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  • Writer's pictureCatie Staszak

Horse Spotlight: Tornado's Whirlwind World Cup Journey Brings Wireman to Top of Sport

Updated: Jun 3

Skylar Wireman (USA) and Tornado. Photo ©tbird/Kim Gaudry

When Skylar Wireman (USA) brought Tornado to the 2023 Sacramento International Horse Show, jumping the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ qualifier was not in her plans.

After all, Wireman had only recently returned to the saddle from an injury that caused her to miss the North American Youth Championships (NAYC), and she had never jumped the Swedish Warmblood gelding above 1.45m. Instead, Wireman's objective was to test the waters at 1.50m in the CSI4*-W Welcome.

"He jumped amazing and ended up clear in the first round and jumped off. Peter (Wylde, Wireman's coach) thought that every time he stepped up, he did it so easily," Wireman said.

With Sacramento being the opening leg of the 2023/24 North American League (NAL) World Cup season, it would be the friendliest of the qualifiers, so Wylde determined, there was no time like the present to give the class a try, with horse and rider feeling confident.

"We did it, and it was upwards and onwards from then," Wireman said.

Wireman and Tornado had just one rail down in their World Cup debut in Sacramento, and they finished among the top 10 in the class. It's been a whirlwind season for them ever since.They'd go on to improve their placing at Las Vegas' World Cup before winning the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Fort Worth and securing their place in the World Cup Finals in Riyadh (KSA). There, they jumped clear in the first round among the world's elite—jumping just after eventual (back-to-back) winners, Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) and King Edward.

"I was going last on the first day and following the No. 1 [show jumper] in the World. A lot of people asked me, 'Does that make you nervous?'" Wireman recalled. "I said, 'No.' I was excited to warm up with [von Eckermann]. I'd get to watch his round and try to do what he did—not quite as fast, as I was just going for a smooth round, but to try to replicate that. I was going for the experience, and to jump clear and get a ribbon [in the first round] was just icing on the cake and unbelievable.”

There’s no question that Wireman and Tornado have returned from their Finals experience stronger. In their first post-Riyadh start, the pair won the national Surf & Turf Grand Prix at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center (USA).

Then they arrived at Thunderbird Show Park and jumped clear in the CSI5* MLSJ Grand Prix, finishing just off the podium in fourth. It wasn’t just the score and the result that made the effort impressive. The pair showed off their maturity by changing up their tack and completing the task in a slow-twist snaffle, normally used only in their training classes.

“He’s learned so much. He’s really using his whole body now,” Wireman said. “It’s like I came home from [Riyadh] with a whole new amazing horse. He’s getting better at every show, and he loves to learn.”

The Heart of a Lion and a Brain Like a Sponge

Tornado joined Wireman’s string almost serendipitously. Imported to the U.S. by professionals Nick Haness (USA) and Jamie Gornall (GBR), the bay was sent to Wireman to campaign for sale after Haness injured his wrist.

Wireman remembers clearly when Tornado arrived, and her close friend (now Tornado’s groom) Alicia Thompson walked the horse up the driveway in early 2023.

“She wasn’t grooming at the time, but she said she knew there was something special about the horse and that we were going to go big places,” Wireman shared. “To have that come full circle…she had a feeling. Now, he’s her pet just as much as he’s my horse. Her being there for every step of the way is pretty incredible.”

In the early days of getting to know Tornado, Wireman realized what a quick learner the gelding was. “All along, he had the mentality of, ‘I want to learn how to do it.’ He was always very willing, and he would soak it all in like a sponge,” she said.

The pair developed their trust in one another up to 1.45m, but in the summer of 2023, Wireman suffered her own injury. Lacerating her liver, she was in the ICU for three days and ultimately out of the saddle for six weeks. Tornado was receiving some interest and needed to continue getting experience in the show ring, but Wireman didn’t want to let the horse go.

“I had a feeling [about him]. We had jumped a fair amount of clear rounds, and he wanted to be a clear round kind of horse. We just hadn’t jumped above 1.45m,” Wireman said.

Haness worked with Wireman so that she could keep the ride through the summer season, and by November, a group of family, friends, and sponsors came together to purchase Tornado outright for her. The bay quickly began repaying the group with his World Cup earnings and has repeatedly reminded them, he has more to give.

“He’s definitely king of the barn and the barn favourite,” Wireman said. “He’s the first stall in the barn, and he gets all the cookies and carrots. He likes to beg, and he’ll nudge you when you walk by; if I stand just close enough, he’ll take his nose and pull me in. He’s an absolute sweetheart and loves his people.”

Wireman plans to follow the Major League Show Jumping circuit for the summer before turning her attention back to World Cup qualifiers this fall, perhaps with a greater presence on the east coast. She hopes to be back in the World Cup Finals lineup at Basel (SUI) in April 2025.

“I think a lot of [what makes him special] is that he has a huge heart. He loves to learn and has a huge heart,” Wireman expressed. “He’ll fight [for me] until the very end.”


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