Ben Maher has kicked off 2014 the same way he finished 2013 - with a Grand Prix victory.
The showjumper round off the past year by claiming the Grand Prix title at Olympia and he has taken that form across the Atlantic to win the Grand Prix at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. What made the victory even more impressive was that Maher was riding a horse that had only competed a handful of times.
Kavanagh IV was chosen by the champion showjumper in October 2013 while he was resting his other horses and the 12-year-old Anglo European gelding has been an absolute revelation. After initially claiming a win at the Horse of the Year Show, Maher persuaded owners John and Laura Renick to take the horse to Florida to compete in the Grand Prix.
It was a wise decision as Maher and Kavanagh excelled at the $30,000 Mar-a-Lago Club Grand Prix in Palm Beach, Florida. The pair managed to fend off competition from 47 other starters to post the fastest time of 35.017 seconds, winning the class. The US' Paris Sellon and Heracross took second place.
Speaking about his relationship with the horse, Maher said: "He [Kavanagh] takes strides out in a big ring like this; he’s pretty fast. A lot of horses had the planks down, so I took a little bit of time there and left a small margin for the others to catch me, but luckily it was the right decision today.”
It has been a successful few weeks for the Olympic and European gold medalist. Maher received the perfect pre-Christmas present as he won the Grand Prix title at The London International Horse Show on December 22nd. On board Tripple X III, Maher posted a time of 32.66 seconds, taking him ahead of France'sPenelope Leprevost to win the title.