Twenty eighteen was a grey year for McLain Ward. In a literal sense.
A bevy of overcast-hued horses have kept the double Olympic gold medalist seeing blue (ribbons). And his barn staff up their elbows in white(ning shampoo).
Which is great! Unless, of course, you’re a fan. With seven greys campaigning under Ward this past year and nearly all of them leading victory gallops in regular rotation, it’s difficult to keep up with which grey is which.
Hija Van Strokapelleken
11-year-old BWP mare
Best result: CSI5* 1.50m in Wellington
Ward took over the ride on Jennifer Gate’s Hija van Strokapelleken in January and jumped straight into the winner’s circle. The pair picked up four 1.45m/1.50m wins at three different events during the 2018 Florida winter circuit—Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), the Palm Beach Masters and HITS Ocala. Impressively, they only incurred rails in four of their 14 international starts.
“She’s a really big mare,” said Ward during their Wellington circuit. “But it’s funny, once you get on her, other than her stride being massive, which I use to my advantage, she doesn’t feel so big. She’s really rideable, has a lot of blood, and she’s slab-sided, so she doesn’t take up so much of your leg. When you first walk up to get on her, she looks massive, but when you ride her, you don’t notice her size so much. She doesn’t ride like a big horse.”
Notable feature: Great white whale proportions. (*President Trump voice* “She’s yuuuuuuge.”)
Bellefleur PS Z
2009 Zangersheide mare
Best result of 2018: Back-to-back 5* wins in Wellington
Bellefleur is one of two greys that qualify for Show Jumping Pin Up status in Ward’s string. Co-owned by Ward’s daughter, Lilly, and Susan Heller, the obscenely stylish Bellefleur PS Z dominated the 1.45m/1.50m divisions in Wellington last winter, logging three CSI5* wins.
“She’s a phenomenal mare. She’s super careful, brave, really game, and she’s stepping up the levels nicely,” said Ward of the “blood mare.”
“It’ll be interesting to see how far she goes because she’s very game and everything we ask her to do, she seems to do really well.”
Notable feature: Knees that fold like origami, tight and precisely placed.
HH Gigi’s Girl
2008 KWPN mare
Best result of 2018: Victories in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Toronto CSI4* & Hampton Classic Grand Prix CSI4*
Previously campaigned by Germany’s Katharina Offel, Ward started competing HH Gigi’s Girl in September 2017 and closed the 2018 season winning the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Toronto, which by Ward’s exacting standards was a slow start.
“The Harrisons purchased her last summer. She was always a spectacular jumper. She’d started jumping 3* Grand Prix in Europe last summer and we had very high hopes because of the talent. But, to be honest, I think she was a much greener horse than we thought when we acquired her, so the beginning was a little slow. Never bad, but a little frustrating. [We had] four faults a lot,” said the Rio team silver medalist.
“Slowly, this summer things started to get more consistent and we had some clear rounds in some really key moments. She really turned the corner and I feel she has a really exciting future. The horse is very careful. She’s a big jumper, brave. She’s just kind of putting the pieces together.”
Notable feature: Cresty neck and cat-like reflexes
2007 Oldenburg mare.
Best of 2018: Team Gold at the World Equestrian Games Tryon
The star and second Pin Up Mare of Ward’s 2018 season, Clinta brought home the gold for team USA at the World Equestrian Games Tryon and an individual fifth place finish for Ward—after just seven months together! It’s a mare Ward first spotted at Aachen horse show in 2017. Seven months of negotiating and a long haul flight later, they made their international debut together in March 2018, claiming their first 5* Grand Prix victory within a month in New York. (They went on to collect five more international wins before the season was through.) Clinta consistently jumps two feet over every jump and is frequently featured on Ward’s social feed with the unicorn emoji.
“She jumps spectacularly,” said the 2017 World Cup champion. “And so carefully that at first we weren’t even sure whether she would actually ever jump at top level. But she has proven that she is capable of everything!”
Notable feature: Jumps the standards. May have wings.
2008 Belgian Sport Horse mare
Best result: Third in a 5* 1.45m class in Wellington
Cerise is yet another new mount in Ward’s string this year, albeit a less prominent one. Owned by Debbie Sweeney of Sagamore Farms, the same owner of Rothchild and Clinta, the mare has been competing at the 1.45m level but has not won an international class. Yet.
“She’s really careful and genuine in her character,” said Ward, after riding the mare for two weeks.
Notable feature: Chunky monkey.
2007 grey stallion
Best result: Fault-free 5* week in Wellington, FL
Cartouche was a blink and you’ll miss it addition to Ward’s string. Acquired in August 2017 from Colombia’s Jorge Barrera, Ward had the stallion for just a week before logging a second place finish in $50,000 Longines Cup at the Hampton Classic Horse Show. In 12 FEI appearances, they only pulled three rails. He sold the stallion seven months later to Israel’s Daniel Bluman.
Notable feature: Ward isn’t in the tack.
Upsilon de la Liniere
2008 Selle Francais gelding
Best result: Fourth place 4* 1.45m finish in Upperville
With only two international appearances this year and no wins on record from which to mine Ward quotes, Upsilon de la Liniere is the only gelding in Ward’s current gaggle of greys. But between his compact head carriage and upright gallop, you’re probably going to confuse him for Cerise or HH Gigi’s Girl.
Notable feature: Is not a mare.
Got all that? Good! Now let’s all hope Ward’s 2019 string gets more color diverse.