It’s been sixteen years since Kim Severson last visited the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, winning the CCI*** aboard the legendary Winsome Adante.
Today, the Star-Spangled Banner rang out across the Marlborough Arena again as history repeated itself on this happy hunting ground and Kim took the title with her ‘unreal’ partner, Cooley Cross Border.
For Kim and Cross, the victory caps off a long summer dedicated to improving the horse’s fitness and performance.
After fitness issues surfaced at the horse’s 4* debut at Rolex earlier this year, Kim rerouted to Tattersalls. Here, she says, he was ‘totally overwhelmed’, and so it was decided that he would spend the summer at Cooley Farm, from which he was bought. Richard Sheane, who owns the sport horse empire in Co Wicklow, Ireland, has been instrumental in revolutionising Cross’ approach to the job.
“I have to thank the team at Cooley Farm – they’ve done the fitness work and looked after him all summer, and I’ve been able to fly back and forth to compete him,” said an elated Kim. She made six trips to Ireland throughout the summer, competing at unfamiliar venues where, she says, she just had to ‘show up and ride!’
“It was so good for me to come over and do it – I just had to show up and jump what I saw, without thinking about what it was going to be like. I’ve been able to compete him a lot more than I would at home, too, because the ground’s so good in Ireland. Coming over has helped me get back to where I used to be.”
Where she used to be – and arguably is again – is at the forefront of the world stage, collecting accolades aboard the special sort of horse that comes along once in a lifetime – and then only for the lucky ones. Now she finds herself with another exceptional talent in her string.
“He’s an amazing jumper – he’s just unreal,” she enthused. “I can really trust him to go in there and do it. I always knew he had this sort of win in him, but it’s just taken a long time to get there. You never go in expecting it, so to win it is pretty incredible. I’m elated, I’m thrilled for the horse, and thrilled for the owners.”
Kim’s head groom Andi Lawrence has been working with the horse for two years, and says that she has found being separated from her charge hard.
“It’s been amazing working with him,” she said. “Not seeing him all summer has definitely been tough – he’s just the best, and he’s always the same, whether he’s in the barn or in the field. He’s amazing.”
The sentiment was shared by Team USA connections and supporters in the collecting ring as Kim and Cross took their lap of honour.
“To come back and do what I did sixteen years ago is pretty special – although it makes me feel old!” she laughed. “The last time I came here I was the baby, and now I’m one of the older ones.”
Laura Collett and Mr Bass put in a flawless double-clear over Di Boddy’s tricky showjumping track to move up to second place, after Julia Krajewski and Pippa Funnell each pulled two rails to drop to third and fifth, respectively.
Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter dropped from sixth place to twelfth after four poles hit the floor.
“She wasn’t really jumping like she normally does,” she said of the chestnut mare, who’ll now head back to the US and have a well-deserved holiday.
Doug Payne and Vandiver may not have had the day they had hoped for, with three rails dropping them two places to fourteenth, but they earned a coveted qualification for next year’s World Equestrian Games, and valuable experience working in new conditions.
“Man, it’s frustrating!” said Doug after his round. “I should have used bigger studs, but you live and learn – we don’t really jump on grass in the States. It’s all a learning experience. In normal conditions he’s right there with me but out there he was just slipping a little bit.”
Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 pulled just one rail to move up from 31st to 25th position.
“I’m super stoked – it’s been a good redemption weekend,” said Andrea. “This is her third CCI this year so she’ll have a holiday now, and then we’ll look ahead to Rolex and Burghley next year. I’d lie to spend more time over here, but on a planned trip next time! It’s been really educational to be over here.”
Lauren Kieffer and Landmarks Monte Carlo stood 13th after cross country, but after a fall from DA Duras in the CIC*** earlier in the day, she opted to withdraw before showjumping.
The eight and nine-year-old CIC***, which is considered a great showcase for the sport’s future stars, was won by another Cooley graduate – Cooley Lands, ridden by British-based Aussie Chris Burton.
“He’s very smart and so clever to ride,” said Chris of the exciting young horse, who will contest Boekelo’s CCI*** next month.
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z added just 8.8 time penalties to finish 5th in the class.
One of the great heartbreaks of the weekend was the last-minute cancellation of the high jump class this afternoon, in which riders pay the price for poles down by removing an article of clothing. I’m told it was too slippery to run the class – I think the riders were just being terribly windy about the cold snap. So no bulging British biceps for you this time – but, dear readers, I shall make it my mission to provide you with what you need at the earliest possible opportunity.
So that’s a wrap on an incredible week of competition at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, and what a way to end it! I like to think that Kim has figured out which side of her shiny new SsangYong Tivoli to get in and is currently doing donuts in the Marlborough Arena to some serious Beyonce bangers.
…a girl can dream.
Thanks for following along with all the barminess from Blenheim – absolutely #chuffedtobits to have had you all along for the ride. I’ll be bringing you more madness from across the pond soon, but in the meantime, go Americans abroad, go Kim Severson, and GO EVENTING!