Ah, the proverbial rut. We all get stuck there from time to time, and on some occasions with our horses.

Riding is like the tides, results come and they go even for the most seasoned combinations, and is a phenomenon of which Spencer Smith (USA) can attest. Where we normally see the 26-year-old rider landing top results over the course of his Winter Equestrian Festival Season (WEF) at Florida’s Wellington International, his 2023 bid has been about overcoming some challenges in the ring.

Yet with a reliable partner like the 16-year-old gelding Theodore Manciais it was only a matter of time before they jumped back into the groove. During Friday’s CSI5* Adequan WEF Challenge Round 11, the pair bested a 10 horse jump-off after negotiating the Olaf Petersen Jr. (GER) designed track in a fiery 36.73 seconds. It was nearly two seconds faster than Nayel Nassar (EGY) who ultimately finished second with 14-year-old Coronado. Olympic gold medalist Laura Kraut finished out the podium with 10-year-old gelding Dorado on 38.8 seconds.

“His biggest strength is his heart. He will really do anything for me. I have been in a bit of a rut this season, so I pulled him out and he stepped up for me as always,” said Smith of Theodore Manciais.

The gelding sports an impressive 46% clear round average at 1.50m and has accrued over 737,000 euros in prize money over the course of his career according to Jump App. For Smith, who jumped to his first Grand Prix and first 5* Grand Prix wins with Theodore, he is simply the best.

“This horse is for sure the best horse I’ve ever had…He is strong in every facet. He’s super careful, has incredible scope, and can jump the biggest Grand Prix in the world,” said Smith.

In this class, what gave them the extra edge they needed to change the tides in their favor was the luck of the coveted final spot in the jump-off, giving Smith time to perfect his strategy.

“Today I was lucky enough to go last so I was able to watch some of the other jump-off rounds to make my plan,” he said. 

With only one week of show jumping left to go at Wellington International, their success returned in the nick of time.