Eventing is a sport where winners are often decided by the smallest of margins, and that rang especially true this weekend at The Event at TerraNova where the Galati Yacht Sales CCI4*-L, presented by Insurance Office of America, was decided by one second of time in the final phase.
Dressage winner Lucienne Bellissimo had maintained her leading position after Saturday’s endurance test by just two-tenths of a point, but when she completed a clear show jumping round in 74 seconds, second-placed Jenny Caras, who navigated Marc Donovan’s course in 73 seconds, stepped to the top of the podium — claiming her second career CCI4*-L victory with Trendy Fernhill.
Jenny has been partnered with Trendy Fernhill (Ars Vivendi — Cruseings Girl, by Cruising) or “Joey” since he was four, but he’s come a long way from the wild-eyed Irish gelding she met off the plane. “When I got him as a four year old I think I re-broke him like five times,” she recalled, and although he’s still known to dump Jenny during a hack from time to time, Joey found his sea legs under her care and they settled into a comfortable rhythm together climbing the levels thanks to the support of his owner Elyse Eisenberg, who is based in Maryland.
Jenny moved him up to the Advanced level in 2020 where he won his debut CCI4*-S competition at Tryon, and most recently they were awarded a Karen E. Stives Endowment Fund Grant which allowed them to participate in their first-ever Nations Cup at Stzregom where they finished 11th individually. Their summer and a few runs at the intermediate level into the fall, gave the pair an enormous amount of confidence heading into this fall three-day.
A score of 34.9 tied the pair for third on the flat despite a less than ideal entrance. “I came down the centerline and I think did like one of the best halt salutes that I’ve ever had on on him and then I just turned the corner and he actually broke into the canner. So that was hard way to actually start the test, but I just, you know, had to put that behind us and keep going,” Jenny said.
She admitted that cross country may be a challenge as this year she’s set a goal for herself to be more competitive against the clock — a big ask for the strong, big-strided gelding.
“I’ve struggled with him a bit in the past with time penalties. Just because he’s quite a strong horse and he’s has a huge stride to being able to not spend forever in front of the jumps setting up for the combinations. So I just recently changed his bit and his bridle, and I think he really likes it because it helps us be much more efficient, and I wasn’t having to work so hard to set him up,” Jenny said.
She trialed the new set up — a rubber gag with a loosely fitted figure eight — for the first time at Chattahoochee Hills last month. “That was the first time that I had tried it, and that’s actually the first time that I had ever made the time at an Intermediate or Advanced level competition on him, so I knew I was kind of on the right track. Then I was just hopeful that it would be the right thing at this level as well,” she said, and it turned out to be a Cinderella fit: she and Joey were the only pair out of 23 starters to finish Captain Mark Phillips’ track double clear.
“I knew I wanted to go out there and try and make the time while having all good jumps, and he’s just such an honest horse,” she said. “I’ve had him since he was four, and so we’ve done everything together and we know each other really well. So I know when I tell him ‘We’re a little bit off this corner but you’re going,’ that he knows his job. If you get him anywhere near the jump he wants to jump in for you, so I was lucky that way.”
Marc Donovan’s show jumping test on the final day proved influential toward both rails and time with only two pairs — Sara Kozumplik with Rock Phantom and Mary Bess Davis with Imperio Magic — jumping double clear. The course relied heavily on related distances, leaving little opportunity to make up time and therefore rewarding those who kept pace.
Second overnight, Jenny and Joey were the penultimate pair in Magnolia Ring and they demonstrated a stylish clear round only one second over the optimum time of 72 seconds for a final result of 35.3.
“He’s a careful horse but he’s a big, big, slow stepping guy so you kind of have to help him off the front rail. But that being said, I don’t know that there is a horse who tries harder. He goes out there and he knows that he’s not supposed to hit the jumps, and he just digs deep and tries hard. And I mean, he was just incredible. I don’t know that he touched a single jump,” Jenny said.
That one pesky second dropped Great Britain’s Lucienne Bellisimo and Horse Scout Eventing LLC’s Tremanton, an 11-year-old British Sport Horse (Birkhof’s Grafenstolz — Trevia, by Hand In Glove), to rest in the reserve position on 35.5 after a stylish show jumping effort that left all the rails in their cups.
Finishing in third was Will Coleman and one of his newest rides, Diabolo, who was produced through the four-star level previously by Gemma Tinney in Australia before making his way stateside in early 2023. The 11-year-old Holsteiner (Diarado — Roulett M, by Aljano 2) had 2.8 time penalties on cross country and 1.2 in show jumping for a final score of 38.
Watch the top three discuss their show jump rounds:
The Estates at TerraNova CCI3*-L, presented by Laughlin Tanner Group at Premier Sotheby’s International Realty was dominated from start to finish by Alyssa Phillips and her own Cornelius Bo.
Alyssa first met the now-9-year-old Hanoverian (Concours Complet — Charlotte, by Carismo) in German five-star eventer Anna Siemer’s stable four years ago. The pair won their first four International events together in the U.S. at the two-star level. After setting in at the Intermediate level last year, Alyssa had big plans for “Corn” this season, but a “silly mistake” here in the spring left Alyssa with a broken ankle and several weeks out of the saddle.
“I was at the same event and was clocking around the cross country and then just a stupid, silly little mistake. And then there goes my ankle. And then I’m like, well, there goes the rest of my fall plans,” she said.
Two surgeries later, Alyssa decided to aim him for the CCI2*-L at Rebecca Farm in July, which she says was only possible thanks to riding help from Alexa Lapp. Cornelius Bo went on to win that event.
Heading into the fall, Alyssa was once again optimistic about her fall plans, but then got the most fortunate interruption when she was called up as the traveling reserve for the U.S. Team at the Pan American Games with her Advanced horse, Oskar.
“I didn’t think I’d make it [to Rebecca], and then I did. then slowly that the pieces for the fall started to fall into place. And then all of a sudden they called me in, they’re like, ‘Hey, you’re gonna be the traveling reserve for the Pan American Games.’ It throws me for a loop because I wasn’t expecting that by any means, so that changed plans again, but I think everything happens for a reason,” she said.
While she was on the road for most of October, her neighbors and friends Cornelia and Jacob Fletcher stepped in to keep her other horses fit and ready for this weekend’s event. Thanks to their help, Alyssa was able to quickly get back in town and finish this CCI3*-L on her dressage score of 28.
“He felt super, super confident leading into this week, and I think he knew he was he was somewhere big because on dressage day he grew about two inches and fancy pranced around and he was very good boy. He’s becoming such a great cross country horse, too. He’s super super careful in the show jumping and I’ve had to work through some of that and across country, but anytime there’s a problem, it’s normally my fault, so I was just hoping to give him a good go around the cross country as quickly as I could. He answered everything super easily, and was very confident about it all. And then he came out out today and he just, I mean, he just jumped out of his skin,” she said.
“Some people may think this year was crazy,” Alyssa continued. “And it was but I actually really appreciate this year a lot. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve grown a lot that horses have grown a lot and we ended it on a very, very great note and great experiences involved along the way.”
Michael Nolan finished second with Carrabeg Hulla Balou on a score of 32, and Caroline Pamaucku was third with Redfield Dexter on 32.5 points.
In the CC2*-L Meg Pellegrini claimed the top spot aboard Gorgeous DHI, and Lucienne Bellissimo was the winner of the CCI*-L with Duke’s Jory.
EN’s final report on The Event at TerraNova is brought to you with support from Ocala Horse Properties, your stop for horse property in Ocala and beyond. If you’re thinking of making the move to Florida, for all or part of the year, be sure to check in with Ocala Horse Properties for your farm-finding needs.