It’s been a mixed day here at Richland Park, but definitely a long, hot one and before I can begin to write about the horses and riders I must give huge props to the organisers, volunteers, helpers, grooms and everyone who helped make the day run so smoothly. From the friendly crossing guard who stood in the sun all day manning the string on the galloping lanes so spectators wouldn’t get run down to the shuttle driver, above, who proudly told us he could get seventeen people on his golf buggy, but even more importantly, labradors were always welcome, everybody was friendly and helpful.
Smiling course builders…!
Inexplicably my laptop has turned into Pac-Man – when I plugged in my camera to download the pictures I had over 300, but I watched in horror as it slowly gobbled them all up. I can’t write much more about it at the moment, can’t speak about it, can only apologise for lack of pictures.
It was a good day for True Prospect Farm – Jennie Brannigan looked solid on all her rides, but especially on Cambalda and Indie. I caught up with her later to find out how the summer’s been treating her. Also, Jennie’s hot tip for the Bareback Puissance at Plantation Field in a few weeks time – Caroline Martin, you heard it on EN first! Jennie said she daren’t compete herself this year, but she will be commentating!
EventingnationJohn already covered Phillip’s prowess cross country, and yes he was impressive, but Mighty Nice looked especially good today – I haven’t seen him run since Barbury, I don’t think he has run since,and he looked much different here, much more confident and aggressive, just eating up the course, and how can you not adore a horse whose stable name is Happy?!
Will Coleman was another rider to have several good rounds, starting off the day’s sport early this morning with a lovely clear in the intermediate on Vancover. We had a brief chat about the horses he had here today, but before I turned on my video he’d told me what a great job Alexa Kim Perkiel had done holding down the fort while he was in England, and props to Alexa Kim’s Apres Ski for jumping clear round his first Advanced today.
Becky Holder of course had a great day today – storming round on Can’t Fire Me at the end of the CIC*** to try and best herself. ‘Teddy’ duly jumped clear and fast enough to move his stablemate Comet into second place. I caught up with Becky and we chatted about her two flying greys; she shared that they’re both such different horses to ride cross country that although they were both in the same division she walked the course twice, each time with each horse in mind, “Comet’s got a huge gallop, his style is much more to gallop hard and fast between the fences, and he can gallop a bit flat and low on a huge stride, so his style is to shorten up and he almost looks like he’s slowing up coming to his jumps. He often adds a stride in at many of the combinations – I did a serpentine line in the big water and he did six strides to five strides, he did it beautifully but that’s his style. Teddy is much more of a lock ‘n’ load kind of a ride, he’s very uphill and he just goes and goes. Teddy is so manic – he gets out there and just looks for the flags; he’s so much more rough and ready than Comet, everything is just a straight shot – we went straight into the big water, did the direct five and then his eye was on the last corner. I just sit up there with loose reins and he keeps running, and keeps jumping. I have to admit I’m not really elastic yet with my eye when I swap quickly between the two of them and I get a bit caught out; I feel like I could have been a lot quicker on Teddy if I’d let him keep coming to the fences a bit more, it just took me about half the course to adjust between the two horses. Comet can come out and be so on his game, and then there are other days when he comes out and acts like a bit of a diva. I think as much I love the horse and love riding him and always have, that sometimes I treat him a little bit too nice – he’s almost better if I treat him a bit like a naughty schoolboy, and shake my finger at him! Then he leaves the box like a house on fire and treats the course like there should be another level above what we’re doing, and that’s how he felt today.”
Teddy and Comet have had a pretty easy summer in Georgia since Bromont, “Everything just travels on a different time schedule – everyone’s up a little earlier to get everything done and we have these amazing fans in our barns, and they’re all spoiled rotten standing in front of them, Teddy and Comet even have them in the run-in shed in their pasture because they’re pasture buddies and like to hang out there together,” and after the AECs in a couple of weeks she doesn’t have much planned for them either. In fact, she shared, the AECs will probably be Courageous Comet’s last official event with her as she plans to retire him from upper level eventing following the event. However, that won’t be the last we’ll see of him – her husband Tom may possibly compete him at Starter level, if he can fulfill her strict dressage and schooling show requirements first, and Becky told me she’s also hoping to take part in some pure Dressage competitions with him, “Comet’s given me so much and been such an amazing horse. I had hoped that Kentucky might have gone better because I might have retired him there; I think we might go and do a little Prix St Georges Dressage. He’s such a twinkletoes, and I feel it would be wonderful for him. He’s sixteen this year but he’s been doing this sport since he was seven years old at the Advanced level and won just about every event in the country.”
Could there ever be another Comet? No, of course not, but that doesn’t stop everyone from trying to find one, including Lainey Ashker’s mother Valerie who is renowned for finding lovely OTTBs, and has found two Comet relatives already, one for her daughter and the other for Doug Payne – Shining North Star galloped very impressively around the Richland Park Intermediate this morning. Becky admits too, she’s not averse to considering keeping it in the family, “That Fappiano line that he goes back to is a big, turf galloping type of horse, they’re very sturdy horses, Comet’s had a freakish front end his whole life. I think it would be fun, there are so many horses out there that sticking with the ‘devil that brought you’, there’s something in the familiarity, it would be nice.”
Teddy raced, “very briefly very badly” and has been in Becky’s programme almost his entire life, since her groom Aubrey bought him off the track as a 3 year old. Becky took over the ride when he hit ‘adolescence’ and she thought she might have to help Aubrey sell him, “When he was five he went through this horrible stage – teenage years, it just seemed like all he wanted to do was smoke in the boys’ room, party too late, miss curfew, steal the car, everything you did he was just trying to get out of it. When I started riding him he really suprised me – the harder I was on him, the more I busted on him, the more he came to the party and that seemed to be the key. Finally we had a turning point, and it was just magic from there, he just picked it up and kept going.” My congratulations and thanks to Becky for her time, also wishing her a speedy recovery – she’s been soldiering on all day despite a nasty gash down the front of her calf that she got this morning in an alarm clock/gooseneck trailer camping accident.
Jan Byny looked terrific on both Syd Kent, above and Inmidair who lies 4th in the CIC***. Jessie Phoenix was busy all day, giving all her horses great rides with lots of positive vocal encouragement and praise all the way around. Boyd also looked good on all his horses, Hannah Sue Burnett gave both hers great rides, and Tops and Danielle Dichting,below, just get better and better all the time.
Despite being one of the busiest riders at Richland, Buck Davidson never seemed stressed; Ballynoe Castle looked fabulous where I saw him, as did The Apprentice and especially Tamara Smith’s fomer ride Mar De Amor who was very forward bound through the first water, and who Buck told me gave him a great ride.
Danny Warrington’s Will Smith was beautiful through the skinny brushes, as was Jessica Pye on Lightning Bound.
Selena O’Hanlon had two good rides, above on A First Romance in the Advanced
Diana Burnett and Shigatzi shortly before retiring
Colleen Rutledge and her youngest daughter – I watched in shock, and a tiny bit of awe as Colleen and Shiraz put one stride in the two stride skinny brush combination almost halfway round, then Colleen pulled Shiraz/Luke up briefly before continuing, then fell at the last fence. I caught up with her afterwards to ask what was going on. “It is so not him, even when he’s run away with me before it’s not been like that, at every single open space. I kept thinking he’d come back to me but he was ignoring me. I didn’t pull him up in the first half because I kept thinking he would get better, usually the fitter he is the more rideable he is and I kept waiting for him to settle.” Typical Colleen found a way to look on the bright side, “I’d rather it happen here than overseas, we can do something about it now. We need to figure out why he thinks he’s beyond Superman. Obviously we’ve got to go back to the drawing board on bits, the bit I have him in now, a Myler combination that normally he loves but I changed the noseband, and I may have to go back to a pelham or something that’s got a bit more ‘up’ power.” Luke ran at Millbrook three weeks ago, and “I’ve got a series of competitions lined up, I’ll definitely do Plantation, I’ll probably end up running him at an intermediate before then just to check that I have brakes and steering. It’s disconcerting but at least it happened here and I have a lot more opportunities to figure out what’s going on; I can take him schooling and I can go and have other people put eyes on him, whereas when I’m abroad it’s pretty much me on my own. I’ve got about a month and a half to figure out what’s going on so this is a good thing. Every time you go out it’s a learning experience – he told me that there’s now something going wrong.”
Interestingly, Colleen told me Shiraz had been diagnosed with Lyme Disease a couple of years ago which has never been a problem, until now perhaps. Today’s round she explained, coupled with his recent behaviour that she hadn’t paid too much attention are typical symptoms, “A lot of times the first clue I’ll get from my horses is their personalities start to change – they’ll be really nasty, or really needy. It hadn’t occurred to me before today that might be an issue but it all adds up.” Shiraz will have a blood test when he gets home, but they’ll start treating him for Lyme immediately regardless as he’s already been diagnosed with it and it’s a 30 day antibiotic programme. Funnily enough I also spoke briefly to Nate Chambers who retired Rolling Stone just before the coffin and he told me that Roly too was off all spring due to the dreaded Lyme disease. Having looked, and felt great the first half of the course today, Nate said he just grabbed the right side of the bit galloping to the wagon at 13, and despite circling and pulling up to a walk he couldn’t resolve it so elected to call it a day. Roly’s symptoms in the spring had included difficulty turning to the right, barely being able to jump a small rail and general stiffness especially to the right, and Nate wondered if Lyme was again to blame for Roly’s sudden change today.
Luckily Colleen had a cracking round on Covert Rights, clear within the time in the CIC** to lie in 7th place overnight, “He was phenonemal. He’s my homebred out of my first Advanced mare and everything I ask him to do he just answers with a smile. He was fantastic – this was a very big, impressive course for him and I was a bit concerned with how many questions it asked because I know he is quite young, but he went out there and was absolutely up to every single task, nothing phased him, he was pleasant, he was wonderful, I came off the course thinking I was sitting on my next Advanced horse, he was that fantastic.” By her friend’s stallion BFF Incognito, and out of chestnut thoroughbred mare, Colleen said she wouldn’t have minded if she’d got the worst of both horses, the foal would still have turned out nice but as it is she told me she couldn’t have wished for more.
Schoensgreen Hanni gave Michael Pollard a lovely ride to maintain her lead in the Advanced A, some small compensation for Jos Calfun taking a dislike to the drop at 5 in the Intermediate first thing Saturday morning, ending in early retirement, and DV8 also looked like hard work but just picked up 20 jumping penalties.
It was a great days sport, I particularly enjoyed seeing crowds of spectators full stop, but especially crowds running from the first water to the woods to watch the same horse and rider go through the sunken road there. The trot up for the CIC divisions starts at 7:30 sunday morning and it may take me longer to drag poor Lily out of bed than it will take most of the competitors to get their horses looking immaculate, but hopefully we’ll be there. As for pictures, don’t ask…Go Richland Park and Go Eventing!