International Week has arrived at the Royal Horse Show!
Twenty-four elite riders from eight countries will compete at the storied indoor show in Toronto, Ontario. Course designer Alan Wade (IRL), widely regarded as one of the best in the business, is tasked with building for seven FEI classes over four days, including the “Big Three” most coveted by riders during International Week: the Weston Canadian Open, the Big Ben Challenge, and the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Toronto.
With so much great show jumping to look forward to, now is the ideal time to look back on the most successful show jumping riders at the Royal Horse Show’s International Week since 2010. Below are the Top 10 performers in the Big Three.
10. Nicola Philippaerts
Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts has attended the Royal Horse Show on five occasions since 2010, and although he struggled to crack the top ten in the first two years, he’s been remarkable since. In 2014 he won the Big Ben Challenge and repeated his winning ways in 2015 in the Weston Canadian Open.
9. Yann Candele
One of two Canadians to make the list, Olympian Yann Candele accumulated a number of impressive results at the Royal Horse Show between 2010–2013. He has five clear rounds in Big Three classes and was double clear to finish third in 2013’s Big Ben Challenge aboard Showgirl.
8. Laura Kraut
Olympic gold medalist Laura Kraut (USA) has accumulated more top five finishes in Big Three classes than most riders during the Royal Horse Show’s International Week. She excels in the Weston Canadian Open class, highlighted by three third place finishes over the years.
7. Beezie Madden
Reigning World Cup champion Beezie Madden (USA) is always a contender at The Royal. Since returning to Toronto in 2014, she’s won the Weston Canadian Open twice and collected three additional top five finishes with superstar horses Cortes ‘C’ and Breitling LS. Every time Madden sets foot in the Coliseum, she gives a clinic on show jumping style for the crowds.
6. Dermott Lennon
A model of consistency, Dermott Lennon (IRL) has produced near perfect results when he chooses to compete at the Royal Horse Show. Of twelve appearances in the Big Three classes, he has finished in the top ten 83% of the time, including seven clear rounds! In the three years he campaigned Hallmark Elite in Toronto he never had a rail in the first round.
5. Ian Millar
Captain Canada Ian Millar is a perennial crowd favorite at The Royal. The ten-time Olympian’s contributions to the sport in Canada are recognized each night by the crowd’s standing ovation and by his seven clear rounds in the Big Three and six top-five finishes since 2010. His best year in recent history was 2016 when he and Dixson produced clear rounds in both the Big Ben Challenge and Weston Canadian Open.
4. Kent Farrington
The year 2013 was the only one Kent Farrington (USA) attended The Royal and did not win a Big Three class. The Rio Olympic silver medalist has brought impressive horse power over the years (Voyeur, Creedance, Ucecko) and produced clear rounds in seven of the 11 classes he’s contested. He’s won the Big Ben Challenge twice, the Weston Canadian Open once, and is the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Toronto defending champion with Voyeur.
3. Conor Swail
A familiar face on the Canadian circuit, Ireland’s Conor Swail is at home in the Royal Horse Show Arena. Since 2011, he has campaigned seven different horses in Big Three classes and produced eight clear rounds. His top partner was the chestnut stallion Lansdowne, who put in five clear rounds during the 2011 and 2012 shows to never finish outside the top six!
2. Harrie Smolders
Although Harrie Smolders (NED) has missed a few years at the Royal Horse Show since 2010, he has accumulated an impressive record that counts nine top ten finishes in the Big Three classes, including two wins. The reigning world number one captured the Big Ben Challenge in 2011 and was twice runner-up in the Longines FEI World Cup™ class, all with his famous mare Regina Z.
1. McLain Ward
In the number one spot it’s USA’s McLain Ward! The two-time Olympic gold medalist hasn’t missed a year at the Royal since 2010 and always seems to rise to the occasion in the Big Three, campaigning top horses such as HH Azur, Rothchild, HH Carlos and HH Gigi’s Girl. Impressively, Ward has won the Royal Horse Show’s Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ class four times (twice with Rothchild and twice with HH Azur). His best year came in 2015 when he guided HH Azur to wins in the Big Ben Challenge and the World Cup.
About the Author
Dr. Tim Worden has worked as a sport scientist with numerous FEI-level show jumping riders. He has a PhD in biomechanics and specializes in applying human high-performance training techniques to horses.