Sitting in 9th place amongst the world’s best riders is nice and all but Clark Montgomery is keeping his eye on the prize.
Since Libby Head broke her wrist and had to withdraw at the 11th hour, Clark is the USA’s principal ambassador here at Luhmühlen — and so far they’re doing us a solid.
To copy-paste my comments from our Luhmühlen dressage recap, Clark and Loughan Glen came out of the gate swinging, earning a 9 and a 10 for an airborne medium trot across the diagonal — I’m still not convinced the horse’s feet were touching the ground.
It was a crisp, lovely test, and Glen is the sort of class horse who looks right at home here amidst the world’s best competitors. Being based in Europe for the past two-and-a-half years has treated Clark well, also; he’s got that rare combination of poise and gutsiness that permeates so many of the top programs here.
A fluke break in the counter canter serpentine weighed their score down a bit but even with a few lost points they managed a 37.1 for 9th place.
Having a chill event horse can be a good, not to mention rare, thing, but Clark says Glen can sometimes be a little too cool a customer in the dressage ring.
“He was fantastic in the beginning,” Clark explains. “He went in and I think he did really well in the trot work and then the beginning of the canter was OK — I could start to feel him start to get a little bit behind my leg. He’s typically that way anyway. I usually come out of the dressage ring out of breath from trying to keep him going all the way to the end; he’s been that way from the very beginning, since he was a 5 year old.”
He continues with a laugh, “I held it together until that last five loop serpentine and then he just would not keep going.”
Not bad, though, especially considering the fact that dressage has almost been an afterthought for this pair since Boekelo last fall. Clark says he’s sat in his dressage saddle maybe, maybe, a dozen times since October.
“The focus has been on his fitness,” Clark says. “Getting him a bit stronger, and his jumping, and so that’s what we’re really here for — tomorrow.”
Captain Mark Phillips’ CCI4* course will be a well-rounded test of those who tackle it.
“It’s a good course,” Clark says. “It’s really not the biggest four-star but it’s technical enough and there plenty of places to screw up.”
Exhibit A: this sort-of-insane skinny to double corner combination. With not much to do but gallop up and down a hill between the final water and this last combination, Clark predicts that it could catch out some horses and riders who let down their guard at the end of the course.
“Most everything is on a bit of a long distance so he wants you to keep forward,” Clark says. “But with that if you commit and mess up coming in you could easily end up on a half stride, and I think he’s going to catch some people out on quite a few of the combinations.”
There’s been chatter amongst the riders that the track, which is being run in reverse this year, is quite twisty-turny — almost CICish — but this being Clark’s Luhmühlen debut, he is approaching the course from a fresh perspective: “You definitely have to loop around but you’re not jumping and turning… it looks like Luhmühlen to me!”
From the USA to Germany, here’s wishing Clark and Glen the best of luck this weekend! CCI4* cross-country kicks off at 9:45 a.m. CEST (that’s 3:45 ET for many of y’all), with Clark heading out on course at 12:04 p.m. (or 6:04 a.m. ET). So, unless you’re an earlybird or ambitious FEI livestream devotee, send them some good vibes tonight before you head off to bed!