Brown Breaks Through at Sacramento

Harley Brown’s eyes opened wide after seeing the course Leopoldo Palacios built for the $75,000 Anderson Family Grand Prix CSI-W. “I walked it and thought, ‘Holy cow,’ ” Brown said.

“It was just really big and wide. Some people were saying there wasn’t going to be a clear round. But Cassiato was such a champ—he didn’t touch a fence in the first round,” said Brown.

Only Ali Nilforushan and Warco van de Halhoeve joined Brown and Cassiato in the jump-off for the feature event of the Sacramento International, Nov. 6-9 in Rancho Murieta, Calif.

Nilforushan couldn’t keep up the clear efforts, having two rails as first to go in the jump-off. The door was open for Brown.

“I did just cruise around,” Brown said. “If he’d had 4 faults, I would have tried to cover the time and go after him a bit, but when he had two down, I said, ‘OK, relax and take it easy and it should be yours.’ So that’s what I did,” he explained.

Even with one rail and 1 time fault, Brown and Cassiato came out on top.

“It was definitely the biggest World Cup course I’ve jumped this year,” Brown said. “I’ve been winning and placing in a lot of grand prix classes, but not to this level. This is my biggest win in the United States, so it was a nice breakthrough.”

The FEI Show Jumping World Cup Final in April in Las Vegas, Nev., is a definite goal for Brown. As an Australian based in California, he needs to place in the top three of the U.S. West Coast League to qualify. “There’s a long way to go, so I’m not getting too excited,” he said.

After Sacramento, the fifth of 11 qualifiers, Brown and Cassiato were tied for fifth (42 points) in the West Coast World Cup standings, with a third-placed finish in the $50,000 L.A. International CSI-W (Calif.) in September also to their credit. Nilforushan leads the standings with 66 points, followed by Mandy Porter and Richard Spooner who are tied with 45 points.

Brown has big hopes for Cassiato, a 10-year-old Holsteiner (Concerto II—Calinka S). “He’s 18 hands, he’s powerful, and he’s careful. He’s as agile as a cat; he’s just a very good horse,” he said.

Brown wasn’t quite sure what to think three years ago when Kenneth Vinther, who works for Brown’s sponsor, CWD Saddlery, told Brown he should look at Cassiato. At that point, Cassiato was Vinther’s wife’s dressage horse.

“He kept telling me, ‘We’ve got this horse that we think might jump the jumps.’ So, I tried him, and sure enough, he could jump.

“I jumped him, and he jumped to the top of the standards, and I said, ‘I’ve got to buy this horse come hell or high water.’ He hadn’t even been to a jumper show. But I formed a syndicate with 10 shareholders, and we bought him and we’ve all had a wonderful ride with him.”

Cassiato started in the grand prix classes in 2006 and then did quite well in 2007. He won the $30,000 Pebble Beach Grand Prix (Calif.), was second in the $50,000 Oaks Blenheim Fall Tournament CSI-W (Calif.) and was third in the $50,000 Antares Saddlery Grand Prix (Calif.) at the Palms Classic.

Brown had the FEI World Cup Final and the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong in his sights this spring, but Cassiato was injured during the HITS Desert Circuit (Calif.).

“He got a bad back. It took us a while to figure out what was going on with him. He strained a stifle, but we determined it was actually in his back. We do a lot of work on his back, lasering it and taking care of it. If we take care of his back, he’s fine, and I think we’ve finally got it right. He’s healthy now; it’s taken six months, but we’ve got him back to where he was,” Brown said.

Brown, 45, moved to the United States from Melbourne, Australia, in 2003.

“I brought a horse called Blue Diamond over—he was on the short list for the 2006 World Equestrian Games. He was a wonderful horse, but he broke down, unfortunately. But he’s the reason I’m here and I’ve stayed ever since. I always liked America and thought it would be the place I’d like to go, so it’s where I ended up,” Brown said.

Brown runs a successful training business out of San Luis Obispo, Calif., Oak Park Equestrian Center. One of his students, Savannah Carr, was on the gold-medal junior team at the CN North American Junior and Young Riders Championships (Colo.) this summer.

Molly Sorge

Reprinted with permission from: The Chronicle of the Horse