The results are in for the recent Mexican leg of Major League Show Jumping (MLSJ) at San Miguel De Allende and Monterrey, and one thing is for certain.
When it comes to CSI5* ranking classes, blondes really do have more fun.
On October 23, Bliss Heers (USA) and Antidote De Mars won the GNP Seguros CSI5* Grand Prix under the lights in San Miguel De Allende. On November 5, America’s Lillie Keenan and Queensland E took home the MLSJ CSI5* Grand Prix at Club Hípico La Silla in Monterrey. And this weekend, Ashlee Bond (ISR) and Olympic mount Donatello 141 were victorious in the GNP CSI 5* at MLSJ Monterrey II, one of only two double-clear rounds of the day on Gregory Brodo’s challenging 1.55m track.
“We won all of them! I think it’s spectacular,” says Bond of the three-woman sweep of MLSJ’s top-billing classes. “[We’re] all blondes, and Bliss and I are both from California, and we’re both on [the MLSJ Helios team]. So Helios has [also] got two of those three wins, which I’m very excited about,” adds Bond, who is also the Helios team manager.
“I think that it’s amazing for the sport, and for young girls, to see that just because there’s not too many of us [on the start list], doesn’t mean [women] can’t kick the boys’ butts.”
In a sport where the top echelon is, of late, consistently dominated by that proverbial boys’ club (the highest-ranked female rider in the world is American Laura Kraut at #37), it’s a refreshing trend to see women not just topping the podium in big ranking classes, but doing so with consistency.
For Heers, MLSJ San Miguel De Allende marked a career high: Her first five-star win with the 12-year-old Selle Français stallion, Antidote De Mars, after two close-but-no-cigar finishes in Wellington and the Netherlands this summer.
“It’s really surreal. It’s funny, because we were joking about it all summer long, that we’re going to get to Mexico and we were going to win the Grand Prix. So it was all building up to ‘Let’s win the Grand Prix in San Miguel,’” Heers said.
“Major League has just brought everyone together, all the riders. There’s a camaraderie that really didn’t exist before. And it’s just so inspiring. Every day, you’re rooting for your teammates.”
Keenan, herself a member of the MLSJ Trailblazers team, also checked the box on her first five-star win in Monterrey, calling the victory “a dream come true.” Paired since June with the 13-year-old Zangersheide stallion Queensland E—a former Dani G. Waldman ride—Keenan has been working to develop her own partnership with Queensland through slow-but-steady trust-building.
“What I was focusing on is our own partnership and not worrying too much about trying to be someone else. I made the mistake in the past, with other horses, where I try to imitate their previous riders when, really, you have to have your own unique partnership,” Keenan explains. “So we just did a lot of simple, basic horsemanship.
“I must say, he trusted me from the beginning. I just needed to prove to myself that I was going to be able to ride well enough.”
Ride well enough, she did, and while it may be the first of many more wins for Keenan’s new partnership, she’s keeping her feet planted squarely on the ground.
“To me, greatness means being the best horseman or horsewoman you can be, and in our sport, standing by your values, and showing that you can do things the right way,” she says. “In the end, you’ll come out on top.”
There’s no denying that all eyes will be on Keenan, as well as Heers and Bond, as serious contenders when MLSJ returns stateside for its final two legs next month in La Quinta, California, at the Desert International Horse Park. According to Bond, however, the results are already worth celebrating.
“We stole the grands prix, which I absolutely love,” she says. “Girl power, you know?”