By adding just cross country time penalties to their dressage score Lauren Kieffer and Veronica moved up from fourth place to first during the course of the CIC*** at the inaugural CHC International, taking home the blue ribbon and a wheelbarrow full of other awards, including the Big Green Egg, the Adequan vouchers (this was of course a stop on the USEA Gold Cup Adequan PRO Rider Tour) and valuable points on the PRO leaderboard. Although it was Lauren's intention to run her around gently, Veronica was full of run and definitely seemed to have her own ideas about that; her one sticky moment on the cross country came when Veronica made a bid to leave out a stride jumping up the bank out of the water, "I definitely saw another one coming up that bank", agreed Lauren, "but this mare is so competitive. She took a bit of a long one but she fought for it to get to that skinny, she's just a genius like that, she's amazing, she's very competitive in her own mind. She was wonderful the whole way round - I went out to have a very steady clear, I certainly didn't intend to be fast but she just gets into such a nice rhythm and she's just such a quick little horse anyway, plus she's so balanced that I don't have to do a ton of work in front of the gallop fences so she just kind of cruised along. She's little so she stayed a bit above the muddy ground which helped her. I think a lot of people probably went slowly because of the ground but I'm tickled to death to have won. The ground was a bit heavy in the galloping lanes, certainly not mud or anything like that, but you could feel that it was a bit heavier from all the rain and the other horses galloping on it, and the footing in front of the fences was beautiful. I thought the course was fantastic, there were certainly plenty of questions, it was lovely and big and galloping which is Hugh (Lochore's) type of course, and he really has done an amazing job turning this facility into this type of course, I think adding the loop through the arena changed the whole flow and made a huge difference and it worked really well. It had the technical questions where you needed them but at the same time I think it gave horses a really good, confident feeling to finish on." Lauren admitted to being nervous about jumping under the lights on Friday night, although she also said she thought the atmosphere might play to her advantage, "She really did, she came in and jumped amazingly so I was ecstatic with her. I think if they keep doing it here it will be something people probably prepare for more." Lauren mentioned the Twilight Jumpers in Middleburg which she hasn't done, but thinks Karen (O'Connor) may have taken Veronica to, as well as the PRO Derbycross that Karen rode her in which was under lights in Wellington, "Karen did all the work on the mare and now I just get to hop on and have fun" she said modestly, forgetting to mention that she started her in the very beginning, "I adore her, we get on really well, she's always been my favourite of Karen's." Veronica will spend the night Saturday at Chatt Hills so she can have a "big fat nap" before shipping home Sunday, then have a "super easy week", and as long as she's sound and happy she'll head up to Bromont next. In Lauren's personal life she had to compete against her facebook US U25 'husband' Jacob Fletcher this weekend, and I asked how their relationship was going, "I got here, said hello and asked him to help me unload trunks, and then I didn't see much of him for the rest of the weekend!"
Ellen Doughty and Sir Oberon moved up from ninth place after the dressage all the way to 2nd place in the final standings by adding just one time penalty in the stadium on Friday night, and cross country time. A Holsteiner/TB cross, Ellen has had Sir Oberon since he was a five year old and too much horse to do pure dressage, "The owner thought he was too highly strung to do dressage so I bought him and we went up the levels together; we did a year at training, then I think we did four prelims before we moved up to Intermediate, that was 2010. He had a slight strain in a suspensory at one of the two stars in 2010 so I gave him a year and a half off to make sure he was fully healed. We came back last Fall and did a couple of Intermediates and this Spring we did our first Advanced at Texas Rose, so this was both of our's first three star, and second Advanced. He's wonderful!" Ellen takes clinics, and trains every now and then with Mary Darcy; she walked the course at Chatt Hills with Mike Huber and although she acknowledged that some of the combinations were tough here, she maintains that Texas Rose was a stronger course all the way round. Sir Oberon's strengths across country lie in his adjustability and rideability, Ellen explained, "He's so fast to his fences, I just have to sit up and he does his thing." The plan is to go to Rebecca Farm for the three star next in July, then Ellen's home state Michigan for Richland in the Fall, and hopefully the AECs and Fairhill, "That's the plan, and I'm going to see how he goes at all the three stars and if Rolex comes up next year...I don't think he's the kind of horse that needs to spend a lot of time staying at the levels, I think he could possibly do Rolex next year so that's the ultimate plan but we'll see, we'll see where it takes us!"
Phillip Dutton and Team Rebecca's Ben also only added time penalties cross country to their two day score to finish third. Phillip said that after a year off due to injury, and then being short a run after missing Fairhill due to wet weather he was thrilled with both Ben and his second ride, Tim and Nina Gardner's William Penn who ended up in 10th place after a stop at the above corner. Both Ben and William Penn came here this weekend with only one Intermediate Horse Trial this year under their belts so understandably Phillip was very pleased with their performances (1st and 2nd in the dressage, one rail between them show-jumping, blames himself for being rusty cross country on William Penn) - Look out for them to be firing on all cylinders in Canada at Bromont!
I lost count of how many horses Caroline Martin rode this weekend, but I do know I didn't see her give one a bad ride. Quantum Solace moved up to 4th place in the CIC*** with a consistent performance over all three phases.
Jacob Fletcher and The Prof, fifth, looked very smooth through the arena, and then I asked a reliable source who told me he also looked very good through the water; equally impressive is his attitude throughout the weekend - relaxed and friendly but also professional, and right after his ride he came down to the water to watch and then check up on his Area IX teammate Lizzie Snow who had gone just after him and had a fall; luckily she was absolutely fine.
How wonderful to see all of Kyle and Jen Carter's work and emotional investment pay off in the manifestation of Madison Park galloping around the CIC*** for fun - that's why we do it! Congratulations, and sixth place as a bonus!
Jon Holling, 7th, said he needed a good round here to go to Bromont, not technically as far as qualifications are concerned, but as far as his peace of mind was concerned. DHI Zatopek must want to travel north because he duly obliged with a lovely, polite clear round - I can't stress enought what a huge corner this is in the arena that he is making look like absolutely nothing!
Becky Roper and Jireh moved up into 8th by virtue of having the fastest clear cross country round of the division.
Allison Springer looked to be giving Copycat Chloe a perfect ride everywhere I saw her, spot on, deadly accurate and absolutely no excuse to deviate from the plan. Hopefully they will build up a wonderful partnership together, I do remember being told when I was young that it takes 18 months to develop a proper relationship with your horse, and at the time I was horrified, but then a year later, and then again 6 months after that I realised how true those words were.
Hopefully I'll get around to writing up the CIC** on Sunday, but until then a quick congratulations to the winner, Buck Davidson on No More Rocks; Buck flies out to France Sunday night to join Team mates Hannah Sue Burnett (Harbour Pilot), Will Faudree (Andromaque) and Marilyn Little (Smoke on the Water). This time next week they'll be representing the USA in Saumur - Good Luck! I couldn't finish without thanking our incredibly gracious and generous host, Carl Bouckaert - Chattahoochee Hills is a unique venue, a jewel in US eventing's crown and with Hugh's vision it could turn into something incredibly special on the calendar every year that Carl is amazing to let us enjoy. Anyone who might be worried that eventing is being turned into a glorified combined training test could do worse than spend a weekend at the stunning Chatthahoochee Hills venue next May - Hugh Lochore's cross country certainly exerted an influence on the scoreboard, and despite this being the first year, and despite rather inclement weather the atmosphere on the Friday night for the jumping under the lights was exactly what the sport needs; I spoke to quite a few riders over the weekend and they are all supportive of it. With time and tweaking it will only get better and better, but it needs our support. I also caught up with show-jumping course designer Marc Donovan to ask him if he has to approach things differently when he's thinking about courses at night, "Well, we did consider it but as it turned out I think the light was pretty sufficient; horses really see remarkably well in that type of dim lighting. We started off the first class (the CIC*) a little bit soft, just with the spreads, so no one would get in trouble, and then we went full speed ahead after that, we were pretty much up to the standard." Marc also repeated that this had been something of a trial and error mission, and that perhaps next time they would get another bank of lights to illuminate the corners more, as they had been the darkest areas of the rings, but each time he said, they'll probably learn something new, "I think it was a brilliant idea, it's so modern, and I think it brings the riders together because it's something new and they're all in the same boat, and all at the same time." The massive main arena comes with it's own problems at Chatt Hills, it's very size can sometimes pose a problem, "it can get away from you if you're not careful" warns Marc, but in this instance with the VIP Tent and roping on one side, and the cross country jumps in the middle it wasn't a problem. The obstacles gave Marc a starting point from which to design his courses around, "I try to not jump towards them, or to include them in the line in any way. I use them as islands and I loved having them in the ring." Marc insists that he doesn't adjust his courses according to format and that he likes technical courses, "I try to stick to the heights and spreads that are in the standard", but admits that he thinks that probably horses show- jump better before going cross country even though he personally prefers the stadium to be on the last day.
Many thanks again to everyone involved in making the inaugural CHC International such a resounding success - I'm only sorry I missed the party on Saturday night as I hear via various twitter reports that it's a banging time - EN John, you will pay for this! Thank you to all the grooms, the volunteers, the supporters, families, judges, organisers, riders...of course the horses, the doggies etc etc. You know who you are, we know who you are and we thank you, thank you tonight, and thank you every day. Looking forward to growing the CHC International, but a busy year in between. Thanks for reading EN, and thanks for Going Eventing!