While our riders today attacked a typical Ian Stark “bold and brave” track, I attacked the terrain myself while trying to find any hint of shade or breeze. The grounds were buzzing much earlier than previous days as the top riders were readying at dawn for their upcoming gallops.
I was able to hang around the vet box area for a good while this morning, which was incredibly educational for someone like me who has never experienced an FEI event. I was very impressed by the organized chaos taking place — while it may seem like a madhouse from a glance, you can definitely see the practiced coordination when you take a closer look.
We could never talk enough about how vital each rider’s team is after their run, and Rebecca Farm has certainly done a stellar job setting up everything the riders and horses will need to fully recover. I helped at the vet box for my own trainer after her first CCI2* run, and the intensity and atmosphere there is real. With free troughs of ice and water to help with the stifling heat and four large shaded misting fan stations, it was reassuring to see how seriously everyone was taking the conditions and how dedicated the staff are to ensuring each horse’s proper recovery.
After securing a 7 point lead in dressage yesterday, Liz Halliday-Sharp was able to take a comfortable pace on course today with The Monster Partnership’s Cooley Moonshine in the CCI4*-L. The rather tumultuous course was impressively long, a distance of 6035 meters with an optimum time of 10:36 — a good three and a half minutes longer than the 4*-S and built to intimidate.
Despite 6.4 time penalties, Liz and “Billy” still maintained their lead over the second place pair, but unfortunately Liz disclosed this afternoon that she will be withdrawing Billy prior to showjumping tomorrow — always one to put the good of her horse first. Liz later shared on social media:
“This sport is so tough and the ups and downs are really hard… Today my wonderful partner, Cooley Moonshine, truly could not have given me any more around the the 4L track at the beautiful Rebecca Farm. He made the course feel easy and he never put a foot wrong around the whole track. This is such a stoic horse who loves his job so much and when we finished the course I was surprised to see that he had pulled both front shoes along the way. While he tackled the course very well, it became apparent once his adrenaline had come down that he was quite sore from running without front shoes for most of the course. I love all of my horses and it was obvious in this situation that I had to put Billy’s best interests in mind and to withdraw him from the competition. While of course this was a tough decision when we were leading the class, I know that I made the right choice for my horse. Thank you to my entire team for the love, care and endless support behind the scenes. Today was rough, but we are thankful to be here to fight another day with our special horses.”
While we will not have the chance to see her and Cooley Moonshine in the ring tomorrow, we wish her the best of luck on her horses entered in the lower levels.
James Alliston‘s lovely black mare Karma was moving like a machine on course, making one of just two double clear rounds today. “It’s hot, right?” James asks, not really needing an answer as I had been huddling next to the misting fans myself for the last hour. “Like, I know it’s only ten o’clock in the morning, but [Karma] felt the heat a little bit.”
James was incredibly attentive to his horse in the vet box, working side by side with his grooms for at least thirty minutes to make sure that Karma was appropriately cooled, and even working to pull her studs himself while graciously describing his course to me. “She’s a really, really good galloper. She’s easy to pick up — once I say ‘go’ a little bit, she flies off. I was really happy. It all went as I planned, really; she just jumped really well and gave me a lot of confidence right from the start… I’m thrilled with today and with yesterday and I’m just really proud of her.”
Always looking for moments of improvement in himself and his young horses, James admits that the rather imposing coffin did cause a bit of a stumble while on course. “She was a little bit wiggly through [the coffin] — but they had a similar one at Kentucky and she was the same — she sort of really backed up at the ditch. But she did do one and one, which was good, because at Kentucky she added an extra step. I need to practice that, I need to get better at that with her!”
After moving up so quickly from the lower levels, and with such success in the few events she has run in, James definitely seems capable of pulling off a three-year hat trick and snagging his third championship title in a row, should everything go his way tomorrow. “She’s a good show jumper,” he says, “but she wouldn’t have normally done this much galloping, so she should be a bit more tired. We’ll take it one fence at a time. She’s sort of made quick progress, and I’m excited for her going forward as well.”
Madison Temkin was ecstatic with her OTTB mare, MVP Madbum, upon completion of her double-clear round, maintaining her dressage score of 38.4. “I went out of the box and in all honesty, I just wanted to have a good go around. I actually had no intention of making the time as well, but she’s just so fast,” Maddy says. “This is her first four-long and actually her fourth at the Advanced level — she’s done an Advanced and two four-shorts. I got her off the track and I’ve done everything on her and we know each other quite well. We definitely had some years where we argued a bit, but I can go so quick on her because she’s so adjustable, and I just have to sit up and say ‘hey girl!’ and she picks it up. I could just keep the same rhythm the whole way around. I think that’s really the beauty of a Thoroughbred and the beauty of a long format. I couldn’t have been happier with her — she was absolutely amazing.”
Maddy recently became the inaugural winner of the exchange program with the Millstreet Horse Trials, thanks to her win as the top placed young adult rider (18-25) in the FEI divisions at the Maryland Horse Trials earlier this month. When asked about her plans going into show jumping tomorrow, Maddy states that since Madbum is still a bit young, and with this being her first run at the level, she can definitely feel like a different horse after such a long gallop. “She’s generally a pretty careful horse,” Maddy says, “but with that being said, she hasn’t galloped for almost 11 minutes before. She is a Thoroughbred, so she’s very efficient in her jump and she really jumps across. We’re definitely going to do everything we can tonight and tomorrow morning to make sure that she feels fresh.”
After moving up the start times for the CCI4* divisions to avoid the unfortunate heat we had in store today, we saw our four 4*-S riders bright and early at 9 a.m. this morning. Andrew McConnon on his own mare Wakita 54 shot up the rankings from fourth to first with just 3 seconds of time added over the optimum of 7:00 for a score of 38.9 — an impressive 7.5 points ahead of Tamie Smith, who was slotted down into second place after 17.2 time penalties on this expansive track. Emilee Libby kept a strong hold on her third place position, heading into show jumping on a score of 56.5 after the reportedly “brutally long” track.
“She’s as bold as anything, as brave as anything, but she’s becoming more accustomed to listening to me a little bit more,” Andrew explains of the Dutch Warmblood mare’s quick nature. “She’s a really good cross country horse. She’s bold and brave, and she loves it. I’m not able to go quick all the time with her, but I do choose a couple events in which I go a little bit faster. She would like to go quick all the time, but I think every few events just taking it easy, so I targeted this as one to let her travel a little bit to help with her fitness in the hills. I was very aware of the elevation — I’ve never been here before, so I didn’t know how she would cope with that — but she is very fit just in nature and she loved it, so she had a really good time.”
“I had a little bit of a big jump at the hanging log there,” Andrew says while recapping his ride. “I thought she was maybe going to add a stride — I had my leg on, but in true fashion, she just jumped the whole thing.” The Bayou-style combinations in the Avery Island pond have been tripping people up all day, with Lucia Strini taking an unfortunate refusal on Excel Cool Quality there that moved her down to fourth place, and Buck Davidson later taking a fall in the 4*-L. There was also quite a bit of trouble seen at the complex just prior to the 4*-S, as the Intermediate riders saw quite the leaderboard shakeup due to one rider fall, another with one refusal, and four riders with three refusals (of which Maegen Bingham retired Not So Normal and Julia Beauchamp Crandon was eliminated).
As a fellow #RebeccaVirgin (is it catching on yet?), I was also excited to talk to Andrew about his experience thus far, and he was equally delighted to express his love for the event. “I’ve had a lot of ties to Rebecca Farm, but never made it out myself,” he explains. “I’ve sent students for young riders, I’ve sent students for the AEC, Marc Donovan — who has showjump course designed here for many years — is who I moved to Southern Pines to train with for a long time, and then Max Corcoran — I got one of my first horses off of Max, who is very instrumental here. So everyone has said for years that I need to make it out and it’s just not been in the cards, but I thought this year would be a really good time to come out and see what it’s all about — and it’s definitely lived up to the hype.”
“It’s incredible what they do,” he reflects, “not only in terms of the competition, but what they do helping the riders get out here — and everybody’s so friendly! There’s so many volunteers. I’ve had nothing but a great experience so far, but the the generosity is mind blowing.” It’s thanks to the incredible support of the Broussard Family’s sponsored travel grants that Andrew and Wakita were able to finally make the trek from South Carolina this year. “Without that generosity, I wouldn’t be able to come out,” he admits. “I own this horse myself and it’s a long way [to travel to Montana].” In an effort to pay back the kindness, Andrew even arrived to the farm early with plans to volunteer in the days leading up to his rides. “I got here Monday, and I tried to volunteer as much as I could earlier in the week. I did some Beginner Novice dressage, and then ring steward, and then I did the Beginner Novice cross country jump judging.
“Yesterday, right after dressage,” Andrew also admits, “we even went up and went whitewater rafting in Glacier [National Park]. So that’s been really fun — cooled off a little bit in the water. It’s a beautiful state.” The barnmates I traveled here with also went to take a dip in a nearby lake after their dressage rounds (without me, unfortunately), so I definitely understand the urge to experience a water break during this pretty steady heatwave. He also shared many similar first-timer views as myself in regards to the unparalleled grounds and venue as a whole. “There’s places to hack, which is really nice. I’m big about getting the horses out of the ring and hacking, and here you can hack for miles, so I really enjoy that. Everyone’s so enthusiastic; you go around the cross country and you feel like you’re at — which we are — a really big event. People are cheering and getting into it, so that’s a really nice feeling.”
As a member of the committee that interviews recipients for the Broussard’s Developing Rider grants, Tamie Smith also expressed her gratitude for the family’s vision and passion. “They’re really looking out for the longevity, and the ‘other’ people, not just the ones that are on the verge of already making it. I think it really inspires these people — I know that’s what it did for me,” Tamie admits. “In 2012, I received the ‘Little Becky’ grant, and in maybe 2015 I received the international ‘Big Becky’ grant,” she states. “It’s been extremely instrumental in the development of my career. As kind of somebody coming up in the sport, it seems not so attainable to be able to become a team rider when you are in a place where financially, you don’t have unending funds — I’m not self-funded — so it’s an expensive endeavor to try to get to the top of the sport and produce your horses and have the horses and then be able to make a team.”
Tamie references the difficulties of becoming a top rider when based on the West coast. “I would say that Becky being able to have this vision of helping riders who potentially have the ability, but don’t necessarily have a leg up — it was extremely unbelievable to have that. I don’t know that I would have necessarily believed in myself without having the committee believe in me, and I’m not certain I would have had the recognition of that. It really means a lot to me, and everything they do for the community and for our sport is just second to none out of any other event in the country.
“We all say that we wish Becky were still here to see, because she never got to see the recipients of the grants and what they did for everybody. I think 99.9% of the riders who have received these grants haven’t even done a five-star yet, let alone ridden on the team — you can’t have ridden on a team to get the grant — and so to just see the multiple riders that have been able to boost their careers and their experience, it’s unbelievable.”
The 22+ hour drive from Temecula is definitely a long one for Tamie and her team, but she says it’s all worth it. “To be able to have a place like this to take our horses and produce them and get them into this atmosphere and these type of world-class cross country courses and show jumping — even the stadium where all the international competitions are — it’s really beneficial to producing horses. It’s a far drive for us, but it’s worth every blistering hot hour.”
Tamie and her young horse Kynan are currently sitting in second place in the 4*-S, and she’s very proud of his efforts on the course. “It’s Ian Stark,” she says simply, “and there’s always something on there that you’re a little bit like, ‘Ah, how’s this gonna ride?’ But I think it’s a very nice track for [Kynan] for his first time. I think that the four-long actually looks quite beefy,” she admits. “The cross country courses here are so galloping and open, and they do such a good job on the ground and the decorations of the fences. I’m excited to be out here. It’s one of my favorite places to be — it’s actually my favorite place to be other than Kentucky.”
Emilee Libby, riding Natalia Valente’s Toska, was very pleased with the mare’s performance on what was only her second run at the level. “We ran in the four-star at Galway,” she explains, “but it’s hard to judge that one because it’s home for us — that’s where we’re based out of — so this is really her first Advanced off property, and we hadn’t run since March. She’s really bold out there and she’ll jump whatever’s in front of you. It’s just control with her, so being able to go faster is gonna be a work in progress, and just getting her fit.”
Her extra time penalties may have been due to Toska losing not just one, but both front shoes early on in the course. “It was a little bit slick. She pulled a couple shoes early on, so I felt like I just kind of had to nurse her a little bit around the back half… But it was a fun course — it made you work for sure.”
In our 2* and 3* divisions, we’ve seen a few shakeups across the board. Jordan Lindstedt and FE Friday, our 3*-L leaders after dressage, were slotted down into third place after 3.2 time penalties. Jennie Saville presented one of just two double-clear rounds made at the level aboard Pascal, moving up from fourth to second place, while Helen Alliston and Flinterro Z crossed the line just one second over optimum time, taking the lead heading into stadium jumping on a 31.0.
Our 3*-S leader Alyssa Phillips maintained her lead on Oskar with just 4 seconds added to her dressage — the fastest run in a field with no double-clears in sight. After finishing last year as the silver medalists in the 4*-L here at Rebecca Farm, we don’t expect her to want to give up her position easily. Karen O’Neal was previously tied with herself for fourth on Clooney, but moved up to second place with just 3.2 time faults (and down to sixth place with Bon Vivant GWF). Tamie Smith and Crafty Don add just a handful of time to keep a strong hold on her third place position.
And finally, in the 2*-L, we have Alyssa Phillips once again hanging on to her second leadership placing with a double-clear round, this time aboard Cornelius Bo. Julia Beauchamp Crandon on MGH Capa Vilou and Erin Hoffman aboard UBQuiet — our previous eighth-place tie — has moved up together to second, both with double-clear rounds on a score of 30.7.
We have just one more day left of Rebecca Farm (say it isn’t so!), and it all comes to a close tomorrow! Keep up with the action on EN’s Instagram as I attempt to capture some final beautiful moments here in the mountains.
EN’s coverage of Rebecca Farm is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products. You can learn all about Kentucky Performance Products’ full line of trusted, science-backed nutritional supplements by visiting kppusa.com.