Three nights of intense competition kicked off Thursday evening at the South Point Equestrian Arena in Las Vegas. Local equestrian fans and spectators filled the stands for Barn Night during the opening ceremonies of the $32,000 Markel Insurance Jumper Classic, and the end result left no disappointment. A deep international field of fifty-six horse and rider combinations did little to intimidate the twenty-year-old Saer Coulter (USA) who took control of the class at an early stage, and wrapped it up in her favor.
The 2nd annual Barn Competition was underway when the building erupted in a roar of cheering teams from local equestrian fanatics. Competing barns came together to show off their equestrian spirit and take home bragging rights as they qualify for Saturday night's finals. Ten nations made up the broad class this evening as they attempted to tackle Olaf Petersen Jr.'s (GER) FEI Jumper Classic course. "I wanted to see what type of horses we had with us this year," noted Petersen, "it was a very large field with a very large variety of level and experience. Expect the size and level of technicality to go up for Saturday's World Cup Qualifier." Of the fifty-six rounds, only nine were able to leave all the rails in the cups.
"I knew there would be some challenges with the wall," Petersen explained the course and his tactics for its design, "It wasn't a giant course, or a tough time allowed, but there were many questions that required riders to get their horses under control and set up correctly." Despite the numerous bending lines and blind angles, riders faced complications coming out of the triple bar-vertical combination to reset for an awkward distance to an oxer. The final line was a vertical-vertical-oxer combination that took many victims if they came in too quick to clear all the elements.
Coulter's first trip around the track was aboard her sister's fifteen-year-old mare Julie Des Brumes. Coming off an injury from earlier this season, the Selle Francais veteran floated around Petersen's track with ease and accuracy to post the first clear round in 64.26. "My plan was to go fast and smooth," Coulter smiled, "and Julia did a great job settling in. I've been working on my speed at home a lot, and I think it has helped since I am usually so conservative." Only two rounds later, German rider Christian Heineking and his seven-year-old youngster, NKH Selena, were able to put up a fault free round as well but simply could not out do Coulter's time in 64.93 seconds. The pair would eventually settle for third place.
Six other teams were able to master Petersen's track but could not beat Coulter's top time. The San Francisco based starlet was back in the ring 45 rounds later aboard her newest addition to the barn, ten-year-old Graciella 50. "This was our fourth show together and everything seems to be clicking," Coulter added, "I honestly thought I was slower but she covers so much ground and was just that much faster." The pair swept through the course without one hiccup and stopped the clock in 64.26 seconds, taking over first and second place. The remaining ten rounds simply could not match the leader, securing Coulter's top two placings in the $32,000 Markel Insurance Jumper Classic.
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