Savannah Jenkins is on the up and up with her current string of horses, and it’s showing in the results. On Wednesday of Desert Circuit 3, presented by U.S. Bank, to open competition in the Grand Prix Arena, Jenkins and Kainville VDS topped a competitive field of 70 entries in the $10,000 BarnWalkers 1.35m Welcome Speed.

“It’s really coming along with her,” Jenkins said of her relationship with the Proper 12-owned 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Numero Uno x Kroongraf). “In the beginning I struggled a bit understanding her, but now she has a total program from home and how we warm up and how we prepare. She’s really coming along and the partnership is really starting to build. It’s getting a lot easier for both of us now.”

Jenkins went in the first third of competitors over Bernardo Costa Cabral’s speed track, and she took over the lead by about four seconds, signaling she’d be hard to beat. As the rest of the class tried, two seconds shy was as close as anyone could get. Cassio Rivetti ended up in second with Gotico Di Ca’ San Giorgio, owned by Play The Game LLC, and Jamie Sailor took third with Fire Flash Toltien, owned by Carolyn Mittler.

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

The course was designed with a horse like Kainville VDS in mind, and it became evident as Jenkins rode around and nailed every distance, shaping lines and slicing verticals.

“I don’t love to win by that much, but if you watch the round that’s just how she goes,” Jenkins explained. “I was just in a half seat just making my way around. The jumps came up perfectly the whole way around and we love when that happens.”

Heading in for the awards and victory gallop looks a little different when Kainville VDS wins, with Jenkins’ husband, Johnny, leading the mare in and out, doing a victory “walk” past the scoreboard, and hopping off before exiting the ring.

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

“I try to do it her way, understand her, what she likes, what she doesn’t like, and take that into consideration when I’m riding,” Jenkins said of how she’s getting to know the horse and how she likes to function. “I don’t really ride her at home. Johnny longes her mostly. Twice a day she goes on the treadmill, she goes in the paddock all day, she’s going to go outside all day long today. We let her be her. It’s an odd training perspective but so far it’s working. I’m really proud of her. We’re going to start stepping her up and seeing what she can do.”

Jenkins admits the horse is a different animal inside the barn and once riding begins. “When she’s in the barn she follows my husband around with no head collar or anything,” she explained. “She’s completely free, she’s dead quiet, the kindest animal. She’s so calm. The minute I hit the saddle, it’s a totally different horse. [My husband] is her person. I’m her rider and she respects me in that sense, but he does everything with her on the ground. She has her security blanket and I just try to steer her around the course.”

Across all levels during Desert Circuit, Jenkins has top horses and is one to watch.

“Being in the ring this much on competitive horses has been a total game changer,” Jenkins remarked on her current string. “I’m just super inspired right now. Being here is great because we have unbelievable people here and it makes you up your game even more. When James [Chawke] is in the ring and he’s before me all eyes are on him, and I’m just learning. Kyle [King] is helping me and I always want to try to beat him on his horse when I can. I’m super lucky with the horses I have right now.”

Vanessa Mannix and Etincelle De L’Isle Start Their Year Strong with Two Phase Win

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

On Saturday, Vanessa Mannix (CAN) was skijoring down Banff Avenue on a Quarter Horse mare. On Wednesday, she was winning FEI action in the Grand Prix Arena at DIHP.

To open international competition for Desert Circuit, the CSI3* Two Phase took center stage on Wednesday of Desert Circuit 3, presented by U.S. Bank. with 54 international entries coming forth, Mannix brought in arguably her most enthusiastic partner, Etincelle De L’Isle, and claimed top honors.

“I would say she is very very hot. She’s the hottest horse I know,” she said of the 10-year-old mare (Urlevent Du Bary x Dandy Du Plape). “I have to give full credit to James Chawke who helps me a lot with this mare. She’s a little like Jekyll and Hyde; one side of her is so sweet and would jump through fire for you, and the other hand if you offend her, you’re in big trouble. She really showed up today. I just got here on Monday and this was my first class of the year. She was on it right away.”

Once in the ring, the horse is all game, which was on display as she charged around Bernardo Costa Cabral’s (POR) course in 34 seconds even. The warm-up is a little tricky, but with her team right there supporting her, they have figured out what works best for the mare.

Vanessa Mannix (CAN) in her winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“The warm-up ring is a bit of a challenge, and we knew that when we bought her,” Mannix explained. “I bought her from a friend of mine and fellow Canadian Kyle Timm as a young horse. He was open that she was spicy, but I loved her. When you go in the ring a light switch goes on and anything you ask her to do she’s really game. She’s actually a horse my mom helped me buy, so she always asks how ‘our’ horse is doing. My mom is my biggest supporter and fan, and this was a horse she wanted to go in on with me. She picked a very spicy one.”

Show jumping isn’t Mannix’s only passion, and when she’s home she partakes in a very different equestrian discipline that combines the alpine world with the western equestrian world.

“I’m coming in very hot from Skijoring,” she said of her recent escapade. “It’s fun because even when you think you’re galloping in the jump-offs, you’re never going as fast as these horses are going, ripping down the skijor course. I got teamed up with an absolute superstar skier this year who is on the [British Columbia] ski team and trying out for Team Canada. You get mashups of people who are talented, passionate, and a little crazy, in both the alpine world and the horse world. Being from Calgary, it’s such incredible horse country. There’s huge western horse culture, with the mountains an hour away.”

But Skijoring aside, Mannix has high hopes for her season in the desert, with hopefully no winter weather to deal with.

“I have the best group of horses I’ve ever had. I feel really lucky,” she reflected. “I have some great grand prix horses that have all jumped five-star grand prixs. [Etincelle] is right underneath them. She jumped some five-star 1.50m classes last year and some three-star grand prixs and really showed she’s right underneath my top grand prix horses. It’s still early in the year and she’s not that experienced at that level, but she’s so competitive and game. You have to look past the spiciness and warmup. My goal for her is to be competitive in the ranking classes and grand prixs this circuit.

Show jumping continues Thursday with the $32,000 Oz Inc. CSI3* 1.50m Speed and the $30,000 FarmVet 1.45m Open Classic.