Sydney Shulman Victorious Again at Washington International Horse Show
The 61st Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) continued on Friday, October 25, with thrilling displays of speed and power. Israeli rider Sydney Shulman, of Greenwich, CT, topped the $50,000 International Jumper Speed Final on Villamoura, while Aaron Vale and Schuyler Riley of the United States shared victory in the $25,000 Land Rover Puissance. The classes were part of a full schedule of exciting competition and entertaining exhibitions during Military Night, presented by Caterpillar, Inc.
Shulman, 24, came to WIHS to jump in the international jumper division for the first time with a pretty specific goal. “I came here with the plan to do just these two speed classes and hopefully be in the top five, with all these elite riders in the classes,” she said.
She ended up winning both of them. Shulman rode Villamoura, a 10-year-old Selle Français mare by Diamant de Semilly and owned by Jill Shulman, to the blue in the $50,000 International Jumper Speed Final, adding her name to the General Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Perpetual Trophy donated by the late Arthur J. Morris. The night before, she and Villamoura won the $36,000 International Jumper Accumulator Costume Class.
“I’m definitely in shock!” Shulman said. “Coming out on top in both of these classes is definitely beyond my expectations, so I’m thrilled.” Shulman’s time of 50.84 seconds was untouchable; Australian rider Rowan Willis came the closest, stopping the timers in 53.19 seconds for second place with Everse W. Third place went to U.S. rider Andy Kocher on Cat Ninja, who posted a time of 53.58 seconds.
Villamoura and Shulman were more than two seconds faster than the 23 other riders in the starting field. “I watched the video and it looked much faster than it felt,” Shulman said. “She’s a really fast horse; she covers the ground so fast. I did 10 [strides] on the rollback to the second jump, and other people did eight strides, and she still looked faster in the video. My plan was to go inside to the American flag plank [TAPS vertical] and do six strides there. I caught such a good one and she felt so amazing and is so brave, I went for the five and she walked it. I think leaving a stride out there is maybe what sealed the deal for me.”
For every clear effort over the TAPS fence, $1,000 was donated to the Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors (TAPS) as part of Military Night tradition at WIHS. After 11 riders cleared the plank vertical, $11,000 was donated to TAPS by generous sponsors Ride TV and Dish.
Course designer Olaf Petersen, Jr., built a track filled with rollback turns for the speed class. “I thought the course was challenging for sure,” Shulman said. “There were a couple of harder turns, and the triple bar into the triple combination is always difficult. You want to cut the turn and be fastest, but a triple bar is hard enough to jump on its own, let alone into a combination. I think you needed a game horse and a horse that was really in front of you, because the turns took away a lot of your canter.”
Having Villamoura back in top form is emotional for Shulman because a year ago, she wasn’t sure if the mare would jump again. Villamoura scratched her eye while stabled at a show in September 2018 and needed eight months to heal. “It just took time,” Shulman said. She noted that for the first month that Villamoura was in the equine clinic, she stayed with her. “I was there with her 24 hours a day, and I slept in my car. That horse is my life,” she said.
Luckily, Villamoura’s eye healed well, and she retained her vision. “I knew she would come back in some capacity once we realized her eye was going to be fine,” Shulman said. “The key was building her fitness back up. I have to give a lot of credit to our staff at Back Country Farm. It was around-the-clock care getting her healthy, bringing her back, and getting her fit. The whole team was involved, emotionally and physically. I’m really grateful to everyone for it.”
Despite her success during the week, Shulman is sticking to her plan of skipping the $136,300 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Washington, presented by Events DC for the President’s Cup. “I have to stick to my plan,” said Shulman. “Obviously, she could not have jumped better. I don’t think she touched a jump all week and it was fantastic, so I’m just going to end on this note.”