It was a beautiful day to watch some young horses show off their jumping and galloping skills today as the Young Event Horse Championship competitors took to Saw Mill Field for the final phase of competition. The Dutta Corp Fair Hill International is the last stop of the season for these East Coast horses, and a tough track consisting of show jumping and cross country questions thoroughly tested each combination.
We started the morning with the 4-year-old division. The track was set to about Training level height with two questions involving water, banks and related distances. Once again, we saw a lot of maturity from these very green horses who took the challenge in stride — literally — to show a lot of promise and scope for the coming years.
Riders were started on a show jumping course consisting of 7 fences, followed by a cross country track and a gallop immediately following the final fence. Judges were grading each horse based on its overall impression, boldness and athleticism as well as its potential for success at the upper levels of the sport. Horses were not penalized for knocking rails or refusals, and while we saw a few rails come down we saw hardly any glance-offs or runouts on the cross country track. This phase counted for 50% of the overall score for the competitors.
At the end of the morning, it was Jennie Brannigan and Nina Gardner’s Luna who took home the top prize, earning a 39.45 for their jumping test for a total weekend score of 78.39. Jennie and the Dutch Warmblood mare by Sandro Hit out of Sportsfield Maisie Grey earned the second highest jumping score of the division and really impressed with a ground covering, fluid gallop at the end of the course.
“She’s always been very natural to the jumps,” Jennie said. “I didn’t think I was going to win, I was completely shocked. She jumped around like a champ and I was thrilled.”
In second for the 4-year-olds is Lacey Ogden and Cooley Renegade, who ended their weekend on a total score of 77.5. Cooley Renegade is an Irish Sport Horse gelding by Shannondale Sarco St Ghyvan out of Lisglassic Just the Point, and he took to the jumping questions with ease, showing his scope and natural talent throughout.
Placing third for the championship is Doug Payne and Quantum Leap who scored the highest jumping marks of the division with a 39.75 for a final score of 77.49.
Continuing on to the 5-year-old division, Lynn Symansky and her very impressive Württemburg mare SpectraVET Cohiba were the best of the jumping horses today to clinch the win on a final score of 41.86. Lynn was excited about her mare in the press conference following the awards, acknowledging that she had a legitimate talent and cautiously optimistic for the future.
“She really impressed me,” Lynn said. “I didn’t quite know what to think about it going in, she’s just run one Novice but she is a superstar. She has a great brain and (is) a really athletic type. I couldn’t have been happier today.
Overnight leaders Kelli Temple and Kara Angulo’s Metallica also showed some great presence in the field today, earning a 40.5 nod from the judges to finish in second overall. Kelli has been quick to credit Kara for all of her work producing this horse, and she’s thrilled to have had the opportunity to pilot her this weekend.
Will Coleman has a very special horse in the form of the Irish gelding Don Dante, owned by Team Rebecca. This horse easily earned the highest marks today, a 44.65 out of 50 possible, to take home third for the competition. Don Dante, or “Al” as they call him at home, has every marking of a future star and make quick work of the track today. He’s scopey, elegant and efficient — and those skills will only continue to mature with time. Be excited about this one, folks!
Two other awards were also given out today: a Thoroughbred Incentive Program (T.I.P.) award for the highest scoring Thoroughbred between both divisions as well as the Safe Harbor award, which is given to the young horse who consistently exhibits the most graceful and rider friendly performance throughout the competition.
The T.I.P. award was handed to Jennie Brannigan and Nina Gardner’s Twilightslastgleam, a cheeky chestnut gelding who finished seventh in the 5-year-old division on a final score of 77.61. Caitlin Romeo and Audacious Comet were awarded the Safe Harbor award after solid performances all week landed them in the top 20 of 5-year-olds on a 74.46.
I have to say how impressed I’ve been with all of these young horses this week. I’ve never actually gotten to see any Young Event Horse competition before, so this really was a special opportunity.
Looking at the course today, I was amazed that horses with this level of greenness were able to complete so professionally. Naturally, it helps that they’re all piloted by talented riders in their own right, but it takes a smart horse to be able to perform at this level at a young age and these horses are definitely among the best.
I’m going to be crunching some numbers in the coming days to bring you more statistics on breeding and other interesting tidbits. Keep an eye out for that, and I’m also editing photos as we speak and will be adding a full gallery as well as more quotes from today later on.
Go Young Event Horses and congratulations to all winners!