Karl Cook and Caracole de la Roque Cruise to First in $30,000 Traverse City National Grand Prix

The roster of jump-off riders read more like the lineup one would see in a major international grand prix in Saturday’s $30,000 Traverse City National Grand Prix during week one of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF), presented by CaptiveOne Advisors. With riders including Shane Sweetnam (IRL), Karl Cook (USA), and Lorcan Gallagher (IRL) to name a few, the win was going to have to be earned.

Cook certainly earned it on his relatively new mount, Caracole de la Roque, owned by Signe Otsby. 

Cook came into the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring third in the order of five jump-off contenders over Catsy Cruz’s (MEX) track. He laid it all on the line with the 11-year-old Selle Français mare (Zandor Z x Kannan), finishing in 33.128 seconds and taking over the lead. 

“With her, if you’re able to do the leave-out, the rideability is better,” Cook said of the ride on Caracole de la Roque. Cook omitted strides in all the lines on course while still taking slick turns in the corners. “In the jump-off, that pace is easier. She’s so comfortable in that canter it just happens.”

The remaining two entries knew it was a tall order to catch Cook, but still ended up on the podium. Sweetnam and Birdy Du Thot, owned by Ashley Vogel, took second with their time of 37.279 seconds, and Charlotte Jacobs and North Star’s Edocenta claimed third in 38.786 seconds.

Karl Cook and Caracole De La Roque in their winning presentation, pictured with Matt Morrissey of Traverse City Horse Shows. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Since he acquired the ride on the mare, Cook has been planning their rise in show jumping, strategically placing the mare where he thinks they will shine at any given moment. 

“We knew the learning curve was going to take time,” Cook said of getting to know the mare. “Our most recent show was in Kentucky, where we did a two-star and then a three-star, and she was really great in the two-star. We had some issues in the three-star. If we didn’t have that we would’ve done the three-star this week but it made sense dropping it down a little and taking what we learned and applying it. Today I tried to be very patient everywhere and tried to ride it more traditionally. A lot of good things [happened] but there’s definitely still a lot to work on.”

Many in the sport know Caracole de la Roque as the former ride of Julien Epaillard (FRA) that he piloted at the 2022 World Championships. 

“I’d followed her because of what she had done, but I didn’t really pursue her,” Cook said of Caracole de la Roque. “We all want to ride [those top horses]. But it was never on my radar to actually buy her because I didn’t think it was possible. The opportunity came up and at first I was not for the idea because I’d have to follow Julien. But I guess I got convinced.”

Since the horse came home to Cook, Epaillard has not played a huge role in advising him, allowing Cook to develop his own way to ride her. “I went to try her and we talked about what he does and doesn’t do, but it’s hard because every rider is different,” Cook explained of adapting to the ride. “In many ways, I wish I could ride like Julien, but I can’t. If my goal was to ride her like him I’d fail, so I have to do my best to ride her most successfully.”

With the $30,000 Traverse City National Grand Prix win in his pocket, Cook plans to return for CSI3* action with Caracole de la Roque before their CSI5* debut in the second leg of Major League Show Jumping in August, where he can let the mare’s speed shine. 

Traverse City has been a lucky spot over the years for Cook, who is happy to be back. “It’s great,” he said of the horse show. “The weather is great, and they’ve invested a lot in their footing and their facilities so the horses are comfortable here. [There are] little things like the show running on time. It doesn’t take much to keep us happy; good footing and safe barns and we’re happy. It’s good to come back. It’s a good group of people who come here, and it’s great being by the lake.”

Show jumping concludes Sunday afternoon with the $145,100 CSI3* Meijer Grand Prix.

See full results here


Isabelle Ehman and Encanta Capture Forget Me Not Farm Medium Junior/Amateur Jumper Classic

Isabelle Ehman and Encanta. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

With exciting new mounts across all three rings this summer, Isabelle Ehman, of Milton, GA, has been patient with her up-and-coming string. Her patience paid off Saturday with a win in the $7,500 Forget Me Not Farm Medium Junior/Amateur Jumper Classic, along with the championship in the division, aboard Encanta.

“I started leasing her at the beginning of circuit this year and we’ve been doing the Medium [Junior Jumpers],” Ehman said of the 11-year old Holsteiner mare, owned by Windridge Farm LLC. “We’ve had a couple of classic wins. She’s super fast and has such a big stride so that gives you so much range to go from anywhere you want. She’s got the biggest heart so she’s so game for whatever. She’s super competitive and she’s just incredible.”

Ehman also finished sixth in the classic with her second mount, Aston Des Etisses, a 13-year old Selle Français gelding owned by Double E LLC. With big goals to climb into the High Junior Jumpers, Ehman has made consistent progress and shown determination to move up the divisions. 

Isabelle Ehman and Encanta. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“With [Aston Des Etisses], I’d like to get up to the High [Junior Jumpers] soon and start jumping that track and to just stay consistent with [Encanta] in the Mediums,” Ehman said of her plan to move through the levels. “It’s her comfort zone. I just want to keep moving up and jumping bigger. I want to start jumping grand prixs and start building my string more.”

Returning to Traverse City, Ehman has had a successful few weeks so far in all three rings, looking to continue strengthening all partnerships. “I have a new equitation partnership this year, Yung Gravy, so we’re going to keep improving our partnership,” she shared. “He’s the sweetest horse. It’s been a really successful year so far.

“The weather is incredible,” she continued of Northern Michigan. “The [Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International] ring is my favorite ring to ride in,” she shared. “It’s so spread out and not too compact, and the jumps are always beautiful. They’re so well taken care of. The footing is great. I love it here. This is one of my favorite horse shows.”


Jordan Allen and Giorgio Armani Z Claim Championship in Audra Jackson, EXIT Northern Shores Realty Adult Amateur Hunter 18-35

Jordan Allen and Giorgio Armani Z. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Completing their division Saturday afternoon, Jordan Allen, of West Bloomfield, MI, and Giorgio Armani Z, owned by Simon McCarthy, took top honors for the championship ribbon in the Audra Jackson, EXIT Northern Shores Realty Adult Amateur Hunter 18-15 division. Back-to-back wins Saturday plus a third-place finish Friday secured them the victory.

“This is my second week showing him,” Allen said of the 7-year-old Zangersheide gelding. “From the minute I first rode him he’s been pretty straightforward and he’s super quality. His canter is one of the best ever. I think he enjoys competing and has so much quality in there. I’m interested to see how his career progresses as a hunter.”

Acquiring the ride on Giorgio Armani Z through McCarthy, her trainers Ken and Emily Smith of Ashland Farms, and Hardin Towell, Allen is thrilled to be able to be a part of the young horse’s journey, helping develop the horse for the next level.

“I’m lucky because I get to show the younger ones in either the Adult Hunters or the equitation,” she said. “It’s my favorite thing to do to see them at the beginning and how they flourish and do amazing things with the kids.”

A Michigan native, Allen is thrilled to be back in Northern Michigan. “I love the Traverse City Horse Shows,” she said. “It’s one of my favorites. Being with Ashland Farms we always bring up nearly 50 horses. I’ve been coming up here since I was a little girl so it’s so special to see everything they do at the horse show here. I’m always the first to compliment the Morrisseys. Every time I come there’s something new. It’s by far the best place to spend your summer.”

Hunter action concludes Sunday with the $5,000 Hillside Farm Non-Pro Traverse City Hunter Derby and the $25,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby for professionals.