Kitty King Leads CCI3* at Blenheim, Team USA Ready for Battle

A rather shellshocked Kitty King burst into a broad grin upon hearing that her impressive score of 38.6 had catapulted her and Vendredi Biats to the head of the leaderboard in the CCI3* at Blenheim.

“Maybe I was a bit mean about him!” she laughed to her team, with whom she had just finished a post-test debrief. But what may not have felt like the 8-year-old’s best work looked consistent and mature, earning the pair just the second sub-40 score of the day.

“He’s been pretty consistent this year, so I was really hoping he could go in and do a good test,” she explained. “I didn’t feel that it was quite as good as he can do, because he was just being a bit looky, and then he gets a little bit behind me, whereas when he’s more relaxed and his ears are floppy he gives me a really good ride around.

“Today, although he was really good and he did everything I asked of him, I was waiting for him to do something – his ears were nearly touching at the top, which is never an ideal sign! When they’re floppy and relaxed you know you can go in and really ride him, but today they were like little radars.”

The horse spent time in various riders’ yards, including William Fox-Pitt’s and Lucy Wiegersma’s, but was moved along for his bad behaviour as a youngster. Kitty saw the potential and gave the gorgeous grey the time and compromise needed to flourish.

“It’s been about building up a real relationship with him, and sometimes I do have to meet him halfway. He likes to be cheeky and naughty, and I do think that if you squash that too much then you can ruin their personality. If you meet them halfway you have to hope that they’ll work with you in the arena.”

Now, with 13 top-ten finishes out of 16 international starts, Vendredi Biats is widely regarded as one of the most exciting up-and-coming talents on the British eventing scene. So does Kitty feel the pressure when she rides down the centreline?

“Not really,” she says. “You have to hope that because he’s been so consistent, the judges will expect him to do well and mark accordingly. They’ll hopefully be looking for the good in him, rather than when they’re judging a horse they don’t know or one who does a bad test – then they’re already looking for the bad. It’s to the rider’s benefit if they’ve been consistent in this phase.”

Two American riders contested the first phase today. Liz Halliday-Sharp splits her year between East Sussex and Ocala, Florida, and the educational opportunities that this approach offers her up-and-comers shines through. She posted a 47.1 with Carpe Diem IV after a mistake in the flying changes knocked some marks. The pair currently sit in equal 10th.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Carpe Diem. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

“He’s not done very much at the level and would still be green,” says Liz. “He’s not the easiest to ride on the flat but he’s got more relaxed and tidier, and I’m really pleased with him. He tries really hard and he’s such a nice person. It’s a shame that in the second flying change — which he can do! — he just got a bit confused and thought I wanted him to trot.”

Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Monte Carlo. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Monte Carlo scored 50.5 to sit in 20th place overnight. We will be doing our very best to bring you all the latest news on all of the American and Canadian pairs competing in the CCI3*, CIC3* and Event Rider Masters CIC3*.

Five U.S. riders will take to the main arena tomorrow in the CCI3*:

  • Tiana Coudray and Under the Clocks – 9.16am BST/4.16am EST
  • Doug Payne and Vandiver – 10.38am BST/5.38am EST
  • Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border – 12.24pm BST/7.24am EST
  • Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter – 12.32pm BST/7.32am EST
  • Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 – 2.38pm BST/9.38am EST

Liz and Lauren will also be tackling the 8/9 year old CIC*** — because who needs a day off anyway? — aboard Deniro Z and D.A. Duras, respectively. Liz will ride at 9.38am BST/4.38am EST, and Lauren will ride at the arguably more socially acceptable hour of 2.48pm BST/7.48pm EST.

We updated this morning’s horse inspection report with beautiful photos from Libby Law Photography. Click here to see more photos of Team USA.

Go Americans, go Blenheim, go (away) rainclouds, and Go Eventing!

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Your top ten after the first day of dressage in the CCI*** at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials.