Normally winning and falling off are at polar opposites of the equestrian competition spectrum. Winning means going home in a blaze of glory with a rosette, cup or perhaps even a cheque; falling off results in tears, tantrums, depression or determination to do better, depending on your temperament.
But US rider Kent Farrington managed to combine the two in the American Gold Cup class at Old Salem Farm in upstate New York on Sunday 18 September.
The American Rio Olympic team silver medallist was the second to go of two riders through to the jump-off and piloted Gazelle to a clear in a faster time than his rival’s four faults. But after blasting through the finish flags, the 10-year-old mare came to an abrupt stop in front of the advertising hoarding at the arena edge, throwing Kent over her right shoulder.
The rider landed on his feet and was unhurt, taking a bow for the crowd.
“We came to a flying halt — luckily we were through the timers so it was over,” said Kent, who believed Gazelle may have been spooked by a photographer.
Kent took the $71,280 (£54,400) first prize in this Longines FEI World Cup qualifier, with fellow US rider Charlie Jacobs second on Cassinja S. The two were the only pairs to record first-round clears in the class. Charlie had an oxer down in the jump-off, so Kent knew he could win with a steady clear.
“That’s actually what I hate to do — when you have to go at a normal speed,” he said. “I’d rather go full speed and have to win it. I wasn’t really sure on the strategy there so I tried to match his round, then if I had one down I still had a chance to pick it up and catch him at the end. Luckily it played to our favour today.”
Bizarrely, another competitor suffered a similar incident to Kent in the first round. Canadian rider Keean White fell off on landing over the final fence, but luckily his horse Corette had passed through the timing markers before he touched the ground. Checking his score, which showed just four faults for an earlier fence down, Keean celebrated with a double fist pump. He finished seventh.