Lauren Lambert, a native Kentuckian, raised funds to spend some time in Ocala this winter to train with David O'Connor as part of the U25 programme and was thrilled that the results showed in her dressage score - a hugely improved 28.4 for third place after that phase. Unfortunately an error at the angled houses close to home left them with 20 penalties on Saturday night, but Lauren told me she was generally very pleased with him cross-country, that he'd jumped all the new questions brilliantly and been very bold and keen, perhaps just a touch too much, and she needs to now re-think her bitting again as the pelham wasn't quite enough and that may have been her downfall at the end of the course as she couldn't organise him in time once he'd got rolling on a bit! A lovely stamp of a horse, he is an OTTB who was bought out of the yearling sales and raced by Ann Banks before being claimed. Ann then saw him some time later in a claiming race not looking quite as good and claimed him back, and Sally Abell now owns him for Lauren to compete. Lauren also owns another of Ann's ex-racehorses herself, the stunning grey Opera Ghost who raced a couple of times in partnership with Ann and Maggie Moss (who also used to own another stunning grey OTTB eventer - Titanium) before Lauren bought him at the end of his three year old year. Finally, Ann's newest OTTB turned eventer, a homebred called Rockin' Rod who raced on the flat, and even won a steeplechase before being sent to Lauren to try his hand at eventing, turned "professional" this weekend, finishing 6th in the Open Beginner Novice division at his very first recognised event at CHC Int'l - Congratulations to you all!
Another Louisville native, Laura Hampton, was taking her horse, Tirbracken around only his second intermediate this weekend and while we may have all been impressed by how well he handled the track, how bold he was, look at his lovely form, above, etc etc and we were, Laura might have had some misgivings about his quick thinking and keen eye when he locked on to the post and rail fencing out of the arena after jumping the corner combination huge, and calmly popped over it, completely missing the flower boxes that were supposed to be the exit! Not one to be too flustered, Laura spends her winters whipping in for the Long Run Hounds, she turned back, found a gap, duly jumped the flower box and continued to jump a beautiful clear round although she was given 20 penalties for the mishap.
Jessica Shull and L.E. Font, 19th in the CIC** - I think the arena combination rode best at this level for some reason - it seemed to cause most trouble in the prelim/one star, and then again a bit of trouble in the three star but I probably watched twenty pairs jump it in the middle of the day on all sorts of strides and it was quite forgiving.
Caroline Martin commits to a long one on all three jumps and rides positively to make it happen with Petite Flower in the CIC**
Julie Norman and Consensus, 2nd, over the first element of the arena combination.
Clayton Fredericks and PigrelaDes Cabanes,a much improved 2nd place here in the CIC** after an unhappy trip with owner/rider Hayley Parker (RF) in the CIC*** at Jersey Fresh last weekend
I'm glad to hear via facebook that Ashley Giles' Stellarluna is none the worse for wear after a fall at the ditch and brush later on course after skipping through the arena as if if it were a gymnastics combination. It was also a relief much later in the day on the CIC*** course to see Bill Hoos and Carmac walk away from a crashing fall at the vicarage ditch, demolishing the jump so much that the jump crew eventually abandoned trying to rebuild it and directed competitors to take the alternative. Unfortunately for Ellie MacPhail and RF Eloquence, who'd been held for quite some time while all this went on, they fell on re-starting and it will be hard to know if this was as a direct consequence or not.
However, not to take away from all those who had great rides and should be proud of their horses this weekend. Julie Norman, above, 2nd in the CIC** on Consensus.
The prize-giving took place just outside the main arena by the bandstand, and like Red Hills, the trade stands and the country fair atmosphere (kids zone, beer tent etc) already make CHC International feel like a big-time European event. It's been a subject of many discussions that the US riders need to be exposed to bigger competitions, and the more we have people like Hugh (Lochore), Carl (Bouckaert) and Michael (Pollard) with vision, and means to make it happen it can only be good for the US programme. The jumping under the lights was a brave move but hopefully in a few years' time will be ordinary at events all over the country, more normal for the horses and a big draw for crowds of all sorts. The cross-country was definitely demanding - but fair, and shouldn't it be? The mounds at the beginning of the course caused some trouble, the arena fences as discussed earlier, and the water seemed to ride very well on the whole - Lizzie Snow's Coal Creek took a massive bound out, leaping at the bank from possibly a whole two strides away, and very nearly made it, just pecking on landing and unseating Lizzie, and Veronica made the same mistake but in a slightly less dramatic fashion and got away with it of course, going on to jump clear with Lauren Kieffer and win the CIC***. Some of the big galloping fences were exactly that - big and galloping (isn't that what we say we want?), and we obviously need to practice jumping them again because they caused a couple of falls as well as a few lucky escapes.
Deborah Iezzi and Maxfli, 5th - near the end of the Intermediate course. Go Kentucky!
I talked to Hugh, and I talked to quite a lot of the riders, and I walked around a lot, and thought a lot. I'm reluctant to write too much as I wasn't riding and haven't competed in years, but I saw some fantastic riding and some great horses, some silly mistakes, and some combinations, mostly at the one star level who looked out of their depth. I'm proud of Hugh and the CHC Int'l Team for not compromising - from the show-jumping under the lights, the main arena and the extra loop through it, the vendors, the promotion, and yes the xc courses, I'm glad they decided to make this a first class event across the board and stick to their guns. I do remember driving home from events back in the day kicking myself for those stupid rider errors, those 'if only ' moments, endless, countless variations on a theme! I remember rarer wonderful drives home when everything had gone right, even more so if it was an especially tough track, or a marquee event, and probably most valuable of all I remember the longest drives home when it had all gone wrong, when I wondered if I should give up, when I felt I'd let everyone down, most especially my horse and had to try and figure out how to get better and learn and take something good away from it. I don't really remember the drives from those mid-week, middle of the road, bread-and-butter events even though they were just as important in my horses' education and my livelihood at the time but that isn't what CHC Int'l is going to be. Congratulations once again to all those who competed, completed or took part in some way in the creation and organisation of CHC Int'l and thank you for a wonderful weekend. Go Chatt Hills and Go Eventing!
Event Director Hugh Lochore - at home we call those rosettes "Special!"