Welcome to The Weekend Update, a new offering here on EN that will recap important prep events each Monday. While we can’t be at every event in person, we want to recognize the efforts of those out there competing each weekend around the world. This column will focus on key prep events and divisions that feature 4* and 5* horses and riders en route to major spring destinations. Keep an eye out also for our weekly Weekend Winners column, which celebrates each recognized event running in the U.S.!
Gillian Warner and Veronica Green-Gott contributed to this edition of The Weekend Update.
Pine Top’s Intermediate Horse Trial ran this past weekend, and served as the first run for many horse and rider duos as the 2024 season begins. From Starter to Advanced/Intermediate, many partnerships enjoyed the forward and open courses designed by cross country course designer Jeff Kibbie as an opportunity to start the season on a positive note.
Posting some fun stories today while our course designer, Jeff Kibbie, and team finalize the cross country courses!
Boyd Martin, team USA Eventing Olympic Rider, took a moment during a busy competition schedule to snap a photo with Pine…
“I’m a big fan of Pine Top,” Boyd Martin commented. With 11 rides there this past weekend, we saw Boyd putting mileage on young horses, and preparing horses for their spring and mid-year goals. The Annie Goodwin Syndicate’s Fedarman B (Clooney – Paulien B, by Fedor), Yankee Creek Ranch LLC’s Commando 3 (Connor 48 – R-Adelgunde, by Amigo xx), Bonnie Stedt’s Miss LuLu Herself (Stolzenfels – Noisette, by Nobre XX), and Christine, Thomas IV, and Tommie Turner’s Tsetserleg (Windfall – Thabana by Buddenbrock) were a few of the horses he brought out for their first runs this year. “I use the first run as a bit of a cross country school. Jeff Kibbie creates a nice, flowing track that gives you a bearing of the homework that you need to do, as every question is available at Pine Top – from the water complexes to angles and spreads.”
Allison Springer also recognized the importance of the first run of the season. “As always with the first run of the year, it becomes obvious the things you need to work more at, and I’m looking forward to doing just that… I’m really pleased with my horses, they were all great.” Allison had an impressive weekend in the Advanced/Intermediate, coming in first (with Nancy Winter’s No May Moon (Catherston Dazzler – Ebony Moon, by Mystic Replica) and second place (with The RICO Syndicate’s Vandyke (Vancouver – Shannondale Willow, by Touchdown).
Pine Top served as an opportunity to prepare for the rest of the spring season, as Allison noted: “I plan to move No May Moon up to the Advanced level at Carolina International, so this was her first time doing the Advanced dressage test – I thought she did a lot really well, but there is quite a bit that we can improve on… The cross country courses were excellent… I thought they were a great set up for the rest of the season.”
Andrew McConnon also had a strong weekend, with Jeanne Shigo’s Ferrie’s Cello (Chello III – Karelza, by Wolfgang) winning the Open Intermediate A, and his own Wakita 54 (Plot Blue – Werusa, by Padinus) finishing in 4th in the Open Intermediate B and FVF Top Gun (C. Quito – Vignette, by Virgil) 4th in the Open Preliminary B. “I choose Pine Top as the event to start our season because of their fantastic open galloping cross country courses that are always u to standard while being inviting and fair. It sets us on a good trajectory for the rest of the year! Each horse has their own spring three-days planned with Plan Bs. I was fortunate enough to receive the Rebecca Broussard International Developing Rider Grant this year, so I’m looking to take a horse or two to Europe.”
Coming off of her 4*L win at Terranova this fall, Jenny Caras, who saw wins this weekend at Pine Top with Elyse Eisenberg’s Trendy Fernhill (Ars Vivendi – Cruseings Girl, by Cruising) in the Open Intermediate B and hers and Jerry Hollis’ Sommersby (Sergeant Pepper – D’mademoiselle, by D’olympic) in the Open Preliminary B, also has plans to make it over to Europe for the Developing Tour. “Their last run was Terranova, so the goal was just to come out and knock the rust off, but they ended up doing two really good tests, and I thought they both jumped really well… They both finished [the cross country] full of running, and were really on their game, so I think it set us up well for the rest of the season.”
Final results for all divisions can be found here. As the season continues, Pine Top turns to preparations for their Advanced Horse Trials will be running in just a few weeks, from Friday, February 23, 2024 – Sunday, February 25, 2024. Find more information on the event on Pine Top Farm’s website. You can also get a glimpse of cross country designer Jeff Kibbie’s plans for the Advanced track in the video embedded below:
Cross Country course designer, Jeff Kibbie, discusses plans for the Advanced Horse Trials Feb. 23-25th, 2024
Posted by Pine Top Eventing on Monday, February 12, 2024
Pine Top Intermediate: [Final Results]
The Florida Season is Rocking (Horse)
It was a sunny 70-degree day for our riders who tackled one of the season’s first events, Rocking Horse Winter II (Altoona, FL). As an early event in the season, Rocking Horse is the perfect opportunity to check out how the horses are going. Many riders decided to take the opportunity to move their horses up a level or stretch the legs on their new rides.
The cross country course at Rocking Horse was described by the riders as flowing with good galloping stretches and a few technical elements, including a sunken road. “I thought Morgan [Rowsell] did a good job. Down in this area, there’s not much terrain and I thought he did a good job of trying to vary the course a little bit and ask different questions,” said Phillip Dutton, who came in third in the Advanced B with the Jewelent Group’s Jewelent (Valent x Bellany Jewel, Roselier).
Most riders describe Rocking Horse as horse-friendly with a quieter atmosphere than other events, being that it’s on a Thursday and most of the other competitors are professionals. “I really like Rocking Horse in the spring/winter,” Woods Baughman said. “I think it’s a great way to get [the horses] out, especially for their first Advanced, or even their first one back. It’s normally a really fair course, there’s nothing that makes you go, ‘Whoa, what’s wrong with this course designer?’ So it’s a great step to getting them confident for the rest of the season.”
The Advanced division was split into two classes, Advanced Test A and Advanced Test B. In total, it was a pretty competitive weekend for the Advanced level, with 33 total riders entered. In the Advanced Test A division, Lisa Barry and Woods Baughman had to duke it out for that coveted blue ribbon; the two were tied through the first two phases and, in the end, only 5.2 time penalties on cross country dropped Lisa into second place, giving Woods the win with Hopak de Greenbay Z. It was also Woods’ birthday over the weekend -— what better present could you ask for than a blue ribbon?
Rocking Horse marked Woods and Hopak de Greenbay Z’s (Herald 3 x Cado de Greenbay, Cassini I) first time back at the Advanced level since the New Jersey Horse Trials in July 2022, when the horse and rider pair came in 13th place. After spending the fall 2023 season at the CCI3* level, it’s clear that “Pako”, owned by Manderly LLC, knows how to make an entrance when returning to the level.
“This was his first time back at the level since 2022, and he’s as strong as ever. I’m really happy with him. We’ve been working on his footwork and getting him stronger. He’s such a big horse and his hind feet are so far from his head, that sometimes it takes a minute for his thoughts to get back there,” Woods said, laughing. “He’s a good jumper and he’s such a smart horse. And he really knows the job and wants to do a good job. So I’ve just been working really hard on trying to make it easier for him to do it.”
Lisa Barry was thrilled to take the second place slot with Rosie’s Aventura (Formula One x Rajacon’s Rose, Consul), aka “Possum.” Owned by the Lisa herself, this is only Possum’s second crack at the Advanced level. It’s been a long road for Lisa as she focused on producing the big 17-hand homebred before returning to the level. Clearly, the wait paid off.
“I have been focusing on our show jumping phase, as she just finds it difficult to be careful in that phase. She’s a big horse and she’s actually two inches high behind, so articulating that long downhill body is really hard for her even on normal distances,” Lisa said. “But she was excellent. On cross country, she was on her game right out of the start box. She’s so honest and straightforward that as long as I have breaks and I can turn, she’s such a great cross country horse.”
Michael Nolan was the only rider representing the Irish flag at Rocking Horse over the weekend, with four horses entered across the Advanced, Preliminary, Modified, and Training divisions. He and Carrabeg Hulla Balou (Balou du Rouet x Vella Flavour, Ballinvella), owned by Alyssa Cairo, successfully tackled the Advanced level, earning a third place win. At just 9 years old, it looks like Carrabeg Hulla Balou has an exciting upper-level career ahead of him.
“That was Louie’s first Advanced event obviously so we’re super happy with him. He was a bit green at the start of the cross country course, but he improved as he kept going and finished really well,” Michael said. “We’ve had him since he was a three-year-old and produced him up the levels, so it’s really nice to see he’s taken to the Advanced level so well.”
Hopak de Greenbay Z wasn’t the only one coming back to the Advanced level this past weekend. Rocking Horse II marked Leslie Law’s Lady Chatterley’s successful return to the level, with a fourth place finish. The 2022 Bates USEA Mare of the Year, Lady Chatterley (Connor 48 x Juicy, Mytens XX), owned by Jackie and Steve Brown, was sidelined by a minor soft tissue injury in 2022.
“She felt great, very strong, very enthusiastic. Hopefully, fingers crossed, touch wood, everything looks good. She has her opinions, so you have to work with her, but she’s all class,” Leslie said. “The course was spot on, quite honestly. It’s the first Advanced of the season, so it’s tough to pitch the difficulty and the technicality. I thought Morgan [Rowsell] did a great job for horses in the beginning of the year, doing their first Advanced.”
In the Advanced Test B division, Elisa Wallace took first place by a wide margin with 2022 Maryland CCI3*L winner Renkum Corsair (Renkum Chapot x Renkum Colitas, Renkum Valentino), owned by the Corsair Syndicate. Elisa got the ride on “Cazzie” relatively recently, in 2022, after the Anglo European gelding was campaigned up through 3* by Great Britain’s Saffron Creswell. Elisa and Caz stepped up to the 4* level in 2023. This weekend, they tallied up just 4.8 cross country time faults to add to their dressage score, going double clear in the show jumping phase.
“I cried when I went through the finish flags, just because it was the first time that I felt like we were together and that we were there,” Elisa said. “He’s a genuine horse and he wants to try super hard and he doesn’t want to make a mistake, but he’s also really big and powerful and so when you’re going around cross country, it’s tough to still have an influence. So, this winter, I’ve just really focused on the basics, you know, our flat work, really getting that solid and consistent.”
Canadian rider Katie Malensek’s STX Mex (Billy Mexico x Xucra de Foja) shot up from tenth place to finish in second with a final score of 48.8. This weekend was the geldings first attempt at the Advanced level and the “pocket rocket” put in a great effort. Katie purchased the gelding from eventer Tom Crisp just last year and this was only their fifth cross country outing together.
“He’s 10 this year and he’s just really game. He’s one of those funny horses where you look at him and go, ‘Really, this is him?’” Katie said. “He’s just a little bit unorthodox looking. And then all of a sudden he starts jumping and he really is pretty spectacular. He’s very careful and very catlike and he’s just a neat little horse. So we’re super thrilled to have him in the barn.”
Phillip Dutton had a busy weekend with three horses in the Advanced division, Quasi Cool, Possante, and Jewelent. It was the Jewelent Group’s Jewelent (Valent x Bellany Jewel, Roselier) who came out at the top of the Dutton herd. The gray Irish Sport Horse took third place with a score of 53.4, which is especially impressive considering Phillip has only been working with Jewelent since late 2023, when he took over the ride on the horse from Ireland’s Clare Abbott. The gelding already has a wealth of experience at the 4* level, having competed with Abbott at Millstreet, Thoresby Park, and Boekelo.
“We’re just trying to get to know each other, and certainly there’s parts that need improving, but so far, so good. He’s a really classy horse who just cares about his business and his day to day work. He has a really nice, professional way about him,” said Phillip. “I just wanted to get an Advanced on him and see where we’re at. Up next, we’ll aim for a CCI4*-S at Chattahoochee.”
Phillip’s daughter, Olivia Dutton, was also competing this weekend. She came in sixth place in her Advanced debut with the Sea of Clouds Partnership’s OTTB and former ride of her dad’s Sea of Clouds (Malibu Moon x Winner’s Ticket, Jolie’s Halo). “I was particularly proud of my daughter this weekend,” said Phillip. “She competed in her very first Advanced, which is always a big step up in the eventing world.”
Julie Wolfert and her big Irish Sport Horse gelding SSH Playboy (Cit Cat x Stomeyford Black Pearl) took fourth place in the Advanced Test B division. Owned by the rider, Sheri Gurske, and Renee Senter, the gelding is a fairly experienced Advanced competitor with three 4* wins under his belt, including a first place at Tryon International in 2022. Julie hails from Kansas City, MO in Area IV, making the trek from the Midwest to Florida to jump start her season that likely includes some exciting plans as she and “Jaego” continue to impress.
“This weekend at Rocking Horse actually went smoother than I anticipated. Last year I had two huge falls off of Jaego, one required ankle surgery right at the beginning of the year. Then right when I recovered from that I broke my sacrum and nose leading up to Morven Park, so we could never really get the experience I was hoping for last year,” said Julie. “Coming off of the long break, I wasn’t sure how he’d handle his first show back. Minus his normal “Playboy” antics getting into the start box, he felt like a complete veteran out there and went right to work. It’s a great feeling leading into the season knowing we don’t have too many cobwebs to dust off.”
Rocking Horse Winter II: [Final Results]