Casturano came to Canada by way of Fairway Farms and a fortunate phone call.

“He was in North Germany as a young horse with a very good professional that I deal with,” recalled BC-based trainer Judy Wise. “He told me, ‘This horse is a freak,’ and we bought him sight unseen.”

When the bay Holsteiner arrived in Langley in 2020, she was immediately taken by his kind demeanor.

“He came off the truck and played with my Bernese Mountain dog in the arena,” said Wise. “He’s the most kind, salt of the earth, human- and animal-loving horse that you’ve ever laid your hands on.”

Casturano’s tendency to “jump a little bit too high” made him a less than ideal candidate for amateur rider Meredith Ellis, the client he was purchased for. Wise handed the reins to her daughter Samantha Buirs-Darvill instead.

Between 2020 and 2022, Buirs-Darvill developed the Casturano to the 1.50 level. It was there he caught the eye of Ireland’s James Chalke and found his way into the string of world no. 18 Conor Swail.

In March 2023, just a month after purchasing the horse, the pair took second and first in their first two international appearances in Thermal, CA. A month later, they won their first Grand Prix, a 1.60m 3* in Wellington, FL,.

“My daughter brought him up to [the FEI] level, which was not easy, because he was green and very careful, and he jumped too high as a young horse. Now he’s learning to carry across [the jump], and I think he’s one of the top horses that Conor will have in the future,” said Wise.

Swail seconds that opinion.

Since taking over the reins, he and Casturano have jumped to 23 podium finishes, including three Grand Prix wins—most recently, taking the victory in the CSI4* Kentucky Individual Grand Prix in April.

“I’d say maybe in the beginning he was going very high, so I would have wondered if we could have jumped at the highest level with him because you can’t jump a 1.60m [course when your horse is jumping] 2.10m. That was a question.”

It’s one Casturano seems to have answered.

Of their four 1.60m appearances to date, they’ve won two and average just 0.6 faults, according to their Jumpr Stats.

On Friday, the pair was back in the place where Casturano’s North American career started at Thunderbird Show Park, and, with Judy Wise cheering from the sidelines, collected their third 5* win to date with the 1.50m Uraydi’s Village Qualifier.

Twelve pairs advanced to the jump off of Gregory Bodo’s 1.50m track. Second to return, Swail set the time to beat in a speedy 35.47 seconds that proved uncatchable. Only Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Libido van’t Hofken came close, crossing the timers in 35.77. Daniel Bluman (ISR) and Ladriano Z rounded out the podium in 36.2.

“Now that he has been with me for a while, he seems to be really learning and understanding how to manage the height better. He is not being as extravagant as he used to be. He is learning how to jump it better and that’s making it easier to jump the bigger jumps,” said Swail.

“He is a very confident horse and he learns very well. At the moment, he is not showing me any signs of stopping no matter what level we go to.”

You can bet, Wise and Buirs-Darvill will be following—and cheering—along.

“He’s like my young son,” said Wise. “Yeah, I’m very proud of him.”