Erin Davis-Heineking is making the most of her two-week visit to the 2020 Winter Equestrian Festival with a win in the $137,000 Adequan Grand Prix CSI3* during Saturday Night Lights at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center on Saturday, Jan. 25.
Davis-Heineking rode Leonie to thrill Saturday night’s crowd by leading the Grand Prix from start to finish after posting the first clear round over Kelvin Bywater’s opening track. She again returned first over the short course and set the pace fault-free in a quick 45.51 seconds. At the conclusion of a six-horse jump-off, Davis-Heineking still stood atop the podium, barely inching out Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam and Karlin van’t Vennehof. They were just fractions off the win in 45.67 seconds.
“I was a little bit in disbelief that I had left a couple of jumps up out there,” said Davis-Heineking of her jump-off ride. “It didn’t quite go as I planned; I had an idea in my mind of the numbers that I wanted to do, and then right before I went in, my trainer/husband [Christian Heineking] basically said to leave one out from all of those. So, I took a shot at the last line and tried to do the six. I chipped in a seven, and she left it up. I was really proud of her.”
Leonie, an 11-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by October Hill Farm Inc., joined Davis-Heineking’s string two years ago when she came out of retirement to pilot the mount. “She was a sale horse of my husband’s, and he was trying to get me back in the saddle,” she said. “He told me to play around with her at home. I did, and before I knew it, he had talked me into going in a small Grand Prix close by. I almost won it and got the taste again. Honestly, I never saw myself here two years ago, so it has been quite a ride.”
Davis-Heineking competed at WEF in the amateur jumper ranks in her 20s and returned with a bang this week. “I never really imagined that I would win one of these Grand Prix!” she said.
After finishing as runner-up, Sweetnam is excited about Karlin van’t Vennehof’s future.
“It’s her first three-star ever and her first night class ever,” he said of the 10-year-old Belgian-bred mare he owns with Seabrook LLC. “She still has a bit of a ways to go with her rideability, but it’s getting better all the time. When I walked the course tonight, it looked like a very tough course, but she’s a good mare. She really gets on with her jump. In the jump-off, maybe I could have been a touch faster, but she did a great job.”
U.S. Olympic team silver medalist Kent Farrington rounded out the podium on his up-and-coming mount Kaprice, owned by Farrington and Tanma Corp.
“This is the biggest class that she’s ever jumped, so she was going super high in the first round,” he said of the 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare. “I was trying to compete in the jump-off going as fast as I thought she’d be comfortable under the lights. Erin had an amazing round. I’ve known her since I was a kid riding in the Midwest, so I’m really excited to see her here in Wellington and coming out with a big win.”
Allyn Mann of sponsor Adequan was impressed with the level of competition converging in Wellington spanning disciplines.
“I think what’s amazing is this afternoon I was across the street watching some of the top dressage horses in the world compete. Then I hopped in a golf cart and took about a five-minute ride to come here to watch some of the top [show jumping] riders and horses in the country compete. This place is electric,” he said. “We’re just all really blessed to be part of it.”
WEF continues through March 29. For more information, visit www.pbiec.com.