It hasn’t been long since Conor Swail (IRL) and Count Me In were last in the winner’s circle – just last Sunday to be precise – but the horse is clearly back in top form and the results are showing. With the 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes), Swail took another win, this time on the grass field in the $32,000 100X Equine CSI4* 1.50m Speed on Thursday of Desert Circuit 4, presented by Whittier Trust.

Alan Wade (IRL) has returned to building stellar courses for the CSI4*/CSI2* occasion on the pristine field, and his fellow Irishmen have loved the tracks so far, with Swail and James Chawke (IRL) both capturing wins as opening classes have unfolded. Swail had the advantage of bringing forth his top two mounts, with Count Me In, or “Crosby,” going second. With Vital Chance de la Roque putting in a quick 4-fault round, Swail came back on his second ride and made it count.

Conor Swail (IRL) and Count Me In. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I’m delighted with how Crosby performed today,” he said of the Mannon Farms-owned horse. “I think the draw helped me today; I was a little later on and I saw the way the course was going. I knew what it would take to take over the lead. Obviously then you have to go in and perform. I must say Crosby jumped exceptionally today. He was really on it. It was a lovely round from him. The round went very according to plan and he jumped it beautifully.”

Swail is feeling the confidence exuding from Crosby, especially since the horse has had a lighter year due to a falter in confidence early on.

“He’s racking up a nice run of form,” Swail continued regarding Crosby’s current record. “We finished up last year very good, winning the World Cup [qualifier] in Vegas and then he came here and jumped the $1 Million [Coachella Cup]. He’s building up a nice resume of good rounds. He feels very comfortable jumping the bigger jumps at the moment so he’s going to go on Saturday in the [$182,000 CSI4*] Grand Prix. My plan is to try to start doing a few of the bigger grand prixs again if he’s feeling comfortable, and so far so good. He feels amazing at the moment.”

Conor Swail (IRL) and Count Me In in their winning presentation, pictured with Madison Steed of 100X Equine. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The day wasn’t calling for the best forecast, which had some competitors fretting after the amount of rain that came early in the week during week three, but for Swail and the other FEI riders, the rain wasn’t a problem.

“There was talk of a lot of rain but this surface is incredible. My horses love it; when they go on there it’s like we’re jumping on foam or a sponge. It’s so nice. The rain didn’t really affect us. We’re well studded up and it caused no trouble thankfully.”

The top three featured a star-studded field of Olympic and championship-caliber riders, with Gregory Wathelet (BEL) coming in second aboard Stern Dei Folletti, owned by Morning Star Sporthorses, and Cassio Rivetti (BRA) rounded out the top three with Billy Dorito, owned by Monarch Farms, LLC.

Swail has the perfect string of horses for the level of competition at DIHP this winter, so he’s staying put, playing a wee bit of golf and enjoying the sunshine (mostly) sans humidity. Just one week prior, he captured the $117,000 CSI3* Grand Prix with Theo 160, who gets to sit the week out following his big victory.

“I have [Vital Chance] also in the four-star with Corsby so two nice chances there today and thankfully one of them paid off today,” he said of bringing forth his two top contenders. “I also have Gamble in the two-star and he jumped beautifully and finished third. You try to give yourself good opportunities for each ranking class and give it a go.”

Cassio Rivetti Races to Win $32,000 CSI2* 1.45m Speed

Cassio Rivetti (BRA) and Gotico Di Ca’ San Giorgo. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Brazil topped the first international event of the day, with Cassio Rivetti capturing his first victory on a newer mount, Gotico Di Ca’ San Giorgio, owned by Play the Game LLC. The duo took the top prize in the $32,000 Balmoral CSI2* 1.45m Speed.

“He’s 13 years old and he arrived last year,” Rivetti said of the Italian-bred gelding (Diamant de Semilly x Acobat II). “He’s owned by Katherine Dash and they sent him to me to show and maybe sell. It’s a super nice horse, amazing jumper, and it has experience already with her in the 1.50m. He’s super fun; it’s like riding an e-bike.”

Rivetti took the lead later in the class from Conor Swail (IRL) who held a convincing lead with Gamble, a top CSI2* mount for the Irishman. Before the close of the class, Gregory Wathelet (BEL) slid in and captured second with Mr. Europe, owned by Morning Star Sporthorses.

Cassio Rivetti (BRA) and Gotico Di Ca’ San Giorgo in their winning presentation, pictured with Traci and Carleton Brooks of Balmoral. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“He fits really well into my string,” Rivetti, who is based in San Diego, said of Gotico Di Ca’ San Giorgio. “He’s a super competitive horse so he always rides well. He’s good for this level at 1.50m. The other horses are also doing well.”

Having previously jumped all over the world and into the Olympics, Rivetti now bases just down the road in Southern California and loves having the chance to jump the highest levels right in his home state. He’s also bringing up very talented students who are taking on major events including the FEI World Cup Finals.

“It’s beautiful here because you can jump a good competition against top riders,” he said of DIHP. “I always say it’s better to be here and jump in the two four-stars than go to a different place and jump the lower levels. It’s the perfect place to prepare your horse for the season.”

FEI action resumes Friday with the $12,000 YETI CSI4* 1.45m Speed on the grass field.

Kyle King Dazzles in $15,000 FarmVet 1.45m Open Classic

Kyle King and Diamond. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Kyle King is no stranger to the winner’s circle, but he brought a new horse there with him Thursday of Desert Circuit 4, presented by Whittier Trust. Diamond, a petite but stunning 9-year-old Hanoverian mare (Diacontinus x Grand Cru), has been dazzling King and his team since she showed up, but had just come shy of winning a few times. On Thursday, they got it done in the $15,000 FarmVet 1.45m Open Classic.

“She’s a very special mare,” King said of Diamond, owned by Strasburg Morin Inc. “She was developed by Ilan Ferder and Brooke [Morin] acquired her almost a year ago. Brooke’s let me take the ride for a little bit to get her jumping the bigger things. She’s just a wonderful horse. She’s so easy about everything and very brave, very straightforward, and very careful. She knows she’s special; she’s one of those. I’m lucky to be able to develop her for a minute.”

The development has been moving along nicely, as King has moved her up through the levels since the season began, letting her tell him what she’s ready for. But for week four, King had a special guest on the ground helping him navigate the mare’s outing in the 1.45m Classic.

Kyle King and Diamond in their winning presentation, pictured with Ellie Schell of FarmVet. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“It was really cool; Carleton Brooks had Richard Spooner come in for the week, who’s one of my all time favorite riders and horsemen,” King said of his special guest trainer. “It was fun to have him on the ground today to give me some tips of the trade. With the weather there wasn’t a super huge field but there were some fast enough horses in there. I was really happy to have a win because it’s been a little bit of a dry spell this season so far.”

With a new perspective thanks to Spooner and a new win in his pocket, King is motivated to keep the horse, and all his rides, tracking in the right direction.

“I’m going to go on Sunday for the 1.40m Classic,” King said of Diamond’s next move. “They have good money for that division. It’s a nice step to step her down again. I moved her up a few weeks ago under the lights and she got a little impressed. I’m playing with things a little bit.”

Show jumping highlights resume Friday with the $15,000 Whittier Trust 6-Bar, where Skylar Wireman will defend her title yet again after jumping 1.84m in November.

Union Tops 3′ Young Hunter Stake – 6 & Under

Marisa Metzger and Union. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Marisa Metzger knew she had found a winner when she imported Union. Owned by Laurie Jueneman, Union is turning 6 this year and is already shining in the Young Hunters, winning the 3′ Young Hunter Stake – 6 & Under during Desert Circuit 4, presented by Whittier Trust.

“Union was imported from Holland last year and he took to his new job very easily,” Metzger said of the Zangersheide gelding. “He’s really brave, scopey, and talented. He seems to really like his job as a hunter and is going to make a wonderful junior or amateur horse. He loves doing the Young Hunters, and I think it’s a really great program to develop horses.”

Though Union is rich in wins so far, he isn’t entirely rich on experience since he’s just come so naturally to his new job as a hunter.

“Because he is so brave and he transitioned very naturally into the hunters, he hasn’t done a ton of horse shows,” Metzger, of Parker, CO, explained. “We just spent some time educating him and waiting until he was ready to show in the 3’. The 5 & Under Young Hunters is 2’9” and that was a little too easy for him.

“In December he showed the first week in the 5 & Under and he won the Stake that week, then he showed the second week for the first time in the 3’ and I think he was reserve champion that week. The nice thing about the Young Hunters is I can show him in the 7 & Under if I think he’s ready for that next step.”

When she identified the young horse in Holland, what struck her immediately was, “his demeanor; he was really calm and had a lot of characteristics of a nice hunter,” Metzger shared.

She and business partner Jueneman have identified quite a bit of young talent across the pond to bring back home, and Union fit the bill. “He had a nice physical type, and he has nice movement,” Metzger continued. “He’s got a big stride and all of those initial qualities you look for in a young hunter were natural for him. It made sense for him to transition. My partner Larue and I do a lot of importing and developing young hunters from Europe. We’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing those qualities when we see them.”

The desert is widely known as a great place to develop young horses, and Metzger fully agrees with the sentiment, letting horses like Union experience the feel of top-level shows without having to take on too much of a challenge.

“We love showing here,” she explained. “I think it’s a really great place to develop hunters because you have access to a lot of different levels. You can develop them at whatever speed makes sense for them. They’ve really done a good job here of making the Young Hunters a valid division with all the things we look for to develop horses, like the jump material quality, the environment, so we get to prepare our horses for the best horse shows in the country when we come here.”

Hutner action continues Friday with the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Open, sponsored by Voltaire Design, and the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Jr/Am, sponsored by Cavalor.