Cross country day at the 2019 Blue Ridge Mountain H.T. at TIEC proved to be influential. Doug Payne closed out a wire-to-wire win the in the B division, but he relinquished the A division to Matt Flynn.
Matt Flynn and Wizzerd were the first Advanced pair to come through the finish flags, and they made every second of their trip around the White Oak cross country course count. Their success this weekend, including finishing on a score of 40.9 has been the product of determined training in an unprecedented year.
The partnership started the weekend with a personal best on the flat, for which Matt credits Erik Duvander. “Dressage was great for him. Erik Duvander was kind enough to help warm me up, and he’s been working with the horse a lot this year. He’s really getting stronger and he put in a personal best for him at that level, so that was really exciting to start off with.”
Doug Payne has not been the only one bumping up his show jumping practice, Matt has joined him here for a few trips under the lights. “Show Jumping last night was really super. I was really happy with him in the Tryon Stadium. I came here a couple weeks ago with my buddy Doug [Payne] and have been doing some jumper shows on the road with his gang and working on that phase the past month or so, which felt really paid off, and I was happy with his round,” he said.
Of course no event is complete without the exhilarating cross country phase, and this pair will certainly be ones to watch when they return for the CCI4*-L in November. “Obviously it’s great to have the horses gallop on the terrain and see what it felt like. This was my first time running the event here in general, so that’s extremely valuable, and I think also in November I will continue to work to even ride more forward,” he said. “I thought it was a good track. It was definitely challenging, but it was sizeable enough that it was rewarding to a good, forward ride, which I think is good preparation for these horses coming back to do the CCI 4*-L here in November. My goal was to do my best to ride the forward lines and stay out of Wizzerd’s way and travel on more than I tend to, which is a goal I’ve been working to improve.”
Bobby Meyerhoff and Fortuna, the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Balou du Rouet x Consul) owned by Robert D. Meyerhoff, improved from sixth to second after cross country, ending on a score of 45.80. The mare left the box on fire, making sure Bobby had his hands full, but improved over each fence.
“It started out very nice, until fence five where I had a little hiccup, and the mare did an amazing save there, and we kicked on and got our groove back,” Bobby said. “From then on, the course jumped fairly nice. It was big and bold, and I felt the mare change her way of galloping and jumping the big tables, and she took me and felt great.”
Katherine Brown only added 2.40 to her score to end up in third on a total of 52 riding her own Victor Z, the 9-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Vittorio x Concorde).
“My horse has a tremendous gallop, and I never looked at my watch,” she said, “but he just covers the ground so easily. I have a better mental image now. I’ll keep truckin’ along with some more fitness work and hopefully we’ll be back here in the fall a little bit later.”
Today did not start as Doug Payne expected. His first- and second-placed horses both saw trouble out on course, but as expected the experienced Vandiver stepped up to win in the B division. The 16-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall 2 x Mystic Replica XX) owned by Debi Crowley in partnership with Doug and Jessica Payne, ended on a score of 33.50.
In second place overnight, Doug came to grief at the B element, a skinny brush, with his first ride, Quantum Leap. He did not clear the flags, though he continued on course, and was eliminated. His A division leader, Starr Witness, misread the bank and skinny elements of the Lighthouse Water, picking up two stops to drop them out of the ribbons.
Speaking of experienced, the Olympic gold medalist Leslie Law finished up in second with Voltaire de Tre’, the 11-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Gentleman IV x Socrate de Chivre) owned by Tre’ Book, on 39.10. Rounding out the top three, Nilson da Silva and his own 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Spirit House x Clonakality Hero), Rock Phantom, finished on a score of 49.
Across both divisions, no one could catch the time. With recent rains and footing that leaned toward slippery, this isn’t entirely surprising. Katherine Brown and Victor Z came the closest at 7:02, just six seconds over.
Of the 21 starters, 11 finished without jumping penalties for a clear rate of 52.4%. Issues on course focused around the Chimney Rock Complex (12ABC) and the White Table to Corner (18AB). The Chimney Rock Complex produced some gritty riding as the divisions continued when word traveled back that the slick ground made a tricky job even harder.
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