“You don’t have to worry about the jumps in the jump-off, you just have to get the right spot. She’s an incredible horse,” said Irish Olympian Darragh Kenny.
It might sound like the horse Kenny is describing is something out of a dream, but the chestnut mare who made light work of Sunday’s CSI4* Grand Prix 1.60m at Wellington International is the real deal. Her name is Vancouver Dreams, and she was fitted for Kenny’s saddle at the beginning of the year after being campaigned by Max Kühner (AUT) since 2016. For the 13-year-old Hanoverian, it took no time at all to earn the adoration of the Oakland Stables team.
“She tried her guts out today and was brilliant. You can’t help but love her,” gushed Kenny.
The pair jumped a foot perfect round in Friday’s WEF Challenge Cup, but the 10 horse jump-off became nine when Kenny opted out of the second round, saving their energy for Sunday’s Grand Prix. They used the extra zeal to negotiate the Olaf Petersen Jr. (GER) designed course in 36.18 seconds, a time which ultimately couldn’t be caught, though runner-up Lillie Keenan (USA) came close. Keenan’s efforts stopped the clock in 37.85 seconds with 13-year-old veteran partner Fasther, while Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) finished third in 38.11 seconds aboard 11-year-old mare Luna Van’t Ruytershof Z.
Kenny, who doesn’t have to worry much about whether or not Vancouver Dreams will clear the elements, finds the biggest challenge is putting her at ease.
“She’s like 15 out of 10 careful, so the most important thing is to get her to relax, come down a little bit and not stay up in the air,” Kenny explained.
Carefulness is a desired quality in show jumpers, but if you’ve ever worked with a careful horse you know the catch is often higher levels of tension. To help Vancouver Dreams work through to her potential, Kenny has enlisted the help of Markus Beerbaum (GER).
“He’s excellent on the ground, and it’s nice to have someone else’s eyes on the horse. I’ve done a lot of it myself since working for Missy [Clark] and John [Brennan], and it’s nice to have someone like Markus with his experience and knowledge to help finish things off,” said Kenny
“When I got her, she was a bit tense and she would freeze a bit in the air. We have spent a lot of time trying to get her to relax and jump the jumps a bit softer.”
So far, their system appears to be working, and has yielded consistent results even before their Week 11 success. The pair won a CSI3* 1.50m class in February, and finished second two weeks ago in a CSI5* 1.50m class. In their first two months of international competition, they’ve earned over 100k euro in prize money and a 78% clear round average at all heights, according to Jumpr App. For context, the mare’s career total earnings before Kenny took over the reins was just under 172k euro.
Despite it being a new partnership it’s no surprise they crossed the threshold of their first international Grand Prix win together when they were knocking at the door so persistently.
Put simply, “She just jumps clear rounds,” Kenny said.