The only thing better than a one-two finish at DIHP is TWO one-two finishes in the same day. That’s precisely what Conor Swail (IRL) did on Thursday of Desert Circuit 7, presented by TALUS.

In the biggest class of the day, the $32,000 Brookway Stables CSI3* 1.50m Speed, Casturano was the winning ride, and his brother Count Me In was close behind by about one-tenth of a second. The next biggest class of the day, the $25,000 FarmVet 1.45m Open Classic, put Swail in first and second as well, aboard Gamble and Vital Chance de la Roque, respectively.

Conor Swail (IRL) and Casturano. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“It was a super day for me today,” Swail reflected on a great day in the office. “I’m very pleased with Gamble and [Vital Chance] so it was off to a good start. Then in the FEI 1.50m, [Count Me In] was himself, and I must say he jumped around beautifully. I was very early to go with him. It could’ve been a little smoother here and there, and I could’ve done a little better job maybe. With Casturano, or ‘Stan’ as I call him, at that stage I knew what I had to do and knew all the numbers, and everything came up very well for me. I thought he was terrific.”

The only other pair on the podium was Oliver Lazarus (RSA) and Miss Paris, a pair that has come close to a win but hasn’t quite gotten the top spot yet.

Casturano, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Castelan 3 x Canturo), has seen tremendous growth in just one year. Twelve months ago, Swail debuted the horse in the lower levels, and now he’s jumping – and even winning – CSI5* action.

“This is where I started riding him actually,” Swail continued. “I started here last year and I started doing the 1.35m and 1.40m classes with him and he’s developed into an absolutely wonderful horse. I got him from Sam Buirs (CAN); she had done a beautiful job on him. She got him up to FEI level and jumped in the three star Grand Prixs and then when I got him I grew from there with him.”

Conor Swail (IRL) and Casturano in their winning presentation, pictured with Archie Cox of Brookway Stables. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

One year ago, Stan was known a bit for the incredible air time he got over already massive jumps, but now he knows how to use his body a bit more aerodynamically to also be fast. “Stan is super careful; he goes a bit too high still but he’s learning to stay down and get across the jumps a little better now,” Swail explained. “He’s really he’s getting a lot of confidence over the bigger fences now too, I feel. and just with that confidence he’s growing in stature as well; the bigger jumps are easier for him to handle. Honestly today he was so smooth. It was obviously a fast round, but it felt very correct and smooth as well, so that’s what really pleased me the most.”

Swail believes without the role of the DIHP facility, the progression of the horse may not have been the same. “I keep saying to the owners here that one of the reasons why he is so good is because he did start here with me and I was able to put in a lot of great development work in this arena,” Swail said of the park and its Grand Prix Arena. “We have beautiful jumps, great footing, the weather is beautiful, and there’s nothing not to like about it. He is really becoming one of my best horses and I’m really looking forward to what’s coming next.”

What’s next is CSI4* and CSI5* action once Desert Circuit ends and the horse heads to Florida. Swail believes another winter season in the desert has adequately prepared the horse for a big season to come, which might even include FEI World Cup Finals in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

“He’s going to do Saturday night under the lights and then he’s going to head to Wellington and do the four-star and the five-star there,” Swail explained. “That’ll be a big couple of classes for him and I think again because I’m here developing him up to that level, I think I’m going to have a nice run there. He has qualified for World Cup Finals but I think he’s a little inexperienced for that. If he happens to go very well in Wellington might reconsider.”

Swail’s busy calendar includes the CSI4* in Kentucky, followed by a return to the West Coast before a Canadian summer.’

Bets Pay Off for Conor Swail and Gamble in $25,000 FarmVet 1.45m Open Classic

There isn’t just one winning Gamble in town anymore. After James Chawke and his own grey gelding Gamble have taken countless wins, Conor Swail stepped up with another Gamble, a large bay gelding he’s had in his string for quite some time, and claimed victory in Thursday’s $25,000 FarmVet 1.45m Open Classic.

“He’s been a great horse for me,” Swail said of Gamble, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Vingino x Indoctro). “We finished off last year very good and this year has started out the same way. This is his third week out now and he’s been very consistent here.”

Conor Swail in his winning presentation, pictured with Ellie Schell of FarmVet. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Gamble has been in the ribbons, but it’s his first blue during Desert Circuit so far in feature action. Over Alan Wade’s single-round speed course in the Grand Prix Arena, Swail blazed a trail in 62.709 seconds. He was early in the order and came back on his second mount, Vital Chance de la Roque, and slid into the second-place position as well. Shawn Casady and Tiffany Sullivan’s Castelissimo were the next quickest clear pair for third.

He’s always been owned by Asta Torokvei; she got him as a young horse out of the Hendrix auction as a 4-year-old,” Swail said of his rather long relationship with Gamble. “He was always quite spicy when he was younger. He has a big slow gallop but he’s quite spooky. When you go into the ring he does these big moves. He’s quite shifty but very genuine, and over the years he’s been very consistent for me.

Conor Swail and Gamble. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The duo is coming off a stellar year in terms of consistency and top placings, with Gamble proving valuable from the National level up to the CSI5* level. “Last year was probably his best year with me to date,” Swail shared. “He had af fabulous run of results. He loves Spruce Meadows and last summer there he jumped four shows straight and didn’t have a jump down. I think it was 18 classes and no jumps down; it was quite incredible.”

Often Swail has to think differently when aboard Gamble since his build is slightly different from that of Theo 160, Vital Chance de la Roque, or other quick and petite horses in his string.

“His biggest strength is that he has such a big stride; it’s a little bit his weakness as well,” Swail explained of Gamble. “My stride is bigger and slower than everyone else’s, so I have to try to create fewer steps to be the winner. That’s what we tried to do today. He’s very brave, and unbelievable to turn; I can jump, land, and turn on a dime. He’s very handy and nifty. I really enjoy having him and riding him. Today worked very well for me.”

Show jumping continues Friday with the $5,000 IDA Development CSI3* 1.45m Speed.

Nick Haness and Golden Road Shine in 3’6″ Green Hunters

Nick Haness and Golden Hour. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Just recently returning from Wellington where he won the $100,000 Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular on a fabulous horse developed on the West Coast, Nick Haness was back in the winner’s circle again aboard another mount developed by the same team, Golden Hour, owned by Balmoral.

In the 3’6” Green Hunter division for Desert Circuit 7, presented by TALUS, Golden Road and Haness took three blue ribbons, plus a second-place finish in the handy for championship honors. While Haness has several elite hunter mounts across divisions, this is one he’s particularly excited about.

Nick Haness and Golden Hour in their winning presentation, pictured with Carleton and Traci Brooks of Balmoral. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“Golden Road is a new mount for me,” he said of the 8-year-old Cornet Obolensky gelding. He is owned by Traci and Carleton Brooks with Balmoral. His career just recently changed to the hunter side; he had done a few smaller jumper classes before we recognized his talents as a hunter.”

New to the hunter divisions, Golden Road is taking to it quite naturally, proving himself in top competition. Haness has taken several cross-country trips throughout the winter to help develop horses on both coasts and looks forward to continuing this horse’s career at some of the nation’s top events this year.

“He is very athletic and a beautiful type for the sport,” he continued. “We are so excited to continue to produce and educate this talented horse so we can try to target a ‘three-peat’ at the Devon Horse Show this year!”

Hunters resume Friday with the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Open, sponsored by Vogel, and the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Jr/Am, sponsored by Voltaire Design.

Equestrian Businesswomen’s Networking Night Out Unveils Esteemed Panel of Speakers

As the sun sets on International Women’s Day, the Palm Club at Desert International Horse Park in Thermal, CA, will be illuminated by the brilliance of distinguished equestrian businesswomen at the highly anticipated Equestrian Businesswomen’s Networking Night Out. Scheduled for March 8 at 5 p.m., this exclusive event promises an evening of empowerment, enlightenment, and networking amidst the backdrop of the equestrian world’s finest.

The night will include networking exercises, dinner, wine, and the chance to learn from and connect with the incredible experts on the panel, including sport and performance psychologist Darby Bonomi, Ph.D.; Annie Finch of Katherine Girl cosmetics; Julie Garella-Williams, author and creator of MacKinnon Products, LLC; and Jessica Eaves Mathews, an award-winning trademark and intellectual property attorney. The panel will be moderated for the speakers to share their business stories and areas of expertise and then will open up to a Q&A session with attendees.

Darby Bonomi, Ph.D. is a sport and performance psychologist who works with equestrians and other high performance individuals in sports and business. Her mission is to elevate performance, increase satisfaction, and support mental wellness in every aspect of her clients’ lives—in and out of the saddle. She has a deep understanding of the equestrian athlete and is a competitor herself on the West Coast.

Annie Finch grew up in Santa Barbara, CA, and she began working for Estée Lauder in college. Annie moved up the ladder from stock girl to the VP of Sales, Marketing, and Product Development for North America based in New York City. She received additional business training through Estee Lauder at Vassar College and Harvard University. She has developed and launched the Tom Ford Beauty and Aerie Lauder Beauty Brands. Annie started Katherine Natural Cosmetics in 2014, with a line of products that are non-toxic and cruelty free.

Julie Garella-Williams, a Wall Street veteran of more than 30 years, as well as a lifelong horsewoman, purchased Ice Horse® and created MacKinnon Products, LLC in 2012. Prior to acquiring Ice Horse, Julie was the Director of Business Development for Citi Capital Strategies, a division of Citigroup Global Markets. Julie also partnered with Hugh McColl, former chairman of Bank of America, to form McColl Garella, a merger & acquisition advisory firm focused exclusively on women-owned and managed companies. She is the author of “Capitalize on Your Success: The Ultimate Guide to Getting the Money, Growing the Business and Doing the Deal.” Julie and her husband Eric live in Scottsdale, Arizona, with their two Spanish Galgos, Bonnie and Bimi, and Connemara jumper Just Benny.

Jessica Eaves Mathews is an award-winning trademark and intellectual property attorney who has been practicing law for over 27 years, both in-house and in private practice. Her innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial spirit has helped business owners and businesses create, protect, and monetize their brands, copyrights, and intellectual property assets. Jessica practices regularly in front of the United States Patent and Trademark Office for clients in all 50 states and around the world. She launched a variety of business ventures, including An Capall Equestrian® apparel (a joint venture with her daughter) and the Premier Peer Network and Business Accelerator for Women Entrepreneurs. She is also the co-author of the #1 best-selling book, “Wonder Women: How Western Women Will Save the World.”​

Buy your tickets here.