09 April 2018
World Cup Rider Jamie Barge is Ready for Paris
Jamie Barge is proof that the horse is a great equalizer. To watch her ride capably over the sport’s most advanced tracks, one would never know that she overcomes a unique challenge every time she enters the ring. The 32-year-old rider from the United States and her horse Luebbo are among the roster of qualified athletes, which include 11 Americans, competing in this week’s Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final at AccorHotels Arena in Paris, France. “Luebbo is unique in many ways!” Barge says about the 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Lord Pezi x Stakkato) with a big personality that she found through Germany’s Eva Bitter in 2014. “He’s top careful and he loves to jump. He always tries hard and has the biggest heart for this sport.” Last year, he proved it when he and Barge made their World Cup Final debut on home turf in Omaha, Nebraska. They finished inside the top 30. On this year’s path to Paris, Barge added a few extra stops into her winter season schedule that have helped pave the way with their successes. Normally based out of Southern California, Barge began her season where most West Coasters do, at the HITS Coachella Desert Circuit in Thermal, California. HITS Coachelle hosts the last FEI World Cup Qualifying class of the North American Western Sub-League during its one week of CSI competition. Barge and Luebbo jumped there, and then went on to Florida, where they also picked up points in the World Cup Qualifier at Live Oak International in Florida (pictured above). Then it was on to the nationally rated $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Ocala, with a super double clear performance that earned her the 4th placed-prize check of $100,000. “I was very happy that he jumped clean and had a positive class ,” Barge said. “The prize money is a huge help in helping us get to Europe to prepare for World Cup Finals.” While Barge and Luebbo have experience under their belt jumping the big tracks of a World Cup Final, this year they headed to Europe early, to get in some more practice jumping indoors. They spent several weeks in Germany doing just that. “We don’t have many indoor arenas in California, and it’s a much different feeling than riding outdoors in a big ring,” Barge says. “My plan has been to get Luebbo adjusted to the time change and the cold weather!” Barge counts Eva Bitter among her support team, as well as Marco Kutcher, whom she spent six months training with in Europe a few years ago. Gaby Salick and Alison Robitaille have helped her while stateside. As for that unique challenge: Barge has dealt with extreme hearing loss since her childhood. She is legally deaf. What does that mean in the ring? She cannot hear the starting bell, and instead has to watch the countdown clock to know when to start. But unless you already knew about it, Barge's hearing loss is unnoticeable, and it certainly hasn't held her back. Her support team is always at the rail to relay information, if needed, but once she is going, Barge has said that the hearing loss doesn’t really affect her ride. There are advantages and disadvantages to being able to hear a rail fall behind you. And as noted, the horse doesn’t care much whether you can hear or not. If anything, Barge relies on her horse’s body language reactions even more than the average rider. She rides with above average focus, and it has gotten her all the way to the World Cup Final. While the highlight of her winter season was qualifying for Paris, this week, she will be hoping to make the highlight of her spring an even stronger finish to go home with.
28 March 2018
Billy Raymont to Make World Cup Final Debut With Australian Warmblood Oaks Redwood
Billy Raymont is currently on what could be described as a grand tour of the world. The Australian born and based show jumper has hit several career milestones in the last few months, and is looking ahead to his biggest one yet, in a few weeks time in Paris, France. With an active yard in Queensland, Australia, where he brings along 15-20 horses at a time, teaches and competes, 38-year-old Raymont has, in the past, taken horses across to the USA or Europe for short trips. Last summer, he was paired with a horse that has changed everything, the Australian-bred Oaks Redwood, a 13-year-old warmblood by ASB Conquistador x Verdi owned by the Tucker family. Known as "Basil", he was sent to Raymont to compete, and together the two won a string of World Cup Qualifiers in the Australian League last fall. That put Raymont at the top of the Australian League rankings, and raised his sights as to what could be next. “To be honest, a short conversation with Jamie Kermond a couple of months before the end of our World Cup Series initiated all this,” Raymont says. “He asked if I was interested in going to the World Cup Final, and that we should maybe plan on going there and work on doing things together.” Australia’s chef d’equipe, Todd Hinde, had already been planning a schedule for Jamie that included the Longines Masters of Hong Kong CSI5*, and Raymont suddenly found himself on the entry list. “I didn’t quite understand what it was like getting into these five star shows, but it ended up that Hong Kong was my first five star show, which was quite crazy,” Raymont said. “It’s been really good to be able to go along with Jamie and Todd. They’ve organized so much, and made it stress free for me.” At Hong Kong in February, Raymont and Oaks Redwood jumped three clear rounds amid the big atmosphere of the glittering indoor competition. “Being around riders who we’ve mostly only watched on TV is a bit crazy, but I felt comfortable enough,” Raymont says. “I had a plan when I went to the Hong Kong Masters that I would just do the medium tour and small classes. My horse went so well the first two days that I was keen to start in the Grand Prix on Sunday, but I decided to stick to my plan. The experience gave me a lot of confidence that my horse was good for it, and that I was too.” With that experience under their belt, Raymont and Oaks Redwood flew onward to Europe, where they are based with Yves Houtacker in Holland, and jumped Peelbergen and Braunschweig. But Raymont wanted one more good indoor experience before April’s World Cup Final. With the indoors season winding down and few opportunities left, Raymont and Hinde called the prestigious Saut Hermés CSI5*, and were granted an entry. Suddenly, Raymont was staring down his first international grand prix under the glass-ceilinged Grand Palais over a notoriously challenging 1.60m track in the tight confines of the grandest of indoors. “Last year, with all of our Australian World Cups being certificates of qualifications for the WEG, they were all pretty full standard, but I was sure a 1.60m grand prix in Europe would be different,” Raymont explains. “We don’t even dream of seeing a 1.60m track indoors in Australia. But it wasn’t hugely different. My horse handled it really well, and I needed that class to really be ready going to the World Cup Final.” In their first international grand prix start, Raymont and Oaks Redwood put in a solid performance at Saut Hermés, with just one fence down. In less than three week’s time, they will return to Paris for the 2018 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final. “It’s a bit of a new level for Australian breeding, to have a couple of horses at this level, going to Europe and doing this sort of thing,” Raymont mentions. “It’s nice to give people at home that confidence that our horses are coming over and doing this.” Oaks Redwood has certainly proven his mettle to compete at the very top level in the world, and will have his biggest chance yet at the Final. For now Raymont is focused on a good performance in April, but he’s also found himself penciled in for another big entry—the long list for Team Australia at September’s World Equestrian Games. Raymont will take it step by step, with a bit of optimism that the world’s biggest stage still awaits.