A Bridesmaid No More: Swail’s Count Me In Captures First Five-Star Win

Conor Swail’s Count Me In Captures First Five-Star Win at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Washington at the WIHS.

Saturday night was the first five-star win for Conor Swail’s Count Me In. He has been a bridesmaid in three or four five-star competitions, always finishing second. But he was the star of the show in the $406,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Washington CCI5*-W. He and Swail cruised around the jump-off fault free and less than one quarter of a second faster than their nearest rival.

Conor Swail's Count Me In wins first five-star at Washington International Horse Show.
Irish rider Conor Swail’s Count Me In captures first five-star with in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Washington.
© Amy K. Dragoo

“Tonight really it’s kinda about Crosby,” the Irish rider said of 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding. “He’s been just incredible for me since I got him. This is his first five-star win. I think maybe he’s been second four times, so I’m just so thrilled for him, to be honest.”

The World Cup qualifier for the North American League was at The Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, for the first time. Thirty riders tackled Bernardo Cabral’s 16-effort track in the first round, which had fence heights up to 1.60 meters. Nine horses and riders jumped it clear to advance to the jump-off. Additionally, four riders had four faults, two had eight faults, three had nine faults; other fault totals ranged from 12 to 24.

First Five-Star Win for Count Me In

Swail said Crosby “deserved to win one because he’s incredibly consistent. He’s just such a wonderful horse.” The pair rode the jump-off in 35.76 seconds. Israel’s Daniel Bluman and Gemma W, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, jumped clear in 36 seconds to earn second place. U.S. rider Brian Moggre and MTM Vivre le Reve, a 13-year-old Westfalen gelding, were also clear in 36.74 seconds to place third. Four other riders put in fault-free jump-offs. For complete results, click here.

Conor Swail's Count Me In wins first five-star at Washington International Horse Show.
Conor Swail and Count Me In capture their first five-star win at the President’s Cup Grand Prix.
© Amy K. Dragoo

Swail and Crosby started their partnership about 16 months ago after Swail took over the reins from Canada’s Beth Underhill. “It took us a little while to figure it out, but since we got going it’s been an incredible run,” Swail said.

Swail: A Lot of Firsts

The pair won more than six FEI classes in 2021 in a six-month period, including the $215,000 Longines Jumping World Cup™ Fort Worth CSI4*-W last December. They competed in the 2022 Longines FEI World Cup™ Final in Leipzig, Germany, where they finished eighth. And in August, they rode a double-clear round to help win the Longines FEI Nations Cup of Ireland in Dublin and earn the coveted Aga Khan Cup.

“There was a lot of firsts with Crosby and I,” Swail said. “We’ve done our first World Cup together. I jumped in Aachen for the first time because of him. I won my first Aga Khan in Dublin because of him. So he’s really changed my career, and he’s brought me to a lot of places I’ve never been and has been very successful doing it.”

Swail’s winning ways haven’t been with just Count Me In. He won the first leg on the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League with Vital Chance De La Roque. That was the $228,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Sacramento in California three weeks ago. Swail is now leading the North American League standings with 40 points. The 2023 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final will be in Omaha, Nebraska, next April.

Bluman: A Costly Mistake

Bluman said he was pleased with how Gemma W went this week. “Gemma is a really special mare. She tries hard. She always wants to play the game. She enjoys it,” he said.

As for the split second that separated him and Swail, Bluman said it was pilot error. “I didn’t get to see [Swail’s] jump-off, but I knew if I performed the way that I wanted and rode my plan that I had a pretty good chance to beat it,” Bluman said. “Unfortunately, I made a mistake in one of the bending lines from the oxer to the Liverpool. And I think if you want to beat Conor Swail right now, you can’t make any mistakes.”

Washington International Horse Show
Daniel Bluman (ISR) and Gemma W earned second place in the World Cup qualifier.
© Amy K. Dragoo

MTM Vivre le Reve: ‘A Blessing’

Moggre said he and MTM Vivre le Reve haven’t had their best results the past few shows, so he was happy with their Washington performance. “I didn’t really have many expectations other than knowing he was gonna try his hardest. So I maybe didn’t take as much risk as I normally would, but he jumped amazing, and I’m super happy with the result.”

Their longtime partnership also made their placing special. “It’s always great to have a great result with a horse that you’ve had for so long,” he said. “So to have Vivre le Reve back here still jumping top sport after seven years of partnership, every time I get to go in the ring with him is a blessing.”

Washington International Horse Show
Brian Moggre and MTM Vivre le Reve finished in third place.
© Amy K. Dragoo

The Event: A Year of Big Changes

Portugal’s Cabral said he thought the course, the first five-star for the Washington International, jumped nicely. “It’s been amazing. The difference from last year and going to five star and with this caliber of riders, no second to it any place in the world,” he said. “I had to make sure that I had the course to be the same quality as the way they ride, and actually, I wasn’t that good because I had a little too many clean. But I think they had fun.”

Washington International Horse Show President Vicki Lowell said the organizing committee is pleased that the riders believed in the show. “This was a big, big year for us. A lot of change, a new venue,” she said. “It was really important to us to put our best foot forward and wow people. We wanted the footing to be top notch, we wanted the prize money to be top notch and getting to that five-star level has always been a goal for us.”

Iwasaki Earns WIHS Equitation Finals Win

Earlier in the afternoon, Junior riders competed in the Jumper Phase of the Washington International Horse Show Equitation. Then the top 10 were called back to switch horses and ride over the same course. Augusta Iwasaki, who won Friday’s Hunter Phase, earned third place in the Jumper Phase. That put her in second place overall going into the Work-Off.

Augusta Iwasaki won the WIHS Equitation Finals.
© Sandra Oliynyk

She switched horses with Jumper Phase winner Skylar Wireman. “In the horse swap, my strategy was to ride the horse like it’s my horse. The warm-up was really great, and I had so much fun riding Famous.”

After the work-off rides, Iwasaki moved up with a final overall score of 270.175. Wireman finished on 267.750.

As for her overall riding strategy, Iwasaki said, “In the Hunter Phase, that’s honestly probably our best eq class. I just wanted to be as smooth as possible and make everything look as seamless as possible. In the jumper phase, I was thinking about being consistent and efficient.”

Wireman talked about preparing for the unique finals with its hunter and jumper phases. “I also think that practicing different patterns at home, change the training, do a little bit more at home, thinking I need to be aware of the time allowed,” she said. “Just doing some nice hunter rounds and just seeing how straight can you be.”

For complete results, click here.

Thanks to Vita Flex Pro for sponsoring Practical Horseman’s coverage of the 64th annual Washington International Horse Show. Check the PH website and social media for reports, photos, videos and more.

Caroline Pamukcu Ready for the World Stage with HSH Blake
10 Training Tips From the Top of the Sport
Practical Horseman Podcast: Bobby Costello
The Boyd Martin Edge