It is rare that I am at a loss for words. After all, I write and speak for a living. However, as I sit down to reflect upon all that 2018 was, I have a serious case of writer’s block.
In looking at the past 12 months, it has truly been a whirlwind; I hardly know where to start. My mind is flooded with a sensory overload of World Cup triumphs, too many red-eye flights, and Caesar’s Buffet (What a way to end the year in Las Vegas). It’s hard to pick out a single moment to define the year, but there were certainly a few prevailing themes.
There are so many lessons to be learned in the sport of show jumping, and it is that for which perhaps I am most grateful—we never stop growing as both riders and individuals. As I close the chapter that was 2018, I’m sharing some of the greatest lessons I learned or was reminded of throughout the first 10 qualifiers of this Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League season.
This sport is definitely not scripted. Anything can happen, any day; that’s what makes it so great! The World Cup season began in surprising style when only one rider was able to navigate Alan Wade’s track cleanly in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Vancouver at Thunderbird Show Park. The 23-year-old Uma O’Neil didn’t need to jump off to claim her first World Cup victory with Clockwise of Greenhill Z; she bested a field that included Vancouver’s defending champion Conor Swail and 2018 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final veterans Alison Robitaille, Charlie Jacobs and Richard Spooner.
There went the second half of our script that day; hats off to my team’s quick thinking and reacting directors for making everything run so smoothly. Show jumping is always keeping you on your toes!
When Beezie Madden won the 2018 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final
with Breitling LS, she not only
became just the second American rider to claim the title twice, but, at 54, she also became the oldest rider ever to win, period. She’s followed that victory up with some eye-opening performances as the season began anew in August. First, Madden won the World Cup qualifier in Washington with Breitling. Then, she impressed with a second victory in Lexington, this time with new mount Chic hin d Hyrencourt (Beezie is quite good at saying this name quickly).
As the current World Cup champion, Madden is automatically qualified for the 2019 Final in Gothenburg, Sweden. However, she has set out to make as many of her horses eligible, so she can make an informed decision about whom to jump in the Final when spring comes around. Something tells me she will have quite a few very good options.
“I have already Darry Lou, Breitling, and Chic eligible,” she said. “I plan on using Coach early in the [winter] season, because he’s had a nice break. We’ll see who’s the hot horse going into the World Cup Finals, which is kind of what my strategy was last year.”
The answer is automatically “no” if you don’t ask, and you can’t qualify for the World Cup Finals if you don’t enter any qualifiers. Entering the year, Wilhelm Genn knew he had an exceptionally talented horse in Bugatti, but he wasn’t sure if the gelding was suited for an indoor championship. Thanks to a win in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Sacramento, a runner-up finish in Las Vegas and a top 10 finish at Thermal, Genn now sits second on the east coast sub league standings of the North American League (Riding for Germany, his specifications to qualify are different, but things are looking promising right now).
“Bugatti is 12, and every year when I take him to a new level, and I think it is about as big as he can jump, he surprises me and makes it work,” Genn said. “Who knows what the future brings? I’m super proud of him.”
That’s roses, not rosettes. One of my favorite parts about the North American League is its diversity, reminiscent of the continent itself. There are outdoor events, indoor events and events on sand and grass. But so often, we rarely get to actually go out and see anything beyond the event grounds themselves. I learned this year to make the effort to explore the world around me. I visited Vancouver Island and went whale watching for the first time, the most breathtaking of sights. Along with that I also visited Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington and had breakfast at the track kitchen. I spent an afternoon on the beaches of Del Mar. The Michael Jackson ONE show in Las Vegas & ate at CAESAR’S BUFFET was another highlight for me in 2018.
Life is short. Take the trip. Eat the cake. Buy the horse.
The luxury and tradition of Toronto’s Royal Winter Fair is unmatched. From the black tie attire to the Royal Terrace, the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ truly makes you feel like you’re a princess. And going live from the broadcast booth used for the current Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals is pretty awe inspiring. I am so grateful to work at some incredible venues, and when I come home, I stay grounded by spending time with my horse.
I’ve had my horse, Sobrie, for more than 20 years; he was my first horse when I was six years old. He’s retired now, and my best days are spent with him. He’s always filthy, and I spend an hour or two bathing and/or grooming him until he’s white again, and then he rolls in his stall and undoes my handiwork. I’m equally filthy by the time I leave, but my face always sports a smile that’s bigger than when I arrived. I have also gotten a lot of joy out of volunteering at Florida TRAC, an aftercare and retraining facility for off-track Thoroughbreds.
At the end of the day, we must all remember why we got involved in this sport, this industry, in the first place: a love for the horse.
Thanks for reading my blogs this year. Cheers to 2019 and the final four events of the 2018-2019 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League!
Catie Staszak is a multimedia sports journalist, working primarily as the lead show jumping broadcast analyst for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League. Staszak leads broadcasts from top horse shows and show jumping events across North America, working with FEI TV, the NBC Sports Network and Carr-Hughes Productions, and CBS Sports Network, among others. A competitive equestrian of more than 22 years, she has also worked on the TV and radio teams at ESPN West Palm and moderated at the international FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland. She strives to use her varied experiences in both the horse industry and broadcasting to help increase the exposure of equestrian sports.