When Shawn Casady (USA) met 13-year-old gelding NKH Cento Blue earlier this winter, the connection was instant.

“I was at the warmup ring,” Casady explained. “This horse kind of looked over at me and I started petting him. He turned out to be my next horse to ride.

“He’s just very friendly. He’s a dude.”

Taking over the ride from USA’s Erin Davis-Heineking, it didn’t take long before Casady found synergy in the saddle, too. Getting acquainted at Desert International Horse Park at the end of Desert Circuit, the pair went on to win a pair of CSI3* 1.50m classes in San Juan Capistrano, California in April, including the Gold Tour Grand Prix. The following month they were named alternates on for the U.S. team at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of the USA.

On Friday at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, BC, they achieved their best result—and Casady’s biggest win—yet. They won the $235,000 CSIO5* Longines Grand Prix.

The result was well earned, drawing an ultra competitive field to the Fort Grand Prix Arena where the Peter Holmes (CAN) designed track eliminated all but four combinations over the first round course.

Casady was the final rider to jump-off, and the pressure compounded when Samantha Buirs-Darvill (CAN) had a stop and Kara Chad (CAN) stopped out. World no. 10 Shane Sweetnam (IRL) was the only rider to jump double clear aboard 9-year-old mare Out Of The Blue, who finished with a respectable 43.05 seconds on the clock. The door was open for Casady, so long as he could shave down Sweetnam’s time.

Casady and Cento Blue did just that, taking out a stride to the final jump and clocking in at 42.46 seconds.

“I didn’t see Shane’s whole jump off. [I was] just wanting to be double clear and consistent. For a big horse, he covers so much ground. I think that’s kind of where we were. We snuck in,” said a humble Casady.

“I could have been fourth at the worst and it would have been a good day. I was just so proud of him. We were walking up to the ring together, and he knew we had a big day ahead of us.”

Casady doesn’t take the big days for granted. Growing up catch riding, his string of horses is a constant ebb and flow.

“I grew up as a catch rider from ponies. So it’s always been a bit of ups and downs. You have a lot of horses, and then you have no horses, and then have a lot of horses, and no horses,” laughed Casady.

“Hopefully as life goes on I can keep it a little more level, but I am just enjoying it while it is here.”

Casady’s goal as he develops his career is to find some measure of consistency within his string, he’s already sporting consistent results. Especially with Cento Blue. According to Jumpr App, Casady and NKH Cento Blue have an impressive 80% clear round average in five rounds at 1.50m and a 100% top 10 finish rate at the height. Friday’s Grand Prix was their biggest test and only 1.60m appearance to date.

“I’m really, really excited. I’m grateful for all the effort that’s gone into it, the people that have believed in me, and the horse believes in me, and I believe in him. It’s just a really special moment for it all to come together,” said Casady.

That partnership played to their advantage on Friday against some of the most seasoned combinations in the world.

“I’m feeling confident yet humble. This is a level that I’ve gotten to dabble in every once in a while when I’ve had horses. Some of these riders have horses every week jumping the 5*. In order to be successful, you have to believe in it and be confident. But I also know to be humble and to make sure I’m, you know, dotting the I’s and crossing my T’s,” explained Casady.

At the end of the day, Casady’s “bromance” with Cento Blue remains strongest where it began, in the stable.

“He’s very food driven. He loves attention. If you’re anywhere in the barn, he has his head out and every time you go near where there might be a snack he looks over and if you’re going to grab something for him,” said Casady.

“He likes little dogs, too. If he sees a really little dog, he’ll just sit there and stare at it.”

Considering the pair are only at the beginning of their journey, there are plenty more treats to eat and horse show dogs to meet in Cento Blue’s future.