Some relationships take years to cement. Others, a couple rides.
Erynn Ballard (CAN) and the 10-year-old Belgian Sport Horse gelding Walter White fall into the latter category. The speedy pair captured the first WEF Challenge Cup of the season at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL on Thursday—in their second ever ride together.
“Sometimes it’s better not to know them because then you’ve got nothing to compare it to,” said Ballard. “I asked everything I wanted of him. [In the first round], he gave me good air at the first jump, and he made me feel that he was ready to do his job so then all I had to do was mine. He’s really nice to place in front of the jumps, and you know he wants to do it. He wants to jump clear and go fast.
“He’s my kind of horse,” she added. “I can keep a feel, and his legs move fast. He’s not afraid to run, so even though I’ve never ridden him, I feel really comfortable on him.”
Thirty-seven entries contested the $35,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Premiere Round, with 14 posting clear rounds to advance to the jump-off.
Third to return for the short track, Ballard and the grey gelding made short work of the Eric Hasbrouck-designed course, stopping the clock with a clear in 36.706 seconds. Eleven more would try, but none could catch their time.
Walter White is a sale horse that came into Ilan Ferder’s barn in December, where he joins Ballard’s string of international horses. He was previously campaigned in Europe by Paris Sellon (USA), Matias Alvaro (ITA), and Guillaume Foutrier (FRA).
“To start off the series like this is really fun,” said Ballard. “I’m on a roll right now, and I hope it doesn’t stop.”
Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Ideal took second place with a clear in 36.901 seconds. Olympic team gold medalist McLain Ward (USA) and Kasper van het Hellehof, third with a fault-free time of 37.062.