Marilyn Little‘s partner RF Scandalous has been tucked away on the shelf for much of the past year. After an injury sidelined the mare in the lead-up to the 2018 World Equestrian Games, they’ve been MIA while the mare rested and, ultimately, recovered. Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event marks their international comeback, and they pair has come roaring back to form in the first phase, taking the CCI4*-S lead on 24.4.
“I can’t tell you how much fun it is to ride her here and have her back,” Marilyn says of the 14-year-old Oldenburg mare (Carry Gold x Richardia, by Lario), owned by Ms. Jacqueline Mars and Phoebe and Michael Manders. The latter missed today’s competition but will be here to cheer the mare on this weekend. “When you’ve lost something and you get it back, it’s really cool so this is a really special weekend for me. It’s been a long road. There’s been an incredible team of people that have helped get her back here.”
Marilyn says “Kitty” was all business today, although their test was plenty effervescent. “She was very excited — she was calm right up until the last moment she went in and got a little excited in the atmosphere,” she says. “Two years ago we were here, and that translated into not such a great test, and she’s just become so mature and such a great partner that she went in and did her job like she always does … She did everything I hoped she would and kept a lid on the excitement.”
The pair’s preparations have been relatively light: a couple Prelim horse trials, an Advanced combined test, and a show jumping dress rehearsal at the Duke Horse Show in Raleigh, North Carolina en route to Florida (Marilyn won the Grand Prix with Karen O’Connor’s horse Clearwater). They knocked the cross country rust off at Liz Halliday-Sharp’s facility upon arrival. “I just have to rely a bit on the fact that she thinks she knows what she’s doing out there,” Marilyn says. “She has gotten to have a few outings, but not the steady preparation for an event like we would normally like to have.”
Certainly, the pair has experience in spades, including but not limited to a 3rd place finish at Kentucky in 2018, a 4th at Luhmühlen in 2017, and a win at Fair Hill in 2016.
“This is her first big event back,” Marilyn says. “In all fairness to her, the last big event she was preparing for was the Worlds and before that it was Kentucky. They absolutely know when it’s a big weekend and when it’s just a practice weekend, and she had a very big sense of that. I think she thought she was going in to a championship level event this weekend. She felt like it was that kind of day.
“It’s great that I’m back at an event with this horse. She’s such a special horse for me, so it’s wonderful to be back at an event, but it’s even better being back with a best friend, it’s that much more fun. For me, if I didn’t have this horse I wouldn’t be eventing so I event for her because I love her and it didn’t really make sense for me to be at them without her.”
Sara Kozumplik Murphy and Rubens D’Ysieux, a 14-year-old Selle Français gelding (Balougran x Davidoff Silver Shadow, by Mr Blue) owned by the Rubens D’Ysieux Syndicate, are 2nd on 32.5.
This pair is something of a comeback story as well, as the horse has been recovering from colic surgery in April. “I haven’t really dealt with that before — he’s never been sick ever and I’ve actually never had a horse that had to go through that,” Sara says. “I’ve just been sort of taking my time making sure he feels good and playing it one day at a time but he honestly feels really good, I was very happy with him, he feels very strong.”
Their last international outing was the Bromont CCI4*-L in 2018, where they finished 8th.
Sara says, “He’s always a competitor, he’s a very kind horse, he’s a sassy horse, so I never have to worry from that perspective because he doesn’t like to be embarrassed. He’s a really, really good boy.”
She admits she was a bit surprised at their score, that she thought she’d be a couple marks lower. Her serpentine may not have been accurate enough, she reckons, and she may have lost some ground on her halt and reinback. “But I couldn’t have been happier with the horse,” she says. “He was super so I can’t really get too fussed about it.”
Looking forward to cross country, Sara says, “I’m expecting a nice course, they’re always really good courses here at the Jockey Club, it’s amazing terrain and it’s a proper galloping cross country place.”
Rounding out the top three is Rebecca Brown with Dassett Choice, her own 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Caricello x Vilja), on 34.7.
“It’s his second Advanced,” Rebecca says. “Actually, I didn’t love (my ride). He can really do a kind of amazing test, and I had two little blips but we’ve been working really hard and so obviously even that was still pretty competitive. I was obviously still pleased, but always knowing you can do better, right?”
Rebecca shared her first impressions of the cross country course: “The short does look nice, a little bit friendlier than the long which I appreciate. They always present it so well and I feel like it always rides really well.”
Alyssa Phillips and Oskar are 4th on 35.1, and Jessica Phoenix and Humble GS are 5th on 35.7.
Elsewhere, in the CCI3*-L, Leslie Law and Zick Zack have the overnight lead on 30.5. In the CCI2*-L Buck Davidson with Cooley Candyman and Will Coleman with Steam Engine are in equal first on 27.9. Dressage for those divisions continues Friday at 8 a.m. The CCI4*-L begins at 10:20 a.m.
Much more to come, stay tuned. Go Eventing!
CCI4*-S Top 10 After Dressage: