Well, at least it’s not raining. It was, however, an exceptionally windy day here at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International Three-Day in Elkton, Maryland. Though the conditions made delivering a relaxed dressage test a bit trickier than usual, we still saw some excellent fancy prancing in the CCI division on day one of dressage.
Will Coleman and Dondante are leading the CCI4*-L division, after approximately a third of the division performed their dressage tests this afternoon. Dondante, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse who was sourced through Cooley Farm as a four-year-old, is Will’s sole entry this weekend. Despite the blustery conditions, the gelding showed up to work and clocked a personal best score of 33.8 at the Advanced/ four-star level.
“The conditions were kind of challenging, actually, this afternoon,” said Will. “He’s a pretty spooky guy, so I was very proud of him. He just keeps getting better. He’s definitely not going to get mistaken for a dressage horse, but he tried hard. We’ve been working very hard, so I’m pleased with the improvement. Hopefully he can finish on that.”
Bringing along Dondante, who goes by “Al” around the barn, has been a rewarding endeavor for Will, who has enjoyed support from owners in partnership, Team Rebecca and the Four-Star Eventing Group.
“He hasn’t had amazing results anywhere but his dressage keeps getting a little bit better every year and he’s always been pretty good jumper and a good cross country horse. If anything I’d say he tries too hard — we had a mistake out of the first halt, but that was just him wanting to get into the test so bad that he just loses his footwork and canters a step.”
“But that’s the sort of horse he is, he just wants to give you everything, so sometimes that tension can bubble over just little bit so my job is really to try to keep him relaxed and confident and I think I’m doing better job of that. As he matures he just keeps getting better and better. He hasn’t blown anyone away yet … but if he keeps going like this maybe one day he’s going to do great things.
Lauren Kieffer sits in second on a score of 35.4 with D.A. Duras, an 11-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Jaqueline Mars and Debbie Adams. Rounding out the top three in the four-star is Allie Knowles and Katherine O’Brien’s 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Moreswood.
The top three horses in the CCI3*-L all delivered sub-30 dressage scores and there is a currently a tie for first on a score of 29.8: Holly Payne Caravella and Charmking share the top spot with Caitlin Silliman and Ally KGO.
“He’s an awesome horse,” Holly said of the 8-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Carmking LLC. “I was actually really concerned though — he is a little noise sensitive and with all the wind today and the flags and everything … I had taken him out for a gallop to try to just take the edge off and he was actually a little too quiet in the ring. So I did a little too much, but I would rather have that any day than have him have been explosive.”
Despite the conditions, Cailtin was able to glean some confidence from having ridden Morgan McCue’s Ally KGO, an 8-year-old Trakehner mare, in this atmosphere before in for the 4- and 5-year-old YEH Championship in years past.
“It gives you a bit of confidence going in the same ring, because you’ve been in there and she’s been here for the big three-day in the spring,” she said. “But she is quite a hot horse and it’s tough conditions today on a spooky sharp one with the wind and the flags whipping and there’s quite a bit of atmosphere with the cross-country jumps and the people sitting on the hill.”
“She’s a beautiful moving horse, but you never quite know what you’re going to get because she moves so big she’s hard to keep up with sometimes and can just drag me around the ring and make some mistakes but she was a really good girl and very focused and was really rideable through the whole test so I was really happy.”
Sitting only a tenth of a point behind the three-star leaders on a 29.9 is Jenny Caras and her own Trendy Fernhill, and 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding.
That’s a wrap on day one at Fair Hill! Dressage continues tomorrow with the rest of both CCI divisions heading down the centerline at 8:00am sharp.