Whitney Mahloch and Military Mind have come out swinging in their first three-star attempt, topping Richland Park CIC3* dressage on a personal best score of 44.6.
Never mind winning — just making it to this level, with an OTTB you developed yourself, is an accomplishment in and of itself. And it’s been a long time coming for this six-year partnership.
The 10-year-old Thoroughbred (Military – Smart Balance, by Beau Genius) was bred by the University of Kentucky and pulled off the track after raking in a whopping $140 in three starts. Whitney purchased him for $500 as a sophomore in college from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation in Putnam, Indiana. When she saw the big-boned three-year-old, she recalls, it was love at first sight.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, I have to have him.’ I got him and he’s been very straightforward to train … He’s got such a good attitude and wants to please you. Six years later, I’m excited about how far we’ve gotten.”
The Ocala-based 26-year-old brought “Milo” up the levels herself, and their competition record reveals quite a wunderkind story. Their journey has taken them from a short stint at Beginner Novice and Novice (“He was basically just stepping over the jumps, it was very easy for him,”) to Training (where they won several events), to Prelim (they collected four wins at that level), to Intermediate (they won their first Intermediate as well) and on up to Advanced, with stop-offs at a handful of one- and two-star events along the way.
All their FEI starts thus far have been in the company of one another, and now at Richland they are making their CIC3* debut– and clearly making short work of the level so far!
Their test was glossy-smooth and elegant, a picture of happy horse and poised rider. Milo is no showboat but he had plenty enough expression and made up for the rest by being through and obedient from centerline entry to final salute. Kudos to the judges — it’s encouraging to see a correct, harmonious performance rewarded with a big score even if not accompanied by a household eventing name.
Whitney says she didn’t even look at who was in her division or watch any of the rides before or after her: “Honestly, I wanted to go in there and just do what I know — you ride what you know and do your best, and that’s all you can do.”
She knew she had ridden a solid test — she was especially pleased with Milo’s changes and half-pass to the left, as they’ve been working hard to polish those movements this summer — but she didn’t know how it would compare to the rest of the field. In the end it was good enough to land them in the lead, which could be a curse or a blessing for rookies to the level.
Whitney says she’s trying to avoid it being either: “I’m glad we’re doing this well this early, but I’m trying to stay calm. I’m just trying to be positive and upbeat for us … We’ve done our homework and we can do all the elements of it and we’ll just take it one step at time.”
On their heels in second place on a 45.7 is Will Coleman with Tight Lines. This 9-year-old French-bred gelding owned by the Conair Syndicate is one of two rides Will has in the CIC3*, the other being Soupçon du Brunet, who sits 16th. Will thinks a lot of this horse and has done a beautiful job of bringing him along — this is his second CIC3* outing behind Great Meadow where he finished in the top 25 -— and we’re happy to see them reel in such a befitting result.
“He did a much improved test; he just got pretty tense at Great Meadow, so he didn’t have a great day there,” Will says. “He’s green, he’s only 9. I was really happy with him.”
Will’s affection for “Phish” is evident: “He’s truly my best friend. I really love the horse. I think highly of him.”
And yes, his barn name is a reference to the band. “I was really into Phish when I was younger. I love music and most of my horses are band- or music-related names, and he just seems kinda like a groovy dude so we called him Phish.”
When we caught up with will he’d just finished walking the CIC3* cross country course, of which he commented, “It’s no slouch. It’s a typical Ian course — forward riding, holding the line, things that they should be able to do when they get to this level. I was pleased with him at Great Meadow so this will be another feather in his cap if he jumps this well. We’re aiming him at Fair hill and this will be a good test.”
Rounding out the top three is Caroline Martin, who scored a 48.5 on Spring Easy, the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Spring Easy she co-owns with her mother Sherrie. Caroline has two horses in the CIC3* as well and is tied for 9th on Pebbly Maximus.
The weather been a bit erratic all day, threatening rain then presenting instead a surprise punchline of bright sun bursting through the clouds. At last, during the final post-lunch break block of five horses, the menacing skies finally made good on their promise.
Caroline and Spring Easy got a good soaking, but nature saved its best for last. The final pair in the division, Colleen Rutledge and Escot 6, got absolutely drenched, and while both horse and rider exhibited tunnel vision throughout the deluge one can’t help but wonder if it didn’t dampen their score a bit.
Now that the
three four-ring dressage circus is quieting down a bit out there, I’m off to track down a top-of-the-charts rider or two. Will report back soon!
Richland Park CIC3* Dressage Photo Gallery:
Richland Park CIC3* Top 15:
Richland Park Advanced Top 10: