Straight show jumping horses know the drill: You go in the ring, you pick up your feet, and if all goes well you go back in the ring later for a jump off, this time with your rider’s pants apparently on fire.
Event horses, on the other hand, are used to a one-and-done format. You go in the ring, you pick up your feet, and then you go back to your stall and eat dinner. Boom.
This afternoon’s $15,000 Ocala Horse Properties Eventing Prix, hosted by Southern Cross Equestrian, was an interesting social experiment. What happens when you raise the fences to 4* height and put the pedal to the metal on an event horse?
An impressive majority of the 36 horses (see entry list here) that started today’s competition rose to the occasion, literally, with Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook Scarlett clinching the win on the wings of a gutsy, double-clear jump off round.
“She’s a really careful mare, and she’s that in-between of having a huge stride and being really catty and shortening quickly,” Lauren says. “So I was able to go in, be gutsy and take some risks and they paid off for us.”
The Marc Donovan designed course was a no-slouch zone, keeping riders on their toes with its twisty track and big atmosphere. Between banners, spectators and noise, even if they had a rail or two the greener horses left more seasoned for the experience.
Marc, who has designed Grand Prix courses to the World Cup level, donated his services to the event.
“I think Marc is one of the best show jumping course designers we have, definitely in this country and worldwide,” Lauren says. “He does an excellent job of weeding people out. Problems are widespread and nothing rides badly but he gives you a lesson as you go around and really educates you on where your horse is.”
He also gives riders places to make choices, which Lauren took advantage of during her bold but tactful round. She used the turns to her advantage, shaving off inches wherever she could.
“It’s hard because you have to make a decision, but it can also pay off for you,” Lauren explains.
Having the opportunity to tackle a course like today’s so early in the season helps set horses and riders up for success as they prepare for spring three-days.
“Certainly it’s got a lot of atmosphere and it’s big — we don’t often jump many courses this big,” Lauren says. “You get your edge back and it gets you sharper.”
Eleven horses advanced to the jump-off thanks to double-clear first rounds. Kylie Lyman and Da Vinci Code turned and burned to take the early lead, with Hannah Sue Burnett and Under Suspection nipping at their heels. Lauren and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett, the penultimate pair to go, overtook Kylie with their 49.31 second round. In the end it was Lauren in first, Kyle in second and Hannah in third, each of whom took home an oversize check.
Lauren led Team USA, comprised of Phillip Dutton, Lynn Symansky and Buck Davidson, to the top of the scoreboard as well. Also of note, Jennie Brannigan’s support crew was the recipient of the Groom’s Award, sponsored by Brewster Walker Horse Transportation.
It was a fun event on a beautiful day, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of sponsors. Join us in thanking Ocala Horse Properties, WoodmenLife, The Dutta Corp, Brewster Walker Horse Transport, Stellos Electric, Seminole Feed, Doug Hannum Equine Therapy, APF, Wordley Martin Equestrian and Jump for Joy.
A full playback of the event’s live stream is available here, featuring commentary from EN’s own human eventing encyclopedia Jenni Autry (watch out John Kyle, she’s coming for your job!) as well as guests to include Max Corcoran, Lynn Symansky and Jimmie Schramm.