It’s not often that Conor Swail (IRL) isn’t the favorite in a CSI4* Grand Prix. But nearly a year ago, his top horse Count Me In, who took him to FEI World Cup Finals, to the Dublin Horse Show, and to Aachen, had a lapse in confidence. Taking a step back, Swail positioned the 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes) at a lower height, letting the horse tell him when he was ready to move back up.

Swail listened, and the horse was ready. He’s now taken on quite a winning streak, beginning during Desert Circuit 3 and lasting well into Desert Circuit 4, presented by Whittier Trust.

On Saturday, with a triple threat of Grand Prix classes going on, Swail took the win in the biggest one: the $182,000 Whittier Trust CSI4* Grand Prix.

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

“Obviously I’m quite confident going in with him; he’s back in very good form,” Swail said of stepping onto the grass field with “Crosby” as last to go, despite only one clear round recorded at that point. “He had a nice win Thursday so we were quite confident going in, but I spoke to Alan Wade before the start of the course and asked him how he felt. He said it was full height and full spec, so I think that showed a little.”

Wade (IRL) is famous for his worldwide courses and is known to be one of the best course designers, and only one pair, Kaitlin Campbell (USA) and Castlefield Cornelius, had navigated his first-round track penalty free. She stood up at the top by herself, and the only one who was going to change the fate of the day was Swail.

“It was tough enough to jump,” Swail continued. “The course I thought was very getable if you rode it well, and thankfully I have a lot of quality underneath me with Crosby. I was quite nervous going in actually because there was one clear; nobody had really mastered the course that well. I’m expected to go clear with Crosby so there was enough pressure on me to do well. The horse felt super good.”

Conor Swail (IRL) and Count Me In in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Swail picked apart what he thought made the course ride more difficult, but in the end he attributed it to Wade’s master design skills.

“The combination, the oxer vertical-vertical, was causing some trouble in the beginning with the carefulness,” he explained. “And the triple-bar caused a lot of trouble off the in-gate. It fell down a lot. The double as well was an ‘off your eye’ to vertical in, oxer out, and it created enough trouble. The jumps fell everywhere; that’s how Alan builds his courses. There were no big dramas, everyone got around safely and he did a great job like he always does.”

But Wade and Swail share a home nation, and because of that they have a fondness for one another. Swail has jumped Wade’s courses all over the world, and he always looks forward to seeing what’s in store from the famous designer.

Conor Swail (IRL) atop the podium. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“He’s Irish so I might be a little biased but I feel he’s one of the best, if not the best, in the world,” Swail said of Wade. “He’s not about building these big courses that are unjumpable. He’s very thoughtful about what he does. I’ve walked a lot of tracks and it doesn’t look difficult and then there are few clears. He’s very smart that way; he can put a little width on jumps and he’s very good with the material that just makes the horses look in a little more. He’s very rounded in his thoughts as well. He has a look to see who he has to jump tracks and will adjust accordingly. But he makes you have to jump around like he did today.”

With Campbell going first, Swail knew what he had to do and it wasn’t an all-out gallop to catch her. But a clear round was required.

“I had seen Kaitlin and she had a nice round but my horse is so fast that it was just a matter of getting around smoothly and clear,” he said of going in for the jump-off. “It was a pressure round in that I had to go clear. Kaitlin put it up to me and thankfully, normally I’m used to going flat out and he’s really good at it, so it was kind of strange going three-quarters speed and having to do the same thing. But as always he was just magnificent.”

Campbell ended up second with the 3P Equine Partners-owned Castlefield Cornelious, while Mathijs Van Asten (NED) took third with Sirocco.

Hotspot Takes a Big Shot in $63,000 Heavy Metal Equipment CSI2* Grand Prix

Mathijs Van Asten (NED) may have gotten a third-place finish in the CSI4* Grand Prix, but he had just come off a podium-topping performance in the morning’s $63,000 Heavy Metal Equipment CSI2* Grand Prix on a very impressive 12-year-old stallion named Hotspot.

Among eight clear rounds over the first-round track, Van Asten secured the fastest time by a significant margin, proving to everyone at DIHP that this horse is the real deal.

Mathijs Van Asten (NED) and Hotspot. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“Hotspot is a horse that came into my string as a 2.5-year-old so nobody else rode him,” Van Asten said of Hotspot’s background. “He is an approved KWPN stallion. For his whole career he’s been a very competitive and intelligent horse. He has a very good mind; he’s very careful and he wants to do the job. He likes to be competitive. I’m happy that we could secure him for my sport career at the end of last year. We are looking forward to the future.”

Watching Hostpot jump, anyone can tell he’s a special horse, and a win like the one they got Saturday was exactly what Van Asten had wanted to continue building the horse’s future.

“I work with the breeder of him. It was a nice horse to put in our program and thought eventually he’d get sold because that’s our business to develop good horses,” Van Asten explained. “When I was younger I had more of a career in higher sport but then I focused more on the training and the business. Now we try to do a combination of training and still have some horses. It’s working quite well so far.”

Mathijs Van Asten (NED) atop the podium. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Van Asten outpaced Ali Ramsay (CAN) who took second with Conrado 12, owned by Ramsay Equestrian Inc, as well as Nicole Haunert (USA) who ended up third with Indigo Van De Muggenhoek, owned by Blue Gate Stables, LLC.

“This is my first time,” Van Asten said of his trip out west to DIHP. “I’m here with Vani Khosla who also owns part of Hotspot. She’s from California but she’s based in Holland training with me. We decided this winter to come here and everything is lovely. The people are wonderful and I think it’s very good for our horses. I have two older horses here and we have some younger talents. It’s very good to produce them here. We love it here.”

FEI jumping resumes Sunday with the $32,000 CSI4* 1.45m Classic.

Many Firsts for Brooke Mostman in $25,000 Engel & Völkers Grand Prix

Brooke Mostman and Feyon. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

It’s one thing to jump your first grand prix. It’s another thing to jump your first grand prix and win it.

Brooke Mostman accomplished both in Saturday night’s $25,000 Engel & Völkers Grand Prix, making her dreams come true aboard Feyon, owned by Most Management Equestrian, LLC.

“It’s hard to believe,” Mostman said of how she was feeling immediately following her winning presentation. “He’s just the best and I’m super thankful for him. I’m over the moon; I can’t even process what just happened. He’s just so much fun and I love him so much.”

Brooke Mostman and Feyon in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The recently-turned 20-year-old began riding with Alex Wilson and Kaitlin Campbell of SWS Training & Sales recently, and she began riding 14-year-old Feyon, the former ride of Campbell. Both Wilson and Campbell were training her from the sidelines, no strangers to exciting atmospheres and podium finishes.

Campbell’s wise words to Mostman were: “Hold him off the front rail. I like to be nice and soft like a hunter so I tried to not drop him and it obviously worked in my favor,” Mostman shared.
Mostman had a slightly different approach to the jump-off from her fellow competitors, and it wound up being the best move, since she ended up the sole double-clear ride of the night.

Katherine Huffstutler, winner of The Surrey U25. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I really didn’t want to do the jump-off,” she joked, feeling that jumping the first round was enough of a challenge and she had been perfectly pleased with her performance. “I honestly was hoping for a time fault in my first round so I could be happy and go home. I even told Kailtin I’m not going to gallop and she said to just be tidy. But I said, ‘I don’t want to gallop and I don’t want to turn tight to the in-and-out. She said, ‘Just go in’. That was what I did, I went in the ring.”

She went in the ring, and she came out a winner. Just behind her on two time faults in the jump-off was JennSerek with Fairway Tame, and in third with a fast 4-fault round in the jump-off was Mitch Endicott with NKH Cento Blue, owned by the Bridgeport Group, LLC.

Mostman will remember the night forever, in part because of the way the crowd cheered her on.

“This is my first time on a stage like that and it was so cool that people were watching and care so much about what’s happening,” she explained. “To the last jump I really wanted to slow down 10 strides away and I heard everyone from VIP yelling, ‘Go!’ and I was like, ‘Fine I guess I have to!’

Katherine Huffstutler won the Surrey U25 aboard Hanakine after jumping a fast 4-fault round.

National show jumping concludes for Desert Circuit 4 with the $25,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic on Sunday morning.