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Ingrid Gjelsten: “I feel like I can do anything with VDL Edgar”

©Megan Giese/DIHP

VDL Edgar has been around the block a few times.

Under the saddle of Brazil’s Marlon Modolo Zanoteilli between 2018 and 2023, the Dutch warmblood gelding (Arezzo VDL x Marlon) earned 21 podium finishes—over half (11) at the 1.60m height—and contested five star events around the globe, including Zanoteilli’s first Olympic Games at Toyko 2020. The pair pocketed over €1.35 million in prize money over their impressive career.

In 2024, ownership of VDL Edgar was transferred from Norwegian businessman and Offshore powerboat racing World Champion Bjoern Rune Gjelsten to his daughter, Ingrid—the horse has continued to collect podium finishes for the U25 rider.

In 12 months, they’ve landed on six podiums and climbed 445 spots up the World Rankings, jumping from 888 to 443.

But it’s in the past three months that their consistency has taken hold.

In 2023, Gjelsten and VDL Edjar contested seven international rounds at 1.50m. They were clear at a 43% clip and into the top 10 29% of the time, according to Jumpr App. In 2024, those stats have jumped to 80% over five rounds at the height, and include a 3* Grand Prix win at Desert Horse Park in Thermal, CA last month.

On Saturday, the final Grand Prix of the 2024 Desert Circuit, they did one better, earning their first clear at 1.55m—and their first 4* Grand Prix win.

Two of 33 starters found a clear track around Peter Grant’s course in the La Quinta Resort & Club CSI4* Grand Prix. Gjelsten and VDL Edgar M, 28th in the order, were first to manage the feat.

“It felt amazing,” said the 23 year old. “I didn’t know if there was anyone else clear so I was just focusing on myself and I was very happy when I saw that I was clear. I was thinking about the time. The time was very short. I watched the first ones go and I went in my car to sit there alone. I usually go and sit by myself for a little bit to keep the nerves down.”

Canada’s Ali Ramsay and Bonita VH Keizershof Z were the only other pair to find a clear path to advance to the jump off.

Over the short course, Gjelsten, trained by Irish Olympian Jessica Kürten, set the time to beat at 47.14 seconds but pulled a rail, leaving the door open for Ramsay.

“I was very nervous so I was trying to not go crazy,” Gjelsten said of her jump off strategy. “My plan was to keep calm. I know Ali is very fast so I was just trying to do my plan. I was quite sure that she was going to be clear. I know my horse can do it. He is just amazing. I just need to believe in him and believe in me.”

Ramsay, the 2022 Canadian national champion, opted for a careful clear, but the clock caught up with her when they faulted at the last in 49.64, handing the win to Norway.

“He’s just amazing. He just wants to do the job,” said Gjelsten of her veteran mount. “He gives me so much self-belief. I feel like I can do anything with him. He’s just the best. My goal is to do the top sport and do some World Cups and just keep going.”

Mathijs Van Asten (NED) produced a clear with one time fault to take third.

*Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the horse was purchased for Ingrid Gjelsten in 2023. The story has been correct to note that ownership was transferred to her in 2024.

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