Lauren Hough rode Valinski S to the win in the $36,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup CSI2* on Thursday, January 17, at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL. The 12-week WEF circuit features hunter, jumper, and equitation competition and continues through March 31, 2019, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
A starting field of 100 entries faced off in Thursday’s featured event, the $36,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup CSI2*, with 15 advancing to jump off over the Oscar Soberon (MEX) designed short course.
As the sixth pair to return for the jump-off, Hough (USA) and Valinski S tripped the timers in an unbeatable clear round time of 38.812 seconds. In clinching the win, Hough edged out fellow U.S. Olympic veteran McLain Ward who finished in second place with a time of 39.449 seconds aboard Queen Jane, owned by Walstib Stables LLC. Rounding out the top three with a time of 39.550 seconds were Alex Granato and Carlchen W, owned by Page Tredennick.
While Valinski S, a 17-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Wyndmont, is a WEF veteran – having most recently been shown at the venue by Todd Minikus and Shawn Casady – the partnership with Hough is new.
“I rode him many years ago for just a couple months, but this is just my second week showing him,” said Hough. “Ronnie Beard and Michael Dorman, the owners, are very good friends, and they asked me back in the fall if I had time to ride some horses for them. I knew Valinski, and I’ve always loved him. He’s a veteran, and he knows his job. I was thrilled to be able to have the ride.”
“He’s a small horse, but I like small horses,” continued Hough, who has ridden to great success aboard other notable small mounts including the 15.2-hand Ohlala. “He’s very careful and very fast. It makes my job quite easy.”
While Hough elected to forego an inside turn in the jump-off, Valinski S’s natural foot speed more than made up for it and secured them the win over the course that Hough cited as an “unbelievable job” from course designer Soberon.
“This is one of the most difficult weeks in my opinion because there’s a maximum height [that the course designer can build] but very, very good riders,” said Hough. “To end up with 15 clear is pretty much a perfect course. The time was a bit of a factor; I think for the first week FEI here, it was really a nice welcome for the young horses, for the older horses, for new riders.”
Hough will now set her sights on Saturday night’s featured grand prix with Valinski S before taking the remainder of the season week by week.
“He’s 17 now, and we always want to do what’s best for him,” concluded Hough. “So I’ll jump him Saturday night and then we’ll plan from there.”
To watch the winning round, please see here.