The win in the $25,000 Land Rover Puissance came down to a battle between a three-time WIHS puissance-winning horse and a horse contesting the class for the first time. In the end, they tied for the win, with both Aaron Vale and Finou 4 and Schuyler Riley on Very Chic Du Tillard clearing the 6’9″ height.
Vale and Finou 4, a 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding by For Pleasure and owned by Thinks Like A Horse, had won the class the last three consecutive years and were hot favorites. Five other horse/rider combinations joined them on the starting list. “There was a good group of horses and riders tonight, so it was a little tougher class than maybe the last few years,” Vale said. “You never go in thinking you’re going to win.”
Aaron Vale and Finou 4 cleared the wall to tie for the win in the $25,000 Land Rover International Jumper Puissance. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Riley described E2 Show Jumpers’ Very Chic Du Tillard, a 10-year-old Selle Francais gelding by Diamant de Semilly, as a horse with the experience level of younger horse. He was jumping in his first Puissance class and has spent the majority of his show experience at the 1.45m level. “I knew he has the scope and the talent, but I knew he’d never done one before, so I sort of expected to go in there and jump one or maybe two and then come out, but he jumped it so easily,” Riley said.
All six riders started over the wall set at 5’9″, and it was subsequently raised to 6’3″, 6’5″, and 6’9″. Only Riley and Vale cleared the 6’9″ height, and both returned to attempt 6’11”. When they both knocked blocks off at that height, the class ended in a tie between them.
The Puissance is a favorite event for Vale, of Williston, FL, who has now won the class six times. His first win came in 1996 with Big Joe. “In America, we don’t have great crowds too often, and this night is one of the best crowds of the year for the Puissance here,” he said. “It’s a special class because so many people watch it and enjoy it. It’s loud cheering, and it ends up being a great crowd.”
Very Chic Du Tillard and Schuyler Riley tied for the win in the $25,000 Land Rover International Jumper Puissance. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Riley, of Wellington, FL, believed the cheers of the crowd helped her horse. “He started to like it in there,” she said. “Earlier in the day, he wasn’t so good in the speed class; there was so much atmosphere that it undid him a little bit. But as the night went on, the atmosphere was helping him. He grew because of it instead of shrinking, which was a cool experience.”
Finou 4 and Very Chic Du Tillard were both presented with the Sweet ‘N Low Trophy, donated by Mr. and Mrs. Donald G. Tober for the winning horse in the Puissance, while Riley and Vale will share the Armed Forces Cup, presented by Land Rover to the winning rider in the Puissance. They’ll also be represented on the Congressman’s Challenge Trophy, donated by the late Honorable Rogers C.B. Morton and the late Honorable F. Robert Watkins.