Fair Hill, Md. – Oct. 20
Allie Blyskal-Sacksen grew up just five miles down the road and used to hack around the Fair Hill property, so winning the two-star with Sparrow’s Nio was a dream in the making since she was 8 years old.
“I’ve been watching, helping, grooming and vet boxing at Fair Hill ever since I was 8 or 9 years old,” said Blyskal-Sacksen. “I groomed for Heidi White back when it was the long format. I’ve done thermometers up every horse’s butt in the vet box. I’ve done lifting the gate and vet check. To come here and win, it’s really exciting and special.”
Blyskal-Sacksen captured the win when cross-country leader Sharon White had a rail in the triple with Under Suspection. Two costly time faults knocked her down to fourth behind Ryan Wood on Fernhill Classic and Collen Loach on Freespirit, who both jumped clear rounds.
Show jumping has been a work in progress for Blyskal-Sacksen. She spent last winter based in Ocala, Fla., with eventer Sara Kozumplik-Murphy and her husband Brian Murphy, who specializes in show jumping. But in the two-star at Jersey Fresh this spring, she had seven rails down with the Connemara-Thoroughbred.
“He made timber on the course,” admitted Blyskal-Sacksen. So she spent the summer focusing on her show jumping with the help of her new husband, Sam, who rode in the 2008 Olympic Games in modern pentathlon.
The two have a code word to keep Blyskal-Sacksen, 23, cool before show jumping. He tells me, “Like buttah,” she said. “If I stay soft and keep him soft, he jumps well.
The last thing Blyskal-Sacksen thinks before going into the ring? “Don’t puke!” she said with a laugh. “I went through a bad phase of puking during show jumping. I would go through the finish flags and almost hit the ring steward.”
And Ryan Wood, what does he think before entering the ring? “Patience,” he said. “You’ve got to ride it like it’s not the final phase. Then I can ride positive and get the best out of the horses.”
Colleen Loach said she just goes through the course one more time in her head and then heads into the ring.