Straight show jumping horses know the drill: You go in the ring, you pick up your feet, and if all goes well you go back in the ring later for a jump off, this time with your rider’s pants apparently on fire.
Event horses, on the other hand, are used to a one-and-done format. You go in the ring, you pick up your feet, and then you go back to your stall and eat dinner. Boom.
This afternoon’s $15,000 Ocala Horse Properties Eventing Prix, hosted by Southern Cross Equestrian, was an interesting social experiment. What happens when you raise the fences to 4* height and put the pedal to the metal on an event horse?
Many of the 33 horses that started today’s competition rose to the occasion, literally, with Sara Kozumplik Murphy and Rubens D’Ysieux clinching the win on the wings of a gutsy, double-clear jump off round.
Sara had glowing praise for the 12-year-old Selle Français gelding, owned by the Rubens D’Ysieux Syndicate, LLC.
“He’s a really special horse,” she says. “I always knew he was going to be good, and he’s a fantastic show jumper who was brought along really well in all three phases by Michelle Kuchta.”
Today’s Marc Donovan designed course was a no-slouch zone, keeping riders on their toes with its twisty track and big atmosphere. Between banners, spectators and noise, even if they had a rail or two the greener horses left more seasoned for the experience.
“He was obviously fantastic today but a couple little things, like doing the rollback turns, we’re not quite on it yet,” Sara says.
“The thing about this horse is he’s such a happy horse and a well-trained and educated horse,” she says. “He doesn’t have a bad day. He wakes up and is happy all the time.”
Sara is married to Irish show jumper Brian Murphy, whom she says has been a huge help for her and her team.
“I’m really lucky to be around people who are quality show jumpers,” she says. “In eventing we want to get our dressage better so we work with pure dressage people. We want to get our show jumping better so we work with pure show jumping people. Once you get to a certain level you really do need to make sure that you’re working with people who specialize in each discipline.”
She’s been honing her show jumping in Wellington, and the extra practice paid off today.
“I need to practice more under pressure and I know a lot of people do,” Sara says. “So this was really vital for me because you feel the same nerves as you feel when things are really important.
Having the opportunity to tackle a course like today’s so early in the season helps set horses and riders up for success as they prepare for spring three-days.
After a bit of a rocky getting-to-know-you period, Sara feels like she and the horse are finally clicking and she has a plan for getting the best out of him: “play around at the lower levels, come out and do something big, go back down to the lower levels, come back out and do something big, and quietly train at home.”
Fourteen horses advanced to the jump-off thanks to double-clear first rounds. Sara and Rubens D’Ysieux won the jump-off by a mere 1.289 second over second-placed Caroline Martin and Quantum Solace. Kurt Martin and Delux Z rounded out the top three.
Sara led Team Unstable, comprised of Bobby Meyerhoff, Joe Meyer and Sharon White, to the top of the scoreboard as well.
A full playback of the event’s live stream is available here, featuring commentary from EN’s own human eventing encyclopedia Jenni Autry as well as Cathy Wieschhoff.
Stay tuned for a full photo gallery courtesy of Lisa Thomas and Mid-Atlantic Equestrian Services!