July 25—Kalispell, Mont.
Buck Davidson is the most experienced rider entered in the inaugural Rebecca Farm CCI***, and he imparted an important piece of wisdom to his fellow riders on Friday night: This course was going to be harder than they expected.
“It’s actually quite a bit tricky,” he warned in yesterday’s press conference. “The gallop fences are almost a bit too small to hold the horse, but then the combinations are quite big and substantial. It will be a unique test, because you need to look after them at the gallop fences. I don’t think it will be a dressage competition.”
And so it came to pass.
Just as Davidson had prophesied, overnight leader Jordan Linstedt came to grief at fence 23, a standalone stone oxer. Linstedt and Revitavet Capato had been jumping a picture-perfect round, tackling many of the toughest combinations with aplomb, until the rider parted company (without injury) from her mount four fences from home on Ian Stark’s 10:41 course.
That opened the door for Davidson and The Apprentice, who stood second in the dressage (44.1), to move into the lead with their double-clear round.
“He did it actually easier than I thought he was going to do it,” Davidson said of Sherrie Martin’s 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding. “It was quite long, but I found it easier to make time than I expected.”
Davidson, of Riegelsville, Pa., and Ocala, Fla., did have one hairy moment, though, getting in deep at the airy open corner at 14 and nearly coming out of the tack. But The Apprentice managed to eke over with a dramatic twist.
“You want to make it exciting for everybody,” Davidson said wryly.
USEF Land Rover Competition Grant recipient Kurt Martin, of Middleburg, Va., moved into second place with a double-clear of his own aboard and Delux Z, and like Davidson, he found the course a more pleasant experience than he’d expected last night.
“My horse came out in a good rhythm and took a lot of fences out of stride,” he said of the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by his mother, CarolJean Martin. “It was very smooth, and I never really had to ask him to go too fast. It was really fun just to have a rhythm and jump.”
James Alliston moved into third aboard his veteran mount Parker, noting that while “he was very fast, I don’t think the time was super hard to get with all the galloping stretches.”
But aside from the top three, no other riders made it home without fault. Bella Mowbray of Australia came through the flags clear but picked up 18.8 time faults, while the other finishers accrued 20 jumping penalties, many at the coffin at 20ABC.
Davidson elected to retire Petite Flower after a runout at 9B, the corner following the ditch and brush. He noted yesterday that she’s been having shoulder spasms since arriving in Montana, and he now suspects she pulled a muscle somewhere during the haul.
“I’m the first to admit that I wish I hadn’t [started her cross-country],” he said. “I warmed her up this morning, and she was funny going to the left, but she’s completely sound, she jumped really well, and she landed on both leads. She just wasn’t turning left very well.”
That difficulty continued once Davidson set out on course. They struggled through the first lefthand turn, at fence 3, and “by the time I got to 9, I tried to turn her left [after the clearly the A element], and I never got anywhere near the corner,” he said. “I turned left, and she went right. I made a mistake [starting her], but thankfully she’s OK.”
Smith & Morris, Inc.
Tamra Smith and business partner Heather Morris are running themselves ragged this weekend, having brought 19 horses from their Murrieta, Calif., base to Rebecca Farm. But the lack of sleep has been worth it so far, as Smith continues to lead the CIC*** with Mai Baum and Morris the CCI** with Charlie Tango.
“Wow,” Smith said simply of her double-clear round today aboard Mai Baum, a 9-year-old German Sport Horse owned by Alexandra Ahearn.
“I haven’t really gotten a niche with him yet, because I’ve only been riding him since February, so it’s been a little bit difficult getting him to trust me,” Smith said. “We’ve been on the fast track trying to [aim for the Pan American Games]. But I came out of the box today with a little bit of a different approach, moving him up to things, and he was phenomenal. I didn’t know he could ever be like that. What’s so impressive about him is that he can put three [strides in a four-stride distance], or he can put three in the two. He can add, and he can leave out so easily. He’s so adjustable and tidy; he’s just a freak.”
Smith also stands second and third in the CCI** with Fleur de Lis and Dempsey, respectively, behind Morris. After being based in Texas with Mike Huber at Gold Chip Stables for 13 years, Morris moved to California last year to work with Smith. The two women grew up riding together as kids under the tutelage of Kim Scheid.
“Tami and I have put together a really good partnership business; we’ve been best friends for a long time now,” she said. “We brought 19 horses with us, so we have gotten little sleep. I literally walked my two-star course in the dark last night. I didn’t get to walk it until then.”
But Charlie Tango cruised around with an ease that belied his age—just 7.
“I’ve kind of been a little bit patient with him, but he couldn’t have been any better today,” Morris said of the Irish Sport Horse owned by Team Express Group LLC. “Just two years ago he actually won the training three-day here.”
Elsewhere in the two-star, Sabrina Glaser’s horse Aid And Abet was vanned off the course after a fall at 19C, the shrimp cocktail jump in the final water complex. Event veterinarian Karen Nyrop said the horse is being monitored this evening but is resting comfortably in its stall and eating well.
The shrimp cocktail fence, while admired for its cuteness, earned the least popular award when it came to jumpability. Many riders faulted, fell or had heart-stopping near misses there.
“It just isn’t a good shape,” Smith explained. “I actually went up to [Ian Stark] and said, ‘Can we burn that?’ Because it didn’t jump well last year either—I think even Gin & Juice [Hawley Bennett-Awad’s former four-star mount] almost fell there last year. It doesn’t have enough groundline, and the horses just don’t read that shape well. He said it won’t be here anymore. We can just use it as a decoration.”