For Conor Swail, the current world no. 5, winning a class is something that happens on a regular basis. Yet, each class (and horse) is unique, and such things stand to make a round special.

For Wednesday’s 1.35m Welcome Speed at Desert International Horse Park (DIHP), the standout star was 10-year-old mare Ikonic PB “Kona,” a horse we don’t typically see under the saddle of the Irish rider. The mare is campaigned by his student Vanessa Mannix (CAN), and needed some good ol’ training rides to build up her confidence.

It’s safe to say Kona walked out of the ring with an extra pep in her step. Her speedy clear effort over the Manuel Esparza designed track put her ahead of a competitive 34 combination field.

“‘Kona’ jumped extremely well. It’s her first round this year actually, so it was a good start. She’s a good mare, very careful, and I’m looking forward to jumping her over the winter,” said Swail.

“I’m hopefully going to get her into some ranking classes this circuit. That’s part of what’s so great about this place. You can go into the [Grand Prix Arena], which is fantastic and you can really train them well.”

Swail finished the speed round in a blazing 59.263 seconds, but he made the best use of the short time to get Kona acquainted with the upper levels.

“I really flew around to the last line, caught the big oxer…where like I flew up and doing the leave out and I was far away. She was very good to pick up there. I wasn’t sure whether she was going to want to pick up or not,” confessed Swail, who left out a stride in the final line.

“She’s good, I must say I’m really enjoying [riding her]. She’s a lot of fun and she’s very fast.”

Swail’s fellow Irishmen will certainly keep the pressure on over the course of the circuit, though this time they had to settle for the lower two spots on the podium. Nicky Galligan and Hermione De L’Hodez clocked in with 59.351 seconds to finish second, while Robert Blanchette (IRL) and Chardonnay took third (60.271 seconds).

Feature Image: High Desert Sport Photo