Tamie Smith and Mai Baum sailed into the CIC3* lead this afternoon at Plantation Field International Horse Trials, scoring 38.2 in the second to last group to go and ultimately remaining the only combination in the 63-horse division to crack the 30s threshold.
“Lexus,” a 9-year-old German Sport Horse gelding owned by the Ahearn family, made the trek from Southern California to contest the Best. Event. Ever. before tackling his first CCI3* at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International next month, and Tamie said after the test that she’s thrilled with how the test came together.
“He felt pretty tight right before I went into the ring. On his right canter lead he can get tight, and he’ll do a flying change easily because of that. I went in and did some canter work and he settled right in, which I was really proud of because that ring is pretty electric,” Tamie said.
“I’ve really been working hard on developing a partnership and getting to know him and learning about the best warm-up strategy for him. We’ve been working with my dressage trainer Niki Clarke, and I’ve also been riding with Steffen Peters. I’ve been really happy with how he’s progressing.”
Now Tamie and Lexus look ahead to Marc Donovan’s show jumping course tomorrow. Their last CIC3* show jumping round on the East Coast saw Lexus uncharacteristically pull two rails. Since then, Tamie and the “Black Stallion,” as he’s affectionately known, have been diligently working to polish their performance in that phase.
“I think we learned a lot from that. We’ve had more months to get to know each other since then, and and I think we have a real partnership now. I have worked a lot with Susie Hutchison on getting the show jumping right. He is a phenomenal show jumper, so I am really hoping for a good round tomorrow. He’s still green, but he’s more than capable of jumping clean,” Tamie said.
“Every day I ride him, it’s just really remarkable. He tries really hard, and I’m so grateful to the Ahearns for the opportunity and allowing me to ride him. He’s a special creature. That’s why I call him the Black Stallion. He’s my dream horse.”
Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous, a 10-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Raylyn Farms and Phoebe and Michael Manders, are sitting in second place in this big CIC3* class on a score of 41.1. “Kitty” wasn’t mean to compete here at Plantation Field this weekend, but an unplanned dismount for Marilyn in the show jumping at Poplar Place last weekend altered their schedule.
“I’m not sure if she stumbled in the footing or overreached and caught herself, but unfortunately it happened two strides in front of the triple combination, and we were already committed,” Marilyn said. “I was already a little bit loose in the tack from when she righted herself, and I just flew. Basically, I was a human bullet. I own some territory down in Georgia now.”
It’s been a swift turnaround for the mare as a result, with a pit stop at a Swan Lake jumper show on Wednesday to take a spin around a 1.35-meter class before shipping in to Unionville late last night. Marilyn didn’t have a chance to take Kitty to yesterday’s ring familiarization due to shipping in so late, and the mare definitely made her feelings about that known as they started the first movement in the test after their first halt and salute.
“She just wasn’t focused at first. But then she switched back, and she was very good. We’ve been working on being able to ask for more in the movements and ask for another level, and I thought she was very steady in the movements and in the extensions. The right shoulder-in is her weak one, so it’s hard to start off on that, and we went off on our weak entrance, but other than that, I was very pleased with her.”
Kitty settled very nicely after that initial bobble to start the test, which continued to improve with each movement. “It’s very much two steps forward, one step back with a horse that’s very sensitive, very careful and so smart. She always wants to be a little bit ahead of you, so it’s not easy. You also have to make her feel like she’s confident, but you also need to keep her respectful, so there’s a very fine line. We’ve been trying to find that,” Marilyn said.
“We’re a year and a little bit into building our partnership, and I think we’re getting closer and closer. In the meantime, she’s changing so fast. When a horse changes so much in one season, it’s a challenge. And when they change as much as she has in three seasons — going from the Training level to the three-star level — at the end of the season you look back and see the progression. She’s progressed exponentially.”
Marilyn will be looking to secure Kitty’s qualification for a CCI3* this weekend; if she gets it, she’s tentatively thinking of shipping the mare to the Netherlands to compete at the Boekelo CCIO3*, but she also said those plans are still up in the air. “It depends on the feeling I have — not just getting the qualifying score — but the way she does it,” Marilyn said. “I want to feel like she’s really confident.”
Scores are super packed at the top of the leaderboard, with Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM, Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High, and Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border all sharing a three-way tie for third place on a score of 41.3. Selena and “Woody” led yesterday in the early going of this division yesterday, and she gave a wonderful interview that you can read at this link.
Looking to the rest of the leaderboard, Jessica Phoenix is dominating the top 10, with Pavarotti, Abbey GS and Patras VR sitting in sixth, seventh and 10th, respectively. With Selena and Woody sitting tied for third, that gives the Canadians four of the top 10 slots in this star-studded division. As a cherry on top, Holly Jacks-Smither and More Inspiration delivered the best test of their career to sit in equal 18th place on a score of 48.7. Go Canada!
In other news, Doug Payne is still a total rockstar after scoring 31.7 with his own and Kristin Michaloski’s Lysander yesterday to lead the CIC2*. No one could touch that score today (click here for his comments on the test), so he once again holds the overnight lead with “Big Leo.” In fact, the entire top three remains unchanged from yesterday, with Alex O’Neal and Rendezvous With Charley sitting in second on 36.1 and Peter Barry and Long Island T in third on 38.6.
Dave “The Man” Taylor is madly typing away at the CIC1*-B division report currently, so he’ll have much more to bring you on that shortly. For a quick spoiler alert, DeAnna Burke and Davinci lead on 34.6, followed by Ellie MacPhail and RF Panamera in second on 38.4, and Jorgen Olijslager and Northern Quest Lady’s Man in third on 40.4. Click here if you missed the CIC1*-A dressage recap from yesterday.
We still have much more to bring you from Plantation Field, including the much-anticipated CIC3* course preview video from drone pilots Alec Thayer and Jamie Rees. (Did we mention Chinch also took a spin on the drone?) In the meantime, there’s currently a giant vat of mac n’ cheese at the party by stabling that Chinch fully intends to dive into headfirst, so I’m out.
Don’t forget that Samantha Clark is doing a superb job over in England covering the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, where Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen are leading after dressage on a super score of 33.8. We have a total of four Americans in the top 20 at Blenheim, so there’s a lot to be excited about tonight! Click here to catch up on all of Samantha’s coverage from Blenheim. Go Eventing.