Temecula, Calif. – Nov. 1
Buck Davidson brought three horses to the Galway Downs CCI***, and while they’re relatively inexperienced at the level, he didn’t come across the country for the fun of it.
Davidson rode The Apprentice into the lead after dressage, earning the only sub-50 mark (48.9). He also slotted into second place with Absolute Liberty (50.6) and seventh with Petite Flower (55.2)
“I didn’t come here to be second, I can tell you that much!” he said. “But I’ve got to jump the jumps first. Everybody’s got to jump the jumps first. Ian [Stark’s] made a much more difficult course than ever before here.”
Davidson chose to bring Sherrie and Randy Martin’s The Apprentice, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Casado—Funny Girl, Fernblick), to California to be challenged.
“He’s missed a lot of time this year due to stupid things,” he said. “He was supposed to go to the Fair Hill [CCI***], but I had four already. [Earlier in the year] I had a couple of falls on different horses earlier in the day and just missed a couple of runs.
“I was really happy with him,” he continued. “He’s very quiet, and he knows how to do everything. He doesn’t go in there and do anything wrong, but sometimes it looks like I’m working too hard to make him go. Today I didn’t feel like I had to get after him to make him go. It was a smoother test. Mentally he’s just a baby, but he really did step up today.”
“Dirk”, as the gelding is known around the barn, got his nickame in keeping with Davidson’s basketball theme.
“Dirk Nowitzki plays for the Dallas Mavericks. He’s a big, tall, skinny German, and Dirk’s a big, tall, [and] skinny,” said Davidson with a laugh.
Davidson was also happy to have Sharon Will’s Absolute Liberty out again. After completing the dressage at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** in 2012, Davidson withdrew her due to pain from his own injury, but it turned out the be a blessing in disguise.
Although she was never lame, the 10-year-old Oldenburg mare (Aberjack—ChesnutLady, Briartic) had a small spot on her suspensory ligament that was found during a routine scan after the event, so she had some time off.
“I know that our dressage can be better than that, but she’s a nice horse,” said Davidson, 37. “She’s fast, but my main thing is to keep her sound and hopefully have a really good horse for next year. That’s kind of my thought with all three of them. They’re all nice horses and sort of learning at the level, so I take my time.”
Davidson thought he had a shot at the dressage lead on Caroline Martin and Sergio Rios’ Petite Flower, but she had an unusual spook as she was trotting down centerline.
“I was on the winner in the warmup,” said Davidson. “By far, she was five points better than the other ones. She just got a little bit tight when somebody ran over the hill just as I was halting. She never really settled going away from the berm. It’s part of the game. I’m just going to take her real quietly tomorrow.”
After walking Ian Stark’s cross-country track, Davidson said it was the toughest he’s seen at Galway Downs.
This year marks his fourth time competing at the event, and has found that the terrain is always a challenge, even though it can be fairly flat.
“It’s different,” said Davidson. “As much as it’s different for the California guys to go on the grass, it’s different for us going on the dirt. We don’t practice on it, we have no way to practice on it. It’s harder on the East Coast horses than people realize. It changes a lot. It goes from fairly firm on the grass to very soft on the track to a little bit hard to a little bit soft. They work their tail off here to make it as good as possible, but it’s different for us.”
A Quirky Winner
Maya Black rode Doesn’t Play Fair into the lead of the 26-horse CCI** division, earning a 46.2.
Black, who’s close to six feet tall, makes her “barely 15.3-hand” mount look even smaller, but she’s been working on the 8-year-old Holsteiner gelding’s (Camiros—Oncouer, Coriender) trot work to make him look bigger than he really is.
“He has a nice canter and good medium paces, so I think that helped bring out his gaits in the sense that it makes him look bigger than he is,” she said. “He has a huge personality, which is kind of how he got that name. He’s just a beast to be around other horses. He thinks he’s a lot bigger than he is, and he’s quite a monster! He has many nicknames that shall not be said aloud.”
The American-bred gelding, owned by Black’s farrier Dawn Dofelmier, is contesting his first two-star after winning his last two intermediate starts.
Black, 25, Whidbey Island, Wash., has ridden Doesn’t Play Fair since he was 5 after Dofelmier got busy riding another horse. She described him as “quirky.”
“He’s not the kind of horse that you give five days off and think you’re going to hop on and it’s going to be great,” she said.
Even so, she’s feeling confident heading into cross-country. “He has a good gallop,” she said. “He’s never done anything this long. I haven’t really been riding him for time this year, but I’m hoping we can do it tomorrow.”
- Tamra Smith rode Fleur De Lis into the lead in the CCI* division over 45 other pairs (40.4).
- Matt Brown rode three horses into the top 10 in the CCI** division. BCF Belicoso is in second (46.5), Super Socks BCF is in fourth (51.9), and Aida is in sixth (53.1).
- A small group of East Coast riders made the trek to Galway Downs, including Davidson’s student, Caroline Martin, who’s riding Center Stage in the CCI**. Allison Springer and Copycat Chloe and Kristin Schmolze and Ballylaffin Bracken are contesting the CCI***.
- Cross-country course designer Ian Stark changed up the track this year and he’s hoping it will test horse’s and rider’s fitness. “I think people who have ridden at Galway Downs for many years are gong to think it’s a new competition,” he said. “They’ll have to walk the course very carefully. There’s going to be a temptation to go too fast early, and there are some stiff jumps at the end that they’ll need some petrol for. I think it’s probably slightly more intense with the number of questions, compared to last year.”
For full results, visit eventingscores.com. Cross-country starts at 9 a.m tomorrow with the CCI* going first, followed by the CCI** and the CCI***.
For more from Galway Downs, visit the hubpage.