Savannah Jenkins has finally found the specific ride she needs for her mount Kainville VDS. It was the ride that landed her the win in an 83-horse field in Wednesday’s $5,000 BarnWalkers Welcome Speed to kick off Desert Holiday 1, presented by Brown Advisory.

Jenkins had the benefit of going late in the order, so she could watch the way the class was playing out. Top riders were putting in their best efforts and the time kept getting quicker, with Conor Swail taking the lead two separate times, and he was unsurprisingly the one to catch when Jenkins stepped in. Swail ended up in second with Gamble, owned by Asta Torokvei, while third went to Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Game Over, owned by Ilan Ferder.

Savannah Jenkins and Kainville VDS. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Jenkins has had the ride on Kainville VDS, owned by Proper 12, LLC, for less than a year, and it’s taken some time to figure her out. But the 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare is proving to be very worth Jenkins’ efforts.

“We call her Bambi in the barn, and she is the sweetest, calmest, easiest horse that we have,” she said of Kainville VDS. “She is very attached to my husband, she follows him around with no [halter] – nothing – in the barn. [When I ride her,] she is so fast, and her brain goes 100 miles an hour. I don’t even ride her at home. There’s no trotting or cantering. There’s barely any walking.”

Despite not riding the mare at home, Jenkins has figured out the secret to getting the horse to perform well in the show ring.

Savannah Jenkins and Kainville VDS in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“So she goes in the field all day, she does the treadmill twice a day, she rope lunges and she’s super calm. We’ve figured out our strategy with her because the more I ride her and I try to do this, it just doesn’t go well. So [Jonathan] McCreaa actually helped me in Michigan a lot with her and he has been such a huge help. I call him and text him after every round asking what I should do next. He has helped me help her in saying, ‘You need to listen to her; she has to listen a little bit to you but this is going to be totally different than all your other horses.’”

Some riders would see a situation like this, which requires a great deal of patience and change of mindset, as a horse to pass on, but Jenkins knew Bambi was going to be exactly her ride.

“When I went to Europe in May and I tried a few horses, my partner said, ‘She’s a lot like your horse you had [Quitana],’ who did everything for me,” Jenkins explained of why Kainville VDS stole her heart. “All my first Grand Prixs, World Cup Qualifiers, everything was with that horse and she was very similar. I haven’t felt that in the last four years.”

Arriving to this point of rideability and winning was a winding path, but with the help of McCrea and other professionals, Jenkins knows her job aboard the mare. “In the beginning it was 150 bridle changes,” she shared. “When I first started, I thought I needed to control the energy. But it’s so opposite; she wants me to be there with her. So now I don’t even have to try so much, she’s so fast and so the ride that I get in the ring is just let her do her and I just stay there. I try to get her the best placement to the jump and I stay out of her way. Being here at the Desert, being able to go up and go back down [in fence height] has been a huge change for our relationship.”

Returning to the desert is a welcome change for Jenkins and her thriving business. “It offers so much,” she said of DIHP and its wide variety of classes. “I can do FEI, and I can do the National Grand Prix. There’s money everywhere. I have equitation horses, so I do the professional equitation classes. I grew up doing equitation so it’s fun getting back into that. I also have a few hunters here and there. It is unbelievable to be at a place that offers this much. But it also feels like a family. I grew up here and everybody’s rooting for everyone. It’s just amazing. I can’t say enough good things about it.”

Mannix and Swail Top Two Phase Action as Major League Show Jumping Begins

Vanessa Mannix (CAN) and Etincelle de L’Isle. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

As the day went on in the Grand Prix Arena, FEI riders brought forth their mounts in CSI2* and CSI5* divisions for Two Phase competition in their respective divisions. Vanessa Mannix (CAN) and Etincelle de L’Isle took a win in the CSI5* Two Phase, while Erynn Ballard (CAN) was close behind with Coconet, owned by Wight Show Stables. Jaehee Jeon (KOR) took third aboard Kadans van de Mispelaere, owned by Brother Fortune Equestrian Ltd.

Topping the first FEI class of Desert Holiday, the CSI2* Two Phase, was none other than Conor Swail (IRL), who had the ride aboard Fasole du Seigneur, owned by Alexis Sokolov. Elisa Broz (USA) and Tinkerbell, owned by Hidalgo LLC, claimed second place, while Trent McGee (USA) and Caracas, owned by Archie Cox, were third.

Thursday features the $39,000 CAD FarmVet CSI2* 1.45m and the $76,000 CAD Pomponio Ranch CSI5* 1.50m.

Conor Swail (IRL) and Fasole du Seigneur. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo