Fair Hill, Md. – Oct. 20
Jan Byyny’s first thought when she finished her show jumping round in the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI*** with Inmidair was, “Oh no, I screwed up again.”
She thought she’d finished second because she had one rail down with “J.R.” Announcer Mike Tucker had said she needed to go clear to win before she went in the ring.
But when she realized she’d won, joy set in, especially when she discovered her prizes included a round-trip plane ticket to Europe for a horse thanks to Tim Dutta and the Dutta Corp.’s new sponsorship of the Fair Hill International.
“I applied for every grant this year. I didn’t get one of them,” said Byyny. “I’ve had some pretty bad luck with this horse. I went to [the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** this spring] and had an issue with his breathing. He had surgery. I didn’t know if the horse would ever do a three-star again. This is everything for me.”
It also broke a bit of a Fair Hill curse that’s been lingering on Byyny and J.R. She was winning on the New Zealand Thoroughbred in 2011, when two rails down knocked them down to third. Last year she had two stops on cross-country.
“My horse is a pretty amazing jumper,” she said. “He doesn’t want to touch anything. I don’t normally get too nervous. Last time I was here, not last year but the year before, I took out the whole second jump, and there was just a plank left on the bottom. I wanted to keep myself a bit together this time.”
Byyny was tough on herself, claiming fault for J.R.’s rail today. But the fact that she’s riding around a three-star at all is a minor miracle after a bad fall in 2010 led to a stroke, requiring her to re-learn how to talk.
“There’s no way I wanted anyone else to win but Jan,” said Buck Davidson, who climbed from fifth to second with a clear round on Park Trader. “Jan has been through so much, and she’s persevered. She’s been a great friend since we were kids. She used to come to my hockey games.”
He also credited Byyny with keeping him in the sport, as she trained his pony Oliver in dressage while she was a working student for Davidson’s father, the legendary Bruce Davidson. “Jan was the one getting the pony on the bit,” said Buck with a laugh. “I didn’t know that. I thought I was the one doing it!”
For Buck, finishing second also felt like redemption as “Kobe” was eliminated at the Land Rover Burghley CCI**** (England) in September after a freak crash on cross-country.
“He was going around Burghley like it was a training level,” said Buck.
He admitted putting three phases together has been a job in perseverance with the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by longtime sponsors Carl and Cassandra Segal. “He’s been a very difficult horse,” said Buck. “He’s famous for breaking my collarbone. The Segals have really stuck behind me. Everyone was trying to give that horse away. It’s been a cool ride. I’ve never sat on a horse that feels like Kobe.”
Buck also appreciated finishing on a high, as Wiley Post stopped out at the first fence in the two-star after going into show jumping in seventh place.
“Between the start flags and the first fence I was really good until that last stride,” he joked. “I love the horse. He’s been very good at the horse trials. At Jersey Fresh he didn’t stop; he just knocked over the fences, eight of them. He’s not lame, but it’s different. I’ve got to figure that out.”
But Buck wasn’t upset about having an up and down weekend. “I do it every weekend,” he said. “I fall off some; I win on some. I try to keep myself really calm. I don’t get too up if it goes really well, and I don’t get too down if it goes badly. As soon as I win I forget about it. Whatever has happened, it’s done. Of course when things are going really well, it’s a little bit easier.”
The first fence was the bogey for Will Coleman as well—he had it down with Conair, which relegated them to third in the three-star.
“It’s 3'11", and he jumped about 3'8",” he said. “With me, he’s a little casual or not quite paying attention. I haven’t had him terribly long, and I think I’ll come up with some way to grab his attention before the first jump. I’m really happy with him on the whole. There are some things I can work on with more time now. I’m excited to get to it.”
He did claim a tiny piece of Byyny’s glory though—he sold her J.R. “It was literally a perfect match,” he said. “He went beautifully for Jan, and he always has.”
Look for a full report with lots more behind-the-scenes information in The Chronicle of the Horse in the Nov. 4 issue.