Washington, D.C. - October 23, 2009 - The 2009 Washington International Horse Show (WIHS), CSI 4*-W is one of the most exciting equestrian competitions in the country, and it is one of only two shows in North America that offer a puissance, or "high jump" class. Tonight's $25,000 Puissance presented by Chevron Corporation saw a very familiar face for the awards presentation. Seven-time winner McLain Ward of Brewster, NY, was victorious in the class on Vancouver with the winning height of 6' 7". David Beisel of Cincinnati, OH, finished second with Patoile, owned by Harlow Investment Enterprises Inc. The record height of 7'-71/2" set in 1983 by Anthony D'Ambrosio and Sweet 'N Low still holds.
Ward and Beisel were the only two riders out of a starting field of seven to reach the third jump-off round. The first round started with Shane Sweetnam (Ireland) on Spy Coast Farm LLC's Little Emir and Jonathan McCrea (Ireland) on Promised Land, owned by Candy Tribble and Windsor Show Stables, having rails on earlier fences on the course, although they both cleared the puissance wall that was set at 5'10" (1.78m). This eliminated them from the competition. Also eliminated for a fault at the wall was Andres Rodriguez (Venezuela) on Tornado.
Along with Ward and Beisel, two other riders were clear in the first round to move on to the second round, where the wall was raised to 6'1" (1.85m). Charlie Jayne and Pony Lane Farm's Carentina III were clear, but chose to retire after this round. Irishman Darragh Kenny and Missy Clark/North Run's Gael Force were also clear to move on to the third round.
In the third round, the wall was moved up to 6'7" (2.01m), and the first rider to attempt the jump was Ward on Vancouver. They easily cleared the wall to move on to the final round. Beisel and the very game Patoile were also clear. The luck of the Irish was not with Kenny, however, who had a very unfortunate fault at the wall when Gael Force cleared it, but kicked out the top block with his hind legs as he was landing.
The wall in the final round was raised to 6'10" (2.09m), but neither Ward nor Beisel were able to clear it. Ward had trouble when Vancouver shifted right over the wall, and he took the top blocks down. Beisel, who had been galloping to the wall in previous rounds, took a more conservative approach and Patoile refused. When he tried again, Patoile refused and Beisel fell off. Horse and rider were okay, but due to the fall, Beisel would have to take second place.
For his win tonight, Ward was given the Congressman's Challenge Trophy, donated by the Late Honorable Rogers C.B. Morton and the Late Honorable F. Robert Watkins, of Pennsylvania. Ward retired the trophy before in 2002 after he won three years in a row on Achat 6, and he also was the winner in 1994 and in 2006 and 2007 on EquiFit Pozitano.
Amazingly enough, this was Ward's first class showing with Vancouver, an 11-year-old New Zealand-bred Dutch horse. "We just got the horse about two or three weeks ago. He had jumped very successfully in New Zealand and done a few World Cup Leagues. He had a very good record before, and we brought him here because we knew he was very brave and thought he could go a couple of rounds in the Puissance," Ward explained. "It is a great event here at Washington and very good prize money, and we wanted to give it a try."
Ward said of his final round, "He performed great. I don't know him very well, and I don't think I rode him very well the last round. I actually thought I was coming in a bit slow to the wall and my thinking before the last round was to go with a little more rhythm and I think that was a mistake. I ended up being a bit too flat at it, but he really performed wonderfully and he is just a lovely horse."
This is Beisel's second time at the WIHS, and it was his and his horse's first ever Puissance class. He and the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare have been together for three years and they compete in the grand prix classes usually. At last year's WIHS, Beisel saw the class and wanted to compete in it this year. "I have always wanted to do it. I watched McLain do it, and I thought it looked like fun," he remarked.
Afterwards he joked, "I did get slammed into the wall, but it was still fun. I think I got a little too slow. I got running the time before and she barely got her hind end out of the way, so I was trying to be patient and maybe got a little too patient there. She thought it looked awfully big."
Beisel is happy to compete in such a rare event like the Puissance. "I don't know if I would do them every weekend," he conceded, "but it is needed at big events like this where they have such a big crowd and all of the people out there. That makes it pretty special."
This year's WIHS jumper courses are designed by Guilherme Jorge of Brazil.