By Catie Staszak/Catie Staszak Media
The fifth week of the Tryon Fall series marked the final competition of a six-month stint on the road for Tanner Korotkin.
He made it count.
Korotkin, 20, not only kicked off his week by recording his first FEI ranking class win in the $37,000 CSI3* FEI Power & Speed with Castlewood Farm’s Deauville S. Just 24 hours later, he also topped the $37,000 CSI3* FEI Welcome Stake, besting a 13-horse jump-off aboard Sandalwood Farms’ Volo’s Diamond, a horse he’s had for just three months.
“I was absolutely thrilled just heading into the jump-off,” Korotkin said. “I wanted to go for the win, but with the amount of horses and riders in there that were also fast, I just wanted to give it my best shot while still getting to know [Volo’s Diamond]. I knew that might not necessarily win the class, but I wanted to go fast enough that I could learn more [about my horse] to be able to take more of a chance in the future. It just so happened that it worked out.”
The son of professionals Alan and Kirsty Korotkin, who operate their own Castlewood Farm out of Wellington, FL, Tanner’s success as a junior rider has quickly translated to his professional career. But over the course of the past 14 months, he’s further honed his skills as a rider for Irish Olympian Shane Sweetnam.
It was Sweetnam who first imported Volo’s Diamond, a 10-year-old Oldenrburg gelding (Stakkatol x Baloubet du Rouet) earlier this year. While Korotkin’s role has mostly involved developing younger mounts and riding client horses at Sweetnam’s Sweet Oak Farm, when Korotkin was searching for his next top partner, Sweetnam suggested pairing with the scopey grey.
The connection has been gradual, but when the pair jumped double clear to finish fifth in the $137,000 CSI3* Grand Prix at Tryon Fall 4, Korotkin felt a breakthrough under the lights.
“We had done a few grand prix classes in Michigan [over the summer], but that was the biggest grand prix that we had jumped, and it was a night class,” Korotkin explained. “He really showed himself there and his true athletic ability. He was jumping better and better as we went around.”
Sometimes, when you’re hot, you have to ride the wave. Korotkin’s confidence carried over to the following week, and when he brought forward his veteran partner Deauville S to the $37,000 CSI3* FEI Power & Speed, there was no stopping them. Topping a strong field of 42 combinations, Korotkin and “Doodle” were comfortable winners over Karl Cook and Kalinka van’t Zorgvliet.
“With Doodle, he’s so fast, he gives you a chance to win every single time,” Korotkin said. “We were able to go at full speed, and I think it was all the tight turns and how fast he is off the ground that won it for us. There’s not much airtime with him. There are horses that are just as fast or faster than he is, but he just skims across the jumps, and you don’t waste seconds in the air.”
In Doodle, Korotkin has realized the difference that having a strong partnership can make in the ring. Having ridden sale horses for much of his life, the quirky gelding has become a mainstay in his string over the past year and a half, contributing to wins in the competitive U25 division at the Winter Equestrian Festival and top placings up to the CSI4* level.
“We have such a good partnership; I know him like the back of my hand,” Korotkin said. “He’s one of the first horses in my life that I’ve really had this much of a bond with. Every round with him, I’m extremely confident.”
Deauville S is not a horse to miss. The big-bodied bay is known for his often-sideways movement, with legs always in motion.
“He’s a very strange but happy horse,” Korotkin said, fondly. “He canters sideways and all of that. He’s a hot horse, but in the barn, he’ll stand still. You can let him loose, and he won’t go anywhere. He has a stuffed animal in his stall that he’s had since [former rider Laura Kraut] had him. Laura even had a psychic come for him once!”
Korotkin’s hot streak continued onward to the $37,000 CSI3* Welcome Stake, this time with the more conventional but less experienced Volo’s Diamond. But confidence counts, and this partnership is coming together at the right time, with the competitive winter season ahead at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington.
“I’m mainly just learning his own little quirks,” Korotkin said. He can be a little spooky when he goes into the ring, but overall he’s a very confident horse. The main thing that I’ve worked on with him is his flatwork before the class and learning what I need to do to help him jump as well as possible. The rideability is key, and I’m working on improving his responsiveness to my leg. He’s 10, but he’s still got a good bit to learn.”
As does his rider, who is soaking in every bit of information he can in his day-to-day work and ring experience. In addition to Deauville S and Volo’s Diamond, Korotkin is also developing 8-year-old Lyon, who won a 1.40m class at Traverse City’s fall circuit, and 7-year-old Orwell.
“It’s one thing going in the ring and showing an older horse. It’s another to be developing younger horses,” Korotkin said. “There is so much for them to learn. With the younger horses that Shane has, I develop them on the flat and try to bring that over to the show ring and keep improving. With some young horses, you might not necessarily have the best round in the 1.40m, but then you work on making that better for the next time you go in the ring.”
Following a career-best week, Korotkin returned to Wellington and is home for the first time since April. His focus is forward; he wants to keep earning opportunities, gaining experience and improving in and out of the saddle.
“I want to keep competing in some bigger grand prixs during WEF,” he said. “I just want to keep climbing and getting experience. If some good results happen along the way, that’s great, but I just want to keep going.”