Canadian eventer Holly Jacks-Smither has announced that she will be competing at the Les Etoiles de Pau CCI5*-L on October 24-27 with her partner, the 14-year-old OTTB gelding More Inspiration.

Holly explained her motivation for this overseas venture. “It’s one of only six five-stars in the world; it’s very twisty and turny and technical, and I’m sitting on a horse that’s a really technical ride and has always flourished in situations like that. I had it on my list to go two years ago, and I had all my stuff together and my dad had a stroke, so I didn’t go. And then the horse was injured last year and I wasn’t sure if he’d come back. We’ve taken the whole year to bring him back. I hadn’t voiced to anybody that I wanted to go to Pau this year; I wanted to run him a couple of times and make sure my vet went over him and that he was happy. I ran him at Plantation [Field] two weeks ago and my vet looked at him and said, ‘Your horse has never been better – go to Pau.'”

She added, “There are no five stars in North America at this time of year and I have a really good five-star horse and I don’t want to run four-stars with him if I can get experience overseas.” Interesting to note that Pau is also an Olympic qualifying event, which Holly says is also a factor in her decision. She and Morris currently sit 13th on the Group D Olympic ranking list; the top two horse-rider combinations will be invited to Tokyo.

Morris, who has “run around Kentucky a couple of times” had already qualified for this 5*, with the stipulation that he must run an Advanced or 4* within three months – which they did at Bromont in Quebec and Plantation Field in Pennsylvania. “I just wanted to make sure that I could run fast and hard and that I got a blessing from my vet who has been working really hard with me, just to make sure he’s a hundred percent because I want to keep this horse for a long time and I don’t want to do anything that he isn’t ready to physically do.”

The plan to compete in France had been in the works for a while, but went slightly awry. “I sold a few horses this year and put the money away to go to Pau, but when I’d done my budget I was basing it on the fact that other North American horses were going,” said Holly. Unfortunately, this cost-sharing situation did not pan out when several riders did not qualify and another one was injured. Jessica Roberts, a good friend and one of Holly’s students, has set up an online silent auction to help raise funds. (Visit for details.)

Holly is looking forward to the adventure. “I’m actually going over early and I’m going to stay in Chantilly. The girl that I’m bringing to groom gallops for Roger Attfield. We’re going to try to get Roger to set us up galloping horses for a week before we leave so we won’t be bored with one horse over there and still be fit!”

Pau hosts the only CCI5*-L in France and attracts over 40,000 fans annually. The notoriously challenging course is designed by Pierre Michelet and was contested by 17 nations in 2018, with Thibault Fournier (FRA) emerging as the winner. For more info, click here.