The 61st Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) continued on Friday, October 25, with thrilling displays of speed and power. Israeli rider Sydney Shulman of Greenwich, CT, topped the $50,000 International Jumper Speed Final on Villamoura, while Aaron Vale and Schuyler Riley of the United States shared victory in the $25,000 Land Rover Puissance. The classes were part of a full schedule of exciting competition and entertaining exhibitions during Military Night, presented by Caterpillar, Inc.
Shulman, 24, came to WIHS to jump in the international jumper division for the first time with a pretty specific goal. “I came here with the plan to do just these two speed classes and hopefully be in the top five, with all these elite riders in the classes,” she said.
Sydney Shulman and Villamoura. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
She ended up winning both of them. Shulman rode Villamoura, a 10-year-old Selle Français mare by Diamant de Semilly and owned by Jill Shulman, to the blue in the $50,000 International Jumper Speed Final, adding her name to the General Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Perpetual Trophy donated by the late Arthur J. Morris. The night before, she and Villamoura won the $36,000 International Jumper Accumulator Costume Class.
“I’m definitely in shock!” Shulman said. “Coming out on top in both of these classes is definitely beyond my expectations, so I’m thrilled.” Shulman’s time of 50.84 seconds was untouchable; Australian rider Rowan Willis came the closest, stopping the timers in 53.19 seconds for second place with Everse W. Third place went to U.S. rider Andy Kocher on Cat Ninja, who posted a time of 53.58 seconds.
Villamoura and Shulman were more than two seconds faster than the 23 other riders in the starting field. “I watched the video and it looked much faster than it felt,” Shulman said. “She’s a really fast horse; she covers the ground so fast. I did 10 [strides] on the rollback to the second jump, and other people did eight strides, and she still looked faster in the video. My plan was to go inside to the American flag plank [TAPS vertical] and do six strides there. I caught such a good one and she felt so amazing and is so brave, I went for the five and she walked it. I think leaving a stride out there is maybe what sealed the deal for me.”
Sydney Shulman and Villamoura. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
For every clear effort over the TAPS fence, $1,000 was donated to the Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors (TAPS) as part of Military Night tradition at WIHS. After 11 riders cleared the plank vertical, $11,000 was donated to TAPS by generous sponsors Ride TV and Dish.
Course designer Olaf Petersen, Jr., built a track filled with rollback turns for the speed class. “I thought the course was challenging for sure,” Shulman said. “There were a couple of harder turns, and the triple bar into the triple combination is always difficult. You want to cut the turn and be fastest, but a triple bar is hard enough to jump on its own, let alone into a combination. I think you needed a game horse and a horse that was really in front of you, because the turns took away a lot of your canter.”
Having Villamoura back in top form is emotional for Shulman because a year ago, she wasn’t sure if the mare would jump again. Villamoura scratched her eye while stabled at a show in September 2018 and needed eight months to heal. “It just took time,” Shulman said. She noted that for the first month that Villamoura was in the equine clinic, she stayed with her. “I was there with her 24 hours a day, and I slept in my car. That horse is my life,” she said.
Luckily, Villamoura’s eye healed well, and she retained her vision. “I knew she would come back in some capacity once we realized her eye was going to be fine,” Shulman said. “The key was building her fitness back up. I have to give a lot of credit to our staff at Back Country Farm. It was around-the-clock care getting her healthy, bringing her back, and getting her fit. The whole team was involved, emotionally and physically. I’m really grateful to everyone for it.”
Despite her success during the week, Shulman is sticking to her plan of skipping the $136,300 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Washington, presented by Events DC for the President’s Cup. “I have to stick to my plan,” said Shulman. “Obviously, she could not have jumped better. I don’t think she touched a jump all week and it was fantastic, so I’m just going to end on this note.”
Aaron Vale and Schuyler Riley Share the Win in the $25,000 Land Rover Puissance
The win in the $25,000 Land Rover Puissance came down to a battle between a three-time WIHS puissance-winning horse and a horse contesting the class for the first time. In the end, they tied for the win, with both Aaron Vale and Finou 4 and Schuyler Riley on Very Chic Du Tillard clearing the 6’9″ height.
Vale and Finou 4, a 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding by For Pleasure and owned by Thinks Like A Horse, had won the class the last three consecutive years and were hot favorites. Five other horse/rider combinations joined them on the starting list. “There was a good group of horses and riders tonight, so it was a little tougher class than maybe the last few years,” Vale said. “You never go in thinking you’re going to win.”
Riley described E2 Show Jumpers’ Very Chic Du Tillard, a 10-year-old Selle Francais gelding by Diamant de Semilly, as a horse with the experience level of younger horse. He was jumping in his first Puissance class and has spent the majority of his show experience at the 1.45m level. “I knew he has the scope and the talent, but I knew he’d never done one before, so I sort of expected to go in there and jump one or maybe two and then come out, but he jumped it so easily,” Riley said.
All six riders started over the wall set at 5’9″, and it was subsequently raised to 6’3″, 6’5″, and 6’9″. Only Riley and Vale cleared the 6’9″ height, and both returned to attempt 6’11”. When they both knocked blocks off at that height, the class ended in a tie between them.
The Puissance is a favorite event for Vale, who has now won the class six times. His first win came in 1996 with Big Joe. “In America, we don’t have great crowds too often, and this night is one of the best crowds of the year for the Puissance here,” he said. “It’s a special class because so many people watch it and enjoy it. It’s loud cheering, and it ends up being a great crowd.”
Riley believed the cheers of the crowd helped her horse. “He started to like it in there,” she said. “Earlier in the day, he wasn’t so good in the speed class; there was so much atmosphere that it undid him a little bit. But as the night went on, the atmosphere was helping him. He grew because of it instead of shrinking, which was a cool experience.”
Finou 4 and Very Chic Du Tillard were both presented with the Sweet ‘N Low Trophy, donated by Mr. and Mrs. Donald G. Tober for the winning horse in the Puissance, while Riley and Vale will share the Armed Forces Cup, presented by Land Rover to the winning rider in the Puissance. They’ll also be represented on the Congressman’s Challenge Trophy, donated by the late Honorable Rogers C.B. Morton and the late Honorable F. Robert Watkins.
Small Affair Makes a Tricolor Finale in the Junior Hunters
Small Affair has a storied history at WIHS, having previously claimed the Grand Junior Hunter Champion title with Tori Colvin riding in 2015, and earning the Large Junior Hunter, 15 and Under, championship with Augusta Iwasaki in 2017.
This year, Iwasaki returned to WIHS with the 16-year-old Selle Francais to collect the Ides of March Perpetual Trophy, donated by Linda Lee and Lee Reynolds, for the Grand Junior Hunter Championship again. “It’s such a dream to be able to showcase him like this because he really is a horse of a lifetime. I can’t imagine having a better partner,” said Iwasaski.
Iwasaki and Lyn Pederson’s Small Affair won an over-fences class, the stake class, and the under-saddle class on their way to the Large Junior Hunter, 15 and Under, title before returning to the ring to claim the Grand Junior Hunter Championship. Iwasaki also picked up the reserve championship in the division with Eliza Kimball’s Sea Side.
Iwasaki was thrilled with the result, as she and her family have decided that this year’s WIHS would be Small Affair’s last indoor show appearance. “In the beginning, I thought it was a little bit of pressure, but I’ve had him for so long that even if it didn’t go the way I wanted, I’d still be so happy with what we’ve done. I’m over the moon,” she said.
Iwasaki, 15, was just five years old when Small Affair joined her parents’ Makato Farm in Calabasas, CA, as a green five-year-old. While Iwasaki honed her skills on ponies, Small Affair collected tricolors with other riders. When Iwasaki was old enough in 2016, she got the ride. “He knew exactly what he was supposed to be doing when I first started riding him,” she said. “It was a learning curve for me, though. When I first got him, I hadn’t been doing the 3’6″ a lot and he’s a sophisticated ride. He has to trust you. Once we got it, we’ve been in sync ever since.”
Iwasaki and her mother, Liz Reilly, and father, Chris Iwasaki, planned Small Affair’s final fall tour carefully, and purposely chose WIHS for his encore. “I chose this one as his last because it’s a show that he enjoys,” Augusta said. “He has some rings he doesn’t love, but he’s comfortable here.”
Small Affair will eventually transition to retirement at Dr. Betsee Parker’s farms in Florida and Virginia. “He means so much to me and my family. There’s a such a special bond between my whole family and this horse. He’s been part of our family for more than 10 years, so he’s everything to us,” Augusta said. “I am confident that I will never feel a jump like it again.”
Maggie Hill of Jackson, WY, claimed the Best Child Rider on a Horse title, sponsored by Gotham North, receiving the DiVecchia Perpetual Trophy, donated by Mr. & Mrs. Frederick DiVecchia, after being selected by the judges as the rider who demonstrated the highest quality in horsemanship and sportsmanship, combined with good appearance and courtesy.
Hill also rode Cassanto to the Large Junior Hunter, 16-17 title for the Chance Step Perpetual Trophy, donated by Brooke Carmichael McMurray-Fowler and Pam Carmichael Keenan, and her O’Ryan to the Small Junior Hunter, 16-17 tricolor. She then collected the Georgetown Trophy for High Score Owner-Rider Award with her O’Ryan.
The Large Junior Hunter, 16-17 Reserve went to Jordan Allen riding Caroline Loyd’s Cartello Z, while the Small Junior Hunter, 16-17 Reserve went to Violet Lindemann-Barnett riding Sloan Lindemann-Barnett’s Luscious.
Stella Propp of New York City, NY, rode Aquitaine Equine’s Inquisitive to the Small Junior Hunter, 15 and Under Championship, sponsored by the Wasserman Foundation. Finishing in reserve were Ishi Swani on Shadowfax Equestrian LLC’s Bond.
The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund WIHS Equitation Finals also kicked off on Friday, and with the win in the Hunter Phase, Sam Walker currently sits atop the leaderboard with a score of 93 heading into Saturday’s jumper phase and top-10 work-off. Dominic Gibbs in in second with a score of 91.125 and Mimi Gochman lies in third with 89.125.
Competition at the 61st WIHS continues on Saturday beginning at 7 a.m. with pony hunters, followed by Saturday’s highly-anticipated feature events including the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund WIHS Equitation Finals – Jumper Phase beginning at 3:30 p.m., the WIHS Equitation Finals – Work-Off at 6:45 p.m., and the $136,300 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Washington, presented by Events DC, kicking off at 9 p.m.