James Brennan and Vajra du Blay won the CSI2* 1.40m at Thunderbird Show Park's 2021 BCHJA Fall Finale. Photos by tbird/Quinn Saunders
Crooks Show Jumping may spend the majority of their year based out of Wellington, FL, but for Lauren Crooks, the northwest is home.
Not only does the operation boast a year-round program out of her family’s Clearview Farm in Snohomish, WA, but the region is also where Crooks grew up. And she and her now-husband James Brennan have been developing their horses at show circuits in Vancouver and Calgary, Canada, for nearly a decade.
After the COVID-19 pandemic limited travel across the border in 2020 and 2021, Crooks Show Jumping is ready to return to Thunderbird Show Park and Spruce Meadows for its 2022 summer season.
"You have great quality and access to jumping in the big Grand Prix field—maybe at 1.40m to 1.60m, where that's not really accessible elsewhere," Crooks said. "When you start to look at what your summer goals are, whether it's Spruce Meadows or going to Europe, you can use Thunderbird Show Park as a bit of a springboard to get your horse the experience needed to feel very confident at those venues."
Crooks Show Jumping will set off from Wellington to Seattle in late April before taking on tbird's Canadian Premier CSI5*/CSI2* and BC Open CSIO5*/CSI2* events, along with Spruce Meadows' series of CSI5*/CSI2* summer tournaments in June and July.
"I think we have the perfect situation of taking the quality of the competition here [in Wellington] with us to Thunderbird and Spruce Meadows," Crooks said. "We love to use Thunderbird be get our horses on the field, to make sure that they are really confident, and then go to Spruce Meadows feeling like we can have a lot of success with them in a very competitive field."
Lauren Crooks and Louisana van de Moortelshoeve finished second in the 2021 CSI2* Onni Group Grand Prix at tbird. Photo by tbird/Quinn Saunders
At Thunderbird, Crooks Show Jumping is also the title sponsor of the Crooks Show Jumping Young Horse Jumper Showcase, designed to encourage the development of show jumpers at Thunderbird Show Park. The series offers classes at reduced rates, along with series awards, for 4, 5, 6 and 7-year-olds, who get to compete in both the Fort Grand Prix Arena, which hosts CSIO5* competition, and the Thunderbird Ring, where the 2021 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Vancouver was held.
"We took it on, and it goes with our values in always having young horses to develop," Crooks said. "It's important for us and the industry to have classes that allow us to develop horses in a situation that doesn't cost an arm and a leg but also allows the horses to get good miles."
When Crooks Show Jumping began sponsoring the program in 2019, they also matched the class specifications to be on par with young horse programs in the U.S.
"In the long run, it brings the standard up," Crooks said. "We've really supported that; even when we weren't there during COVID, it continued to go—and we'll continue to support that, especially as we grow our breeding program. We're going to be breeding horses to go in those divisions. It's just a great showcase for them."
James Brennan and Crooks Show Jumping's Milton. Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography
This year's travels have a client focus, as Crooks is expecting her first child, but Brennan will also be looking for success in the ring with Milton, Crooks Show Jumping's well-bred 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Emerald x Heartbreaker).
"He's jumped up to the three-star level and some some grand prixs successfully," Brennan said. "We're aiming for the two star the first week of Thunderbird and the five-star the following week."
The summer circuit is also an important opportunity for Crooks Show Jumping's two divisions to converge.
"It's important that we're all together for a good chunk of time," Crooks said. "Coming from Florida, we can bring our knowledge that we've learned from the winter season and generate excitement about the shows up there for our whole team."