Recent severe storms have wreaked havoc in California, leading to major flooding and forcing evacuations in some areas. But the torrential rain didn’t stop Fresno County Horse Park CIC and Horse Trials competitors, volunteers and officials from forging ahead at the first FEI event of the 2017 season. They made the show happen, with some adjustments in the schedule and relocating the show jumping course for better footing. Kudos to the organizers for working to accommodate the weather effects and for all the volunteers, grooms and competitors for their dedication!
The footing at the Fresno Horse Park handles all the rain SO well. There are, however, a few extra water jumps. Like 5 water complexes isn’t enough!
It’s no secret that California needs the rain, but the sheer amount of it the last few days led to quite a few withdrawals from the competition. Tamie Smith said she had considered scratching before cross country but decided to wait it out and see how the conditions were when it came time to ride. The organizers and officials put forth monumental efforts to improve the situation as much as possible, pumping excess water away and moving fences as necessary, but it was soon obvious that the natural drainage of the Fresno County Horse Park would do much of the work, and an afternoon of sunshine was welcome.
“If you didn’t stay at the event you wouldn’t believe how well it dried out in a matter of hours,” Tamie said. “We’re all grateful for the officials and the organizer John Marshall for keeping the faith and sticking it out. It’s the beginning of the season for us and I can’t imagine we’ll get a lot of runs if this weather keeps up. Fresno is the only place that can handle that much rain. Walking through the water jumps, it was up to our knees, but they pumped it out and spent every second fixing problems. It was a tremendous effort from everyone to keep it safe and good for horses.”
Tamie spent a portion of last year training and competing in England so riding in heavy rain was less of a shock. Yet the footing at Fresno, she said, actually held up quite well and she felt it was good practice to compete in these unusual conditions.
“I have to say the ground was as pretty good considering what I’ve ridden in now over last few years,” she said. “It never rains in Southern California. We’re at a venue that can withstand that much rain, and it was a great opportunity to get out there and figure out what your horses are capable of. What will you do at Fair Hill or Kentucky? They don’t scratch in rain like this. Hats off to the entire crew at Fresno, the volunteers and everyone who stood out in the pouring rain. It’s pretty cool to see diehard eventers still have what it takes.”
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Tamie’s resilience ultimately paid off as she took home wins in both the CIC2* and CIC* divisions. Fresno was her first FEI competition with the Lucida LLC’s Glock Pullman since acquiring him last fall from UK-based Brazilian rider Rafael Lozano. Tamie and the 11-year-old Brazilian Sport Horse have spent the last few months getting to know each other and kicked off their partnership with a third place finish in Intermediate during the West Coast’s season opener at Galway Downs. At Fresno, they scored a 48.0 in dressage and added only 3.2 time penalties to their score during the jumping phases to secure victory.
“I can’t believe I’m riding this horse, it’s amazing,” Tamie said. “It’s like I’ve been riding him the entire time. He’s completely my ride. We spent the fall getting to know him and working on the flatwork, but the horse is a very good jumper, very careful, a good mover and just a really solid citizen. He’s a pleasure.”
Obviously, they’re getting on very well. “I kept thinking there’s got to be something I’m not going to like about him, but there’s nothing. He’s funny to be around, he has a great personality and he’s very workmanlike every time out. I’m knocking on wood a little hoping a little bit hoping it keeps going well.”
Tamie has penciled in a CCI3* for Glock Pullman before the end of the year but plans to take it one show at a time.
Second place in the CIC2* went to Kelsey Holmes and her 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding NZB The Chosen One. They started out in seventh place but moved well up the leaderboard as the only pair to finish on their dressage score of 54.8. Sandra Donnelly and her 14-year-old Canadian Warmblood Belshazzar were tied for second after dressage but dropped one placing with a rail and some time to finish third.
Fresno was Fleeceworks Royal’s first competition since she finished 24th in the FEI World Breeding Eventing Championships at Le Lion d’Angers last October. The 8-year-old Holsteiner mare, owned by Judith McSwain, has returned in top form with a win in the CIC* at Fresno. “Rory” was second after dressage behind her stablemate Sunsprite Syrius with just 0.2 penalty points between them but produced a double clear show jumping round to move into the lead. Tamie cruised around cross country without trying to make time. Both horses picked up time penalties but Rory was just fast enough to secure victory on a 57.8. Tamie and “Syrius” finished just 0.2 penalty points behind in second place.
“I was a little bit worried whether (Rory) would come out of France feeling confident because the course is big and there is a lot of atmosphere. You never really know how they are going to come back to next event. I decided not to run her Intermediate and just do the one-star and get in large court and give her good confidence builder,” Tamie said.
“She felt amazing. Show jumping in France was soggy and muddy. She’s a really careful jumper but had rails in France. I was wondering how she would handle this weekend, but it was a picture perfect round. She had a perfect balance, jumped beautifully, and was confident throughout the whole weekend. I’m hoping to move her up to Advanced soon, but I’ll let her tell me when she’s ready.”
As for Syrius, a 9-year-old Trakehner owned by Sunsprite Warmbloods, he continues to build on his impressive resume. Since he began eventing career in 2012, he has finished in first or second place in about 70% of the horse trials he’s entered. “That horse shows up for work every single day. He’s competitive and he tries his guts out. I’ve had such a wonderful time riding and training him and I feel so fortunate to have him.”
Three out of five Advanced competitors opted to withdraw from competition after dressage. Robyn Fisher and her own 8-year-old Holsteiner mare Betawave were the eventual winners, adding 3.2 cross country time penalties to their dressage score of 36.2. Leah Breakey and Master King II, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse, were second with 8.4 time penalties added to their initial score of 39.3.
The Team Express Group’s Charlie Tango led wire-to-wire in the Open Intermediate division. Heather Morris piloted the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse to a 28.7 in dressage and the pair finished on that score with nearly 20 points to spare. Andrea Nielsen and her 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse LC O’Shawnisee moved from seventh after show jumping to finish second overall with a double clear cross country and a final score of 46.5. Bunnie Sexton and her four-star partner, the 18-year-old Thoroughbred Rise Against, were third on 47.1.