Jumping into 4* Season at Bouckaert Equestrian

Moving our way steadily through March, the spring season is in full swing as we jump into our big 4* season. It’s an exciting time of the year, as we see numerous horse and rider partnerships out and about, gearing up for the spring 4*-L or 5*-L events coming up, and the fast approaching Paris Olympics.

We saw some of these duos out and competing this past weekend in the 4*-S at Bouckaert Equestrian H.T. & International. The 4*-S division was packed with some impressive names, such as seven-time Olympian Phillip Dutton, individual gold medalist and USEF Emerging Athlete Coach Leslie Law, top five 5* finisher Mia Farley, and first time 4* competitor Olivia Dutton.

The crew at Bouckaert Equestrian worked tirelessly to ensure good footing and a successful weekend, despite rainy weather. “I could not be happier with the way the crew at Bouckaert Equestrian dealt with what were tricky weather conditions. They deserve a lot of credit for the work they did,” Leslie Law commented. “[It is] also worth noting how improved their two rings were that dealt incredibly well with all the water they had.”

“Hugh [Lochore] and the crew at Bouckaert really did an exceptional job considering the weather and conditions they were faced with. They redesigned the course to the highest parts of the property and rescheduled the cross country before the next bit of rain came through,” Joe Meyer reflected.

Hannah Sue Hollberg and Capitol HIM. Photo by Liz Crawley Photography.

Although these wet conditions inevitably created sticky and deep points on the course, and resulted in no 4* rider finishing within the time, some riders appreciated the opportunity to test their horses in the mud. “Hugh and all the guys there do a wonderful job making the footing great, but the rain did leave a few decently muddy spots,” Hannah Sue Hollberg, who won the 4* this weekend with Christa B. Schmidt’s Capitol HIM (Con Air – O-Heraldika, by Heraldik xx), commented. “It can actually be nice to run in the mud, as we don’t get much of a chance to run in it over here, which makes it hard to adjust to conditions overseas. They did have to modify the course, so it was a bit twisty in comparison to the original plan.”

The change in course as a result of the weather asked questions that tested the horses’ and riders’ training. “[Capitol HIM] kept answering the questions, as he always does. I put myself under pressure this weekend, and held myself accountable. I try to whenever there’s the opportunity and it’s safe for the horses,” Hannah stated. “Even though “Chito” has a huge stride, he’s easy to bring back – he’s just so responsive! There was an angled question that rode a bit harder than expected – I rode off the line, and he was just so honest and added an extra stride.”

After coming off of such an exciting fall, where Hannah and Capitol HIM were the top US pair at the Maryland 5*, this is yet another top finish that shows the consistency that the two are developing together. “I knew Maryland wasn’t a fluke,” Hannah laughed. “He had placed in the top 5 at every event he entered in 2023. But it’s nice to have a result like this that shows that.”

When asked what was next, Hannah mentioned aiming her sights towards Kentucky 5*. “I’m excited, because the show jumping has become as reliable as cross country. We’re buckling down in the dressage, and it is getting better. I’m looking forward to showing everyone what he’s made of in Kentucky.”

Even in the midst of a high point with horses, we’re reminded how challenging this lifestyle can be. The night before show jumping, Hannah received word that Harbor Pilot, her 5* partner, colicked. The 21-year-old is recovering from colic surgery, and Hannah was heading right to visit him as we spoke. Please join us in sending well wishes for a speedy recovery to “William”!

Phillip Dutton and Jewelent. Photo by Liz Crawley Photography.

Phillip Dutton also had an exciting weekend, finishing second in the 4* with his new ride, the Jewelent Group’s Jewelent (Valent – Bellaney Jewel, by Roselier). Phillip also finished 5th with Ann Lapides, Caroline Moran, Annie Jones and Neill Sites’ Denim (Dinken – Celia II, by Ibisco XX), and 7th with Caroline Moran and Anne & Michael Moran’s Azure (Omar – Cavalier Roselier, by Cavalier Royal).

“After the disappointment of Z getting hurt, I was in need of an experienced horse, and was fortunate enough to put a group together to purchase Jewelent,” Phillip commented. “Julian is a very kind, honest, and genuine horse… He’s very light mouthed and east to adjust. He went very well [this weekend] with still a lot of areas that we can improve on as we get to know each other better.”

“Denim and Azure (Sky) both had good runs,” Phillip reflected. Although Phillip had quite a busy and successful weekend himself, he was quite excited about the success of his daughter, Olivia Dutton, finishing her first 4*. “Olivia and Socs did their first 4* together, which I was really proud of.” Olivia and Sea of Clouds finished in 18th place after adding some cross country and show jumping time and three rails to their dressage score.

Joe Meyer and Harbin. Photo by Liz Crawley Photography.

Joe Meyer and the Meyer family and Theresa Foote’s Harbin (Verglas – Rainbow City, by Rainbow Quest) rode to a third place finish in the 4*, and was the culmination of efforts made over the past three years of their partnership to get to this point. “Harbin is a little superstar,” Joe stated. “Although we have only been together for a little less than three years now I feel like our partnership has really come together in the past year.” Despite a shorter partnership, Harbin is a horse Joe has known for a while as he was originally produced by his trainer in Ireland (Terry White). The Meyer’s team sourced him for their good friend Rebecca Brown, who bought him sight unseen off a video. “Rebecca had always said this was my horse and I will forever be grateful that she bent over backwards to make sure we could acquire him.”

“Harbin reminds me of Snip, my partner for the Olympics and the Worlds. He’s a small 15.3 hands, grey, feisty Thoroughbred with the heart of a lion that runs around cross country in a snaffle. In the jumping, Harbin finds the flags and does his thing,” Joe commented. “Harbin had a great finish at Tryon 4* last year, and at Blenheim. I was still struggling from broken ribs from a fall before we left for overseas and could not sit the trot at Blenheim. After Blenheim he had a very very long vacation – 3 1/2 months in the field where he turned into a feral Brumby,” Joe laughed. “I felt like he had quite the year with two long formats and overseas travel and he really needed it. He has come out this year feeling better and stronger in all three phases than ever.”

“All things going well, Harbin is headed to the 5 star at Kentucky. He will do one more 4*S at TerraNova in three weeks as his last run. It’s still early in the season and horses always throw you a curve ball when you least expect it, but right now everything is going to plan in the lead up to Kentucky.”

We also saw the return of Lesley Grant-Law and Stephen and Jackie Brown’s Lady Chatterley (Connor 48 – Jucy, by Mytens XX), who had a quiet 2023 after winning USEA Mare of the Year in 2022. She returned to the level this past weekend with Olympic gold medalist Leslie Law.

Leslie Law and Lady Chatterley. Photo by Liz Crawley Photography.

“I’m thrilled with Fleur,” Leslie commented. “We had a few bobbles, just silly little mistakes in the dressage which were disappointing. However, I was thrilled with her attitude and way of going. Cross country she was amazing really! She lost both front shoes early on and had to dig very deep to get things done, and I was amazed by how hard she tried and thought she did a very good job considering.”

“She enjoyed a nice day of suntanning back in her field, and we will look forward I hope to TerraNova next.”

Outside of the 4*, Waylon Roberts and Fernhill Salt Lake won the 3*, and Australian Sherry Pound won the 2* with Carnaby. Caroline Pamukcu saw a 1st and 2nd place finish in the 1* with Billy Be Jolly in first, and HSH Talbots Hill in second. Tik Maynard won the Advanced division with SKM Lux Sonata, heading into the final few weeks leading to the Road to the Horse Competition in Lexington, Kentucky at the end of this month.

Final results from Bouckaert Equestrian can be found here.

This report has been brought to you with support from Ocala Horse Properties.

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