The Puissance is one of the most exciting exhibitions the sport of show jumping has to offer, and no matter the day, time, or venue, the event always draws crowds looking to watch horses and riders performing to the peak level of their ability.

The night of Friday, October 27, 2017 was no different at the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) in Washington, D.C. For the second-to-last night of rated FEI competition, the crowds came out in full force to support the four national and international horse and rider combinations competing in the $25,000 Boeing Puissance.

The Century Link Arena was filled with smiles and a bit of laughter as the crowd sang along to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”. And then, there were the high flyers: El Salvador’s Paulo Santana and Una Du Keske Z, Hunter Holloway and Cassevel in their debut puissance appearance, 2016 competitor Kama Godek and De Grande, and returning champions Aaron Vale and the 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Finou 4 (For Pleasure x Concetto), who tied for 1st place with McLain Ward in the 2016 event and were no strangers to the task at hand.

Once again, Vale and Finou came, saw, and conquered, finishing the night with a victory after being the sole partnership to jump the final height of 6’7. Following the round, with daughter in hand, Vale expressed his thoughts on the night—and how he was more than ready to jump a bigger height.

“This is always a great class to get some gas money and pay your entry fees,” joked Vale. “Many times, I’ve shown horses that weren’t necessarily qualified to go in this class, but I’ve eked out a lot of nice 2nd place finishes to accomplish my goals. This horse actually has quite a bit of talent for this. It feels like he could jump a very big wall if the class played out that way. He’s very comfortable doing it and it would be exciting to touch something pretty high with him one day.”

How high is too high? For Vale, his personal best sits at 7’2 1/4, a feat that he is more than willing to try and beat. As the last man standing in the arena, Vale chose to return to jump the 6’7 track for two reasons.

“We have a big crowd here, and my horse is very fresh and he needs work; he will be jumping the grand prix tomorrow night. Last year, he jumped four rounds and then jumped clean in the grand prix, so three rounds might not have been enough work for him. Maybe I should’ve come back one more time!,” joked Vale.

The gelding who so confidently jumped those three rounds and the night’s giant puissance wall has one secret that would’ve shocked the crowd: He’s blind in his left eye. Though it doesn’t hinder his ability to perform, it can at times make him a nervous horse, noted Vale.

“He’s got a ton of ability. Keeping him relaxed and confident without being worried about what’s behind him is the trick.”

-Photos by Tori Repole.

Watch the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) live on the USEF Network. Those who are not US Equestrian members can sign up for a free fan membership to watch using promo code WIHS17.