“It’s hard not to love Brego,” were Katie Dinan’s (USA) first words in the press conference after she won the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Washington CSI5*-W for the President’s Cup.

“He’s a super, super horse,” Dinan continued of her five-year partnership with the now 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Namelus R x Gerlinus), Brego R’N B.

“I am so lucky to have him. This is our first five-star grand prix win together. I’m thrilled for him. In the jump-off he showed all of his amazing qualities. He’s got huge scope, bravery, and intelligence. He tries hard, he’s smart, and you can’t ask more from a horse as a rider. And I think he knew he won.”

Dinan and Brego won in convincing fashion, too.

In a jump-off of seven elite pairs over a course designed by Bernardo Costa Cabral (POR), Dinan and Brego were last to go, and the pace was fast, set by Rene Dittmer (GER) and Corsica X. Devin Ryan (USA) and his long-time partner Eddie Blue came within a half a second of the time, but it was ultimately down to Dinan to seal the deal.

“I wish I could tell you it was a perfectly executed plan,” she said of her jump-off ride, in which she shaved just shy of a second off the leading time.

“We knew we couldn’t waste any time; if I wanted to win I had to do everything. As soon as you start to think about setting up you’ll be too slow. The very forward one showed up at the double but I thought, ‘If not now, when?’ So I went for it. There was a lot of noise from the crowd and Brego sprouted wings for me.”

It’s safe to say Dinan, a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard University, with graduate degrees from Harvard as well, and a current PHD candidate at Rockefeller University, is a bit of a perfectionist. It makes sense that her strategy in the past has been focusing on the clear round and a solid placing.

This year she’s switched gear in favor of speed, and it’s resulting in wins.

Over the summer, Dinan won two CSI3* Grands Prix in Traverse City with Brego—one amidst a down pour and facility-wide power outage—proving the ability they have as a pair when they give it all they’ve got.

“Brego is a really fast horse and I realized if I wasn’t going fast in a jump-off it was because of me, so I had to work on that,” she explained of her mindset shift.

“I had to be smarter and better as a rider and let all his best qualities shine. I’m trying to push myself to try to win these classes and take the risk, and be okay with having one down, rather than going for the more conservative clear and nice placing. I’m trying to have higher expectations, knowing my horse can do it. When it pays off like this I’m ecstatic.”

Another key has been the management of an older horse, and Dinan knows her time in the ring with Brego is not ample, so she has to make it count. She’s only shown Brego in 18 classes this year, jumping to three podium finishes, versus 35 classes and four podium finishes in 2022 (Jumpr App).

“I try to not show him too much and make the most of it when I do,” she said, having last competed with Brego at the Hampton Classic in September. “For me as a rider I have to stay cool and patient and let it come. I got confidence from my other horses too coming into a class like this.” 

As a busy student at the highest level, and also showing horses at the highest level, it takes an expert team to keep all the pieces in place.

“It’s a huge tribute to my team to keep my horses going and keep the balance working,” Dinan reflected. “I am very grateful for my coach Beat Mändli—who I’ve been working with for almost 10 years now—and the team we have at the farm because I wouldn’t be anywhere without them.”

The FEI World Cup™ Finals in 2024 is now within sight for Dinan, 29, who’s already contested five iterations of the event. A rider’s top four scores determining their qualifying points. With six legs of the North American League ahead, Dinan will be looking to log more points at her next stop, the National Horse Show in Lexington, KY Nov 5, before heading to Canada for the Royal Winter Fair.

“The experience we get at our indoor [shows], especially since we don’t have many in the U.S., is invaluable,” she said of the atmosphere inside the Prince George’s Equestrian Center, just outside of Washington, D.C.

“For an event like the World Cup [Finals], which is in a small indoor ring, one of the biggest challenges is coming off of the big field in Florida, so I think it’s good to get as much experience as I can and good rounds in an arena like this.”

While FEI World Cup™ Finals isn’t yet a guarantee, one thing is: Katie Dinan has become the one to beat.