Classic Eventing Nation

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night Fly to Ocala Jockey Club CIC3* Lead

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night blew their three-star personal best out of the water today at the $100,000 Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event, scoring 34.0 to top the leaderboard with a 6.5-penalty cushion at the conclusion of the first phase here in Reddick, Florida.

The score of 34.0 is the second best of his career for “Blackie,” a 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by Deborah Halliday, and the third best of Liz’s international career, according to EquiRatings. Liz and Blackie were the only pair to crack the 30s in the CIC3*, with Marilyn Payne and Mark Weissbecker presiding on the ground jury.

“I think it was one of the very best tests he’s ever done,” Liz said. “Especially in the heat, he can get pretty lazy, but he stayed with me and kept trying. I think he really enjoyed himself and had a good time, which meant that I enjoyed myself!”

This is Blackie’s first run back since Blenheim, where he finished sixth in the Event Rider Masters CIC3* section, adding only cross country time penalties to his dressage score. EquiRatings put him up as one to watch at the Ocala Jockey Club, and he looked fantastic today dancing in the brilliant autumn sunshine.

“We changed how we do things with him this year,” Liz said. “We found he ran great at Blenheim without having many runs. We try to keep him feeling as fresh as possible. He was the best he’s ever gone at Blenheim, so we’ve not run since then. I’ve just been (cross country) schooling him. Hopefully he’s going to be in the same fighting spirit he was at Blenheim.”

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s CIC3* show jumping, Liz said she is feeling confident. “He jumped really well at Blenheim. That was a couple months ago of course, but that was probably one of the toughest tracks we’ve jumped. He’s feeling great in his body and good in himself. That’s usually when he jumps a good round. It’s down to me giving him a good ride.”

Liz arrived 10 days ago in Ocala, where she will be based at Horsepower Equestrian for the winter season. She’s already added a new horse since then in 3-year-old Seattle Sangaree, who raced six times and retired from the track in June. Spoiler alert: He’s adorable!

Hannah Sue Burnett and Cooley Dream. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Hannah Sue Burnett has a stronghold on the next two spots on the leaderboard, sitting in second place with Cooley Dream on a three-star personal best score of 40.5 and third place with Harbour Pilot on 41.4.

With her usual coach David O’Connor away on FEI business, Hannah has been training with Karen O’Connor in the lead-up to Ocala. Cooley Dream, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by Jacqueline Mars and Mary Ann Ghadban, tends to perform better at venues with atmosphere, and he perked up right away today as he entered the ring.

“He can be a bit quiet and enjoys more of a party atmosphere. I knew that all the flags and people would help me get more out of him in the ring,” she said. “Karen O’Connor helped me fix the test this last week with all three of (my horses). She always makes a really big difference. She’s really good with the details and makes me ride really accurately. That definitely showed up today.”

Hannah stepped Cooley Dream back to the two-star level this season after things did not go to plan at Carolina International CIC3* in the spring, and he is stepping back up to three-star level for the first time at the Ocala Jockey Club this weekend.

“This summer we took him to England and had a little bit of downtime,” Hannah said. “He feels better than ever. Every time I cross country school him he’s really forward. In the show jumping he is jumping through his body really well. I’m excited to see how he wants to run.”

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Harbour Pilot, a 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned and bred by Jacqueline Mars, produced a lovely test to sit just 0.9 penalties behind his stablemate in third place. A break in the extended trot cost them some marks, but “William” settled beautifully after to produce a competitive performance.

“He was more nervous than I anticipated. I went early so I didn’t ride him twice (this morning) and he got a little tense,” Hannah said. “I know him so well and I’ve gotten a lot of confidence in the last couple of years; when things start to get tense I can convince him that he wants to be quiet again, which is exciting.”

Hannah withdrew William from Blenheim after having three rails down in show jumping, and since coming home to the States she has been working with David O’Connor to develop a strategy to keep the colored poles in the cups.

“The show jumping is tough with him because he can be so strong,” Hannah said, “We’ve been working with different bits and different ways to make him softer in the bigger atmosphere.”

Ultimately Hannah said she returned home from England a better competitor after spending the summer there. “My goal was to practice competing and practice putting myself under pressure all the time with the best in the sport — and get comfortable with it. I think it’s hard for Americans. We’re given grants and given expectations to go over to events that we’ve never seen before and do better than we’ve ever done before. I think we as a country have to get used to that pressure all the time.

Phillip Dutton and I’m Sew Ready. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Looking to the rest of the leaderboard, Katie Ruppel and her own Houdini sit fourth on 43.1. Phillip Dutton has three rides in the top 10 in his first competition back since breaking his collarbone in September, with John and Kristine Norton’s I’m Sew Ready sitting fifth on 43.4. Click here to view full scores.

Looking to how the CIC3* compared to the the expected averages for the field, scores trended -1.87 penalties lower than the marks we usually see for these horses and riders. The morning session trended -2.07 penalties lower than the expected averages, with the afternoon sessions trending -1.59 lower. Overall, 20 pairs scored below their expected average, with 11 scoring above. Shout out to EN stats wizard Maggie Deatrick for tracking expected averages throughout the season.

Female riders are dominating the three-star so far, holding the top four spots on the leaderboard, which is fitting considering today was Ladies Day at the event. Karen O’Connor, Jennie Brannigan and Bonnie Mosser all spoke during a special lunch, which focused on the unique challenges women face in equestrian sports.

If you’re just tuning in to EN, the CCI2* competitors went yesterday in dressage. Lauren Kieffer and D.A. Duras, owned by Debbie Adams and Jacqueline Mars, lead on 36.7. Click here to read yesterday’s CCI2* report.

In the CCI1*, Leslie Law and Beatrice Rey-Herme’s JKF Vogue lead on 39.4, with Allie Knowles and Katherine O’Brien’s Business Class in second place on 40.20, and Clark Montgomery and Leah Massa’s Summer Bay in third on 41.4. You can view photos from the CCI1* in the photo gallery above from the one and only Shannon Brinkman.

We have a slight schedule change for tomorrow. The updated times are CCI1* cross country at 8:45 a.m.-12:38 p.m., CCI2* cross country at 1:05 -3:20 p.m. and CIC3* show jumping and 4-5:08 p.m. CCI2* cross country and CIC3* show jumping will be shown live on EQSportsNet.

Be sure to watch videos of all the action across both days of dressage on Thehorsepesterer’s YouTube channel. EQSportsNet is also posting videos on their Facebook page. Stay tuned for much more from #OJC3DE! Go Eventing.

#OJC3DE: WebsiteScheduleRide TimesLive ScoresDavid’s VideosLive StreamEN’s CoverageEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

Clarke Johnstone Leads Australian International 4* Dressage + XC Course Preview

Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation. Photo courtesy of the Australian International 3DE.

New Zealand’s Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation are heading up the leaderboard at the conclusion of Mitsubishi Motors Australian International 3DE dressage. Their score of 45.9 was good enough to top the 20 horse field.

It was a wet and windy day in the parklands of Adelaide, and Balmoral Sensation had a nearly 24-hour journey from New Zealand, but the pair made the best of it.

“He is an amazing horse and I am very lucky to be riding him,” Clarke says. “He had a slight issue earlier on, but we worked through this and, overall, I thought the test went very well.”

Clarke and the 13-year-old NZ Warmblood gelding owned by the Johnstone family have a well-established partnership; Balmoral Sensation was his 2016 Rio Olympic mount, where they finished 6th. They finished 3rd at their first four-star together, the 2015 Australian 3DE, and 6th at their most recent outing at the level at Badminton last year.

“Taking everything into consideration, I am very happy to be in the lead at this early stage,” Clark says. “He is a great jumper, with a lovely temperament and I am looking forward to what we can both produce over the next two days.”

Of the event itself, Clarke noted that it is the only 4* in the Southern Hemisphere and an important event for 2018 World Equestrian Games selection. “The location of the event is unlike any other in the world and its proximity to the city makes it extremely unique. With a great crowd, I would go so far as saying this is my favorite event in the world.”

In second we’re looking at Australia’s Sonja Johnson with Parkiarrup Illicit Liason (49.5), with another Aussie Megan Jones and Kirby Park Impress (49.6) rounding out the top three.

Check out this Cross Country App preview of the CCI4* course with audio from Mike Etherington Smith and Sam Griffiths. A special thanks to assistant course designer Sylvia Williams-Roberts for the course recording.

Australian International 4* Dressage Top 10: 

Australian International 3DE Links: WebsiteDressage ResultsXC Order of GoScheduleFEI TV

Friday Video from World Equestrian Brands: Derby Domination in Deutschland

The Friday video might as well be sponsored by Reitschule Jung, because the Terminator has been garnering some serious airtime recently. Last week, we delved into the secret to Michi’s success, and this week, we get to enjoy the results.

The Derby class at the Stuttgart German Masters is a spectator favourite and attracts top riders from across the continent. Michael Jung scooped his eighth win in the class riding seven-year-old Corazon, because of course he did, and he made it look spectacularly easy, too. If you reckon you’d get lost about a quarter of the way into this course, you’re absolutely not alone. Michi’s lightening-fast clear in 40.03 seconds propelled him into the lead ahead of Ireland’s Esib Power and Doonaveerah O One, and frankly, I’d just like to ask them both which D-ring is most practical for attaching a sat-nav to.

In true Michi fashion, he hasn’t gone to Stuttgart just to contest this class: He’s also competing in the showjumping classes and doing very well against a world class field. One day we’ll find something the man can’t do — I, for one, am hedging my bets that he’s a dreadful dancer.

As a practical aside: don’t watch this video just prior to going cross-country schooling. Your heart will tell you you can execute some gnarly rollbacks. Your horse will tell you otherwise.

Indoor Derby Stuttgart

Und dieses Jahr hat er es geschafft! Michael Jung gewinnt das Indoor Derby bei den Stuttgart German Masters vor Elizabeth Power aus Irland! Klasse Stimmung in Stuttgart – die gesamte Prüfung noch einmal bei uns im Archiv: http://watch.clipmyhorse.tv/StuttgartGermanMasters

Posted by ClipMyHorse.TV Deutschland on Thursday, November 16, 2017

North Americans Strike Gold at Ireland’s Goresbridge Sale

The top-grossing sale at Goresbridge was Gurtea Mattie Clover, who was purchased for €130,000. Photo courtesy of the Goresbridge Go For Gold Sale.

It’s been a busy past couple weeks for event horse shopping in Ireland, between the Monart Event Horse Sale (see EN’s roundup of North American acquisitions here) and the Goresbridge Go For Gold Sale, both of which were held in Co. Wexford.

The Gorebridge sale took place Monday through Wednesday of this week and featured a range of bright young prospects, including top grossing sale Gurtea Mattie Clover, a 5-year-old full brother to Nicola Wilson’s four-star mount Annie Clover, who was purchased by Gerard Alan Kemp of the UK for a hefty sum of €130,000 — that’s over $150,000. Woof!

The sale was well attended by U.S. and Canadian buyers and advisors, and we can’t wait to see their new mounts in action. Here is a roundup of North American Goresbridge purchases!

Carrie Meehan procured the handsome Cougar’s Crest:

Teresa Loughlin is bringing home GRC CU Chulainn, who looks to have plenty enough scope!

Cormac Kennedy purchased two fun-looking, well-bred youngsters:


We look forward to following Daniel Clasing and his two new redheaded rides:

Love the chrome on Raina King‘s new ride:

Katlyn Hewson of Canada found an awesome prospect in this 4-year-old:

Check out the hops on this one, now proudly owned by Mimi Falb:

Who can pick up their knees higher? Michael Nolan and Robin Walker picked up this high-flying 3-year-old:

View complete sales results here. To all those horse coming stateside, welcome!

 

Best of HN: This OTTB’s Second Career in Horseback Hawking is #Goals

Nothing to see here, just a man and his horse and his golden eagle out for a hack. Screen shot.

Mounted falconry or hawking is quite possibly one of the most [email protected]$$ disciplines in existence. In some parts of the world, such as Mongolia, it’s not so much a fun leisure sport as a legitimate way to acquire food for the family — but in other places, including Europe, hawking has traditionally been a pastime of the wealthy.

All over the world, individuals are keeping this sport alive through hawking or falconry clubs, and in a few places the traditions live on through tourism: Dartmoor Hawking in Dartmoor National Park is perhaps the best-known of such destinations. Established on the grounds of the 40-acre Bovey Castle estate and with access to 15,000 additional acres of open ground in the national park, Dartmoor Hawking teaches guests about the art of falconry and offers the opportunity to take these skills to the saddle.

(There’s also an intriguing link marked Weddings/Engagements — just picturing a golden eagle delivering an engagement ring makes me grin.)

My experience with large birds while in the saddle is mostly limited to wild turkeys exploding out of cover right under the nose of my mounts, some of whom have not taken too kindly to that kind of fluttering be-feathered surprise. Proving, however, that horses can learn to tolerate pretty much anything, including a bird with an eight-foot wingspan flapping away right over their heads, the horses at Dartmoor Hawking look pretty chill with this. If anything, they even seem to strut a little bit, as though they know that they’re the ballers of the horse world.

The latest horse to join Dartmoor Hawking’s ranks? An off-track Thoroughbred, reminding us once again that there’s really no limitations to what this breed can do.

Shubaat is an 11-year-old gelding by Monsun with wins to his name on both the flat and over timber. He’s a graduate of the Godolphin rehoming and retraining program: as one of the largest breeding/racing operations in the world, Godolphin holds itself responsible to the horses in its string and supports its horses through retraining and rehoming with regional partners in Europe, Japan, Australia and the United States.

While “horseback hawking” may not be a common career for any horse, let alone an OTTB, Shubaat is actually the second horse from Godolphin to find his home at Dartmoor Hawking — a gelding named Caymans also came through the Godolphin rehoming program and has been hawking for quite some time!

Shubaat, best of luck in your totally awesome second career. Go OTTBs, and go riding!

William Micklem: Pau 4*, Part 2 — Triumph and Tragedy

In this three-part series William Micklem shares reflections and observations from attending the 2017 Pau CCI4.* If you missed Part I, “The Calm Before the Storm,” read it here

Astier Nicolas and Molokai lead the Pau field after cross country. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

1) It takes disappointment ….

It all began to fall apart on cross country day for Andrew Nicholson and Mark Todd. First Andrew on Qwanza retired, having run past the arrowhead at the third part of the first water and getting confused at the first Vicarage Vee. Having placed 5th at Luhmuhlen last year and 12th at Badminton this year this was a big surprise.

Then Mark Todd went out on his 2012 Olympic Team bronze medallist NZB Campino. Having been 4th at Badminton this year and 5th at Luhmühlen in 2015 Mark was optimistic but like Andrew they refused at the first Vicarage Vee and Mark retired. On his second ride, the 17-hand Kiltubrid Rhapsody, he ran out early on at the first corner, and so was left uncompetitive. No reward for a huge effort but still a wonderful season for this icon of the eventing world. He is perpetually modest about his achievements but the eventing world should not be shy about putting him on a pedestal and benefitting from the reflected glory.

Andrew had a golden chance with his second ride, the 10-year-old Jet Set. Although in his first in his first 4* Andrew said in 2014 that he was his Rio horse and he arrived with a big reputation, having placed 2nd in the 6-year-old class at the Lion D’Angers Young Horses World Championships and then 6th in the 7-year-old class the following year. In addition he has had 30 top 10 finishes with Andrew! He also has great genes, being bred by Spanish international show jumper and eventer Luis Alverez Cevera, by his Grand Prix jumper Nordico out of a TB mare.

They flew round the course in normal Nicholson style and were up on the clock going into the final fifth of the track, but every fence has to be jumped and fence 25, a brush arrowhead with a drop, that no other horse faulted at, was Andrew’s Waterloo. Jet Set caught the back of it and Andrew was jettisoned and sent tumbling down the hill. He was on his feet immediately and running to catch Jet Set but his competition was at an end. Said Andrew, “Everything was normal on approach but he just didn’t stay in the air long enough!” But Andrew will feed off this disappointment and come back stronger as this is his nature, and nothing can take away from his extraordinary recovery from a career threatening fall and Nereo’s Badminton win this year.

2) It takes broad shoulders ….

Jonty Evans and Art (Cooley Rourkes Drift) have become world famous this year, with the wonderful crowd funding response that raise €500,000 to buy Art and keep him with Jonty. Since then nothing has gone quite right and Pau was the ideal competition to bring success and complete the fairy tale for the year. But the first water was the wicked wolf to many competitors and so it proved for Jonty with a run out at the second part, an arrowhead off a slight turn with four short strides.

Jonty retired, and then had to face up to reporting the bad news, not to just one or two owners but to the thousands of people from Ireland, Britain and North America who contributed to his purchase. But Jonty is both brave and honest and was quick to accept that things had gone wrong as he concentrated on the crowd funding rather than his preparation.

Jonty has broad shoulders and Art is a very good horse, so there is still hope and excitement. He will regroup and come back to remind us that keeping Art with Jonty was a project that shows us all in a very good light. The next page of the fairy tale has to be turned but we all still believe he will slay the dragon and marry the Princess!

3) It takes perseverance ….

I was first introduced to Sarah Bullimore when walking the cross country at Aldon Horse Trials in the UK in 2008. The next day I was watching as a horse ran away on the cross country, in the equivalent of the 1* class, before being circled several times to regain control. But instead of retiring the rider went back on the course and finished the track despite having to circle again before the finish. The rider was Sarah Bullimore! Earlier in the year she had introduced a 4-year-old to eventing called Reve Du Rouet.

In the intervening nine years she has ridden approximately 25 different horses in well over 500 competitions at all levels, and in the process she has gone from a relatively Novice rider on a runaway to an experienced and very competent rider at the highest level. Her perseverance has been extraordinary and cross country day at Pau was her eventing graduation and doctorate combined as she rode three superb clear rounds to finish in the top 10 on all three horses. It was a huge achievement and Reve Du Rouet finished the day in 3rd place.

Sarah has always described Reve Du Rouet as quirky and many riders would not have persevered with him. In 2014 he made a very promising 4* debut at Rolex, placing 13th, but in the following three and a half years and seven 4* starts he failed to live up to his promise. Last year he even found fame by bolting down the centre line at Badminton, and then getting so tense in the show jumping at Burghley that he hit seven fences. However, in Pau he looked the complete package and a huge credit to Sarah’s strength of mind.

3) It takes a good position ….

It is of great concern to me that many younger riders fail to keep a good balance and harmony when jumping. For both safety and efficient performance a good position is vital, and when riding across country its effects are magnified. There were several examples of weak positions at Pau, with riders sitting on the back of the saddle on the approach, then throwing the body and lying on the neck over the fence and being slow to recover on landing. You frequently see the same thing in Pony Club.

There are many great role models if riders and coaches want to study their subject. In eventing William Fox-Pitt’s immaculate balance and harmony can be seen in thousands of photographs and films and Leslie Law is another example of a rider and coach who is excellent in this area. Andrew Nicholson’s minimum movement and stickability should also be closely analysed.

I believe that his success and that of so many other New Zealand and Australian riders has much to do with their jumping balance and harmony. To watch him, or younger riders like Kevin McNabb, Tim Price, Jonelle Price and Dan Jocelyn come down to a fence is to see simplicity in action and horses that are unhindered.

What is also very clear is that there are elite show jumpers jumping much bigger fences and winning against the clock who have a better balance and harmony than many event riders. Riders such as Beezie Madden, Lauren Hough, Peder Fredricson, Kent Farrington, Harry Smolders, Eric Lamaze, Ben Maher and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum show what is possible on a daily basis.
4) It takes a willingness to change ….

The question is are riders and coaches prepared to change? Change is always difficult, particularly if something has been done for a long period of time and egos get in the way of accepting that a good idea has to give way to a better idea.

The Irish international event rider Captain Brian Cournane, who is now living in the USA and concentrating on show jumping, is a very good example of a rider who has been brave enough to make a change despite already riding at a high level. To anyone who has seen him ride recently the change and improvement in his riding is obvious and therefore his story is beneficial to others.

“I started training with George Morris in March of this year after having been introduced by our mutual friend Mark Todd. When I was in the army equitation school, the riding style was very upright, dramatic, and old fashioned European. Since riding with George he has really helped me ride in a more light and forward seat. He has an excellent system that has been tried and tested for a very long time in so many places and with so many different riders … the army was a great experience and afforded me a lot of opportunity, but I love the American style of riding and the system that he’s teaching me.”

The key point from Brian is that not only does he feel that he is a better rider as a result of working with George but it would also make him a better event rider. “The light forward seat makes it easier to be fast and it’s easier for the horse to jump out of that balance. Therefore George’s system would definitely help cross country as it’s very much about teaching the horse to balance itself and to watch where it’s going.”

6) It takes the right dressage training …

A depressing day for me a few years ago was seeing a promotional film for the Irish Army Equitation School. It had a section showing a group of horses all heading off into the Phoenix Park, all with draw reins and all with fixed head and neck positions. There is not a big jump from this to rollkur and our continuing ability to turn spectators and sponsors off equestrian sport because of the perception that we abuse horses. Of course in general we probably now treat horses better than ever before in eventing but the sins of the wider sport horse world diminish us all.

However, George Morris is a beacon of hope in this respect. As Brian Cournane says, “The flat work is all to do with getting the horse to engage its hind leg by doing transitions, shoulder in, half pass, travers, turn on the haunches. All very classical. The neck looks after itself then and the horse carries it where it suits his balance, usually just in front of the vertical. George always emphasises leg to hand … and never uses draw reins.”

Brian goes on to explain that “the goal of show jumping flatwork is to have the horse in self-carriage that’s able to turn and jump quickly and deal with changes of pace without losing its balance.” This sounds an excellent basis for good dressage as well, especially as for good cross-country work self-carriage has to be a golden key for efficiency and safety.

7) It takes tragedy ….

Do we need tragedy in the sport? No, but sometimes it takes tragedy to reassess what we are doing with horses and reassess our priorities. The tragic loss of Crackerjack, almost at the end of the cross country, was horrible and heart breaking. After a fast and fluent cross country Boyd should have been sitting in 5th place before the show jumping, but instead he faced a barrage of negative comment on social media and the loss of a horse that had become his teammate. Anyone who knows about horses will have seen the very close relationship these two had built up. It is simply not possible to do what they did together with such ease and class unless they had this closeness.

As I write this on Armistice Sunday it is worth remembering the over 70 million men and women, and approximately 11 million horses, that lost their lives in the two world wars. The days when they still charged barbed wire and machine guns on horseback in the First World War, and the dark days of the Second World War when horses were still the main carriers and pullers of munitions and supplies. This is when both humans and horses really suffered.

It was not surprising that the attitudes of this period leached into the early days of eventing, that of course was then called the Military and was just a sport for the military. Things have changed enormously, although as recently as the Jack Le Goff days many feel we asked horses too much. Jimmy Wofford, that most honest and reflective horseman days about this period, said, “I am sad that we had to abuse so many horses for so many years, before we started to improve our care of them. For this reason I have bittersweet memories of my competition days.”

However, the important point is that we have improved their care significantly and we have created a wonderful sport that gives happy lives to so many thousands of horses, and is both a life enhancing and healthy sport to millions of riders. This should not be forgotten as we grieve over a horse fatality.

8) It takes just one eye….

Tony Kennedy lay flat out on the sand like a huge heaving starfish. It was in the main arena just 30 seconds after finishing clear, with just 2.8 time penalties, in his first 4* cross country on Westeria Lane, the horse he started competing as a 4-year-old and had taken him three times on the Irish Young Rider team in the European Championships.

Was he injured? Exhausted? No, simply ecstatic, and putting all his brain power into savouring the moment and replaying his fantastic round. A satisfied smile stretched across his face as he praised his extraordinary partner. “He just gave and gave. Whatever I asked he just gave!”

What few would have known as they watched these Irish rookies make little of Pierre Michelet’s track is that Westeria Lane has only one eye, having lost an eye in a field accident as a 3-year-old. However, at Pau the Gods were on his side as every one of the combinations except one involved turns to the right. Not good course designing possibly but a gift to a horse with just a right eye!

An uncharacteristic four down in the show jumping moved them down to 17th, but Tony and his veterinary surgeon father Con were still smiling and probably dreaming of Badminton next year.

9) It takes a French commentator ….

Almost last on the cross country was France’s number one equestrian pin-up, Astier Nicholas, winner of Pau two years ago, individual silver medallist in Rio, and fresh from winning the 2* in the world young horse championships in Lion d’Angers the previous weekend. He was 14th after the dressage on Molokai but knew that a fast clear round would leave him at the top of the leader board, and so did the French commentator!

He had an English co-commentator but the possibility of Astier’s high placing and his own excitement left no room for anything but his fence-by- fence crescendo of compliments and exclamations that had the spectators cheering and Astier throwing caution to the wind. Molakai will never be the fastest of horses and has only come in within the time twice since Astier started riding him in 2015, but he is careful and Astier is brave and that was a winning combination. With a standing ovation and the commentator at maximum volume they crossed the line six seconds under the time, one of only two to have no time penalties. It was not pretty but it left Astier at the top of the leader board and guaranteed a full house for Sunday’s show jumping.

10) It takes your breath away ….

There were a number of young horses being offered for sale during Pau, including some 3-year-old horses that were loose jumped. This was not a very pretty sight, but one afternoon Australian team rider Kevin McNabb tried a chestnut event horse for a client. The horse’s immediate positive response and physical improvement was startling, and Kevin’s beautiful balance when jumping simply takes your breath away. He credit’s his technique to the Italian coach Tony Manca who influenced him as a young man. “I was very lucky to meet Tony,” he says. “Many people have tried to change me but I refused. He was ahead of his time. Tim (Price) does the same and he is an artist across country.” As I often say ‘good coaches make all the difference.’

Next Time: Pau 4*, Part 3 – Love and Luck

Friday News & Notes from SmartPak

When you’re literally the cutest Turkey that has ever existed. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Do you ever feel like maybe you own the cutest horse in the entire world? I do. Twice over, really, because Nyls is the original model horse, but his little protege, Turkey, is actually the cutest pony head alive. His winter assignment is to be my lesson couch, as I’ve decided to take him around in the trailer to sit on while I teach lessons in the afternoons. He’s only four, and about two months off the track, so it’s a good excuse for him to see different places and hang out and have to watch other horses running around and doing stuff. He’s like a giant dog, really, and also a very comfy way to teach!

National Holiday: National Homemade Bread Day (IT’S MY HOLIDAY!)

Major Events This Weekend:

Mitsubishi Motors Australian International Three-Day Event [Website] [Entries] [Live Scores]

Ocala Jockey Club 3-Day International Event [Website] [Entry Status] [Live Scores]

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Fresno County Horse Park H.T. [Website] [Entry Status/Ride Times/Live Scores]

News from Around the Globe:

Allison Springer Eventing has an immediate opening to join the team as the head groom. This job offers the opportunity to groom at the top levels of eventing with a great string of upper level event horses competing internationally. The head groom will have the opportunity to travel to events around the country and potentially the globe. [Be Allison Springer’s Head Groom]

Equestrian Events, Inc. (EEI), organizer of the Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event, presented the Area VIII Young Riders Program a generous $2,000 donation to support their goal of attending the 2018 Adequan FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC). [EEI Donates to Area VIII YR]

Nine-year-old jumper Caracas had an occasional weird jump and slightly high fever when he went into Rood & Riddle in Wellington FL, but they discovered a 27 pound tumor in the horse’s abdomen. With only a 5% chance of survival, he beat the odds and is now back in the equitation ring winning ribbons. [Life Saving Surgery with 27lb Tumor]

Best of Blogs: No More Metal Saddle Racks

 

It was Oliver’s birthday this week, so let’s relive Ballaghmor Class winning Burghley for him this fall: 

Kieffer Tops CCI2* Leaderboard at Ocala Jockey Club; Burnett Leads CCI1*

Lauren Kieffer and D.A. Duras. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Lauren Kieffer and D.A. Duras top the CCI2* leaderboard at the conclusion of dressage in the 41-horse division here at the $100,000 Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event in Reddick, Florida. Their score of 36.7 is a career personal best dressage score for the 9-year-old KWPN owned by Debbie Adams and Jacqueline Mars, and the first time D.A. Duras has ever cracked the 30s at an international competition.

D.A. Duras has competed at the three-star level for the last two seasons, most recently spending the summer competing in England. While Lauren and D.A. Duras scored top-15 finishes in large CIC3* divisions at Barbury Castle and Hartpury, they parted ways at Bramham and Blenheim. Lauren elected to step him back to two-star level to get their mojo back.

“He had a really fluid test today. He’s been in a lot of atmosphere this year at big shows, so he’s gotten really good in the big ring,” Lauren said. “He’s had some ups and downs this year, but he’s also been impressive in a lot of places too. I think he’ll come out next year and be a better horse.”

Katherine Coleman and Monte Classico. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Katherine Coleman and her own Monte Classico also delivered a personal best score of 39.4 to sit in second place in the CCI2*. That is the second time the 8-year-old German Sport Horse has scored in the 30s, the first being in his international debut with Bettina Hoy, who produced him to the one-star level before Katherine took on the ride. Well done to Katherine for channeling her inner German dressage queen!

Alyssa Phillips and Oskar, an 8-year-old Holsteiner owned by Alyssa and Julie Phillips, round out the top three in the CCI2* on 40.0, their personal best score as a combination. Oskar is making his CCI2* debut here at the Ocala Jockey Club and coming off a second place finish in the CIC2* at Virginia last month.

Oskar has two one-star wins on his international record, having won the Ballindenisk CIC1* with Liz Halliday-Sharp, who produced him to the one-star level before Alyssa acquired the ride, and the Galway Downs CCI1* with Angela Bowles, Alyssa’s longtime trainer in Texas. Alyssa has just recently made the move to the East Coast, and we would like to send her a hearty EN welcome as she settles in.

Alyssa Phillips and Oskar. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Another rider we are over the moon to welcome to the East Coast is Maya Black! After spending the last year back home on Whidbey Island, she has officially made the move back east. Maya is competing here at the Ocala Jockey Club in her first competition back on the East Coast, currently sitting tied for 14th in the CCI2* with Mowgli on 48.3.

Hannah Sue Burnett and Strattonstown Lewis. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

The first half of the mammoth 91-horse CCI1* division also went today in dressage, with Hannah Sue Burnett and Strattonstown Lewis scoring 41.8 as the penultimate pair to go to hold the overnight lead. The 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by Christa Schmidt is making his FEI debut here at the Ocala Jockey Club.

Elisa Wallace and Steve and Vicki Sukup’s Riot Gear held the lead for much of the day in the CCI1* and ultimately sit second on 42.6 at the end of the day. The 8-year-old Oldenburg won the CIC1* at Richland Park over the summer and is one of many horses in this CCI1* field making his debut at the level this weekend.

Leslie Law and Beatrice Rey-Herme’s QC First Class, a 6-year-old Oldenburg and another CCI1* first-timer in this division, sit third on 43.0. The second half of CCI1* dressage starts tomorrow at 9 a.m. EST. Click here for ride times.

The CIC3* also gets underway tomorrow with dressage at 9 a.m. EST, and you can watch live on EQSportsNet with live commentary from Ed Holloway and statistics from EquiRatings.

We have a thrilling weekend ahead here at the Ocala Jockey Club. The farm is a training base for Thoroughbreds, and the venue owners Erik and Pavla Nygaard are renowned breeders and owners in Thoroughbred racing. (Case in point: They bred Battle of Midway, winner of the 2017 Breeders Cup Dirt Mile!)

It’s only appropriate that the event pays homage to Thoroughbreds! A total of $25,000 in prize money has been set aside for the top placing Thoroughbreds in each of the three FEI divisions. The Retired Racehorse Project will also host a showcase of Thoroughbreds available for sale in the main arena from 1-1:30 p.m. Saturday and 12:30-1 p.m. Sunday. Click here to view the online catalogue.

Saturday is Hip, Handsome and Hoakey Hats Day at the event to pay tribute to horse racing’s tradition of wearing hats. There will be prizes for the top entries, so if you come out to the event on Saturday be sure to wear a hat and enjoy the sprawling Vendor Village, food trucks and world-class atmosphere at the Ocala Jockey Club

Sunday is family day at the event, with bouncy horse races, stick horse races and jump courses, musical chairs, arts and crafts, face painting, a mechanical horse and much more. Click here to read more about all of the special events planned this weekend at #OJC3DE.

Be sure to follow the OJC3DE Facebook page for updates and to view beautiful photos from official event photographer Shannon Brinkman Photography. Stay tuned for much more throughout the weekend, especially as the action kicks in to high gear tomorrow with the CIC3*. Go Eventing.

#OJC3DE: WebsiteScheduleRide TimesLive ScoresLive StreamEN’s CoverageEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

William Micklem: Pau 4* — It Takes a Village, Part 1, The Calm Before the Storm

William Micklem shares reflections and observations from attending the Pau CCI4* in this three part series. Look for Part 2 tomorrow!

Andrew Nicholson and Qwanza pick the right moment for a PB. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

1) It takes a team ….

It takes a team to realise the dream, and it’s not just the grooms that are indispensable. Most of the riders and horses made long journeys to Pau, including a 17-hour drive across France for the British and Irish that didn’t go to Lion D’Angers. So assistant drivers are needed, and a hardy and resourceful support group capable of making do and making meals, making up games for the pack of attached children and making the most of this end of season French equestrian celebration. In the case of Jonelle and Tim Price a team of babysitters was also required for their 10-week old baby Amos.

There can’t be many sports that provide such vital roles for husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, friends and lovers! Most are resident in the lorry park, placed around the huge schooling arena and bounded by a perfect raised grass viewing platform. It’s a vibrant village of coloured gazebos, national flags, barbeques and bottles of wine. It’s a joy.

2) It takes all types ….

I should have had a camera. Two elite riders at the first trot up side by side. Mark Todd, 6ft 3ins, and Britain’s European team gold medallist Ros Canter, 5ft 3ins. Eventing is truly a sport for all and it is something to be proud of all. It is also a sport for all sizes and sorts of horses but there is a noticeable change at the 4* level to horses with more quality.

Ros rode Allstar B in the European Champs, a 17-hand giant, but here in Pau she was riding the 16-hand Zenshera and still making him look big. Also 16 hands and catching the eye were two Australian horses, Hunter Valley bred and ridden by Sammi Birch, and the half Connemara Feldale Mouse with Isabel English. The very talented Sammi was reserve for Australia in the Rio Olympics and both riders now have WEG next year and then the Tokyo Olympics in their sights. Twenty-two-year-old Isabel will base her herself with Michael Jung for the next two years, so big progress is expected especially as Michael thinks Feldale Mouse is “super special.”

Then coming in at 15.3 was the exquisitely beautiful grey mare Faerie Dianimo, Jonelle Price’s Rio Olympics ride, who was also 4th at Pau in 2014 and 2nd at Luhmühlen the following year. They are aiming for the New Zealand team in Tryon next year and must have a very good chance. Certainly they will be one of the most photographed combinations. In contrast Alexander Bragg had brought his towering 17.2 Dutch bred Zagreb, who was 5th at Pau last year, and French hero Astier Nicholas had the 17.1 Molakai.

3) It takes patience ….

Ros Canter was 5th and best of the British on Allstar B at Badminton this year. British team trainer Chris Bartle has given her the confidence to relax and be more patient in her training and her results this year are stunning. Having finished 2nd in the dressage here at Pau she made a telling remark at the press conference that emphasised the long term training focus and patience needed by these elite riders. “He has been capable of this test for four years but this is the first time he has delivered in the arena.”

Anyone looking up the records of the horses at Pau would find the same story of long term steady progress with some short term periods of setbacks and stepbacks. Most of the horses are between 12 and 14 years old and have done approximately 50 to 60 competitions over six or seven years before arriving at their first 4*.

4) It takes courage ….

To outsiders it is the cross country that requires the most courage, but numerous riders will tell you that it is the dressage and show jumping that produce the most stress and pressure. Knowing that you are under the microscope of both judges and audience for every second, with every little mistake being spotted, creates a vicious circle that sees courage shrink and tension and mistakes increase.

What riders have to do is to focus on how wonderful it is to have the opportunity to enter the arena and keep it simple, concentrating on the precise direction, speed and flow of the test or round. In this situation less is usually more.

So many riders come out saying that they wish that they had a second chance because they only relaxed after the final salute or final fence. A technique that can help greatly here is visualization. Clearly visualizing your performance in advance has been proved to get brain and body in sync, give the right rehearsal, and put you in the competition bubble that has no room for judges and spectators. It is a technique that needs to be practised but it is worth it.

Andrew Nicholson even uses it for the cross country. “The last few minutes, I run through the course in my head. Some people might think I’m a little crazy because I’m pointing and prodding the air with my finger, counting out the jumps, talking through their approaches, and how I’m going to tackle them, counting strides. The starter is telling you — you have one minute — and people might be watching thinking you’re doing something weird, but in my mind I’m just quickly going through tactics, visualising.”

It is also worth remembering that you cannot do better than a new PB. Working in the same warm up arena as a few Olympians often leads riders astray as they seek the impossible. There is no point suddenly trying to be Michael Jung in three days when your starting point is 20% behind! However, aiming to emulate Michael in the long term and using him as a role model is a great idea and the right long-term strategy.

5) It takes you by surprise ….

The first course walk is always the most important because it is the closest a rider gets to seeing the course through the horse’s eyes. As we approached fence 11, a rolltop on the top of a hill, we did not suspect that just three strides away to the right was an angled rail over a big ditch, like the design of the Vicarage Vee at Badminton, followed four or five stride later on a turn to the left by another angled rail over a ditch.

The same surprise element was there for the first water and the three angled and very wide cottages at 29. However, riders have to remember that their horses don’t ever walk the course, so they get used to being surprised all the time and they get used to trusting their rider and responding to new situations, sometimes with only seconds to work things out. This is an important difference to understand. We may not like surprises but event horses get totally used to surprises and being able to cope.

6) It takes scope ….

Fence 10 on the cross country course was a maximum height and width brush oxer, 1.45m (4ft 9ins) high with a spread of 2.00m (6ft 6ins). (The maximum height for a solid oxer is 1.20m but with brush you are allowed an additional 25cm). To put this in context, in a 5* Nations Cup show jumping competition the oxers would be at a maximum of 1.50m, just 5cm bigger, with the same maximum spread of 2.00m.

Of course it jumped very easily, but this was also a reflection of the ability of the modern event horse and the good ground. In particular if the ground conditions deteriorate the difficulty of fences can significantly increase, as at WEG in France in 2014 and to a lesser extent at the European Championships at Blair the following year. It is an area that needs further discussion within the sport’s stakeholders.

7) It takes an open mind ….

It does not pay to jump to conclusions when cross country course walking. Course walking requires an open mind because searching for options is important. Yes the route to the first fence in a combination may be obvious, but would the second and third parts be easier if we took a different line and made the first fence more difficult? What if we ran out here, how do we proceed with the minimum of wasted time and effort? What if my horse gets tired? How do the fences relate to each other? Do we need to jump an early fence in a particular way because of the demands of a different fence later on in the course?

In addition timing is usually an issue so we need to know how the fences are distributed through each section of the course. For example if there are eight jumping efforts and a water combination in the last minute and a half we need the last three minute markers to be further on round the track. And always the questions, is there a different way and is there a better way?’

8) It takes saying ‘why not?’ ….

The vast majority of competitors at 4* level are full time professional riders. They have strings of horses, usually at least two or three at 4* level, and riding and competing is their life. The days of the amateur with one horse are gone … unless you have one good horse and you are prepared to say ‘why not?’

Aidan Keogh, CEO of Tredstep Ireland, was entering his third 4* at Pau on his 15-year-old Traditional Irish horse Master Tredstep. He has never been easy in the dressage, but they have formed a great partnership over 11 years of competition together. In particular Aidan has been confident enough in his strengths to aim high, while simultaneously being humble enough to keep training and working at his weaknesses. All the time finding creative ways to do this knowing it can only be a part-time activity. Many more could achieve extraordinary things with this attitude.

Chris Collins, the British eventing team member in the ’70s and owner of the Goya perfume business, used to say that it took any two out of three things to be a success at the highest level in eventing … hard work, great talent and pots of money. He suggested he had the hard work and pots of money elements and this allowed him to be a success.

However, standards have risen so significantly that this theory is now probably untrue. The current primary drivers of elite success in eventing, as in most sports, are hard work and talent. Aidan shows that this is true and encourages other talented riders to persevere and make use of the fact that in horse riding success is possible even in your fifties and sixties.

9) It takes a match between two of the true greats of the sport ….

Two of the greatest examples of the longevity that is possible in equestrian sport, New Zealanders Andrew Nicholson, now 56, and Mark Todd, now 61, were both at Pau with two horses each. There was an added reason for their participation – the world ratings.

Going into Pau Michael Jung was leading the world ratings. His late decision to compete at Pau with his wonderful partner La Biosthetique Sam was undoubtedly due to his wish to protect this lead from Andree and Mark who were snapping at his heels. Then his withdrawal before the dressage opened the door to two of the best event riders of all time going head to head, with the real possibility that one could become World No 1.

Both men have backstories that have already interested film producers. Andrew’s fall and near paralysis two years ago, before clawing his way back to fitness and winning Badminton this year, and Mark’s retirement and return to high-level competition, are both the stuff of legend. For either to be the new World No 1 was a major story and major bonus for the Pau organisers. They are two of the best riders our sport has ever seen in a match against each other with high stakes – what more could anyone want?

Sadly as things stand Andrew Nicholson will not be seen at WEG next year or the Tokyo Olympics. The continuing standoff between the New Zealand authorities and Andrew harms not only the New Zealand team but also the sport, as championships need all the major players for credibility and marketing. As one senior FEI official said to me, “the New Zealand high performance people are small minded, selfish and short sighted. They have lost sight of their priorities and we all lose out as a result.”

10) It takes your breath away ….

Sometimes it is a whole dressage test that takes your breath away, like Charlotte Dujardin in a freestyle with Valegro, or sometimes it is just a brief moment of brilliance. On the Wednesday morning Andrew Nicholson was riding in the large warm up area on his little mare Qwanza, the full sister of Rolex winner Quimbo. Nothing spectacular in walk but then a little nudge and they were in canter. A glorious canter, with such a beautiful balance and period of suspension. So light on his feet, so soft, so easy … it takes your breath away.

Next Time: Pau 4* Part 2 – Triumph and Tragedy

By the Numbers: Ocala Jockey Club CIC3*

In only its second year of existence, Ocala Jockey Club International has managed to draw one of the strongest North American fields of the year. The draw of having a CIC3* so late in the year in a warm climate, with top notch organizers and course designers has proven a real draw to many professionals, many of whom base their winter operations out of Ocala.

The stunning Ocala Jockey Club. Photo by Jenni Autry.

#OJC3DE: WebsiteScheduleOrder of Draw, Live ScoresEN’s CoverageEN’s Instagram

The Event

  • Last year’s inaugural running of the CIC3* was won on a tie-breaker by Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF, who finished within the optimum time to take the win over Jonathan Holling and Downtown Harrison. It was only the fifth time this decade that a three-star has been decided on a tie-breaker.
  • Matt and Super Socks BCF also set a North American record for biggest movers, moving to the win from tenth after dressage. This is the biggest move this decade to win a North American CIC3* in a field with less than 40 starters.
  • The top five finishers last year all jumped clear and inside the time in the stadium phase, making show jumping performance extremely important at this venue.
  • Buck Davidson and Carlevo were the only pair to break into the thirties in the dressage last year; this year’s field contains multiple pairs who could break that threshold.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Dressage Divas

  • Fernhill By Night and Liz Halliday-Sharp own the lowest 3* average in the field over the past two years, clocking in just over forty with a 40.4. They’ve twice dipped down into the high thirties in this time period, and they’ve been getting close to breaking that threshold again this fall season.
  • Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous have also flirted heavily with the thirties at the Advanced and 3* level since 2016, almost equaling their personal best for the level at Jersey Fresh this spring when they led the field with a 37.7 before scoring similarly at the Luhmuhlen CCI4*. This pair hovers in the 41 range on a very consistent basis, with four of their eight career Advanced and 3* tests ranging from 41.1 to 41.7.
  • Katie Ruppel and Houdini were always strong at dressage but they’ve really raised the bar since 2016, clocking in five consecutive sub-45 scores at Advanced and 3* out of their seven starts in that time period. They’ve twice dipped into the high thirties, including this fall at Richland Park.
  • Harbour Pilot and Hannah Sue Burnett are consistently competitive, clocking in score after score in the forties, but have only once managed to crack into the thirties in their career. At Houghton Hall in May, these two laid down a personal best of 37.2 but have floated up to the high forties in their subsequent shows.
  • Vermiculus is also worth keeping an eye on after knocking nearly nine points off his dressage average between 2016 and 2017. He hasn’t been out at this level since Kentucky, but Lauren Kieffer is never a rider to discount for a big score on day one.

Alyssa Phillips and Bliss III. Photo by JJ Sillman Photography.

Show Jumping Powerhouses

  • Cooley Dream has been consistent as clockwork in the stadium phase with Hannah Sue Burnett, going five for five in clear stadium rounds at the Advanced and CIC3* levels.
  • Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda are extraordinarily consistent in the show jumping phase; they’ve jumped clear in 17 of their last 19 consecutive 3* and Advanced starts. This pair hasn’t had a single rail since Cambalda returned to competition this year.
  • Bliss III and Alyssa Phillips had a rail at their very first Advanced, way back in 2015 at Twin Rivers. They haven’t touched a pole since, jumping clear in eight consecutive stadium rounds together at this level.

Kurt Martin and Anna Bella. Photo by Kasey Mueller.

Cross Country Machines

  • Simply Priceless and Elisa Wallace have a reputation for speed, and with good reason. This pair has the fastest average pace of the field at the CIC3*/Advanced levels over the past two seasons, clocking in an average of only 8.6 seconds over optimum time.
  • Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda have been pushing the pace all year, clocking in their first round inside the time at Plantation Field since Cambalda’s return to competition. Their last three runs average 1.67 seconds under optimum, while their overall pace for the year sits at 9.6 seconds over.
  • Anna Bella has had a light year with Kurt Martin, but she’s already sped back up to her 2015 form. In her last competition season prior to a hiatus, this mare averaged only 6.33 seconds over the optimum. This year she shaved 20 seconds off her pace between her first show back and her second, accumulating only 4.8 time penalties at Plantation Field.
  • Atlantic Domino could also be a challenger for fastest round of the day. Atlantic Domino and Jacob Fletcher haven’t competed at this level since 2015 and struggled with consistency up until their final runs, but notched in two very fast rounds once they achieved it. With strength in the other two phases, this pair could be a surprise contender for a top placing by Sunday.

PREDICTED WINNER: Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda

Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda. Photo by Amy Dragoo Photography.

Pairs to Watch:

  • Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous
  • Phillip Dutton and Indian Mill, I’m Sew Ready
  • Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot
  • Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night
  • Kurt Martin and Anna Bella
  • Katie Ruppel and Houdini
  • Jacob Fletcher and Atlantic Domino