“From our first jump in the warm-up, I could tell it was our day today,” said Uma O’Neill (NZL) of Clockwise of Greenhill Z on Saturday at Thunderbird Show Park.

What she didn’t know: it would be a dramatic day.

Heading to the third last fence on course of the CSI3* tbird Grand Prix, and on route to a clear, Clockwise’s bridle started slipping over his ears. On landing, it came off entirely and fell beneath his nose. With the stallion holding the bit and O’Neill riding determinedly to the last, the pair managed to clear the final oxer and come home clear in dramatic style.

“When I was heading to the first jump, I stopped and backed up and saw that the bonnet was a bit crooked. I made a little adjustment to it, and I thought it was all ok. It was very wet from the rain, and as I kept going around the course, I noticed that there was more and more bonnet sticking up above his ears,” recounted O’Neill.

“Over B of the triple [combination] I got a little concerned, and cantering to the Odlum Brown oxer, I thought the bonnet might be covering his eyes, and I wasn’t quite sure where his vision was, but he still felt amazing.

“I landed off the next jump, and the bridle went over his ears. He started to back off, but I kept my leg on, and he felt confident, so I decided to keep going. There was only one jump left, and he felt great.”

Going. ©tbird/Kady Dane Photography
©tbird/Kady Dane Photography
Gone! ©tbird/Kady Dane Photography
©tbird/Kady Dane Photography
©tbird/Kady Dane Photography
©tbird/Kady Dane Photography

O’Neill and and the grey stallion went on to top a five-horse jump off against Canadian Olympian Tiffany Foster, Thursday’s CSI3* winner Jim Ifko (CAN), and local favorites Kassidy Keith (CAN) and Jaehee Jeon (KOR), posting one of only two double clears on the day. This time without the fly bonnet.

“[Clockwise] just felt really on it and smooth and followed me everywhere.”

Saturday’s victory is just the latest for the longtime partners. CW and O’Neill have been competing together internationally since 2015, jumping to a clear round average of 33% at the 1.50m height over their lengthy career, according to Jumpr App. The athletic stallion has taken O’Neill from the North American Youth Championships all the way to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Their career best win was achieved at tbird in 2018 with the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ of Vancouver.

Now 16, O’Neill keeps the stallion fresh and saves his legs with swimming and sparing use in her show calendar.

“I’ve had him for a little more than nine years now, and I really pick and choose his classes. This was a class I targeted with him, and I’m super pleased with the result.”

Jeon and Kadans van de Mispelaere took second with a clear in 41.78 seconds. Keith finished third on four faults in 40.57s.