With three ladies topping the CIC3* leaderboard at the Cloud 11 ~ Gavilan North Carolina International following the first day of dressage, this afternoon’s press conference had a definite girl power vibe. Our top three, Jennie Brannigan, Hannah Sue Burnett and Caroline Martin, impressed in the sandbox today, and they said it’s time for the ladies of USA eventing to step up.
“The women in this country are really starting to step up and not just step aside for the men, which is exciting,” Hannah said.
Jennie added: “We’re lucky that we’ve grown up in a sport where men and women get treated equally. I don’t even think anything of being a woman. But for how many men ride that are very good, I feel like it’s our responsibility to prove you can be a woman and ride really fierce and aggressive and go for it and not be scared of anything.”
That was the mantra Jennie took into the ring with her today aboard Tim and Nina Gardner’s Cambalda, who delivered the second-best dressage score of his career to lead the CIC3* on 41.5. The 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding is definitely a specialist when it comes to CIC3* competitions, having finished in the top five a whopping 15 times in their 17 starts at the level.
Jennie and “Ping” come into Carolina with a wealth of momentum, having just finished second at Red Hills in their return to the three-star level following a lengthy break for the horse after Pau CCI4* in 2015.
“It’s interesting now that I’ve evented so many other horses that are more forward-thinking,” she said. “As long as you don’t mind kicking, he’s good, and he was very good on cross country at Red Hills. He’s like my old best friend. Good and bad, I know him well.”
While Ping won’t be making the trip to the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event this year, Jennie does have another exciting goal she is working toward. On Monday she will ride in a practice timber race aboard Joshua G, owned by Armata Stable and trained by Katherine Neilson, before riding him in the Brandywine Hills Point to Point on April 2.
Jennie described the opportunity to ride in a timber race as something on her “pipe dream list,” and it won’t be the first time she’s donned jockey silks. She first piloted Where’s The Beef to a fourth-place finish in a flat race at the Aiken Spring Steeplechase in 2015. (You can read all about her foray into racing here.)
‘He’s Ready to Go’
Hannah Sue Burnett and Jacqueline Mars’ Harbour Pilot are coming off a big win in the Red Hills CIC3*, and she said she thought their test today, which scored 43.1 for second place, was an improvement from their performance in Tallahassee.
“I need to get him a little more through in the back. He’s been tense in his back, and it’s showing up in the walk. He has a fantastic walk, and I haven’t been able to really show that off in the last couple tests,” Hannah said. “I think I need to ride him in a little bit more and get him looser. He’s funny this year. Last year he was asleep all the way until Rolex. This year he is really intense. He’s ready to go.”
“William” is aiming at Badminton, along with five other horses piloted by Team USA ladies — Lynn Symansky, Lauren Kieffer, Elisa Wallace and Katherine Coleman — with another two ladies on the waitlist — Holly Payne Caravella and Bunnie Sexton — we’re hoping will make the final cut.
‘Loved the Horse Since Day One’
Caroline Martin and Sherrie Martin’s The Apprentice sit in third place on 44.3 in their third start together as a combination. Buck Davidson produced “Dirk” from the Preliminary level and competed him for five seasons at Advanced. While the Martins recently decided to sell the horse, they are reconsidering their plan due to some of Caroline’s horses retiring from eventing.
“We’re still trying to get to know each other,” Caroline said. “Buck did such a good job of producing him and he’s so well trained. He knows his job. … We’re just seeing how it goes. There’s no pressure. We have loved the horse since day one.”
Caroline is working on forging a strong partnership after Dirk moved into her program about two months ago. They’ve since competed in a Preliminary event at Ocala and finished fifth in the CIC2* at Red Hills earlier this month.
“He’s very wound up mentally, and he gets very nervous about everything, so the majority of the time I have with him is trying to make everything relaxed,” she said. “I think it was good to take him back down to Preliminary level and cruise around.”
Fans of Caroline’s Young Rider gold medalist partner Quantum Solace will be sad to know that he has been officially retired from eventing due to a heart issue discovered at his in-barn examination before what was meant to be their four-star debut at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event last year.
“We thought we could fix it, but it’s not worth the risk,” Caroline said. “He’s too special a horse. He’s my best friend.”
Caroline finished second with “Nacho” at the $15,000 1.30-meter Eventing Prix Invitational just before Red Hills, and she has also been jumping him in 1.40-meter classes at HITS Ocala. Her ultimate goal is to compete in some small Grand Prix classes, and she has been training with Aaron Vale in preparation.
As for how Nacho feels about his new career change, Caroline said he’s thrilled to be in a jump saddle every day. “He likes not doing dressage anymore. You have no idea!”
(As a side note, Caroline is currently showing as entered on the Rolex entry list with Pebbly Maximus, but she confirmed to EN that is a mistake. She will actually be competing at Rolex on Spring Easy in what will be the first four-star appearance for both of them.)
Looking to the dressage scoring in the CIC3*, the final session today trended 1.43 penalty points below the expected averages for these combinations. Overall the scoring today was just 0.73 points lower than expected, indicating that the scoring of the field as a whole has been neither high nor low. EN’s data analyst Maggie Deatrick will continue to track scoring tomorrow.
Click here to view the full scores for all divisions. The top scores from the lunch break also remained unchanged in the other FEI divisions. Cornelia Dorr and her own Louis M still hold the lead in the CIC2* on 44.4, and Boyd Martin and the Long Island T Syndicate’s Long Island T also held onto their lead in the CIC* on 35.5.
We’re uploading a full photo gallery from the day’s dressage action, so keep checking back to see more. As always, David Frechette is roaming the grounds with his video camera recording all of the top tests, so be sure to check out his YouTube playlist here.
Considering Southern Pines H.T. battled snow at this venue two weeks ago — click here to see some amazing photos from Brant Gamma Photography — it didn’t surprise anyone to have blustery, chilly temperatures today. An epic hailstorm complete with ground-shaking thunder ripped through the grounds last night — which Caroline said made for a tense night in her camper! — so it’s definitely been an eventful weekend this far.
As always, we can’t say enough about the incredible hospitality provided to all at this event. The Sagmae Competitor’s Lounge is brimming with delicious food and tasty libations, and this is truly an event that riders, owners, sponsors and journalists alike enjoy year after year. Thank you to the organizers and volunteers for the hard work. It is so appreciated!
Dressage resumes tomorrow at 9 a.m. EST, and you can watch the conclusion of the CIC3* division live thanks to our good friends at EQSportsNet. Click here to catch up with all of EN’s Carolina coverage so far. Go Eventing.