Mon, September 23, 2013

Kessler impresses

By Rod Kelly, QMI Agency


Reed Kessler (QMI Agency)


CALGARY - Showjumping fans who had the chance to take in equestrian competitions at the National at Spruce Meadows this past week, more than likely took notice of at least one up-and-coming riding sensation.

Seventeen-year-old American Reed Kessler and her 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare Cylana shone again, something that’s become somewhat of a habit through 2012 for the young rider from Armonk, N.Y.

Kessler and Cylana teamed up to win the 1.60-metre Spectra Energy Cup in the competition’s early going Thursday.

The rider, who was named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s female athlete of the month for March after winning an Olympic Selection Trial south of the border, outbattled second-place finisher Robert Whitaker of Great Britain and third-place finisher Eric Lamaze of Canada in a jumpoff to earn her first win in the International Ring.

On that memorable night at Spruce Meadows, Kessler’s speedy, fault-free jumpoff time of 41.31 led the way.

After the win, a jubilant Kessler said she was honoured to beat such respected riders and added that she’d have to give Cylana a break for the rest of the National tournament in south Calgary.

“I’d love to show her again here at the weekend Grand Prix,” Kessler said. “But there’s another Olympic trial coming up.

“I don’t want to get too greedy.”

Even reigning Olympic individual jumping gold medallist Lamaze had to tip his hat to Kessler that night.

“It’s hard to win when you’re up against these young riders who go so fast,” he said. “That was a very fast jumpoff time.”

In March, Kessler also earned a third-place showing at the U.S. National Show Jumping Championship and Olympic trials aboard 12-year-old gelding Mika.

She’s ranked first and fifth on the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s team long list for this year’s Olympic Games in London, England, which start in July.

And while all this success has arrived so fast for a rider who only jumped in her first World Cup qualifier this year, Kessler seems to handle her accomplishments with an impressive amount of maturity.

“At the end of the day, I try to approach (every jump) like it’s just another jump,” she said.

“It doesn’t help if I put extra pressure on myself.”

rod.kelly@sunmedia.ca