Cross country day tends to be the sorting hat of Boekelo CCI3*. Between its twisty, time-sucking track and high-end three-star questions, those who get the job done, and quickly, are richly rewarded.
Our highest placed American pair, Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett, had everything on the line when they left the box. Dressage leader/CCI3* rookie Isabella Innes Ker had a clear trip but collected enough time to part ways with the top 10, and with the top placing theirs for the taking, they put the pedal to the metal and quite nearly joined the exclusive club of nine out of 94 pairs that managed a double-clear trip.
One Missisippi, two Mississippi … that was the difference between first and second place, and having collected 2.4 time penalties Lauren and Scarlett will head into tomorrow’s show jumping in the penultimate leaderboard position. Germany’s Stephanie Böhe and Haytom moved from seventh into the lead on the wings of a double-clear trip, with just a fraction of a point separating she and Lauren.
Lauren plays to win but it’s impossible to be unhappy with Scarlett, who delivered a seamless round today in just her fourth three-star attempt. Scarlett, a 9-year-old Thoroughbred/Holsteiner mare owned and bred in the U.S. by Marie le Menestrel, rose to the occasion for Lauren, who has had the ride on her since she was just four years old.
“We have a really long partnership, so it gave me a lot of confidence going out,” Lauren said. “We know each other really, really well.”
The serpentine of three brush hedges at 7 was, as EN Boekelo live updates superhero Leslie Threlkeld put it, “the bugbear of the day.” Being so early on the course, it was a bit of a buzzkill for horses in the mood to run, jump and be merry, preferably on a straight-line trajectory. It caused 24 runouts plus eliminations throughout the day, catching out the likes of Blyth Tait, Dirk Shrade, Oliver Townend, Ben Hobday, Jesse Campbell and many others, unfortunately including our own Tamie Smith with Twizted Syster and Kylie Lyman with Lup the Loop.
Here, France’s Matthieu Vanlandeghem and Safran du Chanois ENE HN demonstrate a variation on the drive-by theme we saw throughout the day at the A, B and C elements:
Lauren and Scarlett, however, glided through through the troublesome S-curve with the finesse of a calligraphy pen, a testament to the mare’s rideability.
“I was obviously very careful at #7, which caused so many problems, and at the water, as there had been so many falls, but she couldn’t have been better,” Lauren said. “She was very straight, very honest.”
Lauren says that all things considered, the course rode to plan.
“I had a couple plans this morning and was going to watch a bit and make some final decisions later, and some decisions changed throughout the course of the day as the footing deteriorated, but it all rode according to how I was planning to ride it,” she says.
Scarlett tends to be a super show jumper and we can’t wait to cheer this pair on in the morning.
“She’s a really lovely, careful mare and she’s still young. She’s only 9, so it will be interesting to see how she comes out tomorrow,” Lauren said. “It’s a hard course on them with the twists and turns. I’m proud of her today and we’ll see what we have tomorrow!”
Lauren, for whom 2016 marks her third trip to Boekelo, talked about how at this event “you really find out a lot about a younger horse.”
And indeed Tamie Smith saw an impressive side of Dempsey, an 8-year-old Dutch horse owned by the West Coast Dempsey Syndicate. Dempsey is the greener of the two horses Tamie brought to Boekelo, but you wouldn’t have known it watching him out there today.
“I wasn’t sure how he was going to handle the crowds and stuff,” Tamie said. By “stuff” she’s referring to the parade route gauntlet of bustling crowds, rowdy bars and giant inflatable objects that the course passes through. As the highest placed Dutch rider, Alice Naber-Lozeman, described it in the press conference afterward: “It’s like riding into a discotheque.”
“I just went out the box and he got into a good rhythm and he didn’t care,” Tamie says. “He was great to all the twisty-turny stuff, he read all the really hard lines and did all the direct routes. I was ecstatic with him.”
I saw Tamie and Dempsey at the #7 combination, where he looked quite keen but open to negotiation. Tamie sat up, wrangled Dempsey’s hind-end and bounced him up underneath her, dribbling him like a basketball to each fence. “The first narrows were tough,” Tamie said. “You had to fight for every one.”
When the Dutch rider in front of them, Jordy Wilken, had a fall at the #20 rolltop, there was a near 10-minute hold on course. It was tough timing for a horse just locking onto his game, but Tamie kept Dempsey trotting around and the pair completed the course clear with 16.4 time for an overnight placing of 36th.
“I’m just so proud of him,” Tamie said. “He was super focused and really rideable, and to see where he’s come from and where he is now it’s just so rewarding when the stars start to align.”
Ellie MacPhail and RF Eloquence were a third U.S. success story. Boekelo marks Ellie’s first time competing overseas and she seems to be thriving on the experience. The pair galloped across the finish with 17.2 time and will head into show jumping in 22nd place.
“I was really happy with him,” Ellie said. “I didn’t really know what to expect. I ran Rolex this spring but coming here, it’s a totally different feeling and the course is a lot different and I couldn’t be more thrilled with him.”
The 11-year-old Holsteiner owned by Sally Crane ate up the track. Ellie says that #7ABC was a little bit exciting: “He got there and jumped huge over the first one and landed way far past it, so I had to kind of pass the second one and angle it and then the third one was a little off, but he was a good boy to keep going.”
She reports that the course rode according to plan, except for her decision to take the long route at #23AB, a mound to corner combination. “He was a little tired and I didn’t feel like I could get there so that cost us some time,” Ellie explained.
Apologies to Ellie as I didn’t get a good action shot of her (the struggle of being a 5’1″ photographer in a packed crowd is real) but I’ll snap extra tomorrow — we’re all looking forward to cheering on this exciting pair.
“He’s been going really well. We’ve been working really hard on it, so I’m hoping to have a good clean round,” Ellie says.
Best of luck to all three of our remaining U.S. combinations!
As mentioned earlier, Tamie and her second ride, Twizted Syster, and Kylie Lyman with Lup the Loop unfortunately ran into a bit a trouble on course today. For both the trouble started with a drive-by at the #7 combination — Tamie had a runout at the B element and Kylie fell victim to C.
Kylie and Loopy’s day ended not long afterward at the #11 water; Leslie T. said it looked from the live stream that he jumped in huge, tripped on landing and managed to recover but had no ability to reorganize for the bounce brushes out at B and C.
Of Tamie and Chloe’s fall at the rail in the second water, #18, Leslie reports that Twizted Syster just stumbled on landing and submarined into the water. Both were on their feet quickly and walked off the course.
Tough luck, but they’ll be back to play another day.
Three fallen riders were transported from the course in an ambulance: Anna Siemer of Germany will stay the night in the hospital for observation, the Netherlands’ Jordy Wilken was taken to the hospital then discharged, and Italy’s Pietro Sandei was taken off course in the ambulance but did not need to go to hospital. No serious horse injuries were reported.
2016 Boekelo cross country statistics are similar to previous years. Wayne Quarles, President of the Ground Jury, remarked afterward, “I was impressed by the majority of the riding. There were a few unfortunate incidents but the fact that everyone is going home safe and sound is a great testament to the competition.”
Our U.S. team — Lauren, Elinor and Kylie — is now 8th in the Nations Cup rankings. Great Britain leads, followed by the Netherlands in second and New Zealand in third.
The final horse inspection takes place on Sunday at 9 a.m. local time (3 a.m. EST) with show jumping to begin at 11 a.m. Go U.S. and Go Eventing!
Boekelo CCI3* Top 20 After Cross Country:
Nations Cup Top 3 After Cross Country: