The 2022 spring season is effectively capped off after this weekend’s spring FEI event at Tryon International in Mill Spring, Nc. It’s been an intense period of back-to-back 5* events followed by Pratoni and Tryon this weekend, but it was a weekend full of storylines. Let’s dive right in!
Boyd Martin Wins Another for Annie
Boyd Martin was looking for confirmation that his and the Annie Goodwin Syndicate’s Fedarman B’s (Eurocommerce Washington – Paulien B, by Fedor) relationship was really coming along — and this weekend he got it, clinching the win in the 4*-L this weekend. He’s had a good feeling about “Bruno”, who is 12 this year, but it’s been an adjustment period after Boyd took over the ride last year. Beginning this season, particularly at the Grand-Prix Eventing at Bruce’s Field in March, Boyd says he’s felt the partnership begin to come along, and thanks to support from Annie family as well as a group of owners who came into support the syndicate he’ll continue to build for the future with one more feather in his cap.
“He was absolutely brilliant in all three phases,” Boyd said. “He impressed the heck out of me on cross country with his speed and his endurance and his bravery. And then to come out today and show jump like he did — I’m just blown away by the quality of him.”
This weekend was intended to be more on the focus of building and confirming, so the win — on the pair’s dressage mark of 29.0 — is icing on the cake. “This is, to be honest, a stepping stone event,” Boyd commented. “We’ve still got a little bit of building and improving to do, but I’m very excited and I think he’s going to be a superstar in the future.”
Colleen Loach On the Map for Team Canada
Canada’s Colleen Loach knew she could be competitive this weekend with Peter Barry’s Vermont (Van Helsing – Hauptstutbuch Hollywood, by Heraldik xx), one of the exciting 10-year-olds in her stable who’s in all likelihood got the attention of the Canadian selectors as they plan for this fall’s World Championships. “I was aiming to be top three,” Colleen said. “I knew if I could get competitive in the dressage and jump clear we’d be right up there.”
It was some warm-up tension that carried over into cross country that would ultimately end Colleen’s weekend early at Kentucky last month, but “Monty” was no worse for the wear, earning his second top-10 finish at the 4*-L level this weekend with a second place, also on his dressage mark of 29.3. Colleen’s also pleased with stablemate FE Golden Eye — she’s had both horses since they were four and has gotten much fulfillment out of producing them up the levels — who also produced a double clear show jumping round this afternoon.
A Class String for Leslie Law
Leslie Law is another with an exciting batch of horses that are gaining more confirmation at this level; Lesley Grant-Law, Jackie Brown and Steve Brown’s Lady Chatterley (Connor x Jucy) wound up third in her first 4*-L, adding nothing to her dressage score of 31.0.
“She’s been going very well so you obviously go in with high hopes, but it was her first four Long, and you never know how they might take to it,” Leslie explained. This mare, who is 11 this year, was originally ridden through 3* by Lesley Grant-Law, but some inconsistent results prompted her to tap her husband to try out the ride. “Lesley thought maybe she needed a stronger ride,” Leslie explained. “I took over the ride at that point and quite honestly I was still getting inconsistent results. I would either do rather well or I wouldn’t finish.”
This encouraged Leslie and Lesley to take a closer look — was the mare acting out because of a physical issue? As it turned out, she was. “We had the vets check her out, and we found out that she was producing a large follicle which could be really painful,” Leslie continued. “We had the mare on Regumate and the vets suggested taking her off and letting her re-cycle naturally. We’ve never put her back on and since we’ve done that, the results started to get more and more consistent.”
Consistent, indeed: Lady Chatterley was the 2020 USEA Mare of the Year and was also the 2021 Intermediate Champion at American Eventing Championships. She’s rarely found outside of the top five, even as she’s stepped up to the Advanced level, and despite perhaps a lighter prep schedule than Leslie would have liked ahead of this weekend, the mare answered every question put in front of her with confidence.
Together with a class result from Voltaire de Tre (5th in the 4*-L) and Typically Fernhill (17th in the 4*-L with just a one-off of a drive-by on cross country yesterday), Lady Chatterley’s win is hard work paying off for Team Law, who typically tries to purchase horses as four- or five-year-olds and produce them on. It’s a proper system, but it’s always a bit of a gamble no matter which way you look at it. “We like to produce them and obviously some of them, they’re not all going to go all the way,” Leslie explained. “It’s very rewarding that what we’ve put together over the last few years is now really starting to come through and give us a great string of horses.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct an error that named Banjo as a ride of Leslie Law’s (Leslie Lamb piloted Banjo to a fourth-place finish in the 3*-L!).
Patience Paying Off for Mia Farley
If there is one thing Mia Farley has learned since leaving California to join the O’Connor Event Team program four years ago, it’s patience.
Mia was on cloud nine in 2019, when she achieved a runner-up finish in her first 4*-L at Fair Hill aboard BGS Firecracker. But just when it seemed the sky was the limit, an injury (and a pandemic) put some of that progress on hold. The resulting gap between Advanced rides was a test for Mia, who describes herself as more competition-focused when she was younger.
“I know it doesn’t sound big but the biggest thing I’ve learned, and its huge for me, is patience,” Mia commented. “I’m competitive and impatient, so being away was really hard for me. And training horses, impatience is never a good thing.”
David O’Connor has been instrumental on shifting Mia’s philosophy away from so much focus on competition and more on producing for the long run. “To be honest, I’ve learned how to actually train horses — I’ve always just been worried about competing them. I didn’t look at the long term before, I always looked at things short term. And now I know patience, I know long term, I know to trust to the program, which has been really helpful with [Firecracker].”
It’s a goal she always reiterates any time we catch up: “I just want to be a good horsewoman, and I want to have my horses happy at the level and able to do this for a long time.”
Mia had a triumphant first 4*-L in three years, finishing fourth with BGS Firecracker with just that pesky last show jump down to end the weekend on a 35.4. She’s also enjoyed producing David’s Phelps, a 9-year-old off-track Thoroughbred, to his first 4*-L this weekend. Phelps came to Mia somewhat by accident, after Joanie Morris tipped David off that she had a line on a nice Thoroughbred that needed a new job. “We basically got him from Kentucky for a dollar,” Mia laughs. “And he’s just been that kind of horse that keeps stepping up the levels.”
Mia’s potentially eyeing a trip abroad later this year — perhaps a run at Blenheim in the 4*-L — but above all she’s grateful to have been able to get back to this level. “I learned a lot and grew a lot in my mind as a result [of the setbacks], and to come back after two years and actually have two horses going at the level has been incredible. I just want to keep them going and have them last for a long time.”
Jacob Fletcher Triumphs in 4*-S
Jacob Fletcher said he was a good bit nervous heading out on cross country yesterday in the 4*-S. Fabian (Up To Date – Ineke, by Beaujolais) has been with Jacob since 2019, but the pair has really not had a chance to get out and gain some mileage together since the now-12-year-old KWPN first came over from the UK. He was originally produced from his young horses days on through the 4* level by British rider Millie Dumas, ending his campaign with her in 2019 at Blenheim, where the pair finished 30th. After just a couple of runs with Jacob, Covid hit.
“Covid struck, so we just turned all of our horses out,” Jacob explained. In the field, Fabian picked up an injury, which meant it wouldn’t be until July of last year that they were able to pick back up.
“So we’re still a new partnership,” Jacob said. “I’m still really getting to know him, but he was super this weekend. I was nervous…I kind of just went cautiously for the first five or six, and he was really good so then I kind of went for it.”
Their efforts paid off, and they’ll take home the top honors in the 4*-S on a final score of 39.7. The goal was not to end the spring season with a 4*-L, this being the first major season the horse has done since his injury, so Jacob says he’ll likely aim for the 4*-L here at Tryon in November.
Julie Wolfert Reps Area IV with 3*-L Win
Area IV’s Julie Wolfert is back with a bang — and what she calls a surprising win — this weekend with a top finish in the 3*-L with Team Pivot’s (Sheri Gurske and Renee Senter) SSH Playboy (Cit Cat – Stomeyford Black Pearl) after starting off in seventh place and working her way up. A double clear show jumping — “my last event I got eliminated in show jumping because I jumped a few extra jumps, so I was a bit more nervous than normal!” — sealed the deal, moving her up to the top on a score of 33.5.
Anyone hailing from an area less populated with events knows how much time spent in the truck is required to campaign at the upper levels. While juggling a full-scale training business in Kansas with prep for a little race this summer called the Mongol Derby, Julie now adds qualification-collecting to her busy schedule as her partnership with “Jaego” continues to build.
Nine years ago, Julie was climbing the ranks — and getting noticed — with her former Advanced horse, Buenos Aires. But when “Aires” passed away suddenly in 2014, Julie found herself in the midst of a struggle to find the next horse to potentially take her all the way. It’s something that frequently plagues talented up-and-coming riders without a ton of existing backing: the loss of their horse of a lifetime often leaves them in limbo. She’s had a few other horses come up through the Intermediate level to date, but for one reason or another they’ve not wound up being the ones to take her farther.
“Sheri and Renee are two really close friends of mine,” Julie explained. “I taught their daughters how to ride and they saw me struggling trying to find a horse to get back to the upper levels. So they approached me one day and said ‘we’ve seen you struggle and we want to help you’.” It was here that Team Pivot was born, uniting a group of people who wanted only to support a rider they believed in.
“She’s a part of our family,” Sheri Gurske explained. “It was so hard to see her struggling, and Renee and I and our husbands were in a position to say ‘you know what? We can do this’. We just wanted to launch her. And the hope is to build on this for her.”
“You have to do it because you love the sport and the horses — and it really helps if you love the person,” Renee Senter echoed. “This has definitely grown out of personal relationship — it is very non-traditional. Sheri and I both said all along that we have known she is an amazing rider — a phenom — and it was time for other people to see that too. All we did was launch her, she’ll do everything else on her own.”
Liz Halliday-Sharp Collects 3*-S Win with Bromont-Bound Shanroe Cooley
Liz Halliday-Sharp is using this weekend as set-up as she looks ahead to MARS Bromont next month, but in the process she collects a win in the 3*-S with the 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse Shanroe Cooley (Dallas VDL – Shanroe Sapphire), adding a bit of time (added primarily because a jump judge tried to hold Liz on course despite the fact she was first on course) to end on a 28.5.
“The horse is just an incredible horse,” Liz said. “He’s only seven and he made it feel so easy. It didn’t feel like he over-stretched himself — I opened him up on the hill at the end and he just said ‘how fast do you want me to go?’.”
This is the seventh FEI start for Shanroe Cooley and his fifth win — in fact, he’s never finished lower than third in his international career to date. “He just finished so well and inside himself,” Liz said. “There’s not many young horses that are like that. He’s just kind of a freak.”
Liz also finished sixth in the 3*-S with HHS Cooley Calmaria and third in the 4*-S with The Monster Partnership’s Cooley Moonshine. The Monster Partnership’s Cooley Be Cool also wrapped up his first 4*-L with a top 20 finish, though Liz feels he could’ve made the time on cross country had it not been for some, ahem, young horse educational moments that prompted her to bridge her reins and go a bit slower than originally intended. “He’s going to be a weapon for the future,” she described. “I just had to try and teach him not to beat his fist against his chest quite as much as he was. But I think he’s a real Burghley, Badminton horse, which is exciting.”
“It’s nice to win everything, but I came here with a plan,” Liz continued. “I think that’s what a lot of this is about is prep for the future.”
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Sinead Maynard’s Back with a Bang and a 1*-S Win
It’s a new partnership for Sinead and the 9-year-old Dutch gelding I-Quid J (Quirado – O Juliana-Imoo, by Come on), who was originally sourced by Dirk Schrade and began his U.S. career with Sharon White. Sinead purchased I-Quid just a few months ago, just before giving birth to her second baby, Violet.
“He’s just a lovely, lovely horse,” Sinead said. “He’s a fancy little guy, has tons of presence, and he seems like he really likes to compete. Sharon’s obviously done a wonderful job with him, and he was with Dirk Schrade before that, so he’s been really well-produced.”
Sinead calls herself a little rusty — baby Violet is only five weeks old, after all! — but “Squid” stepped up to the plate in all three phases. “I just felt a little rusty all weekend, but he was a champion.”
A technical elimination saw Sinead end her weekend early with another exciting young horse, Icytonic (a 7-year-old originally produced by Julia Krajewski), but she was able to sort out the line she missed on cross country in time for her ride on I-Quid (with some help from a kind official who took her back between rides to see the question she missed).
“Nothing like getting back to it,” Sinead laughed. “So I felt like it was a great weekend, I got what I needed to. I definitely made mistakes throughout, but I got to know the horses better and felt pretty optimistic about them moving forward.”
The spring season now wraps up for many of the combinations here, and we’ll next look ahead to the much-anticipated return of Bromont next month. You can catch up with more results from Tryon here, and as always many thanks to Shannon Brinkman for providing competition photos throughout the weekend.