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The Jump Off Round Of the Year

©Mackenzie Clark


That’s the first word that comes to mind watching Richard Vogel and United Touch’s jump off round in the CSI5* Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva on Sunday.

But there’s no shortage of adjectives that would do. Mindblowing. Awe-inspiring. Extraordinary. Dazzling. With a string of expletives for emphasis.

The 26-year-old German and his 11-year-old German Warmblood are without a doubt one of the most exciting combinations in the world to watch right now. Between the stallion’s massive stride and unbelievable scope and Vogel’s masterful ability to chart precision jump off tracks, there’s little this pair isn’t capable of jumping—and winning.

In 2023 alone, they’ve won 1.60m championship classes at the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona, Spain and the World Cup Final in Omaha, USA, plus a 5* 1.55m jump off at Spruce Meadows, Canada. The pair’s top 10 finish average at 1.60m is 53% over a relatively few 21 rounds at the height (Jumpr App).

But Sunday’s jump off? That was show jumping on another level.

In a field of 40 starters that included 28 of the world top 50, seven qualified for Gérard Lachat and Louis Konickx’s short course in the final leg of the 2023 Grand Slam of Show Jumping series.

As pathfinder, Vogel had every reason to lay it all on the table. Set to follow him in the ring were European champions Steve Guerdat and Dynamix de Helheme; Christian Kukuk and Checker 47, the top earning pair of the past 30 days (€897,273); Prague Playoffs Super Grand Prix winners Julien Epaillard and Dubai du Cedre, one of the fastest combinations in the world; along with Ireland’s Mark McAuley (GRS Lady Amaro), American Olympic medalist Jessica Springsteen (Don Juan van de Donkhoeve) and Wilm Vermeir (IQ van het Steentje).

To win in a field like that, there’s only one strategy: shut the door.

“I am very close with McLain Ward, and I watched the whole jump-off from last year last night. I knew that to win here you would have to be fast, and so even though I was first to go, I decided to really push for it,” said Vogel.

In a jaw dropping display of speed and precision, Vogel and United Touch left out strides (plural) in every line and every rollback to fly through the timers in a breathtaking 37.14 seconds.

It was foot perfect if such a thing exists. The kind of round only a miracle could beat. The kind that makes the most competitive show jumpers in the world ride for second.

Which is what they did. None even came close to matching the time. Rolex Top 10 Final winner Guerdat was nearest, stopping the clock a second and a half slower in 38.65, but pulled a rail. Runner up McAuley was a full two and half seconds off the time in 39.77. Kukuk and Checker 47 were a distant 41.74.

It was just…Wow. High-fiving the spectators on his victory gallop was a boss move too.

Vogel is now the Grand Slam Live Contender. Only one rider has captured all three majors in the same season since the Grand Slam of Show Jumping’s inception: Scott Brash in 2015. But if there is a pair that could do it again, hopes are high on Vogel and United Touch.

“I feel incredible. To win here at the CHI Geneva and become live contender of the Rolex Grand Slam is a dream come true. The atmosphere was amazing, and my horse was just perfect. He has such a big stride, and so especially in the first round some of the lines were very hard for him, but he put in all the effort for me. He gave me everything and jumped his heart out. I have never been to The Dutch Masters, but I am very excited to be there in March. We will make a plan for the next few months and try to win!”

The Rolex Grand Slam next heads to s’Hertogenbosch, NED for The Dutch Masters in March 2024.

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