Despite the impending madness of WEG that is almost upon us, it is necessary that we tip our hats to tradition and continue with our ritual of previewing important U.S. competitions. Richland Horse Trials is one of the most illustrious events of the year, and while I have never been brave enough to trek all the way up to Michigan, I have heard that it’s well worth the travel hours.
One of the only competitions that is able to offer such an array of levels, this year Richland has horse trials divisions from Novice to Advanced, as well as a CIC2* and a CIC3*. Maggie already gave you a little taste of the CIC3* as well as the Advanced in her ridiculously awesome statistical prediction posts, but I’m here to tell you a little more about all of the entrants and their mounts.
Lisa Barry & F.I.S Prince Charming: Lisa and Peanut are one of my favorite pairs, as the bond between the two of them is obvious when you watch them go, and it’s clear that they are having a blast and a half. Peanut is an excellent jumper, with a ton of flair from his tail over every jump. They have been running at the Advanced level for two years now and finally got their chance at a CCI3* this spring, placing second at Bromont just a few months ago. This will be Peanut’s first run back after that effort, and it should be a breeze for the two of them.
Emily Beshear & Shame On The Moon: Delta is a really lovely mare, and Emily is thrilled to have another Advanced level player in her barn. The winners of this year’s Jersey Fresh CCI2*, Delta moved up to Advanced at Horse Park of NJ, placing 8th. She recently ran at Millbrook in the very competitive and packed Advanced division, finishing in 21st place with a score of 60.3. This is her first effort at this level, and I think they will be competitive after dressage, but time penalties on cross country will put them down the placings. However, this is a super mare for the future, and Emily will be correctly taking her time to prepare her for the next step.
Maya Black & Doesn’t Play Fair: Maggie predicted that this pair will take third place as the weekend comes to a conclusion, and I don’t plan on disagreeing with her. Maya and Cody are only in their first year at this level, but have already racked up an impressive record. In their previous experiences with this dressage test, this pair averages a 49.3. They have jumped clear over Marc Donovan’s show jumps at Carolina, the one time they’ve seen his course design. The pair hasn’t seen an Ian Stark course at this level yet, but have yet to earn a jump penalty on cross country, coming home with an average of 9.6 time penalties. They should end up in third near 58.9 penalties if Maggie’s predictions are correct.
Jessica Bortner-Harris & Win The War: Jessica and Bug are the quintessential “girl finds OTTB and they magically move to the highest level together” story, and that’s why they have so many fans. They have both been working really hard this year, and I’m delighted in seeing them improve. Bug is a freak of nature jumper, and while they have been working at this level for a few years now, they are just starting to put some of the integral pieces together differently. While their recent results don’t reflect the progress they’ve made, I truly believe that they can put together a much better score for three good phases in the near future and get a good result. Whether it’s this weekend or next, Jess will still finish with a hug for her superstar chestnut.
Tim Bourke & Luckaun Quality: Tim and Obie were all set to do their first CCI4* this spring at Rolex, and in heartbreaking fashion made it literally to the third to last fence when Obie hit the jump and slid to the ground, unable to complete the course. Since that time, the horse has had tie-back surgery, and I’m willing to say it went well, as he returned to competition at Millbrook in the Intermediate and had the only double-clear cross-country round of the level. Obie still isn’t much of one for the dressage, but he’s a great jumper, and it will be lovely to see him back out here at the top level where he belongs.
Sally Cousins & Tsunami III: One of the most experienced pairs we have competing here this weekend, Sally and Sue had a nice romp around Rolex this spring, finishing in 18th place with just two rails to add to her dressage score. Sue isn’t too terribly fond of the dressage, although I will say that she seems to be slowly and begrudgingly accepting it, but she’ll jump around this track no problem and have a good first run back at the level to prep her for the fall season.
Sally Cousins & Knight Lion: Sally’s second ride is a new one to her, having only acquired him this spring and begun their competitive career together in May. They’ve run a handful of Intermediate HTs together with good results, and this will be their first attempt at the bigger stuff, as well as Knight Lion’s first CIC3*. He completed one Advanced last spring with Buck Davidson in the irons, but this will certainly be a new challenge for the both of them.
Sarah Dunkerton & Matapeake: Sarah and Petey have made the trek for their first effort at the CIC3* level together. They have three Advanced HTs under their belt, with Pine Top this spring as their move up, Carolina International as their second and The Fork as their third — each finished with clean cross-country trips. They continued on to win the Chattahoochee Hills CIC2* this spring, and have been competing at Intermediate since then. They could very well be a sleeper hit here this weekend, but I think they’ll be pleased with a good confident round for their first three star.
Lauren Ferguson & Mainway’s Dry Ice: Another pair attempting their first three-star this weekend, Lauren and Dice have completed one Advanced horse trials at Chatt Hills in May, where they finished in third place with a 70.2. As a new pair to the level, they’ll be thrilled with a safe, clean round to gain some more experience in their first CIC3*.
Katie Frei & Houdini: Barring any mini horse escape situations, Katie and Houdini have the potential to do well here this weekend. They completed their first CCI4* together this spring at Rolex, where Hewie finished in 34th place with a stop on cross country and an unfortunate five rails on Sunday. However, he has a good record at the CIC3* level, and despite running into some trouble a few weeks ago at Rebecca Farm, I think they could bounce back to their old form. They were 5th here last year in the Advanced division, so they have some experience with the course that will help them on their way.
Jodi Hemry & In Style: Jodi and Styles are joining the club of CIC3* first-timers, as they also moved up to the Advanced level this spring, completing four horse trials before this first test at the three-star level. Styles has yet to accept the necessary evil of dressage, and so their initial score will leave them out of the competitive zone, but he’s a super honest and clever cross-country horse who will undoubtedly bring Jodi home safely as they conquer their first three-star course.
Becky Holder & Can’t Fire Me: Winners in 2012 and seventh last year in this same division, Becky and Teddy certainly know their way around the course. They’ve been a bit unlucky this spring, with Becky dislocating her knee while walking the course at The Fork keeping them out of action for the season. They returned with an Intermediate win at River Glen a few weeks ago and will be looking for some redemption here at Richland. They certainly have all the pieces to put together a competitive performance, and I expect them to finish in the top 10.
Jon Holling & Zatopek B: Maggie is predicting that this horse will finish in fifth place, and while I would like to agree with her database, I have a feeling that Zak lost a little of his mojo this spring at Rolex, and I’m not convinced that he’s gotten it back yet. They had a very scrappy round in their first CCI4*, ultimately retiring and re-routing to Bromont, but were yet again thwarted by a stop on cross country. I will say that he has not had issues at the Advanced or CIC3* level, but I’m unwilling to bet my hat on him right now — or until he proves me wrong and finishes in the top five anyway.
Jon Holling & Proper Timing: Jon’s second mount, while almost equally experienced at this level, tends to fly a little below the radar. They’ve had a little bit of an inconsistent record, retiring at Fair Hill CCI3* in the fall, but making it around Bromont CCI3* this spring in good form, finishing in 10th place on a 76.2. They recently won the Chatt Hills CIC3* and ran the Intermediate at River Glen as their first one back from Bromont. Dare I say a sleeper success?
Phillipa Humphreys & Rich N Famous: I fell in love with this horse a tiny bit when I saw him at Millbrook a few weeks ago, because who can resist a flashy pinto warmblood that’s running Advanced? This pair is new to the Advanced level, having just moved up at the Horse Park of NJ horse trials and recently completing Millbrook in 28th place with a final score of 69.4. I think they have all the right pieces to be competitive in the future, but this weekend will be about a successful and safe trip around their first CIC3* together.
Phillipa Humphreys & Sir Donovan: We all know Donald well, as he was ridden through the CCI4* level by Katie Frei before being sold to Peter Barry and campaigned by Boyd Martin. Phillipa acquired Donald this spring as another mount to gain more upper-level miles on in addition to her other mount. Donald knows his way around the Advanced level and can pop around no problem, and I expect they’ll have a good trip here together in their first CIC3*.
Kevin Keane & Fernhill Flutter: As our fan favorite flying veterinarian with his wonderful horse, Butterfly, Kevin is a newly minted Rolex veteran! This pair finished in 28th place at Rolex this spring on a score of 97.2, and they’ve been running at the Advanced level since 2011, so this challenge will be well within their grasp. They were most recently 11th at Millbrook, finishing with a rail and some cross country time to add to their dressage score of 35.
Avery Klunick & In It To Win It: This pair has been competing at the Advanced level since 2013, but really started consistently showing at the level this spring, when they completed two Advanced horse trials, one CIC3* and then placed 21st at Bromont CCI3* with a three day total of 107.4. This is a great horse for Avery to gain more mileage on, and while they won’t be competitive in their placing, I expect they’ll get around clean and safely.
Kendal Lehari & Totally Frank: Maggie has predicted this pair as your “sleeper” in the division, but I think Frank might be out of the surprise ranks now. He has certainly flown below the radar, but it’s no secret that he’s an absolute freak of nature jumper and a cross-country machine. They are new-ish to the level, having moved up this spring, but they completed Bromont CCI3* in 7th place this spring, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a jump penalty on their record. Now Frank, keep your head down in the dressage!
Nilson Moreira da Silva & Muggle: I will always love this horse because of his Harry Potter name reference! Nilson and Muggle are getting experience at the level together, having moved up through the ranks quite quickly from Preliminary this time last year to a newly minted Advanced pair. They were second together this spring at the CHC International CIC3* and recently completed Millbrook in 22nd place. This will be a good challenge for the two of them, and while I expect their dressage will keep them out of the competitive placings, they will have a good time on the cross country.
Alyssa Peterson & Music Man II: Shout out to my Young Riders homie Alyssa! An incredibly down to earth and industrious lady, Alyssa is thrilled to have a horse competing at the Advanced level again, and Music is quite a cool gentleman. They just moved up to this level at Millbrook a few weeks ago, but tromped that tough course to finish in 17th place in a competitive division. This will be their first CIC3* together, but with the guidance of Sharon White on their side, they will be sure to do well.
Michael Pollard & Mensa: Maggie has predicted this pair as the 2014 winners of Richland CIC3*, and it’s not hard to see why. Michael and Mensa average a 47.3 when performing this dressage test, which should put them in the top three, but not first place, after the flat. Mensa generally has one rail over Marc Donovan show jumping courses, and averages zero jump and 4.8 time penalties for Ian Stark cross-country courses. This should give him a final score of approximately 56.1, which according to the database should be good enough for first!
Kelly Prather & Blackfoot Mystery: Kelly took over the ride on this big red horse last year, and they just recently moved up to the Advanced level, winning their first attempt at the Horse Park of NJ with a 30 on the flat and just a rail to add. They also completed the Millbrook Horse Trials recently, incurring a stop on cross country and finishing in 32nd place. This will be their first CIC3* together, and while it’s clear that they have all the pieces to be a very competitive pair for the future, it’s too soon to tell if they’ll put it all together this weekend.
Colleen Rutledge & Covert Rights: Maggie predicted that this pair will finish inside the top five here this weekend for a repeat performance of last year’s Richland CIC3*. CR averages a 50.4 when performing this test, which puts him solidly in the top group after dressage. However, after some time off following last season, he came out swinging at Millbrook with a 28.8 (equivalent to a 43.2), so could end up on top if his new form stays consistent. On Ian Stark courses, he tends to jump clean, with only 6.8 average time penalties, and while he does tend to add one rail in Marc Donovan show jumping, he ought to finish solidly around 60.8 penalties.
Allie Sacksen & Sparrow’s Nio: Allie and Neo had a fairytale run at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International CCI2* last year, finishing on their dressage score to clinch the win on 47.8. They did their first CIC3* this spring at Fair Hill, finishing 7th on 91.5 with quite a few rails in show jumping. That phase continues to be their nemesis, and if they can leave all the poles in the cups n Richland, they have the potential to finish on a very competitive score.
Mackenna Shea & Landioso: Another one of Maggie’s predicted competitive pairs, Mackenna and Landi completely have the power to ruin everyone’s day and bring the West Coast heat. They had a fluke fall at Jersey Fresh this spring, but rebounded to finish 9th at Bromont. They are incredibly strong in the dressage and will probably lead the way there, so the rest all depends on their competitiveness in the jumping phases — so, you know, no pressure, Mackenna.
Rebekah Smith & Jazz King: This pair completed their first Advanced at Millbrook last year and loved it so much that they waited for their second Advanced at Millbrook 2014, where they recently finished in 15th place with a 53.3 at the end of the weekend. This will be their first CIC3* together and their third attempt at the Advanced level, so it will be a whole new challenge for them. Jazz is a wonderful, honest type and a great jumper, and he is sure to be careful with Rebekah as she runs her first three-star.
Julia Wendell & Cavendish: These two have been competing at the Advanced level for many years now, and this lovely big gelding certainly knows his job. They aren’t competitive in the dressage, but Julia and Cavendish have more than enough experience to get them safely around this course and finish with a smile.
Sharon White & Under Suspection: Sharon is very lucky to have two really nice competitive horses at this level, let alone this one division. Pippy has been selected by Maggie’s database to just sneak in there behind Michael and place second this weekend, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she comes out on top. They average a 50.4 performing 2009 FEI 3* B, and the mare has a clear show jumping record over Marc Donovan courses, with no jump or time. While the pair hasn’t yet tackled an Ian Stark cross-country course, they average only 7.6 time penalties with a clear round at the Advanced and CIC3* level.
Sharon White & Wundermaske: Sharon was one of the riders who got just a little bit too close to 8b at Millbrook, but she got closer than most, almost taking off her kneecap. In true Sharon form, she iced it a bit and got on her second mount to turn in a clear round, despite some understandable discomfort. Patch just came out of his first CCI4* and won the dressage at Millbrook with a phenomenal 25.3. If he can repeat that performance and have the steady jumping that we have come to expect from him, he might give his stablemate a run for her money.
Amanda Wilson & Cool Decision: This pair was 29th here last year in this division after their spring 2013 move up to the Advanced level. They were 10th this spring in the Fair Hill Advanced with a 135.9 and most recently 18th at Jersey Fresh CIC3* with a 123.8 as a three day total. The Richland course is nothing to scoff at, and it will be a good challenge for this two as they work on getting their cross country mojo back in order.