Whitney Mahloch couldn’t wipe the smile off her face all the way around her first CIC3* track here at Richland Park this afternoon. I watched her storm through two of the trickiest questions on the course, the first water complex and the sunken road, and in mid-air over the final element of each a smile crept over her face, giving way to a massive grin upon safe landing.
And truly, it must have felt like a dream, a 26-year-old tackling the biggest course of her life on an OTTB she bought for $500 and brought up the levels herself (we recounted the story of Whitney and “Milo” in our CIC3* dressage recap here). After leading on a personal best dressage score of 44.6 on Thursday, their double-clear round today — the only double-clear in their division — ensured their place atop a stacked scoreboard.
After discovering that she’d taken the dressage lead, Whitney was excited but determined not to let it mess with her head. After her test she told us, “I’m glad we’re doing this well this early, but I’m trying to stay calm. I’m trying to be positive about it.”
But when she woke up early this morning (or perhaps “woke up” is the wrong phrase, as she says she didn’t really sleep), the nerves were there: “I was so nauseous, I didn’t eat much for breakfast because I thought everything was going to come up.” The rain delays didn’t help matters, as she trotted over to warm-up early in a panic thinking she was late. Then Milo had an uncharacteristic stop in the warm-up, but Whitney says it was actually a good wake-up call that she needed to sit up and ride.
And “sit up and ride” she did, executing the plan she’d made while walking the course with Dorothy Crowell. They looked confident and attacking, and Milo wore his Thoroughbred heart on his sleeve as he hunted down one obstacle after the next.
She recounted her ride to us, fence by fence, detail by detail, and listening to her think aloud it was clear that her success today didn’t come by luck but by meticulous plan. “I feel like I’ve done my homework,” she said.
They were the only pair in the division to beat the clock, which they did by six seconds. “After I came off and realized I was the only one who made time, I thought, ‘Should I have not made time? Is there a reason why I shouldn’t have made time? But he’s fit, the footing was good, he only slipped one little time … and there was no reason for us not to make time.”
“I said my prayer before cross country,” Whitney says. “I said ‘Lord, please help me ride well and be safe and make good decisions.’ I told myself, you can dream it, your heart can believe it, you can achieve it. And we achieved it.”
Best of luck to Whitney and Milo tomorrow!
The top three didn’t budge from their dressage placings, including second-placed Will Coleman and Tight Lines. Will said he was happy to feel “Phish,” who only has one CIC3* under his belt, step up to the plate.
“I thought it was a stiff test, there was lot to do,” he said. “I was pleased with him; it was his second one, how could I not be? He was great.”
Phish lost two shoes early on in the course, which Will said was disconcerting but didn’t make a difference in the way the horse went. The pair came home with just 3.6 time penalties. “I let him go in the back and he ran really well,” Will said. “He felt great — he felt fit and confident.
… and third-placed Caroline Martin and Spring Easy.
Joe Meyer and Clip Clop collected just 3.2 to move from a tie for ninth after dressage into fourth…
… and Colleen Rutledge and Escot 6 round out the top five heading into show jumping tomorrow
The course proved a proper but balanced test for the majority of the field. Three pairs picked up 20s: Will Coleman’s first ride Soupson du Brunet looked like he stumbled a bit upon entering the first water, resulting in a runout at the B-element corner. Caroline Martin’s Pebbly Maximus had a drive-by at the final element of the sunken road, a barely-there corner. Angela Bowles and Novelle had a hiccup later on course; I didn’t catch where but they looked really solid at the beginning of the course where I saw them.
Three others didn’t find the finish flags: Erin Sylvester fell from Mettraise at the bounce into the second water complex. There was some confusion at the first water when Jordynn Sahagian and Nestor didn’t get their shoulders over the first corner but kept going, resulting in technical elimination. Arden Wildasin and Dusky Shadow had their day cut short by elimination as well. Robin Walker with Freedom’s Light and Lizzy Jahnke with Princeton withdrew before the start.
Hours of downpour in the a.m., including some thunder-lightning action which necessitated two 40-minute holds, made the going extra-tough for the Prelim and CIC1* divisions. The CIC2* and small CCI2* divisions were the final ones of the day; there were two horse and two rider falls but no major injuries reported.
Katie Ruppel and Houdini lead the Advanced division on a 30.9, with Joe Meyer/Southpaw and Lauren Kieffer/D.A. Duras in the number two and three spots.
Sunday action kicks off with the CCI2* and CIC3* jog from 8:15 – 9:15 a.m. The Prelim horse trial and CCI2* divisions show jump in the morning, followed by the CIC3* and Advanced in the afternoon. The cross country course plays host to a full day of Novice and Training rides.
Richland Park Horse Trials CIC3* photo gallery:
Richland Park Horse Trials CIC3* top 15 after cross country: