Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous have been girls on fire this spring, winning their last two CIC3* starts, and they’re off to a smoking start in the mare’s four-star debut. The pair presented a positively glossy dressage performance today at Luhmühlen to take the overnight CCI4* lead.
Marilyn and “Kitty,” a 12-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Ms. Jacqueline Mars, Robin Parsky, and Phoebe and Michael Manders, were the last of the day to go. They edged former leaders Nicola Wilson and Bulana out of the top spot by a seventh of a point, finessing each movement for all it was worth — although Marilyn says she thinks their best performance is yet to come: “In time there are a few more points to knock off for sure.”
“She was wonderful, she’s always so much fun to ride, always a pleasure to go down the centerline with,” Marilyn says. “She’s the fittest she’s ever been, so she was a little bit fresher than she normally is and there’s a great electric atmosphere out there. I just needed to trust her just a bit more.”
Marilyn describes Kitty a courageous, if low-mileage horse, and she’s looking forward to tackling Luhmühlen’s cross country track with the mare.
“This is her first first four-star so it’s going to be a big test, lots to do, but it’s beautifully presented and it seems horse-friendly enough,” Marilyn says. “She’s very smart. I can’t think of any partner I’d rather leave the startbox with, so I’m very lucky.”
Sharon White and Cooley On Show were the first U.S. CCI4* pair out of the gate this afternoon, and they finished the day in the top 10 on a 49.8. The big atmosphere of billowing flags, menacing horse statues, on-the-move spectators and at least one giant inflatable teddy bear worked in the pair’s favor, giving the striking dappled grey a little extra oomph during his test.
“I was thrilled,” Sharon says. “Usually he’s very quiet, so he was a little sharp which was exciting — he was really taking me somewhere. We call him a surfer because he’s very laid back about everything, but he’s also very good at what he does. He’s super trainable. It’s actually odd how trainable he is.”
The 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, owned by Louise Walsh and the rider, is so gifted of body and mind, nothing thus far in his career has really fazed him. It wasn’t until his first four-star at Kentucky, where the pair retired cross country, that a course finally gave him something to think about.
Sharon explains, “I was a little passive at Kentucky because he’s such a good cross country horse, but he is young to the level and I think that at the four-star level they actually have to work. That will be a new feeling for him, to actually have to work at something.”
Not unlike Hannah Sue Burnett’s CIC3* ride on RF Demeter earlier in the day, Katherine Coleman’s Longwood had some trepidations about Luhmühlen’s arena decor.
“Oh, a wooden horse — that is probably going to eat me,” Katherine laughs, translating the inner monologue of her mount. It’s hard to get a pristine change when your horse is busy giving random statues the stink-eye, but Katherine countered it with a tactful ride to score a 57.5, good for 19th place.
It’s a few points lower than what they’ve been averaging, but as Katherine puts it, “It’s what you’ve got on the day, right?”
Katherine hopes to regain some points on Saturday, as cross country is where the 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, owned by KC Eventing Ltd., shines. “All is usually forgiven on cross country day,” she says. “He’s just a proper Irish cross country machine and loves his job in that regard.”
The pair is bouncing back from a tough go at Badminton, and Katherine likes the looks of Luhmühlen as a comeback course after the grueling British four-star. “I think it looks very jumpable, which is a nice feeling after Badminton! It’s a lot to take in, Badminton, and the jumps …. you’re walking that thinking ‘Ah, I just want to get home.'”
Luhmühlen’s recap of the first day action:
Still to come tomorrow from the U.S. contingent:
Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot: Friday 2:22 p.m. local time (8:22 a.m. EST)
Will Coleman and Obox O’Reilly: Friday 3:32 p.m. local time (9:32 a.m. EST)
Luhmühlen CCI4* Day 1 Dressage Top 20: