Take 5 with Phillip, Presented by Equilume: Reflecting on Great Meadow

Phillip Dutton and Z. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Phillip Dutton wrapped up a busy weekend at the MARS Great Meadow International, where he piloted four of his own rides in addition to two of Boyd Martin’s. He finished two horses (Z: 8th, 31.5 and Sea of Clouds: 10th, 32.4) inside the top 10 in the CCI4*S. His other 4*S rides, Luke 140, Blackfoot Mystery and Fernhill Singapore, all finished within the top 30.

Let’s take a look at Phillip’s thoughts on each horse’s weekend, as quoted from his wrap-up post on social media:

Z (8th in the CCI4*S, 31.5): “Z was great. I had mentioned Friday how pleased with him I was that he managed to settle in the dressage and do quite a good test despite the less than ideal warm-up, and he show-jumped great Sunday morning and I was thrilled with him cross country. He hasn’t run for a while and I tried to go quickly without going crazy, I just kept him within himself and it was an excellent run for him.”

Sea of Clouds (10th in the CCI4*S, 32.4): “Socs is at his best on cross country day, and obviously being a Thoroughbred he just covered the ground. I set out on him with the same idea as Z but obviously he’s a faster galloper and got the time. It’s really rewarding being involved with him because although he hasn’t been bred specifically for the jumping or the movement on the flat, he really wants to do it and has a great work ethic. Each week he gets a little bit better and he makes up for what he lacks in the natural flair and pizazz, each week he just keeps chipping away at it, and he’s getting more and more competitive.”

Luke 140 (18th in the CCI4*S, 38.4): “Luke 140 is going to be a fantastic horse for the future so I’m really excited for everyone involved there and it’s been a pleasure to ride him.”

Blackfoot Mystery (25th in the CCI4*S, 43.0): “I kind of nursed Red (Blackfoot Mystery) around for Boyd; it was his first big track for a while and Boyd only told me that right as I was going into the start box! I took it a bit easy on him but he’s a great cross country horse and he’s qualified now for Boyd to go on with.”

Fernhill Singapore (26th in the CCI4*S, 43.0): “Fernhill Singapore has had a great weekend, I was pleased with all three phases. I didn’t try to go too quick with him, he was at the very end of the day when the ground wasn’t ideal plus he ran two weeks ago at Fairhill so I just wanted to have an easy run for him. He’s really stepping up and becoming an extremely exciting horse for the future.”

Fernhill PickPocket (Eliminated on Cross Country in CCI3*S): “Ollie (Fernhill Pickpocket) had an unfortunate fall at the last fence on course in the CCI3*S. We got a bit close to it and he came down on his shoulder and spat me out the side! He’s fine and I’m fine. He’s such a talented horse but gets very keen cross country; we probably have to go back to the drawing board with him and reevaluate what we do.”

Phillip also took a moment to reflect on the massive efforts of the organizing team at Great Meadow, which went to great lengths to accommodate additional entries filtering in after the cancelation of the American Eventing Championships and other events.

“The organising team did a fantastic job accommodating all the entries this weekend, as well as coping with the weather issues, and of course running a top class event during a pandemic, no mean feat,” he wrote. “Thank you to all the organizers, support crew and volunteers who managed to stay cheerful, helpful and friendly despite the difficult circumstances.”

And it’s about more than just the well run aspect of the event. Many riders, including CCI4*S winner Liz Halliday-Sharp, commented on the deep competition and the “real feel” that this event had. “There have been some real positives out of it: I think having fields this large is a huge advantage for high performance in this country,” Phillip explained. “It really makes you bring your A game when you know that every mistake you make in the dressage will cost you 10 places, and every time fault you get in the show-jumping drops you right down. In some ways I think it would be great if we could get big fields like this regularly over here because I think it’s really good for everybody’s competitive nature, and you go home realising how much work you have to do.”

Indeed, having events such as these to challenge both the veteran and newcomer high performance riders and those working up the levels is a great barometer for the depth of talent within the ranks of U.S. eventing.

“I’m grateful to my team for taking such good care of our horses both every day at home leading up to the events, and immediately after they get off a tough course,” Phillip concluded. “Every day we take healthy, happy horses home from an event having moved forward in their education is a good day and I’ll always be grateful. It’s always a treat to catch up with owners and old friends, often one and the same, but especially during these strange times when we have been somewhat isolated so we go home feeling grateful for that too. Thanks again to the Great Meadow Team for another spectacular event, and looking forward to Plantation in a few weeks, and another great GMI next year!”

To read the full wrap-up and see other regular updates from Phillip Dutton and his team, be sure to follow the Phillip Dutton Eventing Facebook page.

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