Watch United Touch jump but a few fences and it’s clear he’s in a class of his own.
A horse with supernatural scope and stride, he skips over 1.60m fences and steps across sprawling arenas.
“I think he’s quite special. He’s anyway special for me,” smiled Richard Vogel (GER).
“But his stride and his scope is also very unique and you can never really compare him with other horses. Like, if horses, for example, do steady four [strides] to a narrow vertical. For him, it’s just an easy three because he has such a big stride.
“And I think my job as a rider is just to make it as easy for him as possible in those technical lines, use his stride to do one less here and there, and to kind of adjust the course to his stride and not try to adjust his stride to the course. That’s what I’m aiming for, at least.”
Vogel executed the plan to precision in Thursday’s CANA Cup 1.55m jump off at Spruce Meadows. Of the 41 starters, 15 combinations qualified for Leopoldo Palacios’ short course; three of which elected to save their horses legs for later in the week.
Vogel and the speedy stallion set the early standard, masterfully slicing turns and angling fences to make room for his horse’s massive stride.
Many laid chase, including known speed threats Steve Guerdat (SUI), Matthew Sampson (GBR), Bertram Allen (IRL), and Martin Fuchs (SUI). But none came close to their time of 43.07 seconds. The closest runner ups, USA’s Natalie Dean and Nespresso van’t Laekhof, were half a second slower in 43.63. Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher and Elysium took third in 43.90.
“Our first show together was exactly one year ago now. So it’s not that we have a very long partnership, but in that year we had a lot of good shows and great results. We grew together very well and we know each other quite well now, I would say,” said the 26-year-old.
While Vogel and United Touch have not dominated headlines—in the space of one-year, they’ve only landed on three podiums—they’ve made those wins count. All are first place finishes and all on massive world stages.
The promising pair captured their first win in November, just two months into their burgeoning partnership. Vogel and United Touch won the 1.60m World Cup in Stuttgart with a double clear. With just two World Cup results on his record, the German rider squeaked into the Final in Omaha, where, in his first ever senior championship appearance, they won the second leg. Also, a 1.60m track.
On Thursday, they added their a 1.55m win at Spruce Meadows to their record. It’s Vogel’s first ever appearance at the iconic venue.
“I’ve heard a lot about this show,” he shared, noting the Spruce Meadows trademark 16′ wide fences are unlike anything he’s seen in Europe.
“It’s kind of unique. I was a bit unsure how many classes I should ride and how much it takes [coming here]. Obviously, you want to have the horses as fresh as possible for the upcoming Nations Cup and Sunday’s Grand Prix. But also you want to have them as confident as possible. And I have to say this was United’s first class this week and he felt very good. So I might even leave it with that and jump in on Sunday.”