The name Hawley Bennett may forever be synonymous with Livingstone, her partner of 12 years, and with good reason.
Adding to their list of many other accolades, the pair grabbed a win in the advanced division at Copper Meadows Horse Trials in Ramona Calif., Sept. 15-17. A native of British Columbia, Bennett has long trained in Temecula, Calif., and has traveled the world competing with “Hank,” a now 16-year-old Canadian Thoroughbred.
But now Bennett, 29, has suddenly found herself with three other upper-level horses to compete this fall: Gin & Juice, Chaos Theory and Splendorofthesun. “I never in a million years thought that would happen,” she admitted excitedly.
Cool, pleasant weather graced the Ramona event, and Bennett and Livingstone performed a strong dressage test on Friday. “It was one of his best tests, and I’m really happy,” she said. Their score of 35.4 put them in second place behind Jamie Lawrence and Coolnamara by a mere .4 points.
A challenging cross-country course assured that there were no double clears, but Bennett and Livingstone managed the fastest round with only 14 time penalties. “Time’s really hard to make there because it’s twisty,” Bennett said. “We’re running at Fair Hill [(Md.) in October], so I just wanted a good positive go, and he just jumped it like a hunter round. He still goes in his rubber snaffle.”
Their speedy and accurate ride put them in first at the end of cross-country day, and they cemented their grasp of the blue ribbon with the advanced division’s only double-clear show jumping round on Sunday.
But Livingstone’s performance wasn’t the only cause for cheer. Bennett and Chaos Theory, a new ride owned by client Jessica Burch, took second place in the open intermediate division despite a rocky dressage ride. “He’s tough on the flat, but on cross-country the horse is just a machine. He went from dead last to second, which is kind of cool,” Bennett said.
In the same division, Bennett rode Pam and John Hudson’s 10-year-old, Thoroughbred gelding Splendorofthesun to a seventh-place finish. She attributed their run-out late on the cross-country course to the horse being tired, but said she was “absolutely thrilled” with his performance, especially the dressage, in which they placed second.
Bennett also competed in the Area VI Intermediate Championships with Terry and Linda Paine’s Gin & Juice, a 6-year-old mare, but the pair withdrew before cross-country. “She was a little naughty in the dressage,” Bennett said casually. “But she’s only 6 and has already done several intermediates. She was second [at Copper Meadows] in June. She has all the potential in the world to win. It’s just that she either goes and wins, or, well, doesn’t!”
Bennett’s fall schedule includes riding two mounts in the two-star at Twin Rivers (Calif.) and three horses in the two-star at Galway Downs (Calif.). In addition, she’ll be training with long-time friend Buck Davidson for a week before competing at the Fair Hill CCI***. And after this fall’s events wrap up, Bennett looks forward to a month-long vacation in Australia. “The horses go out to pasture and I get on a plane!” she said.
Eveready: Ready For More
Scottsdale, Ariz., resident Barbara Crabo took home the Area VI Intermediate Championship title with her 7-year-old, home-bred gelding Eveready. The Swedish Warmblood-Throughbred only moved up to intermediate this spring but has matured by leaps and bounds during the season.
Although Crabo, 37, said the dressage is their weakest phase, she was pleased with Eveready’s performance in the championships. “He’s young and still a bit green, but he really tried hard,” Crabo said. Their score of 39.1 put them in second, almost 10 points behind Robyn Fisher and Lady Calido.
But with a little strategy and a lot of speed, Crabo and Eveready managed the only double-clear round on cross-country, which landed them on top of the placings. “This was the first time we’ve made time at intermediate, and he was actually several seconds under time. He’s a really fast horse if I’m not fighting with him,” she explained. “I’ve been working on teaching him not to pull and being braver myself and letting him go. He was forward, and I only really had to argue with him once before a technical question near the beginning.
“It was exciting because I knew [the potential] was there. I just knew it was going to take him and me getting along a little better. The course was pretty technical with pretty tight turns. I knew he knew all the answers, as long as I was able to present them well enough. But he just eats [the cross-country] up. You can just see him running with a big ‘ole grin on his face.”
Going into show jumping in first place, Crabo was only thinking of going clean, knowing she had less than a rail in hand. “Robyn and her horse are just phenomenal together and jump beautifully, and they went clean,” Crabo said. But with grace under pressure, Eveready pulled it off as well, skipping through the course to finish on his dressage score of 39.1.
This win comes as a huge thrill for Crabo, who has been involved in every stage of Eveready’s life from birth to breaking to competition. “It’s extremely rewarding,” she said. “He’s my best friend. I just adore that horse so much.”
With this performance under their belts, Crabo hopes to move up next season, but she wants to make sure the foundation is solid. “He’s telling me that he wants to go advanced,” she said, “but I’m not quite ready to put him there just yet.”
A First Time For Everything
Tara Davis, of Chico, Calif., chose Copper Meadows as her maiden intermediate event aboard her partner of four years, the Thoroughbred gelding Rockstar. After advertising the horse for sale earlier this year, she was as surprised as anyone when she and the 9-year-old bay claimed top honors in the open division.
An economics major at the University of California, Irvine, Davis, 19, trains with Brian and Lisa Sabo in Orange County, where the cost of living for horse and rider can be staggering. “Everything’s 10 times more expensive down here,” Davis said. “I’m trying to find other people that need their horses to be ridden.”
And with her academic schedule, training and competing a whole string of her own horses isn’t really an option. Logistics aside, Davis considered selling Rockstar a few months ago mostly because, “I just kind of felt like we weren’t getting along very well. I felt like the kind of ride I was giving him wasn’t doing well.”
But with a bit change and some riding style adaptations over the past few months, Rockstar began improving, and Davis had a change of heart and moved him up to the intermediate level.
A solid dressage score of 40.0 put the pair in a comfortable position, despite a 2-point error penalty. Less than 4 points behind leader Gina Miles and San Salvador, Davis sat in fourth. “I didn’t think I’d end up in fourth,” she admitted. “This was our first intermediate, and I went off course. But I know it was better than what I’ve been getting lately. He was really good.”
On cross-country day, the pair added an extra 20.8 time penalties to their score but moved up in the placings nonetheless. “The time was hard to make,” Davis said, citing a high concentration of efforts and turns in small areas and not much time to gallop. “I’d never done intermediate before so I didn’t really know that much, but it was definitely a tougher course than I’m used to. But overall it was a really fun [ride].”
Tied for third after cross-country with Bennett and Chaos Theory, Davis still sat nearly 10 points behind Miles. A hurried warm-up afforded Davis no chance to watch her competitors’ rounds, so she had no idea that the rails were falling like rain.
“To be honest, I didn’t care too much what placing I got. I really just wanted to concentrate on my horse and make sure that I rode him well. I thought that if I got a double clear I could probably move up,” Davis said.
And move up she did. Sofia Lombera and Quaver dropped from second to fourth when they knocked three rails, while Bennett and Chaos Theory pulled one. And when Miles dropped three rails and had 2 time penalties, Davis’ faultless round, the only double clear in the entire division, vaulted her to the top of the placings.
“My goal was just to jump clean and have a decent dressage test,” Davis said. “Valerie Owen was my old coach, and she’s been a big inspiration and put a really good base on me, and Brian and Lisa really know what they’re talking about and are really supportive. I definitely wouldn’t even be here without any of those people. I’m just going to try to keep climbing the ladder.”