The dictionary definition of the word “puissance” has to do with testing a horse’s ability to jump large obstacles. This heart-pounding class involves horses and riders jumping a huge wall until only one horse and rider combination remains without knocking it down. Here, Jessica and Lisona early in the class before the wall reached its full height. Photo copyright Shawn McMillen Photography, courtesy of the WIHS.
It’s Friday night at the Washington International Horse Show and fans are screaming for Jessica Springsteen, who quietly canters a circle on her Grand Prix mare Lisona. Jessica has been competing at WIHS since she was ten years old. The 22-year old and her 13-year old mare are both calm and cool – you’d never know they were about to jump the biggest jump of their career – a faux brick wall that grew to 2.080 meters (or 6.82 feet) in the show’s famed Puissance class.
On the subject of her mare, Lisona…
“She has so much scope and she’s so much better when the jumps are high. The higher the jump the better she is. Tonight it felt like she was just flying over it. She’s such a scopey, brave horse that I knew nothing disastrous would happen. Classes like this, you just have to have fun with it. So we were just having a good time. I think she enjoyed it.”
The highest puissance class record was 7’ 7.5” set at WIHS in 1983. Here, the chips start to fall for one of Jessica’s competitors (German Show jumper Kama Godek)
On how one should ride a puissance class…
“It’s so big you just kind of want to gallop down to it, but you’re supposed to go really slow, and get kind of close to it so the horse has to really climb over it. That’s kind of the opposite of what your instincts are telling you to do, so it takes a couple times to really learn to ride it correctly.
Jessica and Lisona take a look.
On winning the $25,000 class…
“A lot of wins does mean your spirits are very high. But you can’t get overly confident, that’s one thing I’ve learned in this sport.
About Lisona behind the scenes…
“She’s easy going, even though I know she was a bit of a wild lady when she as younger. She’s 13 now and very relaxed and sweet. She has a great personality. I tend to spoil my horses.”
Taking flight for the big win.
On training at home…
“We have never jumped that big before. With her, we only jump 2 foot fences at home, we focus on keeping her relaxed and quiet.
About how her experience at WIHS has changed over the years…
“I was more nervous when I was coming for pony hunters and equitation finals. There’s a lot of pressure on those classes. It’s much more relaxing doing the open division – like, no more riding at 1 in the morning. It’s kind of nice.”
The afterparty. Photo copyright Shawn McMillen Photography, courtesy of the WIHS.
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I am so happy for Jessica and Lisona! That is a monumental accomplishment! And is as for the hackamore, that is just incredible!
Sounds like fun!