Welcome to another edition of our series, “Ride of the Week” brought to you by our friends at Hallway Feeds, where we feature the absolute best rounds the H/J universe has to offer. These rides are not only a thrilling spectacle of the world’s very best competitors at the top of their game, but also a valuable learning tool.
This week we are featuring Lauren Hough and her flashy partner Cornet 39, who were on the US Equestrian Team for the CSIO5* Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup at Hickstead last Friday. It was a roller coaster weekend for Lauren and “Cotton”, who had eight faults in the first round of competition, but that’s part of what makes their second round so spectacular. Statistically over the weekend, almost every combination had a poorer second round performance on this course, and no one was expecting a comeback kid scenario.
But that’s exactly what Lauren and Cotton delivered:
There are several admirable moments of this round. First off, I love the brief pause she takes when she comes into the ring, where it appears both she and Cotton survey the landscape in search of perfection. Their 180 degree turn from fence one to the big gate is perfection — even though it’s a tight and fast turn, her approach is hunter-like in its shape quality and the straightness with which he approaches the fence.
You couldn’t have asked for a better performance over the open water, as Cotton nails the takeoff spot to minimize the distance he had to clear, and doesn’t over exert himself. This allows Lauren to put him back together quickly and nail the approaching in-and-out; a spot that was costly for many teams that day.
She clears the last two fences, including the massive oxer that ends the course, and secures a faultless second round for the USA, launching them eight spots up the leaderboard for a very respectable finish.
This clear round was the critical clutch performance that the USA needed to rocket from dead last in round one to tying for fourth with Sweden in the nations cup event.
Cotton, the gray Oldenburg gelding (German import, Cornet Obolensky x Celine) always gets a lot of attention on the international stage for his unusual markings and supernatural scope. You come for the color, and stay for the talent. Lauren acquired the gelding from Swedish rider Irma Karlsson in 2014 and hasn’t looked back, tearing up the international stage together for the past several years.