick.
“I was just hoping somebody could hang in there a while, so we could get a decent class for the crowd,” said Vale. “It was great. Andy’s horse jumped it well and hung in there until the last round. It made a really good class and worked out the way that I wanted. I got a little competition, but I still got the blue!”
The victory marks Vale’s fifth puissance win at WIHS. He previously captured the class in 1996 with Big Joe and in 1998 on Happyness. Finou 4, now with three wins, has been his most consistent partner—despite blindness in his left eye.
“He’s got a lot of ability,” said Vale of his high jumping partner. “He’s very limber, plus he’s got a lot of power, so it just seems to be easy for him. I think they could keep raising it, and I’d keep riding him to it.”
Watch their winning jump!
For high jumping veteran Vale—he contested his first puissance at the age of 13—the class holds special appeal.
“Ever since I was a kid, the puissance was a class I was interested in,” said Vale.
“I’ve always had a love for the class. It’s about the only one left in the country, so it’s special to come do it, and they always get a great crowd. It’s always a fun night, especially when you have a horse that’s pretty good at it. I’ve always ridden in the class, even if I didn’t have a horse that was good at the job. I always threw myself over and tried to bring the horse with me. At this point, it’s kind of nice to have a horse that’s good at it.”