When you like the type of horse American Olympian Kent Farrington does, biding your time is just part of the process.

Hot, careful horses are hard to catch in the ring, but building their confidence in bigger classes takes planning and patience.

“Part of the sport today is that you’re always looking to the future and building the next team of horses up,” Farrington told Horse Network last June. “I have a group of eight- and nine-year-olds stepping up to the international level. Time will tell how good they want to be, but they have good talent anyway.

“I think any time you have a horse that’s very careful, the question becomes ‘how big are they going to jump and how brave are they going to be?’” Farrington explained.

With his current crop of now-eight through 11-year-olds—among them Orafina, Landon and Toulayna—Farrington is employing the same time-tested method he used to produce his 2019 Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen-winning partner, Gazelle: alternating between bigger 1.50m–1.60m classes and smaller (1.45m) classes to continually build his horses’ confidence.

“My strategy’s actually really simple. I try to be very pragmatic and kind of have no ego in approaching the horses, and I put them in [the] classes I think they’re ready for. The horses tell me when they’re ready to move up, the horses also tell me if they need to take a step back. I really just let the horses make all the decisions,” he said.

So how has Farrington’s ‘development year’ fared, and who should we keep our eyes on this coming season? We went to Jumpr App for a breakdown of the numbers.

Orafina: Better Than Gazelle?

After a win in the MLSJ Grand Prix of Ottawa with Orafina last August, Farrington was frank about which horse the 11-year-old KWPN mare reminds him of: “She’s very, very careful. So that would be similar to Gazelle,” he said. “[Orafina]’s so careful that I have to make sure that she stays confident all the time.”

Orafina launched her stateside career in Wellington in 2021, going on to jump a majority of classes that year at the 1.45m height, where she and Farrington maintained an astounding 86% clear round average.

The mare jumped 36 total rounds that year, a quarter less, by comparison, than Farrington jumped his first year with Gazelle in 2015. More than a dozen of Gazelle’s classes were at 1.60m, compared to Orafina, who jumped just three rounds at that height in her nine-year-old year.

By March of 2022, though, Farrington and Orafina were ready to scale up, finishing second in the 1.60m CSI5* at Wellington International and winning a 1.55m class that same week. The pair went on to complete their 2022 season with 12 podium finishes, including nine wins. Orafina has continued to prove her competence at these higher heights, with clear round and top 10 finish averages of 73% at 1.55m. At 1.60m, her clear-round average is a still-impressive 56%, finishing in the top-10 67% of the time.

Side-by-side at age 10, Orafina has the slight edge over Gazelle, with an overall clear round percentage of 46.9% compared to Gazelle’s 39.6%. But they’re almost on par with prize money won. Gazelle won 504,493 euro in her 10 year old year; Orafina, 515,646 euro.

The Verdict: Orafina’s ‘Gazelle vibes’ are no coincidence, and neither are Farrington’s methods for managing them. Arguably, in terms of rounds jumped during their nine-year-old years, the American rider seems to be taking an even more conservative approach with Orafina—and it’s clearly paying dividends.

Landon: A Horse for the Future

Farrington is taking a different tact with the 10-year-old Zangersheide stallion, Landon, with whom he’s been partnered since 2021. As a nine-year-old in 2022, Landon jumped 46 rounds, with more than 70% of them at 1.50m or higher, meaning, at the same age, he jumped bigger tracks more consistently than Orafina. In January of 2023, Farrington and Landon took home their first big win together in the CSI3* 1.55m Grand Prix at Wellington International.

But it’s when we take a closer look at Landon’s record of top-10 finishes at these higher classes that things get really interesting.

Of his 17 total rounds at the 1.55m height, Landon averages a 47% clear round rate, finishing in the top-10 nearly 60% of the time. In the 1.60m arena, where he’s completed 14 rounds, has a 47% clear round average—but finished in the top-10 100% of the time. Let that sink in.

In fact, many of these were in big, technical classes, from Nations Cup appearances at Thunderbird Show Park (CAN), Spruce Meadows (CAN) and San Miguel de Allende (MEX), to FEI Jumping World Cup Qualifiers in Fort Worth (TX), Toronto (ON), and Washington (D.C.).

The Verdict: If you were looking for the hallmarks of a horse with future-championship potential, Landon checks all the boxes. Whether a result of pure physical ability, confidence, or both, it’s clear he’s moved up to the top of the sport with less hand-holding than Orafina. But more telling is that perfect, top-10 finish record at 1.60m, indicating he also has the speed and competitive drive to hold his own at the championship height. Could a 2024 Olympic appearance be in the cards? Only time will tell.

Toulayna: The Wild Card

There’s plenty of buzz surrounding this hot-off-the-presses partnership of less than a year, which debuted internationally at Spruce Meadows last summer. The nine-year-old Zangersheide mare came to Farrington’s string after a short, successful stint in the Belgian Young Horse classes with the Philippaerts bros, Thibault and Nicola.

Since then, she and the American rider have been getting to know each other at a handful of top venues around North America, including the 1.60m CSI4* Grand Prix at Wellington International this March, where they earned their first win.

“I have high hopes for this horse,” Farrington said of Toulayna after the class, noting it was the biggest track they’d jumped to date. “She’s fast, careful, and everything I like in a show jumper.”

So much so, in fact, that Farrington actually purchased the mare in Europe back in 2021, when she was just seven years old. Of their 28 total rounds together, nearly 40% have been jumped at the 1.45m height—meaning Farrington is again interspersing smaller classes with a handful of bigger ones, the same strategy employed with Orafina, and Gazelle before her.

But he’s also moved her into the bigger classes more quickly, already jumping five rounds at the 1.55m/1.60m heights in 2023, compared to Orafina’s four rounds total at the same age. (Landon, by comparison, jumped more than five times that number when he was nine.)

Perhaps it’s the fact Farrington has had more time to get to know her as a young horse, but his more fast-tracked approach with Toulayna is also supported by the numbers. Of the 11 rounds she competed at 1.45m, she jumped clear and finished in the top-10 55% of the time. Yet Toulayna’s numbers improve to 67% for both clear rounds and top-10 finishes in the three rounds she’s competed at 1.60m, averaging just 1.33 faults at the height. They jump to 100% in the two she entered at 1.55m.

The Verdict: Falling somewhere between Landon’s apparent ease in the big classes and Farrington’s measured approach to Orafina, Toulayna may be his wild card. By his own admission, she’s his ideal style of horse, and if her recent 1.60m CSI4* win in Wellington is any indication of her future potential at the championship height, we have much more to see from this talented young mare. 

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