WHILE many Irish show jumpers and their support teams were at Ocala over the weekend, those who remained at the Winter Equestrian Festival at Wellington International certainly made their presence felt! The penultimate week of WEF competitions saw four-star and two-star classes being held.

The Irish highlight of the show came in the form of a one-two on Saturday evening, when Jordan Coyle and For Gold claimed victory in the $150,000 CSI4* 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final, finishing just ahead of Conor Swail and Gamble in second.

From the 44 starters, 13 progressed to the second round, over courses designed by Ecuador’s Andy Christiansen; among them were Irish riders, Derry’s Jordan Coyle and Down’s Conor Swail.

Coyle and the 13-year-old Holsteiner gelding For Gold (For Fashion x Heraldik), owned by Falkirk Farm, jumped clear again in a fast time of 39.69 seconds, which couldn’t be bettered.

“Winning anything here [at WEF] is pretty good. To be honest, that was one of the only times I ever went into the arena in a big competition and felt like I was one of the favourites,” said Coyle. “He felt very fast tonight, and I have come to know him very well.

“I thought Conor [Swail] was for sure going to beat me going to that last jump,” continued Coyle, laughing. “He’s beat me plenty before, but luckily today it’s been the other way around. This is the first Saturday night that I’ve won. I’ve been trying for a while, so it’s pretty nice.”

Swail had travelled to Wellington from California to finish his winter season and was last to go in the jump-off on Gamble, owned by Asta Torokvei. The 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding has a massive stride and Swail put it to good use, stopping the clock in 39.84 seconds – but it wasn’t quite fast enough to beat Coyle’s time and Swail had to settle for second place.

“What Gamble does better than most horses is he turns extremely well, and I knew I was able to get inside that vertical after the double of verticals,” said Swail. “Everything came up well for me. WEF is where all the high-level competition is and, if you’re coming here and winning anything above 1.50m, you’ve really earned it. I’m glad that I’m able to come and show everybody that I am competitive.”

American rider Abigail McArdle completed the podium in third, riding Olympia van het Eikenhof to a clear round in a time of 40.95 seconds.

Conor Swail and Gamble were second in the $150,000 CSI4* 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final at Wellington International \ Sportfot

Grand Prix win

Two-star riders competed in the International Arena on Saturday afternoon for the BrainJava CSI2* Grand Prix. Out of 45 starters, just eight riders made it through to the jump-off.

Ireland’s Nicky Galligan and VDL Nikita van de Leeuwerk, owned by the Santa Rosa Group, was among them and sped their way round the short course to take victory with a time of 38.09 seconds. The win came just in time for the pair’s one-year anniversary.

“We bought her as a project horse this time last year, actually, here in Wellington. We’ve gotten to know each other over the course of the year and really enjoyed the benefit of a season here and gotten to work on the small things being here at WEF throughout the season,” said Galligan of the 11-year-old mare (Zavall VDL x Argentinus).

“Today, I just felt that my horse gave me every centimetre that I asked for. Regardless of where I finished or what happened, I could not have been prouder of how she’s learned and evolved over this season,” mentioned Galligan. “It’s just one of the most rewarding feelings as a rider when your horse understands and learns what you’re asking for them to grow, so to me that was special.”

Caitlin Boyle (USA) and Navaar finished second, just a fraction behind in a time of 38.15 seconds, while another American rider, Luke Jensen and Meadowvale Cruise (Creevagh Ferro x Cruising) were third (40.07 seconds). Ireland’s Lorcan Gallagher on Copycat placed seventh, followed by Jenny Rankin on Ibiza in ninth.

Nicky Galligan and VDL Nikita Van De Leeuwerk won the CSI2* Grand Prix at Wellington International \ Sportfot

Galligan acquired VDL Nikita thanks to his clients, the Buckingham family and they have been progressing well together. They placed second in the two-star Grand Prix just a few weeks ago and returned to take the win on Saturday.

“Without the team, without the people supporting you, we can’t do this. It takes a village to get the horses here and get them in the right place. Vets, farriers and everyone in between,” said Galligan of the team behind his win, including his sister, who travelled from Ireland to witness his win.


Week 11 of the Winter Equestrian Festival got underway on Wednesday, March 20th, with Conor Swail and Gamble winning the $10,000 FEI 4* 1.45m class and Tom Wachman placing ninth on Lazzarro Delle Schiave.

Gavin Harley and Lightning were ninth in the $2,000 1.30m Open Jumper class, while James Brennan on CSJ Sunny Side were joint winners in the day’s Five-year-old Young Jumper class.

Thursday’s $32,000 FEI 2* 1.45m qualifier saw Conor O’Regan finish third with Manchester and the $2,000 1.30m Open Jumper class saw Harley as runner-up with Diva Karef BH.

On Friday, Richie Moloney and Daisycutter came ninth in the $10,000 FEI 2* 1.40m class. Meanwhile, Jonathan Corrigan was on form and won the $6,000 1.40m Open Jumper class on Darius De Kerglenn; Jordan Coyle placed seventh with Costa Diam.