The cross country at the Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event showed us once again that eventers are tough as nails. This weekend’s Nor’easter paid no mind to our pleas for warm sunshine as it descended on the Horse Park of New Jersey in the form of chilly temperatures, heavy wind gusts and buckets of rain.
But, eventers don’t back down from a little rain. Today’s international riders displayed some incredibly tactful riding, despite the conditions, as they took their first crack at Captain Mark Phillips’ new cross country course.
When overnight CCI3* leader Tamie Smith withdrew Kevin Baumgardner’s Wembley, she left the door wide open for third-placed Phillip Dutton to take the lead with Mr. Candyman.
Phillip–a.k.a. The Mr. Miyagi of U.S. eventing–had the fastest ride of the day with “Elmo,” a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Annie Jones, Bridget Colman, Caroline Moran and Tom Tierney.
“He’s a work in progress,” Phillip said. “He’s not the most confident horse in himself, so I can’t go 100 percent. I’ve got to go about 90 percent to stay confident on him. He handled it all easily today.”
The pair came through the finish flags with 8.4 time penalties added to their dressage score to sit on 58.90 going into tomorrow’s show jumping.
“I want to congratulate the organizers and everyone who tried really hard to make this as good as we can with the conditions. It stayed safe for horses and riders. It was obviously a bit more challenging as it got wetter and wetter, but part of becoming better on cross country in this country means we have to learn to deal with adverse conditions. I was excited to take mine out and see how they go and handle these conditions, so I’m glad I did,” he added.
Lizzy Jahnke and Light Speed Equestrian’s Princeton followed in Phillip’s footsteps as the second fastest round of the day, coming in 45 seconds above the optimum time to move from 10th to second place.
“He’s an amazing cross country horse. He is very fast and at the same time extremely rideable, so it allows me to gallop and then he easily comes out of his gallop so I can set him up for the fences quite easily,” Lizzy said.
She and the 11-year-old Thoroughbred’s dressage score of 56.8 plus today’s 18 time penalties gives them a two-phase result of 74.8.
“It was my first CCI3*,” she continued. “I wasn’t sure how he was going to feel at 10 minutes, so I was a little slow going out. As I went I got comfortable and put the pedal down more, so he felt great. Honestly, he had plenty of gas left in the tank.”
Dom Schramm battled more than just the elements with Bolytair B today, as he’s been dealing with a bout of food poisoning that has unfortunately been going around at the event. But in Dom’s mind it is mission accomplished, as he picked up a qualifying score with “Boly” as he looks ahead to his ultimate goal: representing Australia at the 2018 World Equestrian Games next year.
“All of the rain took a little bit of the pressure off because it meant I didn’t have to be concerned about going like a bat out of hell. My plan was to go out and not fight with him too much for about six minutes and then see what kind of horse I had left. To his credit he was strong and felt great the entire way. I felt him getting a bit tired at the end because the ground was getting holding, but he kept fighting,” Dom said.
The Naked Horse Eventing Syndicate’s 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood looked keen and confident. This pair had the third fastest trip round this course today.
“Running here has been part of our longterm plan with the horse, and we didn’t have a big margin of error in the spring without pushing him too hard. We’ll be more relieved once we get done with the show jumping tomorrow, but I have to say that it feels great to have this run behind us. I would be lying if I said the WEG next year wasn’t on the radar, but at the end of the day we have to take it show by show and do what’s in the best interest of the horse.”
Rerouting from Rolex Kentucky, Daniela Moguel and Aurelio Quinzaños & Jorge Eduardo Mtz. Castrejon’s Cecelia moved nimbly around the saturated cross-country course, adding 34 time penalties to carry 89.8 penalty points onto show jumping.
Buck Davidson found himself in fifth place with Cathy Dudick’s No Remorse. The game little 10-year-old Thoroughbred mare moved up from 13th despite adding 27.6 time penalties.
In addition to Tamie and Wembley, three other combinations opted to withdraw before cross country including Sara Moore and Polaris, Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin, and Ashley Johnson with Tactical Maneuver.
Two riders fell from their horses – Nilson Moreira da Silva and Buck Davidson. Nilson fell from Cash at fence 25, but was quickly on his feet. Buck parted ways with Park Trader at the Red Barn fence 30, and after a few worrisome minutes, the medical team here reported that he was OK. He went on to ride his two CIC3* entries.
Nilson also retired his second ride, Muggle, after the 13-year-old Thoroughbred cross came to a quick stop at the 9A at the Jersey Shore.
Today’s rainy conditions meant for tough going in this group today. No one managed to finish within the optimum time, and today’s nine CIC3* finishers averaged 34.93 time penalties.
A huge congratulations are in order for the entire Jersey Fresh team. I have never seen a more active grounds crew doing everything in their power to preserve the footing. Additionally, today’s volunteers were outstanding–they stuck it out to the bitter end with smiles all around. Thank you!