Devin Ryan guided Zosja to victory in the $30,000 Otter Creek Grand Prix. David Mullinix Photography.
East Dorset, Vermont — Devin Ryan and Zosja were declared the winners of the $30,000 Otter Creek Grand Prix, presented by the Inns at Equinox, on Saturday afternoon at the Vermont Summer Festival. Ryan and Zosja were the only double-clear round of the day, laying down a steady and careful second trip to secure them the victory.
Ryan and Zosja were second to return in the jump-off, following Thursday’s welcome stake victors Cory Hardy and Camelot 105, who finished with four faults. Jimmy Torano and Walkabout were the only other pair to progress to the jump-off and ultimately finished with four faults just behind Hardy.
Ryan was exceptionally pleased with his rounds aboard Eagle Valley Partner’s nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare.
“Today was one of the smoothest rounds I think I’ve had on her,” Ryan revealed. “I messed around in the spring trying to change bridles and I think it backfired on me. I went back to her old bridle and focused on myself. I focused on what I needed to be doing instead of what I was trying to make her do for me, and that seems to have worked.”
Ryan admitted that “making” Zosja do anything is out of the question. In the year that has passed since they competed last at the Vermont Summer Festival, their relationship has progressed to one of mutual respect.
“She’s gotten a lot better since last summer. She’s much different. I didn’t have a lot of rideability last year. You have to ride her the way she wants to be ridden. Now, she respects me and listens more. Some horses you can get to adjust to your program, but you have to ride Zosja her way,” Ryan explained.
He continued, “She’s sensitive. She’s strong herself, but she doesn’t like when you get strong with her.”
While it may have caused him trouble initially, Ryan considers Zosja’s strong spirit one of her most valuable qualities.
“She’s so brave. The fences never back her off. She’s willing and never says no. She will take you to the jumps. She really attacks them. I don’t have many horses that attack the jumps like she does. She’s aggressive to each one and for a jumper, that’s not a bad thing,” Ryan commented.
Zosja may be more than eager to get up and over whatever is asked of her, but Ryan rode her to first place by focusing on smoothness rather than going full throttle in the jump off.
“My strategy was to try to stay smooth and not push her. Every time I’ve tried to push her and run in the jump off, I get in trouble with her. The more I push her, the quicker her stride gets, not bigger. Jimmy and Cory were faster than me because I didn’t leave out a stride in the last line. I didn’t want to push her down it, and today it worked out,” Ryan described.
Ryan was quick to mention that Saturday’s victory was not simply the result of his efforts, but that of the entire team of Eagle Valley Partners and Ryan’s River Run Stables, based in Long Valley, NJ.
“It’s the whole team, when it comes down to it,” Ryan stated. “The owners and all of the support making everything flow smoothly throughout the day are so important. Everyone, down to the guys you don’t see because they’re back at the barn, makes this possible. It’s not just one rider and one horse doing it, it’s the entire team.”
The Vermont Summer Festival, celebrating its 20th anniversary in its current Manchester location, offers more than $750,000 in prize money, making it the richest sporting event based on purse in the state of Vermont. The six-week circuit will continue through August 11 at Harold Beebe Farm in East Dorset, VT.
The first five Saturdays of the Vermont Summer Festival feature a $30,000 Grand Prix. The $50,000 Vermont Summer Celebration Grand Prix will be held during the sixth and final week on Saturday, August 10. The weekly $10,000 Open Welcome Stake, Presented by Manchester Designer Outlets, is held each Thursday. The hugely popular $5,000 3’3” Hunter Derby is also held each Thursday for the first five weeks, with week six featuring the $15,000 Hunter Derby.
The Vermont Summer Festival is a proud member event of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame, the Marshall & Sterling League, and the North American League (NAL). For more information about the Vermont Summer Festival, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.vt-summerfestival.com.
Contact: Jennifer Ward
Starting Gate Communications
Cell: (613) 292-5439