Meet Etalon, a former Amateur-Owner hunter prospect turned 1.50m grand prix winner. 

Galloping through the timers on an uncatchable 40.90 seconds in the CSI 3* ONNI Grand Prix, you might not guess that the little horse with the big white blaze under American rider Kyle King was originally purchased for a very different ring and purpose.

“I bought him, and he was a little more horse than I needed,” said his owner, Christine Maclean, who originally thought Etalon would make a good hunter. “He jumped me off, and then he jumped another professional off, and so that professional asked Kyle if he would take him on.

 “It was a match made in heaven.”

It continues to be. Despite a competitive, 14-horse jump-off field that included the currently red-hot rider from Great Britain, Matthew Sampson, King—last to return for the shortened course—thought he’d found an edge.  

“I saw Matt [Sampson] go, and you know, I’ve been watching Matt. He’s just been kicking my butt every time, and I kind of consider [tbird] my home field, so I was getting a little [upset] about it,” joked the Langley-based King. 

“I saw that [Sampson] was a little bit slow from [fences] one to two. I got the same numbers on the rollbacks, and then maybe I was a little quicker to the last jump,” King said. “I pulled on the reins a little later.” 

Talk about a rivalry in the making. Earlier this week at the CSI3* Summer Fort Welcome, King finished third to Sampson in the CSI3* tbird Speed 1.45m, and second to the British rider in the Maui Jim Grand Prix. In the final class of the week, however, King took the win by more than a second. Sampson settled for second with Ebolensky on 41.98 seconds; Canada’s Kara Chad and Quidamo F finished third (42.44).

Though King and Etalon have been paired together for four seasons, the 13-year-old KWPN gelding never fails to surprise his rider or his owner. Maclean, who purchased Etalon off a video, said she was told he’d be best suited for heights up to 3’6” (1.10m). According to JUMPR App, though, King and Etalon actually finish in the top 10 61% of the time when competing at 1.50m. For those playing along at home, that’s a healthy foot-and-change higher than his original job description. 

“He’s just a dude,” King said. “He’s been a longtime partner of mine, now, and he’s very brave, so I can put good angles [on the jumps]. I can roll back pretty tight, and he can wide-open gallop. I can really count on him.”

And for the rest of us, it seems, there’s no counting the “dude” out either.