Jacqueline Patmore sat at the ingate during the $230,000 CSI5* Grand Prix at the Desert International Horse Park in Thermal, CA last December, and took in the scene.
The finale of the inaugural season of the Major League Show Jumping tour, the Calgary native—an amateur rider and former horse show and farm manager—watched as two Canadians punched their tickets to what would be a nine-horse jump-off, eventually won by Ireland’s Jordan Coyle.
“We spent our winter in Thermal, and it was the first Major League event that I had been in attendance of, and I was really impressed with all of it,” says Patmore, who trains with Darren Dlin. “I have to say, I was a little bit blown away.”
It was in those moments at the ingate that Patmore overhead some chatter from a group of riders.
“Someone should buy a [MLSJ] team for Canada. Wouldn’t that be great?”
With 10 legs across Canada, the United States and Mexico, Major League Show Jumping has added 10 five-star events to the North American show jumping calendar, creating an exponential increase in opportunity for North American riders. Team riders gain automatic entry into the shows, which in 2022 will kick off at Thunderbird Show Park.
It got Patmore thinking. Then she got to fundraising.
“It was a bit of a collaboration on the idea, and then I just ran with it,” Patmore says. “I know how busy the [top] riders are, and I thought, ‘I have the time, and I love the sport, and I’m really passionate about it.’ I see Major League as an amazing avenue to develop the sport in North America.
“I think everyone was a bit like, ‘Ah, it’s never going to happen!’” she exclaims. “But off I went!”
A series of cold calls put things in motion, and Patmore pieced together a team funded in partnership by riders and investors with an interest in the growth of Canadian high performance show jumping. The “Northern Lights” squad consists of six riders—five Canadian athletes and one “adopted” rider from Venezuela. Patmore has been named the team’s manager.
“I didn’t want to go to the people who were already on teams frequently. I wanted to create opportunity for people,” Patmore says. “I truly believe that our team spirit and commitment to supporting Canada will make us ones to watch out for.”
Vanessa Mannix (CAN) is the team headliner, after jumping to the Reserve Championship at the 2021 Canadian Show Jumping Championship at last year’s Royal West in Calgary. The 32-year-old also finished second in the 2021 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Vancouver at Thunderbird with her top mount, Catinka. She’ll be joined by fellow Canadians Dlin, Sean Jobin and U25 riders Taylor St Jacques and Sam Walker. Walker was a member of the Diamond Devils team during the inaugural MLSJ season and, together with Mannix, is among the world’s top 250 ranked athletes, a requirement for at least two athletes per MLSJ team.
Both Walker and St Jacques are former equitation stars turned young professionals. Walker won the ASPCA Maclay, CET and WIHS Equitation Finals as a junior, while St Jacques is a fellow WIHS Equitation Championship title holder and won the USEF Medal Final before setting records as a member of Auburn University’s NCEA Hunt Seat Equestrian team.
Juan Ortiz adds the Venezuelan flag to the group with his top mounts, Kinky van het Gildenhof and Toulouse Z.
“We have a few veterans that bring knowledge and experience to the team, and we have some up-and-comers that have great horses and super results,” Patmore says. “I’m quite excited to get to know everybody [on the team] and their horses, to see who’s going to be the speed demon and who’s going to put in that solid, reliable double-clear round.”
Recognizing how riders like Erynn Ballard—currently Canada’s No. 2 ranked rider and No. 3 ranked female show jumper in the world—utilized Major League events last year, Patmore hopes the availability of more ranking points this side of the pond can help the Northern Lights riders grow and get opportunities at bigger shows around the world—with entry acceptances determined by one’s world ranking.
In 2021, MLSJ team riders had their world ranking rise by an average of 492 places. AIM United’s Ashlee Bond rose 196 places, while the Roadrunners’ Kyle King rose 842 places.
“I think the ranking points are the most important part of it,” she says. “I really looked at how many people rose in the rankings who were on teams last year, and I think being able to get into more five-star shows on your ranking points through the series is really important, especially for Canadians who can’t always afford to spend our time in Europe and all those shows that get you those points.”
Patmore is hitting the road with the Northern Lights contingent, and she’ll get her own time in the ring in the CSI2* divisions offered in conjunction with the CSI5* events. She’ll also be in charge of setting the lineup for team events.
The riders she’s tapped for MLSJ Toronto: Juan Ortiz with Toulouse Z, Sean Jobin aboard CoquelicotVH Heuvelland Z and Sam Walker riding Hermelien VD Hooghoeve.
Tune in the MLSJ Team Competition tonight at 8:30 on MLSJ TV.