Ocala, Florida, USA – December 18, 2022 – Callan Solem (USA) will have two more reasons to smile this holiday season after capturing two of the top three spots during Sunday’s $25,000 Masters Golf Cars Grand Prix at Hits Ocala. Solem piloted Horion de Libersart to victory during the four-horse jump-off and placed third aboard her first mount in the tiebreaker, Essenar Crixus.
Tim Hott set the track for Sunday’s highlight event, testing riders during the first round with 13 obstacles, including a vertical-oxer double combination, an oxer-vertical double combination, and a final question with a vertical-vertical double combination followed by a bending line past the gate to the final oxer. Four horses had all the answers and advanced to the short course, which began with a rollback to the first double combination and finished with two tight turns to try and make up speed to the last oxer.
Kirk Webby (NZL) was the first to return with Kaira VD Middelstede (Chopin Van Het Moleneind x Feliciano 823), setting the standard after completing the jump-off in a tidy 39.780 seconds with all the rails intact.
Morgan Ward (USA) and Colourful S had the fastest time of the day in 36.812 seconds, but with 8 penalty-points they would earn the fourth-place award.
Callan Solem (USA) tried to beat Webby’s time with Essenar Crixus (Luidam x Ard VDL Douglas) but their fast time came at the expense of the penultimate fence for 4 penalty-points in 39.658 seconds.
Solem saved the best for last, returning last with Horion de Libersart (Cardento 933 x Voltaire). Following a precise track, the Americian and the 15-year-old grey Belgian Warmblood stallion dashed through the timers in a faultless 38.565 seconds to go straight to the top of the leaderboard.
“Kirk went first and did a really nice job; he was tidy everywhere,” said Solem. “Essenar Crixus is maybe a quicker mover, so I went the same track as [Kirk], but I made a little bit too short of a turn to the second-to-last jump, and he had that one down, but he jumped great.”
Solem continued, “Horion de Libersart is such a great horse. I went a little neater in a few places, but I’ve never ridden a horse in a grand prix in a snaffle with no martingale, just one rein. He is such a good horse, such a good mouth, so rideable. That makes the jump-offs a little easier. Even though his foot speed maybe isn’t as fast as some horses, you can go exactly where you want to go all the time – he is really, really smart!”
In October, Solem launched her own business that is currently based at HITS Post Time Farm, so winning on home turf was extra special for her this week. “It has been really exciting,” she expressed. “[HITS] has been making a lot of improvements. [Wordley Martin] has been redoing the Grand Prix ring, and [HITS] has planted so many trees. They’re fixing all the fences. They’ve put in so much work. Everybody is busy around here fixing up all the barns and rings – it’s been nice to watch. I think everybody’s going to be really happy. I’ve always loved this property, and I think horses really like it here.”
While the Hits Holiday Series has come to a close, entries are still open for the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit. Getting underway in less than a month, the competition will feature 10 weeks of hunter/jumper action in our new rings. Additional changes for 2023 will include new footing, new Wi-Fi, and improved hospitality for all our exhibitors. For more information and the complete class listing visit http://www.hitsshows.com.
Final Results – $25,000 Masters Golf Cars Grand Prix
1) Callan Solem (USA) & Horion de Libersart – 0 / 0 – 38.565
2) Kirk Webby (NZL) & Kaira VD Middelstede – 0 / 0 – 39.780
3) Callan Solem (USA) & Essenar Crixus – 0 / 4 – 39.658
Source: Press Release from Hits Horse Shows
Photos: © ESI Photography