Last to go in the CSI3* $15,000 Maui Jim Winning Round 1.45m at Thunderbird Show Park's Summer Fort Festival, Katie Kruger (CAN) galloped through the timers and was elated. Looking up toward the scoreboard, she thought she had finished third.
Then she realized she won. "I couldn’t read the screen at first. We were at the other end of the arena," she said.
Kruger and her longtime mount Goodwill VB were best in the winning round competition, crossing the timers of Peter Holmes' (CAN) 1.45m track in 40.28 seconds. Braden James (CAN) and Hercule de Tamerville finished second (40.37 seconds), with Vanessa Mannix (CAN) and her own Balzane du Mazes third (41.41). The top three were the only combinations to jump the second round without fault. "I couldn’t believe it. I still can hardly believe [that I won]," Kruger gushed.
The winning round format allows for the top 10 combinations from a first round of jumping to return for a second "winning" round. However, two eliminations in the first round from the original field of 11 left just nine combinations to advance, but all did so on a blank slate. Kruger was not only the fastest her second go around the track, she and her mount were also notably the only combination to jump cleanly throughout both rounds of competition.
"My horse jumped incredible in the first round, but I got a bit lucky to the triple bar. He had to point his toes for me," Kruger said. "I knew I had to do better [in the second round]."
Kruger's trainer Dayton Gorsline encouraged his rider to return for the second round without any cautiousness; his advice was to land after each jump and "go." His student followed instruction. Not only was Kruger's second approach to the triple bar foot-perfect, but her momentum carried on throughout the rest of the course. It earned her the first international victory of her career.
"Every time I landed, I rode forward before anything else, and everything just came up," Kruger said. "It was so much smoother, and I could breathe a sigh of relief [at the triple bar]. [My horse] has a huge step and covers the ground so easily."
Kruger, who competes as an amateur, has been partnered with Goodwill VB, affectionately known as "William," for the last five years. The experienced bay has brought his rider up the ranks to FEI competition, and Kruger is always ready to sing his praises.
"He’s smarter than I am, which he sometimes uses to his advantage, but most of time uses to help me out," Kruger said. "I could go on and on [about] him. I think he's one of the best horses in the world. He always comes out better and better. In four weeks this summer, he hasn’t touched a pole."
It's certainly been a memorable few weeks for Kruger, who just married July 30. "It's been the best summer ever!" she said.
Source Press Release