Allison Springer Jumps to MARS Bromont CCI4*-L Victory

Allison Springer and No May Moon. Photo by Sally Spickard.

It’s not every day you see a Connemara/Thoroughbred pinging around the upper levels of eventing, though of course there have been plenty of examples of this sturdy and athletic cross within our sport. This weekend, Allison Springer showed us all just what a spicy, athletic, “dirt bike crossed with a mountain goat” can do: win at the CCI4*-L level, and at one of the toughest events in North America, to boot.

Nancy Winter, the breeder and owner of the newly-crowned MARS Bromont CCI4*-L champion, No May Moon (Catherston Dazzler – Ebony Moon, by Mystic Replica) was actually short-listed for the 1984 Olympics with a Connemara herself. She’s spent the bulk of her breeding career now influencing the Connemara lines with more and more sporthorse prowess — and No May Moon was one of two horses into which Nancy infused some prime genetics for eventing, along with full brother Crystal Crescent Moon.

“Their mother Ebony Moon was by Mystic Replica, so a good Thoroughbred blood mare, and then we bred her to Catherston Dazzler, who is now deceased, but he was an English Warmblood who’s produced a number of top event horses,” Allison told The Chronicle of the Horse last year. “They’re known to be incredibly athletic, good jumpers, maybe a little on the hot side, but I think it was a really nice blend.”

Allison Springer and No May Moon. Photo by Sally Spickard.

But getting to this point hasn’t been a quick process for Allison, who’s always garnered respect within the sport for her tact in producing horses and working with “quirky” individuals. “Mayzie” is no exception to this, a bit of a later bloomer as Allison describes her, and one whose future at the top levels wasn’t entirely clear until much further into her eventing career.

“She’s little, but she’s really, really well bred,” Allison said. “She’s bred to jump and she’s bred to run, and that’s exactly what she does. It’s just been really getting her mind and getting her to understand the job and focus. She’s such an athlete but I really feel like now, in her final bit of time at the three-star level and then now at the Advanced level, she knows this job.”

As I wrote yesterday, Allison described the process of producing the mare to this point, opting not to push her into Young Event Horse competition as a 5-year-old and instead choosing to give her time to settle in her brain and mature. Once she moved up to the Intermediate and three-star level, Allison kept her there for two full seasons.

“I think that it’s like anything — you get experience by potentially not doing it right in the past,” Allison mused. “You know, I’ve had a couple of careful horses that were great at the three-star level and started out great Advanced but were a little careful, so I sort of learned from that and I just really wanted [No May Moon] to tell me every step of the way. We as riders get excited and we have our goals, but you have to know and the people around you, they get excited for the goals too and sometimes you just have to pause and figure out what’s best. And Nancy is just an incredible horsewoman anyway, so she gets it — she gets the process. I’ve certainly had people in the past that just want to show up the party no matter what and have a result, but she really understands producing the horse so I’m so incredibly happy for Nancy and so grateful to her because these are this is definitely dreams coming true for her as well. So hopefully this mare will take her some more places.”

Allison Springer and No May Moon. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Believe it or not, this win is Allison’s first one at the CCI4*-L level or old CCI3* level. She’d won twice at the former CIC3* (now know as a CCI4*-S) before with her beloved former partner, the late Arthur, but the closest she’d come to date was a third place finish at Fair Hill in 2014 with Copycat Chloe.

She came into the ring, in second place after cross country behind Canada’s Waylon Roberts, to tackle Marc Donovan’s show jumping track knowing that it had exerted its fair share of influence to that point. Just two pairs had jumped double clear so far: Shannon Lilley and Eindhoven Garette and Boyd Martin and Miss Lulu Herself.

The efforts of a 10+ minute gallop at a Long format can certainly take some energy from even the fittest of horses, which is one thing that makes the sport of eventing just so exciting and intense, as well as a test of preparation. It can also make for poles down on Sundays, but Allison needn’t have worried. No May Moon jumped with springs in her feet, not giving a single pole a rub and securing at least second place with a finishing score of 46.1.

Waylon Roberts and OKE Ruby R. Photo by Sally Spickard.

It was then Waylon Roberts’ turn with John and Michelle Koppin’s OKE Ruby R (Namelus R – B. Termie R 6, by Germus R). Waylon did not have a pole in hand to secure the victory, and halfway around the track, it looked like we would be crowning our first Canadian 4*-L champion at Bromont in 10 years. But it wasn’t to be: OKE Ruby R lightly touched the pole on an oxer, and Allison’s victory came to fruition.

But to talk to Waylon afterward, you’d not know he’d just lost out on a big win. For him, the win wasn’t going to be the only mark of success on what has been a stellar weekend for him and the rangy 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare. He told me he’s done much work on his own headspace over the last year, which led to him feeling calm and not as under pressure as one might otherwise feel this morning.

“This is the best headspace I’ve been in in my entire life,” he told me. “I’ve done a lot of work on that in the last year, just getting help with getting me feeling better and that has made me a better horseman, a better competitor, and I think a better person to be around. So I didn’t feel any pressure today. Obviously I wanted to go in and do well. We all want to win, but I really went in thinking I wanted to do well by her. And she felt super, she jumped one of the best rounds that I think she’s ever jumped, and she just did that after running for 10 and a half minutes yesterday, so I couldn’t be happier. We’ve come a long way in three years with her. It’s been a little bit of a rocky road at times, as it is with any horse. But she’s trending in the right direction for right now. She’s the best horse I’ve ever had at this level.”

OKE Ruby R was also awarded Best Conditioned Horse by the Ground Jury, wrapping up her weekend on a final score of 50.0. Waylon hopes to aim her at the Morven Park CCI4*-L in the fall and is hopeful that “Ruby” will end up being a five-star horse for him and the Koppins.

Boyd Martin and Miss Lulu Herself. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Coming third in the 4*-L are Boyd Martin with Bonnie Stedt’s Miss Lulu Herself (Stolzenfels – Noisette, by Nobre XX), another mare to complete the trifecta of ladies on the podium. Thanks to a double clear show jumping effort that we’ve nearly come to expect from Boyd at this level, Lulu moved from fourth into third place on a final score of 50.7.

Boyd has also taken his time producing the chestnut Hanoverian mare, who’s come to this event as her third CCI4*-L. This is her best result at the level, and Boyd’s feeling like he’s perhaps got another 5* horse in the making.

“She’s been a very, very careful jumper, and I just find with those super careful jumpers it just takes a little bit longer to produce them just because the cross country, if you rush them they can be a bit unsure,” Boyd said. “Confidence is key with Lulu, and I was just absolutely thrilled with her performance this weekend.”

Boyd’s eyeing a potential 5* move-up for Lulu, but will prioritize taking her to one with a bit less terrain for her first go, similar to his approach with Fedarman B, who went to Luhmühlen for his debut. She’ll likely do one more 4*-L before he takes that next step.

Boyd also went wire-to-wire in the CCI2*-L with Fetiche des Rouges and Kolbeinn in second place.

Slezak Seals the Deal

Karl Slezak and Hot Bobo. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Karl Slezak raised the Canadian flag for the CCI4*-S win this weekend, defending the lead he took over after cross country with a double clear show jumping effort aboard Hot Bobo (Arkansas VDL – Taneys Leader xx, by Supreme Leader xx). This pair finished their weekend with a score of 44.0, and Karl’s keeping his fingers crossed that he’s done enough to convince the Canadian selection panel to give him a spot on the team heading to Paris.

But, as he says realistically, “what will be, will be.” This result, yes, was intended to impress the selectors, but Karl’s also looking beyond this summer to the future of a very special mare. “Today we’re on top of the world and very excited,” he said. “She feels great. She’s jumping really well. And I feel like I’m back in the game, so definitely excited about her going forward. Fingers crossed about Paris. But if nothing else, I know she’s back on top going into the fall.”

Karl is followed by Hannah Sue Hollberg and Christa Schmidt’s Capitol H I M, who defended their second place on the podium and finished on a score of 51.5 with one pole down today. Ariel Grald rode Annie Eldridge’s Isla de Coco through, surely, some pretty intense pain as she did a good number on her face falling from Diara on cross country yesterday. But she’s one tough cookie, as all of these riders are, and she put in a stellar effort with the absolute stunner of a mare, adding two seconds of time on show jumping and finishing on a score of 51.8 in third place.

Arden Wildasin and Sunday Times. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Before I wrap up, I wanted to give a shout to Arden Wildsasin, who finished fourth in the 4*-L with Sunday Times and won the 3*-L with Billy Beaufort, a very new ride that she’s only had since the beginning of this year. Arden leapt – literally – from 13th into first place following cross country yesterday, and delivered a double clear under leader’s pressure to seal the victory.

Arden is an amateur rider who does much of the work at home and with her horses herself, enlisting the help of coach Heidi White a couple years ago so that she could firm up her foundational skills. That effort has really paid off this year, and she’s excited for the future with all of the horses she brought to Bromont this weekend. But for her, similarly to Waylon in the 4*, it wasn’t so much about the prospect of a (surprising even to her) win, it was about how she was setting herself up and how she was riding.

“It was actually my first time kind of being in the lead,” she laughed. “So I had to take that out of the equation because you ride the horse that you’re on that day, no matter where you were placed. Because in a sense, it’s about yourself and that partnership. Yeah, there is a leaderboard at the end of the week, but it’s not, ‘where am I in that leaderboard?’ Yeah, I knew I was sitting in first. But again, that’s not helping my riding. What’s helping my riding is [asking myself], ‘what’s underneath me? Where are my shoulders? Where’s the hind end? What distance am I seeing?’ And just believing and having that confidence of riding, day in, day out, riding what’s underneath you and in a sense, blocking out what’s there is something that everything you learn from. So it’s the partnership again. It’s not about placing — it’s within yourself to be better.”

Arden Wildasin and Sunday Times. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Even disregarding the results on the board, Arden’s got herself well-horsed for the future. Her mother, Sarah, actually has a hand in selecting horses that have quality potential for Arden, and the Wildasin family on a whole are stellar supporters of the sport. As a demonstration of this, they donated Arden’s prize monies back to Bromont as a show of support.

“We just want to do what we can support Bromont,” Jim Wildsasin said. “I think Bromont is one of – I can’t imagine the eventing calendar without Bromont, so anything we can do at any time to help them, is something we’re not going to hesitate to do. It’s nice to see results come because Arden’s just been working and getting better and it’s started. We love the community, we know everybody and we’re always rooting for everybody. We love Bromont, period, end of story.”

And with that, another year at the incredible MARS Bromont CCI comes to a close. If you haven’t been here before, I highly encourage you to add it to your list. Prepare well, because the standards are high here, but you will leave with a greater sense of education and partnership with your horse if you cross your t’s and dot your i’s. I hope to see you back here next year, and until then and as always – Go Eventing.

MARS Bromont CCI (Quebec, CA) [Website] [Scores] [Live Stream Replays]

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