Following the decision to move Advanced cross country to Sunday in order to ensure good going for the horses at Millbrook Horse Trials, we saw beautiful conditions and perfect footing for the finale here in Millbrook, New York — a welcome change from the stormy weather that plagued much of the weekend.
Time always proves tricky across Tremaine Cooper’s Advanced course, and even with the sun drying the saturated footing to provide fast ground, riders still had to be very clever with their lines to shave precious seconds. A new loop on the front of the track and a change of direction with fewer downhill stretches also created a scenario in which the time proved easier to catch this year. Three pairs ultimately bested the optimum time of 6 minutes, 21 seconds, and we saw a number of speedy rounds.
Emily Beshear and Olney Uncle Sam crossed the finish 1 second over the time to rise up from third place following show jumping to take the win on 26.1. Emily would be the first to say that she didn’t expect “Sammy,” an 11-year-old Trakehner (Sonset Seiger X Aerial, by Starman), to win this weekend, as his record has been a bit “hit or miss” since he stepped up to the Advanced level in April.
“I’ve been trying to figure out how to give him the right ride on cross country. I came to Millbrook wanting to execute a new plan,” Emily said. “He’s a little bit of a quirky horse. When I moved him up to Advanced I fell into the mode of being defensive because he’s a little careful. If I sit up and prepare a lot (before jumps) then he questions things even more. I had to work through that and decide that instead of sitting up and protecting him I am going to give him a really positive ride.”
It’s been a bit over a year since Sammy’s owner, Jennifer Ward, asked Emily to take the ride. Jennifer purchased Sammy as a 3-year-old from his breeder, Ami Howard of Olney Farm in Maryland, and produced him to the CCI* level. When Jennifer’s job as an underwriter in real estate finance left her with little time to continue competing, Emily was the obvious choice to campaign Sammy.
“It’s been a lot of fun for all of us,” Emily said, “and it’s rare for the weekend to come together like this. As for her thoughts on the course: “I was thrilled that (Tremaine) gave us a bit more room to get galloping in the beginning, especially with this horse because he can come out of the box a little too careful. It certainly was a big benefit for all of us that the organizers decided to push cross country back a day. The footing was great and I thought everything on course was quite fair.”
Sammy’s big goal for the fall is the CCI3* at Fair Hill, and Emily also plans to run him in the CIC3* at Plantation Field next month.
Doug Payne and Lisa Wall’s Getaway, an 11-year-old Oldenburg by Contendro, added 1.2 time penalties to their dressage score to finish in second place on 26.6. Doug and “Flynn” were the only pair in the division to take the gutsy inside line at the water complex, which saved a substantial amount of time.
“He’s getting better and better,” Doug said. “There are still some jumps where he runs past the distance and doesn’t stay as well balanced, so you still need to spend a little time to make sure it’s right. But overall it’s just easy for him. He’s remarkable in that way.”
Doug and Flynn received a Jacqueline B. Mars International Competition Grant from the USET Foundation to compete at Boekelo CCIO3* in the Netherlands in October. The horse will continue competing in pure show jumping in preparation for Boekelo, and Doug also plans to run at Stable View before Flynn ships overseas.
“He just needs to get stronger and more comfortable in a big environment,” Doug said. “The more places we can find the better.”
Allison Springer and Lord Willing jumped clear with 8.8 time penalties to finish in third place on 34.0. It was the exact confidence-boosting round she wanted for “Liam,” a 9-year-old Holsteiner (Lord Z X Legende IX, by Coriano) owned by the Lord Willing Syndicate.
“I didn’t start my watch with either of my horses,” Allison said, explaining that she wanted to focus on a smooth round rather than go for time. “He started out a little nervous, but after the first combination he jumped every fence out of stride. … The goal is to get him ready to be competitive for Fair Hill CCI3*.
Boyd Martin and Long Island T, a 12-year-old Oldenburg/Thoroughbred (Ludwig von Bayern x Haupstsbuch Highlight, by Heraldik xx) owned by the Long Island T Syndicate, led after dressage but slipped to fifth after having a rail down over Marc Donovan’s show jumping course this morning. Adding 8.4 time penalties on cross country saw them finish fourth on 35.3.
Canada’s Brandon McMechan and his own Oscar’s Wild were one of three pairs to catch the optimum time, which moved the 9-year-old Thoroughbred up from 21st after dressage to finish in fifth on 36.1 — the only pair to finish on their dressage score in the Advanced division.
Boyd Martin finished three of his rides in the top 10. Christine Turner’s On Cue, a 12-year-old Anglo European mare (Cabri d’Elle X On High, by Primitive Rising), delivered a solid performance in her Advanced debut, jumping clear in show jumping this morning and adding 5.6 time penalties to finish sixth on 36.5.
Ariel Grald and Annie Eldridge’s Leamore Master Plan, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Master Imp X Ardragh Bash, by Cavalier Royale), delivered a clear show jumping round and added 6.4 time penalties on cross country to finish seventh on 37.7.
Buck Davidson and Maya Simmons’s Archie Rocks, a 10-year-old Thoroughbred (Le Monde X Unbridled Diva, by Unbridled Jet), had two rails down and 1 time penalty in show jumping, but a clear cross country trip with just 0.4 time penalties as the first pair on course boosted them up to finish eighth on 40.5.
Jules Ennis and her own Cooley O, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Caricello, by Lady Glebe, by Kildalton King), added 1 time penalty in show jumping and 6 time penalties on cross country to take ninth place on 41.4.
Boyd Martin and Steady Eddie had one rail down and 4 time penalties in show jumping, and added an additional 4 time penalties on cross country to complete on 41.5 in 10th place. The 15-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred (Jetball X Tudnela) owned by George and Gretchen Wintersteen and Denise Lahey and Pierre Colin is preparing to return to Burghley next month.
Click here to view final scores. Time penalties were the major deciding factor on the leaderboard. While 81% of starters jumped clear rounds, only 8% made the time. In addition to Brandon McMahon and Oscar’s Wild, Cornelia Dorr and Louis M (11th, 44.4) and Fylicia Barr and Galloway Sunrise (12th, 44.7) also beat the clock.
We unfortunately saw two horse falls back-to-back very early on in the division. Caroline Martin and Cristano Z had a rotational fall at a table at fence 4. Last year’s winners Sara Kozumplik Murphy and Rubens D’Ysieux led after show jumping but fell at the wagon at fence 18. Both horses were uninjured and on their feet right away. Both Caroline and Sara were transported by ambulance to MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie for treatment. We are wishing them both speedy healing.
Millbrook is a special event for a lot of reasons, and the team behind the scenes who run the show are second to none. Thank you to the organizers, officials and volunteers, all of whom kept smiling amidst the rain and mud. Keep checking back for more photos. Until next year … Go Eventing.