Nicole Walker riding Falco van Spieveld. Photo by Ben Radvanyi Photography.
Toronto, Ontario – Nicole Walker of Aurora, ON claimed the $125,000 Canadian Show Jumping Championship title on Saturday night, November 3, at the 96th Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, ON.
“I will never forget this! It feels amazing. I’m very excited for my whole team, and I think the horse deserves a title like this because he’s such a special boy. I’m glad he could have a title to his name.” ~ Nicole Walker, who will celebrate her 25th birthday on Sunday, November 4
Having claimed victory in Friday’s $25,000 Canadian Show Jumping Championship – Round One, presented by Lothlorien, Walker held the lead coming into Saturday night’s two-round competition. The defending Canadian Champions, Amy Millar, 41, of Perth, ON and Heros piled on the pressure by opening Saturday night’s competition with a clear round while Walker incurred four faults.
When the top six in the standings went through to the all-deciding final, Walker kept her cool to deliver another clear jumping round, picking up one time fault over the course set by Ireland’s Alan Wade to bring her total score to five faults. When Millar and Heros faulted the second time out, their final score of 7.13 penalty points left them in second place, handing Walker her first Canadian Show Jumping Championship title riding Falco van Spieveld, a 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding.
Canadian Olympian Beth Underhill of Schomberg, ON delivered a clear round riding Count Me In to finish in third position, while 12-time Canadian Show Jumping Champion Ian Millar, 71, of Perth, ON took fourth place riding Calvin Klein for Brookstreet Stables. Olympic team silver medalist Mac Cone of King City, ON guided Zaia di san Giovanni to fifth for owner Mark Samuel’s Chadburn Holdings Inc., while Hyde Moffatt of Brantford, ON also made the cut for the top six riding Granturo.
As the defending Under 25 National Champion at the Royal Horse Show, Walker has grown up competing at the annual Royal Horse Show.
“I had a lot of friends and family here tonight as it’s very close to home,” said Walker, who trains with 2012 Irish Olympic individual medalist Cian O’Connor and his assistant trainer, Mark Kinsella. “But beyond everything, the atmosphere is incredible here. It has so much tradition. I would recommend every rider to come visit it at some point, even if they’re not riding. It’s just such a cool experience.”
With their top finishes on Saturday night, Walker and Amy Millar earned their tickets into the international division as the two highest placed finishers in the Canadian Show Jumping Championships not already qualified. Erynn Ballard of Tottenham, ON, Keean White of Rockwood, ON, and Ian and Jonathon Millar, both of Perth, ON, qualified based on their standings in the Longines World Rankings while Jump Canada’s high performance committee named Ali Ramsay of Victoria, BC and Beth Underhill of Schomberg, ON as its two picks for the international division. The international division opens on Wednesday, November 7, featuring the $36,000 Jolera International Welcome in the evening session.
Lauren Kieffer Rocks $20,000 Horseware Indoor Eventing Challenge
The popular $20,000 Horseware Indoor Eventing Challenge rocked the house on Saturday night as competitors tackled a mix of delicate show jumping fences and challenging cross-country obstacles set by course designer Mark Phillips. Lauren Kieffer of Middleburg, VA made her Royal Horse Show a winning one, riding Glendening Avis, a 13-year-old buckskin Canadian Sport Horse mare owned by Callie Evans, to victory.
“I’m thrilled. The mare is just incredible; she tries her guts out,” said Kieffer, who was riding a borrowed mount that she rode for the first time on Friday. “It’s very rare that you hop on something and sync together so quickly. It was so much fun to do this on her, and I felt so in sync with her.
“Brandon and Kendal certainly put the pressure on; I was hoping for a little bit more breathing room!” joked Kieffer following her indoor eventing debut. “The format is fun; it’s energetic. If it gets one person to leave here and go Google ‘eventing’ and get into it, then it did its purpose.”
Finishing second was Toronto’s own Brandon McMechan riding Oscar’s Wild to a clear round in a time of 92.78 seconds to hold off third-placed Kendal Lehari of Uxbridge, ON, who was also clear riding Totally Frank in a time of 94.30 seconds.
At the conclusion of the Horseware Indoor Eventing Challenge, World Championship and Pan American Games medalist Selena O’Hanlon of Kingston, ON was presented with the Michael Gutowski Award, donated by Mr. Iain Gilmour, as the highest-ranked Canadian athlete on the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) Eventing World Athlete Rankings.
For more information on the Royal Horse Show, the marquee event of The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, please visit www.royalfair.org/horseshow.html.