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  • Writer's pictureCatie Staszak

“Stan’s the Man” in CSI5* Uryadi’s Village Qualifier

Conor Swail (IRL) and Casturano. All photos ©tbird/Kim Gaudry

Langley, BC — Conor Swail (IRL) has always felt at home at Thunderbird Show Park. The County Down, native was based out of Ontario when working his first North American job at Lothlorien Farm, and he’s made winning a habit over the course of the last decade at tbird.

But his mount Casturano lived even closer. Before being paired with Swail, the talented 11-year-old gelding—affectionately called “Stan”—was developed by Fort Langley-based Sam Buirs-Darvill (CAN), just minutes down the road from the tbird venue.

So when the pair came flying toward the final fence in a 9-horse jump-off in the CSI5* Uryadi’s Village Qualifier 1.50m, a few extra cheers carried them home as they crossed the timers fastest. “Stan” has some extra fans in Langley.

“It’s great to have a bit of local support. Stan just lived here, just across the road at Judy’s (Judy Wise, Buirs-Darvill’s mother) for several years,” Swail shared. “It’s great that the horse has been produced very well, first by Sam Buirs, and, thankfully I was able to take on that ride and continue his development. He is a wonderful horse.”

The pair claimed the second five-star victory of their partnership with a winning time of 35.47 seconds over Gregory Bodo’s (FRA) short track. Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Libido van’t Hofken finished second (35.77s), followed by Daniel Bluman (ISR) and Ladriano Z (36.2s).

“When I got [Casturano], the horse had a lot of quality, and where he would go after that, I wasn’t sure. Now that he’s been with me for a while, he seems to really be learning and understanding how to manage the height [of the fences] better.” said Swail, recalling Casturano’s early tendencies to over-jump. “He’s not being as extravagant as he used to be. He’s learning how to jump better, and that’s making it easier to jump the bigger jumps.

“At the moment, he’s not showing any signs of stopping,” he added, “no matter what level we go to.”

For tbird’s biggest week of the season—and lone five-star event—riders have brought out their best mounts, some with eyes toward starting off the 2024 Major League Show Jumping season on the right foot and others hoping to peak their mounts for the summer’s Paris Olympic Games. Twelve athletes representing five different nations punched their tickets to Bodo’s jump-off, but after the Canadian trio of Amy Millar, Mario Deslauriers and Vanessa Mannix elected to save their horses for another day, a jump-off of nine remained.

The win was secured early. First to jump, Bluman set an impressive standard with his championship partner, Ladriano Z. Utilizing Ladriano’s massive step, the pair left out to the jump-off’s third fence—a widely set oxer—and cut a sharp angle to the final oxer home, just past the ingate.

Swail immediately followed, and he upped the ante. Swiftly getting across the arena to the combination and taking every risk to the final two fences as he tossed the reins away, he showed off what has become a trademark display of midair core strength and balance—and faith in his equine partners. At Thunderbird especially, the move has been tough to beat, and on this occasion, it held through seven additional five-star combinations.

“I’ve been on a great run in the last three or four years, and I’m really enjoying that,” said Swail, currently the World No. 18. “That’s the most important thing for me at the moment—benefiting from the great horses I have. I don’t want to stop. I don’t like taking weeks off. These horses give me so many chances to win, and they’re so competitive, and they want to do everything for me. It’s fun times.”

CSI5* Uryadi’s Village Qualifier 1.50m

Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

1. Casturano / Conor Swail / IRL / Conall Murray / 0/0 35.47

2. Libido van’t Hofken / Erynn Ballard / CAN / Sofia Popescu / 0/0 35.77

3. Ladriano Z / Daniel Bluman / Over the Top Stables LLC and Bluestar Investments / ISR / 0/0 36.2

4. Cool Quarz / Shawn Casady / USA / Morning Star Sporthorses LLC / 0/0 36.88

5. Quality Star Z / Bliss Heers / USA / Bridgeside Farms LLC / 0/0 38.53

6. Northern Light / Tiffany Foster / CAN / Artisan Farms LLC / 0/0 38.95

7. Elka de la Pomme / Ashlee Bond / ISR / Ashlee Bond / 0/4 36.87

8. Cantucchini / Grant Seger / USA / Grant Seger / 0/4 40.99

9. Condara / Luis Larazzabal / VEN / Victoria Huertematte / 0/8 39.2

10. Truman / Amy Millar / CAN / Millar Brooke Farm Ltd / 0/WD

10. Emerson / Mario Deslauriers / CAN / Wishing Well Farm LLC / 0/WD

10. Kingston / Vanessa Mannix / CAN / Vanessa Mannix / 0/WD


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