Aaron Vale Jumps to Puissance Victory at WIHS
The 60th Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) continued on Friday, October 26, with some of its most exciting competition and entertaining exhibitions during Military Night. Reaching great heights with victory in the $25,000 Land Rover Puissance were Aaron Vale of Williston, FL, and Finou 4.
The $25,000 Land Rover Puissance is one of the most popular classes at WIHS to attend, and Friday night’s feature class didn’t disappoint. Aaron Vale and Finou 4, owned by Thinks Like A Horse, jumped to a height of 6’11 ½” to capture victory for the third year in a row. With a small field in the class, it came down to two very game riders that kept going over five rounds of competition. The wall started at 5’9” and was raised to 6’2”, 6’6”, 6’8 ½”, and finally to 6’11 ½”. Vale and Finou 4 stayed clear, while Andy Kocher and Blaze of Glory II, owned by Erica Hatfield, made it to the final round before knocking blocks off the top of the wall to finish in second place. “I was just hoping somebody could hang in there a while, so we could get a decent class for the crowd,” said Vale. “It was great. Andy’s horse jumped it well and hung in there until the last round. It made a really good class and worked out the way that I wanted. I got a little competition, but I still got the blue!”
This is Vale’s fifth win in the puissance class at WIHS, with previous wins coming in 1996 with Big Joe, in 1998 on Happyness, and now three consecutive years with Finou 4, who seems to have a certain something that makes him successful over the big wall despite blindness in his left eye. “He’s got a lot of ability,” said Vale of the 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding by For Pleasure. “He’s very limber, plus he’s got a lot of power, so it just seems to be easy for him. I think they could keep raising it, and I’d keep riding him to it.”
With their three wins in a row, Vale and Finou 4 have retired the Congressman’s Challenge Trophy, donated by the Late Honorable Rogers C.B. Morton and the Late Honorable F. Robert Watkins, which is presented to the winning owner, Thinks Like A Horse.“Ever since I was a kid, the puissance was a class I was interested in,” said Vale, who rode in his first puissance at the age of 13. “I’ve always had a love for the class. It’s about the only one left in the country, so it’s special to come do it, and they always get a great crowd. It’s always a fun night – especially when you have a horse that’s pretty good at it. I’ve always ridden in the class, even if I didn’t have a horse that was good at the job. I always threw myself over and tried to bring the horse with me. At this point, it’s kind of nice to have a horse that’s good at it.”
As the winning horse, Finou 4 was presented with the Sweet ’N Low Trophy, donated by Mr. and Mrs. Donald G. Tober, who were at Capital One Arena to present the trophy. Vale was presented with the Armed Forces Cup.