RF Demeter has been competing at the three-star level since 2010 and last year began racking up wins, with today’s victory at Poplar Place in Hamilton, Georgia being her second three-star win this year and third since Carolina International 2014.
“She’s like a fine wine. She’s just getting better with age,” said the 13-year-old Oldenburg mare’s rider Marilyn Little. “She’s just a great friend and a great partner. We know each other very well. She’s not the horse with the most scope or the biggest gallop, but she is the horse with the biggest heart.”
“Demi,” owned by Team Demeter LLC, had what Marilyn called an uncharacteristic dressage test on Friday, scoring a 50.9 which was still good enough for 5th place in a division of 20 starters. A picture perfect show jumping round moved her up to third, and today she produced one of the very few double-clear FEI rounds across country, cruising home with an unbelievable 40 seconds to spare.
“She was on cruise control the whole time. It’s pretty hard to beat her on cross country. She’s a machine and such a pleasure to ride out there,” Marilyn said. “When moving up and bringing along young horses, it’s such a luxury to have a mainstay and a partner who shows up every day and reminds you how it’s supposed to be done. She’s a wonderful character and a great teammate.”
Marilyn also had two three-star first timers in the division. RF Overdressed and RF West Indie finished second and third after clear rounds today, though they held their own at the top of the leaderboard through all three phases.
RF Overdressed maintained second place throughout the three days of competition, adding only time penalties to his jumping phases. The 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Jacqueline Mars, Robin Parsky and Raylyn Farms, Inc. won his last FEI outing at the Bromont CCI2* and Marilyn felt the terrain at Poplar Place was a good challenge for him.
“He has an incredible stroke to his gallop which can be a disadvantage on this course because of the terrain – you don’t get to utilize it as much as you’d like,” Marilyn said. “He has an incredible capacity for longer courses. He runs like a cheetah; it’s a pleasure that when you open him up, off he goes with his ears pricked.
“I think over time we’ll see him get quicker on turns and in combinations. That’s where he’s a little slower now, but I’m not going to push him while we’re working it out together. The size of the jumps is a non-issue but he has to learn to read the questions. He’s a smart horse and so conscientious and tries so hard.”
Marilyn extends a special thanks to Jacqueline Mars, who is an owner for Overdressed and also a part of Team Demeter. “Her horses were first and second and I can’t thank her enough for her support.”
Securing third place was RF West Indie, a now 8-year-old Hanoverian owned by Raylyn Farms, Inc. who has been with Marilyn since the mare was five years old. Marilyn says she’s like a “sleepy, dreamy beach girl” around the show grounds, but when she leaves the start box she’s the boldest horse in Marilyn’s string.
“She just stalks the jumps. I have to make sure I don’t allow her to go too quickly as it would be very easy to be too fast on her,” Marilyn said. “Terrain is something that she’s had to learn about. This was a wonderful prep course for her. I took more time where terrain was involved, but I was able to help her less and less as the course went on. She’s getting better and better and it’s wonderful to see for a young horse stepping up.”
RF Quarterman is an Oldenburg gelding owned by Raylyn Farms, Inc. whose fourth place finish at Poplar was his fourth three-star completion this year. Although at 7 years old he’s the “baby of the bunch,” Marilyn said he’s a wonderful cross country horse who always does his job. He’s only been eventing for a year-and-a-half and is showing great potential for the future.
“Everything is possible. Every distance, every angle is possible. We’ll just wait for him to grow up and mature. He will step into the spotlight in his own time.”
And here’s a fun fact from our friends at EquiRatings: Every season since 2010 has produced only one rider with a double figure international win total. Chris Burton managed 11 wins in 2010 and since then only Michael Jung has managed to do so with 11 (2011), 13 (2012), 11 (2013) and 13 (2014). Marilyn has just joined this prestigious group having picked up her 10th international win of the year.
Marilyn was plenty busy in the three-star, but she also had a young homebred out doing his first Training. RF Smoking Gun is a 5-year-old Belgian Warmblood by Calmar 3 out of Udette, both of whom Marilyn competed in show jumping. This was only his third horse trials.
“I bred him as a jumper but to be honest, he really could do anything. He moves beautifully, jumps in lovely form and has an incredible character.” He is a bit of an old soul, Marilyn said, and he reminds her of the late RF Smoke on the Water when she rides him.
Fifth in the CIC3* was Jonathan Holling and Downtown Harrison. The 11-year-old Trakehner gelding returned to the Advanced level last month after a long recovery from an injury and he seems to be as good as ever. The pair finished on a 56.9, finishing one second slower than RF Quarterman on cross country.
Jonathan also won the Open Preliminary riding Team Rebecca, LLC’s Avoca Druid, leading from the start after posting a 20.9 in dressage, and was second and fifth in the same division riding the Kildalton Group, LLC’s Kildalton Cooley and Jonathan, Constance and Michael French’s Lupistar, respectively.
Tremaine Cooper’s CIC3* course saw 14 clear rounds with two others retiring on course. Besides Marilyn and Demi, Abby Hamblin and her off-the-track Thoroughbred Silver Flash were the only other combination to make time, finishing even a second faster than the winners. Marilyn, who was competing at Poplar Place for the first time ever in her FEI career, noted that the terrain makes the course more challenging but is a good test of fitness for the horses.
The Poplar Place September horse trials is one of their biggest events all year, and there was plenty more going on besides Marilyn’s complete domination of the three-star. Joe Meyer and Madison Foote’s Clip Clop were the winners of the Advanced division, leading from the start and adding only a handful of time penalties today to finish well ahead of second place Brittany Kart and Llewellyn.
In the CIC2*, Elena Ceballos and Nounours du Moulin climbed steadily up the leaderboard. The Venezuelan rider and her Selle Francais gelding were sixth after dressage but moved up today with a clear cross country round and 10.4 time. William Hoos and Celtic Rhythm made a similar move up to second, and Susan Thomas and 13-year-old Fly ‘N’ Bayou completed their first two-star as a pair, finishing in third place.
The CIC1* saw little movement at the top with Rebecca Hoos and the Harpeth Valley Equestrian Team’s Donnerstorm II securing the lead with a 47.8 in dressage. They had one rail in show jumping and today finished one second under the optimum time to finish a hair shy of 20 points ahead of second place, which went to Sharon Miller and her own 9-year-old Thoroughbred Ethan. William Hoos and 7-yera-old Ducati rounded out the top three.