The few seconds before the start bell rings in a Grand Prix and a rider picks up a gallop to the first fence are often a window into strategy.

Many riders will target a potentially spooky fence and show it to their horse. Some might practice a roll back to a critical turn. Others test “the brakes” or offer a reassuring pat to their equine partner.

Paul O’Shea did none of the things upon riding into the international ring at Club Hipico La Silla in Mexico for the first round of the GNP Grand Prix CSI5*, Sunday’s feature event at Major League Show Jumping Monterrey. Instead Eye Candy’s anchor rider could be seen turning his chestnut mount, Chancelloress, in tight circles at the walk, mid ring. First to the left. Then to the right

“We were doing some horsemanship work with another horse and I was trying to apply that to [Chancelloress] just to get her to relax and take a breath,” O’Shea explained after the class.

“It didn’t work so good in [the ring], actually. Outside it works great. It just helps her relax. It’s just a little bit of a tight circle and trying to get her to breathe and just take her time, so she’s not kind of looking around and getting distracted.

“She’s naturally nervous. When she jumps she’s brave and tough, but of little things around [the arena], she can be a bit nervous.”

O’Shea’s tactics may not have achieved the effect he was looking for in the 12-year-old Hanoverian mare, but the pair more than delivered in the class.

Only four of 41 starters managed to find clear paths around Guilherme Jorge’s 1.55m track and the lineup didn’t disappoint. Germany’s Jana Wargers and Limbridge were first to post a clear. Canadian Olympian Mario Deslauriers and Bardolina 2  followed suit along with O’Shea (IRL) and Chancelloress. Olympian Daniel Bluman (ISR) and Ubiluc were the final combination to join the fray.

It was the kind of jump off made for prime time with each rider returning to jump faster than the last. Wargers started it off with a second clear in 40.03s. Deslauriers, next in the ring, stopped the clock at 39.85s, only to have O’Shea shave nearly a second off in 38.93s. An anxious minute later, Bluman dropped a rail and the Irish rider was assured of victory.

“I didn’t get to see anybody jump, but I made a good plan with [owner] Niall [Carey] before the before the class and we stuck to that and luckily it worked for us,” said O’Shea.

“I couldn’t be happier with [Chancelloress]. She really gave everything.”

The win marks the first 5* victory for the mare. Just two weeks prior, the pair finished second in the CSI5* Grand Prix at MLSJ San Miguel de Allende. They’re hoping to rinse and repeat next month in La Quinta, CA.

“She’s got great reflexes,” O’Shea said. “She’s just really quick and she’s got a great technique. She’s very scopey. Like in the double of oxers. I hardly had to push. She jumps them really well because she’s so powerful. Some horses when you have a double of oxers, then the second oxer can be a lot of effort. But with her, it’s easy for her to do.”

Chancelloress will next jump the first week of the MLSJ La Quinta in December before taking a well deserved break ahead of the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL.

Feature image: ©MLSJ/Lindsay Brock