Norwood, N.C. – April 6
The standings shuffled quite a bit today after show jumping in the CIC***, CIC** and advanced divisions at The Fork International Horse Trials. Despite the buckets of rain and cold temperatures that plagued Thursday’s dressage, Friday and Saturday turned bright and sunny.
Horses and riders in the CIC and advanced horse trials divisions got a chance to test out the new Federation Equestre International format with show jumping on Saturday, followed by cross-country on Sunday, and plenty of horses were feeling fresh.
In the CIC*** division, overnight dressage leaders Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice rattled two costly rails to drop to nineteenth place, leaving room for Lynn Symansky and Donner, who sat in second place after dressage, to move in to the lead after a clear round.
Symansky is riding with a spiral fracture to her right pinky, having injured it a few weeks ago while jumping a young horse. “I’d rather cut the thing off!” she joked. “I was trotting to a vertical and a young horse stopped and my finger was closed around the reins and went right into its neck.”
She admitted she rode conservatively, but the 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding cantered easily around the course. “It only bothered me because I’m thinking about protecting it too much,” she said. “I think I rode it too much like a hunter. I should have pressed him a bit more. I think I just went in there a little too quiet, but he jumped a nice round. Some days you get lucky and some days you don’t and today I was.”
Symansky was pleasantly surprised by her round. “He’s a mentally tight horse and he makes [himself] very physically tight. It’s hard for me to get him to let go in his body in the show jumping,” she said.
Although she had a good ride today, Symansky still prefers to jump cross-country with Donner first at a three-day. “I think it’s unfortunate that you have your final outing before [Rolex] Kentucky and you don’t get to practice what you’re going to be feeling on that Sunday,” she said.
Symansky was determined to ride at The Fork after missing a couple of runs due to her injury. Will Coleman stepped in to ride Donner at Southern Pines II (N.C.), but Symansky wanted one last run before tackling the Rolex at the end of the month. “I’m going to experiment a little when I get [out on cross-country] because I’m down a run. He ran great at Southern Pines with Will but I’m here and I skipped surgery to be able to run this horse because I’m not experienced enough to get on and go to Kentucky. David [O’Connor] said I’d be fine, but I don’t believe it, so I’m here,” she said.
Marilyn Little and RF Smoke On The Water jumped up a place with a double-clear round to head into cross-country just behind Symansky. “Show jumping is nerve wracking for me,” she admitted. “I just feel like it’s the day that you’re supposed to be good and that’s fair. It’s probably the phase I work on the least with a lot of the horses. I’m always panicking about more accuracy in the dressage or do I know them well enough for cross-country?”
The 8-year-old Wurttemburger gelding is young, but Little has been pleased with his progress and he’ll be headed to his first four-star at Rolex. “He’s getting the hang of a little bit more pace in the ring and that’s now his pace and he really likes it and has gained a lot of confidence from it,” said Little.
She echoed Symansky’s sentiments about the format change, but admitted that at “Smoke’s” young age, it could also be an advantage if he gets “bottomed out” on cross-country. “I’m a little bit concerned about them going to a three-day and having to go back to the old format. I hope we don’t get caught. That you think, ‘Gosh, we’re jumping clear rounds here,’ then you go back to the three-day format and suddenly you’re having rails,” she said. “If they’re going to have it in this format, it’s very important that the cups be quite flat and they’re a little bit more technical.”
Little also debuted a new partnership with Karen O’Connor’s 2012 London Olympic Games mount, Mr. Medicott, in the CIC**. Because of the new FEI rules, Little and “Cave” must go back to the two-star level and qualify as a pair. “It’s great that the FEI has the qualification system that they do because it does force you to have that getting-to-know-you period, but it is unfortunate for a horse that’s at his phase of his career that he’s got have those extra runs, but it is what it is. I’m happy to have this time,” she said.
The Fork is Cave’s first outing since the Games, and he was visibly excited. “Mr. Medicott was really excited to be at the party today. I knew I was in trouble when I looked down there and saw there were humans on either side of him and they’re both being dragged,” she said with a laugh. “He looked larger than life out there and he’s definitely feeling larger than life.”
They’ll head out on cross-country tomorrow in a tie for sixth place.
Lauren Kieffer leads the CIC** with Czechmate, a 7-year-old Czech Warmblood. They moved up from second place after dressage leaders Caitlin Silliman and Remington XXV dropped two rails.
Czechmate comes from a show jumping background and he jumped easily around the course. “He can be a little but spooky, not in a bad way. I actually kind of overrode him today in to the triple, but he was great and can jump out of a lot of things,” said Kieffer. “He’s got a ton of ability in all the phases. He’s new to the level, just moving up this year, but he’s really taken it on.”
Kieffer is looking forward to tomorrow’s cross-country and hoping for a steady round. “It’s a proper track. I’ll go out to be competitive, but the main goal is for a qualifying score for the future. I’ll just read him as he goes, but he’s quite a good cross-country horse and doesn’t get impressed very easily,” she said.
Back In Business
In the advanced, test A division, Lillian Heard and Share Option moved up from fifth place after dressage to the top of the leader board. Dressage leaders Alexandra Knowles and Last Call dropped one rail to fall to a tie for second.
The Fork marks Share Option’s first advanced back since injuring a tendon that Heard allowed to heal for almost two years.
While the 11-year-old Thoroughbred-cross gelding was recuperating, Heard spent a year working and traveling abroad. She spent time with Carol Gee at Fernhill Sporthorses in Ireland and brought back a wealth of knowledge to her business. “It was like a crash course in everything you don’t know about horses. There’s a lot to learn here, but they do everything [a little bit] different over there, so it was intensive and a really good experience,” she said.
Heard prefers the new format for “Whitey”. “I thought the course was pretty hard. It came up fast and you had to be really calm in order to execute it well. I think there are a lot of horses that probably do a bit better show jumping after they’ve gone cross-country when they’re more relaxed, but Whitey is always relaxed. This format is very well suited to him because he’s a quiet horse,” she said.
She’s planning on taking is easy for Whitey’s first advanced cross-country run since 2010. “My plan for the cross-country is to go out and have a really positive ride for him. I probably won’t be chasing the time since it’s my first one back. I don’t want this to be the last even we ever have, so I just want him to jump nicely and take it easy around the turns,” she said. “He’s sort of like my pet. Even when he broke down and I thought I’d never event him [again], I wasn’t ever going to get rid of him. He’s my horse. He’s never really done me wrong. He’s not the fanciest and he doesn’t look like much, but he takes care of me and he always has.”
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