Monday, April 23, 2012

Captain America and the Comeback Kid...

When Rich Fellers galloped into the ring on Flexible, the show jumping audience filling the Brabanthallen held its collective breath.  The handsome Fellers, with the American flag emblazoned on his helmet, and his diminutive 16 year-old stallion were on the very edge of making an unlikely Cinderalla story come true.

The talent filled German team were the arguable favorites coming in to the 2012 Rolex FEI World Cup Final.  The Dutch had the advantage of home turf.  Rolf-Goran Bengston, reigning European Champion and #1 in the Rolex Rankings, was also competing.  The white haired American and his catty little stallion were hardly the oddsmakers' favorite to take home the title.

Luckily Rich Fellers and Flexible don't pay much attention to the oddsmakers.  Twice over the course of Flexible's career Rich has nursed Flexible back from potentially career ending injuries (a blocked main leg artery in 2003 and a badly damaged shoulder after a fall into a ravine in 2006).  Each time Flexible has come back to competition, and no doubt the bonds forged during those times have been a great part of their ensuing success.  As Fellers said after his win, "He’s like a pet, I love him and he loves me, we have a great relationship and we know each other very well.”

The pair have won numerous Grands Prixs, and have also enjoyed success at the World Cup before, coming in second in 2008 and winning the opening speed leg in Geneva in 2010.  Rich and Flexible repeated that feat this year as well, besting 37 starters over Dutch designer Louis Konickx's challenging course on Day One.

So, cue the spotlights for the jump-off on the final day.   Here's your Cinderella story, a plucky horse and a rider so nice and respected by his peers that when he was in danger of not making the Finals in 2009, not one but two riders (Will Simpson and Jill Humphrey) declined their berths in favor of Rich and Flexible.  The arena was poised on the edge of their seats: Could the oldest horse in the competition dig down deep and produce yet another clear and fast round against Switzerland's Steve Geurdat, a well known speed rider on a younger horse?

Flexible, who may be smaller than many of the gargantuan warmbloods he regularly competes against, is amazingly agile over the fences and extremely fast across the floor.  Fellers went second, and knew that if he rode a plan similar to that of Geurdat, 8 strides to the penultimate fence, his stallion's quickness would give him a good chance to beat the Swiss pair.  The American team raced around the course and galloped the last eight strides to the final fence.  Flexible leaped into the air one last time, and landed with the rails in the cups as the timer stopped at 25.97, .64 seconds faster than the Swiss duo.

The crowd at the Brabanthallen, who know good show jumping and good horsemanship when they see it, responded to the gallant pair's efforts by giving them a rousing standing ovation. 

Congratulations to Rich, to Flexible, to Flexible's owners Harry and Mollie Chapman, and to Team Flexible.  It couldn't have happened to a nicer or more deserving team.

Please take a few minutes to enjoy Rich and Flexible's jump off, and the ensuing awards presentation, courtesy of .  Thanks for reading!


  1. Thrilling! What a great story and a beautiful partnership. Thanks for posting. :)

  2. Love this! Beautiful story and beautiful round!