World no. 13 Kent Farrington (USA) is what you might call a DIY horseman.
By “do it yourself” I don’t mean sewing saddle pads or crocheting riding gloves. The Olympic team silver medalist has filled his stable with some of the best show jumpers in the world by producing them himself. Training horses is part of the game for many industry professionals, but riders at the top level with a collection of international medals and devoted owners often have the resources to acquire “finished” horses.
Farrington, however, knows that the key to being competitive lies in how well he and his horses know each other, which is why he prefers to find them at a young age and build their partnership through the levels.
This winter season, Farrington has introduced a new group of “up and comers,” and despite the greenness they’ve been collecting top honors at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) and Desert International Horse Park (DIHP). His 10-year-old stallion Landon won a CSI3* Grand Prix at WEF in early January, and 11-year-old mare Orafina earned a CSI4* win at DIHP Thermal just a few weeks ago in February.
During WEF Week 10’s Horseware Ireland CSI4* Grand Prix, the ‘Saturday Night Lights’ shined on nine-year-old mare Toulayna Van Het Bloesemhorf Z. The mare has been knocking on the door since WEF 3, after placing third in the NetJets CSI4* Grand Prix.
“This is definitely the biggest track she’s jumped. I have high hopes for this horse. She’s fast, careful and everything I like in a show jumper,” said Farrington.
It isn’t an estimation, the CSI4* Grand Prix was Toulayna’s very first 1.60m round. In general, she only has a handful of experience at 1.40m and above, jumping only nine rounds at 1.40m and five at 1.50m according to Jumpr App. That might not be much, but Farrington had more than enough confidence in Toulayna.
Partnered together since Toulayna turned seven-years-old, Farrington knew exactly when and where he could push the envelope along the Andy Christiansen Jr. (USA) designed track. In a competitive nine-horse jump-off in which only five went clear, the pair stopped the clock in 37.38 seconds. It was just ahead of Nicole Shahinian-Simpson (USA) with 15-year-old mare Akuna Mattata. Darragh Kenny (IRL) rounded out the podium with 13-year-old gelding Amsterdam 27 in 38.53 seconds.
“I’m very confident on this horse and that’s the way I like to do it; get them when they are young and produce them myself so I know them quite well. Even if they are green stepping up to this level, I know where I can take a shot,” said Farrington.
“[Toulayna] is extremely sharp and I was very quick to the verticals. Taking a run down to that single is probably where I made up some time. She has a big stride, but I wasn’t sure if I could get eight strides to the last jump. She jumped so strong out of the double, it was easy.”
Farrington has a certain affinity for sharp horses, which is a preference that can be traced back to his years training off-the-track thoroughbreds. Toulayna may be Zangersheide, but she has all the qualities Farrington looks for in future stars. After a successful winter, though, Toulayna can reduce her fire to a simmer and enjoy some R & R in the sun.
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“She’s a very high strung horse with a lot of blood and very sharp, but I try to keep the horses fresh and interested in the job because it’s a long season here. She’s done four weeks this season and I think that’s plenty. We will hit the trails now and just chill out.”