Two fences from home in the first round of the CSI3* tbird Grand Prix Saturday at Thunderbird Show Park, a clear round looked unlikely for Uma O’Neill (NZL) and Clockwise of Greenhill Z.
Heading toward the penultimate vertical, Clockwise’s bridle slipped over his ears. The tack fell beneath his nose, but the stallion held onto his bit.
Instead of trying to pull up, O’Neill determinedly continued on, managing to steer right to the final oxer. The pair cleared the fence and returned without issue to the ingate, where the stallion was safely stopped, and his bridle was repositioned—not that he seemed to need it at that point.
The pair would go on to win the class, besting a five-horse jump-off in the final international Grand Prix event of the 2023 Thunderbird Show Park season.
“It was very wet from the rain, and as I kept going around the [first round] course, I noticed that there was more and more bonnet sticking up above his ears,” O’Neill shared. “Over [the B element] of the triple [combination] I got a little concerned, and cantering to the Odlum Brown oxer, I thought the bonnet might be covering his eyes, and I wasn’t quite sure where his vision was, but he still felt amazing.
“I landed off the next jump, and the bridle went over his ears,” she continued. “He started to back off, but I kept my leg on, and he felt confident, so I decided to keep going. There was only one jump left, and he felt great.”
They jumped clear again in the second round, crossing the timers of Joey Rycroft’s (CAN) short course in 41.11 seconds. Jaehee Jeon (KOR) finished just behind the winning pair in second with Kadans van de Mispelaere (41.78s), followed by Kassidy Keith (CAN) and Havana, who had the time but also a single knockdown on their scorecard (4/40.57s).
There was an option to sneak inside of the combination to the vertical three fences from home in the jump-off, but the top three combinations all elected to forgo it, after Tiffany Foster attempted the track and had the rail down aboard exciting 8-year-old, Kadans. That pair ultimately finished fourth.
“I watched Tiffany go, and I was not confident, especially turning right, about the inside turn after the double,” O’Neill said. “I decided that the best decision for me was to go quickly around to that vertical. If anyone wanted to try that inside turn after me, they would be taking that risk. [Clockwise] just felt really on it and smooth and followed me everywhere.”
O’Neill and Clockwise have been partnered for nearly a decade, climbing the ranks from the junior jumpers and the North American Youth Championships (then called the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships) to the Tokyo Olympic Games. The stallion is feeling as fresh as ever at age 16. According to Jumpr App, this year Clockwise is jumping clear 40 percent of the time at 1.50m.
“I have so much confidence in him. I know he knows the job, and it’s just about keeping him fresh, happy and loose in his body. He’s ready to go,” O’Neill said. “He had a little bit of a lighter spring and summer this year. He came back feeling really fresh. He spent most of that time swimming at Premier Equine Center [in Oakdale, CA]. It’s been super beneficial at his age, just keeping his fitness up with less concussion on his joints.”
Many memorable results have come at tbird over the course of their partnership, including a win in the 2018 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Vancouver, when they produced the only clear effort of the class.
“Tbird is a place that has really done a lot for my career and Clockwise’s career,” O’Neill said. “We’ve had many special memories here, and the Tidball family and staff at tbird have always felt like family.”
CSI3* tbird Grand Prix 1.50m
Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time
1. Clockwise of Greenhill Z / Uma O’Neill / NZL / Uma O’Neill / 0/0 41.11
2. Kadans van de Misplelaere / Jaehee Jeon / KOR / Brother Fortune Equestrian Ltd / 0/0 41.78
3. Havana / Kassidy Keith / CAN / Kassidy Keith / 0/4 40.57
4. Kadans / Tiffany Foster / CAN / Artisan Farms LLC / 0/4 43.12
5. Un Diamant des Forets / Jim Ifko / CAN / Eventyre Farms Ltd / 0/8 39.95
6. NKH Carrido / Brooke Morin / USA / Strasburg Morin Inc / 3 91.74
7. Odysseus / Kyle King / USA / Patricia Vasey / 4 83.65
8. Capitale 6 / Charlie Jones / GBR / Morning Star Sporthorses / 4 86.19
9. SIG Chiari / Kyle King / USA / Kyle King / 4 86.28
10. Igali LN / Braden James / CAN / James James Sport Horses / 4 86.32