USA’s Isabella Russekoff, 22, and Suave Pony LLC’s Balou’s Fly High were victorious on the opening day of week 11 of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in the $10,000 1.45m CSI4*, which served as the qualifier for the “Saturday Night Lights” feature, the $150,000 1.50m series final classic CSI4*.
“In the ring, he likes to take me to all the jumps, so I was confident that given this course, we would be able to leave out strides where maybe others could not,” said Isabella of the 15-year-old Oldenburg stallion, who is by Balou du Rouet out of a mare by Grandeur. “For example, the last line was a normal five-stride line, but I know with him and how much he loves to go for it at the end of the course, I could choose to do four.”
At home, in the barn, it’s all about him. “He has a huge personality. He gets really emotional, so we have to keep him really separated from everyone else,” Isabella said. “When he’s having a good day, it’s a little easier, but when he’s having a bad day, we just kind of let him be and try to be really nice to him.
“We base our schedule with every other horse at the barn around him, because he has such a big personality. Since he can get so worked up, we don’t try too hard to mess with him at home, because he’s usually always amazing in the ring.”
Isabella and Balou’s Fly High have been partnered for seven years during which time she has climbed from 1.20m low junior jumper division all the way through the CSI2* grand prix level. During WEF week eight, they finished third in the $25,000 under-25 series semi-final.
“Every win with him is really special,” said Isabella, “because he tries so hard for me every single time he goes in. It’s awesome when I can also reward him by doing my part to go fast and put in a good round.”
Ireland’s Conor Swail and Team Philippaerts’s Theo 160 sped to a second-place finish in 32.26 seconds. Just three one-hundredths of a second behind them was Germany’s Richard Vogel and Dakota de L’Ardrais, owned by Coleridge Equestrian BV.
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