Aaron Vale and Gray’s Inn Deliver in the $182,000 Florida Coast Equipment Grand Prix CSI4*

Aaron Vale and Gray’s Inn winning the $182,000 Florida Coast Equipment Grand Prix CSI4*. Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography

Ocala, FL – Crowds gathered at World Equestrian Center – Ocala for the $182,000 Florida Coast Equipment Grand Prix CSI4*, eager to witness some of the world’s best competitors vie for top honors under the lights of the WEC Grand Arena. Representing twelve different nations, the field featured 22 horse-and-rider combinations on Saturday night. Hometown hero Aaron Vale (USA) emerged victorious, piloting Thinkslikeahorse’s Gray’s Inn (Cannavaro x Oscar) to his first-ever international win.

FEI Level IV course designer Alan Wade (IRL) set the complex tracks for Saturday’s event, where only five combinations managed to find the key to a clear round. The strong jump-off field consisted of riders from Ireland, Spain, the United States, Austria, and Brazil.

Darragh Kerins and Lissino jumping to second place. Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography

Darragh Kerins (IRL) was the first to return, piloting Eve Jobs’ 13-year-old Holsteiner gelding Lissino (Guardus Llmbus x San Patrignano Cassini) to a quick track, setting the pace at 38.23 seconds, ultimately enough to secure second place. Gonzalo Busca (ESP) followed, giving a solid performance aboard Steven Bluman’s Pinot Gris Di Fer but incurred an unfortunate rail in 38.86 seconds.

Aaron Vale and Gray’s Inn. Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography

Aaron Vale (USA) was third to go and optimistic with Thinkslikeahorse’s Gray’s Inn. “He’s my wife’s horse, so I don’t get on him very often. I know the horse and see him every day, but she does 95 percent of the riding,” he shared. “He had a great night on Thursday, so I felt pretty good heading into the class tonight. I watched Darragh and he was quite good. He did nine back to [fence three], and I thought it would be the nine. But I got down the first eight so easily, I started my turn early because I had the balance right on top of the fence. So, I got over in eight and another eight to the combination. I had to push to get to the liverpool in nine, and I was thinking there was a possible seven coming home, but my horse wasn’t in perfect balance at the second-to-last jump, so I gave him a break and a moment to figure out how to clear it.” 

The pair flew over the final fence, not touching a single rail, in a mere 36.32 seconds to take the top spot on the leaderboard. 

Aaron Vale and Gray’s Inn accepting their first place awards presented by Jim Wolf of World Equestrian Center, Timmothy Morris; Business Development Manager at Florida Coast Equipment and Isaiah Webb; Ocala Sales Manager at Florida Coast Equipment. Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography

Gray’s Inn isn’t Vale’s usual partner; his wife, Mallory Vale, has been riding the talented 10-year-old Warmblood gelding since he was six. “It was my wife’s idea,” laughed Vale. “She’s been asking me for a long time, ‘Do you want my horse?’ and I always said no. She’s been doing so well with him and knocking on the door. But this week, I didn’t have a horse, so she told me I was showing her horse, and the rest is history. What a production my wife has made for me, allowing me to step in and win a class like this.”