EN caught up with the CIC3* leading ladies of Red Hills at the end of a dusty day of dressage here in Tallahassee, Florida. Curious about their plans for the spring, their thoughts on the course and how the atmosphere affected their horses today? Read on!
Harbour Pilot, a 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Jacqueline Mars, is a seasoned competitors nowadays, but he was very much on his toes for his test this morning, which scored 44.1 to lead. Red Hills benefits from widespread support from the local community, and there were far more spectators out and about today that what we typically see on dressage day at a U.S. event.
“I rode William twice this morning — I usually only ride him once — but he was a bit hot. I think the atmosphere is really intense,” Hannah said. “There are a lot of people walking around, and the far ring by the sponsor tent is so far away from warm-up. It just lights them up a little bit. He was really well behaved, but he definitely was tense.”
Hannah said she’ll be planning to work William in a little more before their upcoming tests later this spring, with the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials being their ultimate goal for the spring season.
Courtney Cooper sits second on 46.3 with “Tag,” a 14-year-old Irish/New Zealand Sport Horse by Aberjack and one of her homebreds. Today was an emotional one considering all Tag went through last fall, battling life-threatening inflammatory bowel disease and severe allergies. After working with New Bolton Center and UC Davis, Courtney said Tag is back on track.
“He just let me really ride him today,” Courtney said. “There were points where I thought I could have done better with him, but every day is really a privilege with him to have him back and be able to have him at all.”
Courtney has been training on the flat with Silva Martin, who she said has been an extremely valuable resource and helped her “try to squeeze out extra points here and there.”
Jessica Phoenix said the surplus of atmosphere today worked to the advantage of Bentley’s Best, a 10-year-old Trakehner gelding owned by Don Good, who scored 47.6 for third place. She said “Benny” loves atmosphere and does better when there’s some buzz to pep him up, which is very different from the type of horse she typically rides.
“Last year he was definitely really green at the level. This year he’s come out and feels a lot more solid in his brain,” Jessica said. “He’s got a lot more muscle and he feels like he can hold himself better. Over the winter we’ve done a ton of gymnastic work and really worked on the dressage to get him stronger.”
With that in mind, Jessica is aiming a more mature Benny at his first CCI4* at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event next month. As for her strategy for tackling Mike Etherington-Smith’s CIC3* cross country course tomorrow, Jessica said she will be looking to give Benny a good fitness run.
“It’s still early in the season for them,” Jessica said. “With Rolex in mind, I want to go out there and give him a good jump around and use the hills. In Florida we really don’t have a lot of hills, so I want to push him and give him a good blow.”
Hannah has a similar strategy with William, who she said has been wound up this year. “I’m not going to kick him on landing like I would at a CCI, but I’m going to let him run forward.”
With this being Tag’s biggest run back since his recovery, Courtney said her plan is to go out and try to be competitive while keeping his well-being and her bigger goal in mind. “Most importantly I need to get a qualifying score for Rolex. My goal is to jump clean with some time and to feel like he’s back on his feet. I’m going to be running but not trying to make the time.”
All three ladies agree that the course is beefed up from last year. Click here to check out a fence-by-fence preview courtesy of the one and only Shems Hamilton, the fabulous official photographer at Red Hills. They also agree that the footing is improved, so kudos to all who worked hard to get it better for the horses.
Which spots on the CIC3* course do they think will be most difficult? Hannah said she thinks the first water complex is tough, with a big log drop in followed by a corner in the water. “You’re going to have to be on your A-game there to make sure they jump in well,” she said.
Jessica said she thinks Goliath’s Gap at fence 11, a two-stride angled brush combination, will also be a demanding question.
Courtney added: “There’s enough to do, and there aren’t a lot of breathers on the course. Mike develops really nice courses and leaves the horses with a good taste in their mouths when they’re done.”
Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High Float to Advanced Lead
Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High, a 14-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding owned by John and Judy Rumble, scored 30.2 to lead the strong Advanced division. That score is one point better than the 31.3 they delivered at Rocking Horse Winter II Horse Trials last month. Keep chipping away, Woody!
Dom Schramm and Bolytair B continue to impress as they step up to the Advanced level, sitting in second place on 32.7. After finishing eighth in their Advanced debut at Pine Top last month, Dom and “Boly,” an 11-year-old Dutch gelding owned by the Naked Horse Eventing Syndicate, are on track for another strong finish.
Whitney Mahloch and Military Mind, an 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding she owns, round out the top three on 32.9. Lauren Kieffer and Veronica, the two-time defending champions of this division, sit in fourth on 34.7 after some sassy moments in their test, but don’t count them out!
As we did for the CIC3*, EN also compared today’s scoring to the average scores for the Advanced competitors. Lois Henry scored nearly bang on the expected scores for these horses and riders, just 0.023 points higher. The field average was 37.66. The 2016 division averaged 38.75, with a 2015 average of 37.75.
Clayton Fredericks and Megan Lynn Lead CIC2*/CIC*
In a déjà vu moment from last year, Clayton Fredericks is totally dominating the CIC2*, sitting one-two after dressage. FE Ophelia, a 10-year-old Zweibrucker mare, topped the score from her CIC2* debut at Plantation Field by nearly 20 points to lead the division on 37.2. Houdini, a 13-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by Katie Ruppel, scored 37.7 for second place.
Allie Knowles and FE Crosby, a 7-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Katherine O’Brien, scored 38.4 in their CIC2* debut to round out the top three.
There are a number of heavy hitters competing in the CIC2* — like RF Demeter, The Apprentice, Fernhill Fugitive and Rubens D’Ysieux — so you should definitely take a scroll through the leaderboard to check out the scores after dressage.
Looking to the CIC*, we have to send a MASSIVE shout out to Elevate Event Team member Megan Lynn, who scored 38.0 with The Natural E to lead the nearly 50-strong division. The 9-year-old Danish Warmblood owned by the Elevate Event Team bested her previous CIC* score by 16 points in a truly impressive performance.
Cross country starts tomorrow at 8 a.m. with the CIC2*, followed by the Open Intermediate at 9:40 a.m., the CIC3* at 10:45 a.m., the Advanced at 12:30 p.m., the CIC* at 1:35 p.m. and the Preliminary divisions at 3:20 p.m. The CIC3* will show jump before cross country at 9 a.m.