Kent Farrington's comeback continues at Spruce Meadows opener
Former world No. 1 suffered horrific leg break after fall earlier in the year
As the temperatures begin to climb across Canada, competition at Spruce Meadows in Calgary also starts to heat up with the National, which kicks off the 43rd season of show jumping at the prestigious venue.
The Summer Series attracts some of the best equestrians and horses from around the world for a challenging four weeks of competition.
- WATCH LIVE | Spruce Meadows championship show jumping, Saturday at 4 p.m. ET
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One rider in particular that will be ready for the challenge is former world No. 1 Kent Farrington, who only recently returned to high-level competition following a broken leg in February.
The 37-year-old American fell off Jenn Gates' horse Lucifer V during a 1.30-metre class in Wellington, Fla., landing on his right foot. He underwent surgery as well as 11 weeks of rehabilitation to heal the injury before making a comeback in May at the Royal Windsor Horse Show.
Made 'baby steps'
"The first couple of times I was a little apprehensive – I thought 'am I going to remember how to ride?' I had a lot of pain the first time, I couldn't ride in the stirrups, but I had to control my mindset and tell myself it was going to get better," Farrington said of his return to riding in an interview with Rolex Testimonee.
"I had to accept I could only make baby steps and each day it would get a little bit better."
His unfortunate fall also brought a tumble down the world rankings, as he dropped to fifth. He returned to form with an impressive showing Thursday at a venue that has treated him very well in the past.
He earned his way back to the top spot thanks to a win in a jump-off on Thursday afternoon aboard Jasper.
Farrington has won the marquee Grand Prix event three times (2012, 2013 and 2015) on two different horses (Voyeur and Uceko).
Not an easy task
As always, Farrington will have his work cut out for him, as the 1.60m event will feature a full field of 50 entries.
Among them will be Canadian Olympic champion Eric Lamaze. The 50-year-old veteran of Schomberg, Ont., is a consistent threat, having won with famed horse Hickstead in 2010 and was the runner-up two years ago with Fine Lady 5.
That year, Lamaze finished behind Ireland's Conor Swail, who will also be attempting to reclaim the top prize alongside countryman and former winner Daniel Coyle.
Last year's winner Mexico's Patricio Pasquel returns with his 11-year-old gelding Babel. The pair won it in an exciting four-horse jump-off. Pasquel edged Canadian Keann White by just three seconds.
Given the deep field this year, another thrilling finish should be in store.
Other Canadians that could be in the mix include Mario Deslauriers, Tiffany Foster and Ben Asselin. Captain Canada Ian Millar is currently without a Grand Prix horse and will sit out the National.