By Sydney Masters Durieux
CWD US Sales Support Manager Kenneth Vinther is a familiar face on the grounds of internationally acclaimed show jumping competitions. He can often be found discussing tack with top trainers, chatting about future goals with both young and elite riders, or making plans with show management. But the 39-year-old Danish immigrant can also be seen mounted in his own CWD saddle competing in the jumpers.
Kenneth began his career in the horse world in Europe when he was 14. Initially he excelled in vaulting, but later changed his focus to riding and training. Certified instructor and professional are on his resume.
“I never had my own horse before moving to America,” explained Kenneth, who now has Amateur status. “By chance, I got involved with CWD and I was the first sales rep here on the West Coast.” He and his wife, dressage rider Karen Ball, now call the private community of Coto de Caza in Southern California home base. But he travels extensively to introduce equestrian enthusiasts around the globe to CWD’s precision products.
Seoul in the Spring
In March, Kenneth was invited to compete as an individual at the Korean Racing Authority’s (KRA) annual CSI 2* show jumping event held at the Seoul Olympic Equestrian Park. “I have been doing business with the horse community there for some time now, and I received a personal invitation from the Korean Equestrian Federation (KEF).” He joined riders from Asia, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Norway, Japan, New Zealand, Thailand and the United States for three days of competition.
“You must have an international rider’s number to compete there, which I didn’t have at the time,” he admitted with a smile. “I had to call my old trainer Johnny Hansen, who is a judge back home. He went to the Danish Riding Association on my behalf to get me a number. The day I arrived in Seoul was the day it actually came through. It was a good thing, as they can disqualify you without one!”
On their first day, the visitors met at the stadium to draw straws and determine their mount for weekend. “Each of the Korean riders had to bring two horses; one for them to show, and the second for the guest competitor. Most were German bred and I rode a 10 year old warmblood named Centorio 25. He was a very nice, powerful, and scopey horse, but a little bit tricky,” he admitted. “We were allowed to flat for 20 minutes, and then jump six fences.”
A little nightlife Seoul-style followed. “We were invited out to experience the local bars and restaurants and went to a very traditional Korean place, where we sat on the floor for dinner. Then we headed out to a Karaoke bar, which is huge there.” Everyone participated in the entertainment, and Vinther belted out a tune by Elton John. “They love whiskey,” he laughed, “and they drink tons of it. It was fun and interesting to see the different cultures, meet new contacts and riders. Everybody was cool.”
The following morning the foreigners were picked up from the Ritz Carlton and transported to stadium for their first over fences test. “It was a speed class, essentially a warm up, with just one round. Each country had a team,” recalled Kenneth, “but I was the only representative of Denmark.” Thomas Holz of Germany won the 1.30m individual class, with Jack Hardin Towell, Jr. of the US taking second. Kenneth had one rail and was just out of the ribbons.
On the final last day there was a two-round class set at 1.40-1.45m. “The officials and course designer were all Korean. The courses were fair, big, and technical – but in a good way. It was televised later in the day, which was great as I was able to watch.” This time Jamie Kermond of Australia won the individual and Linn Widmark of Sweden placed second, with Vinther coming in tenth place.
“Gaming is huge in Korea, but they really want to expand beyond racing, and are focusing on show jumping,” Kenneth explained as he watched the action that was happening on the grand prix field at the Blenheim Spring Classic II. “They have already established their breeding program for racing and are now doing the same thing with jumpers. They have a KRA show jumping team and are embracing the sport in a big way. They want to make the KRA Cup a CSI3* event next year.”
When asked about the experience overall, he explained, “I feel that the Koreans are very serious, good riders. The sport is growing in popularity, with more than 300 riding clubs, and a horse show series. The event was run very well. The KRA sponsors their riding, training and breeding programs, and they are sending their riders to Germany, as well as to California for the summer shows.” And about Korea? “I stayed for a week, took a few tours, and explored the city of Seoul, which is huge with more than 10 million people.”
It seems through his myriad experiences in and out of the saddle, Kenneth Vinther certainly has an equestrian soul. Learning from his adventure, we now know to watch for talented riders coming our way from Seoul. One Korean rider that lives here in the US caught our eye last year, Michael Whang. Under the tutelage of Duncan McIntosh, this talented and driven equestrian is another one to watch.
Thank you Kenneth for your Seoul story.