November 13, 2011

Higher And Faster: A Night At The Grand Prix

Last night, a packed crowd gasped and cheered 23 horses around the course and through the jumpoff at the 2011 Duke Children's Benefit Grand Prix in Raleigh.  When I attended a Grand Prix last year, my experience was one of mass flying pole carnage and horses whose jumps made me close my eyes in fear.  Not so, this time; the caliber of equines had obviously made a massive leap in the upwards direction.

This was a 1.5 meter course (4.92 feet for you non-scientific people), as demonstrated by this brave competitor.  I can only imagine such a course walk:  "Ok, jump is at eyeball level.  Fine, no problem.  Next!"

Quite thoughtfully and appropriately, the venue saw fit to pay tribute to Solo and all his contributions to horsedom.  As they should.  Ha.

And it began.  Meagan Nusz, a young rider from The Woodlands, TX, stole much of the show with her four phenomenal horses.  I think she is all of 24 years old and has been winning Grands Prix at least since she was 17, which leads me to believe that apparently I should have been born in a parallel universe that she obviously lives in.  Ridiculous!  But fun to watch and she rode the pants off those horses.  If horses had pants.  Each of her horses was more fantastic-moving than the last and they all had HUGE, lofty jumps, like 1.5 m was a walk in the park. 

A beautiful moving liver chestnut named Why Not.

Our favourite, a gorgeous grey named Cilantro.  The name is all charm.

We were a bit confused when she brought this one in, a bit of a chestnut named Dynamo.  Compared to the instant "wow" factor of the other 3, this little guy looked like just your average horse.  Then he lofted the first jump.

Another show stopper was 5x Olympic rider Manuel Torres, a Columbian rider with a butt tossing stallion named Chambucanero. WARNING: do not Google this rider's name without some sort of equine qualifier! Apparently, an identically named actor is quite famous for films of the pornographic genre. What has been seen cannot be unseen. Yeah, I know you are googling it right now. Nonetheless, Manuel and Chambucanero rode at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, although it looks like they had an unfortunate 21 fault round there.  Not so on this night!

We had some local favourites, too; like veteranarian Fernando Cardenaz, of 3H, a Raleigh-based clinic which specializes in lamenesses.  His horse, Orphan Car, is a regular in this ring.

Harold Chopping competed for the Canadians in the past, but now trains hunters in NC.  He rode two and I did not get video of the witchy, but talented mare on which he won 3rd place for the night.  This was his other horse, Big Air.

I also really liked this grey horse, Wattesson, even if he didn't go clean.

Then it was time for the jumpoff, which was a surprisingly large field, with 11 or 12 riders.

Thaise Erwin, an Australian rider based locally, and her mare, Matilda, set the pace.

Then Manuel Torres and Chambucanero blew it wide open.

The next 8 riders couldn't touch him, although Harold came very close. Until Meagan and Dynamo came back.

It was impossible to restrain oneself from yelling, "Go, pony, go!" and more than one of us leaped out of our chairs as Dynamo shot through the finish timers like a rocket. The atmosphere was electric (unless you were Manuel Torres) and even the horses fed off of the energy. What a fantastic way to spend an evening! And so much more relaxing when YOU are not the one picking stalls and cleaning feet and shining tack and walking courses....whew!


  1. I loved the comments on the first video of Nusz about her being from The Woodlands. So true! It was hard for me to look past that stigma until the jump-off, then I realized she still is a darn good rider!

    Looks like so much fun to go to!

  2. Yes, the girl can definitely ride! I was impressed by her and her horses all night!

  3. This did my heart good! Thanks for posting all the videos. I am so horsey deprived right now. I needed that!

  4. Love the pony! Thanks for the exciting rounds... GP is amazing when the field is good. It's almost as much fun as eventing... ok, well maybe a long second place... ;)

  5. Hahaha, I'm with you, jen -- second, but by a long shot!

  6. I actually watcd all of those. CRAZY!
    Goes to show beauty and size doesnt always make a winner

  7. It's definitely about guts and try!