Robin Walker has been ever-so-patient in bringing Florenz along, and his meticulous efforts paid off as the mare topped the CCI* division at the Ocala Horse Properties International CCI and Horse Trials, April 14-17 in Ocala, Fla.
“Over the course of the winter she’s just gotten more and more confident. Her cross-country round was great, which was satisfying after all the homework we’ve done with her,” said Walker.
Florenz, a 7-year-old Oldenburg, has always shown talent, but her confidence level didn’t keep up with her ability at times. “In the early part of her career, the cross-country needed some work, and she was a bit fragile, but she’s just steadily gotten better,” said Walker. “She’s just taken a little bit of time, that’s all.”
The mare has always been very careful, but at the end of last summer and through the winter, she’s gotten braver and more confident. “But she’s still careful when she needs to be, which is a great feeling,” said Walker.
“Through the water [at the Ocala CCI*], she was bold, but lovely and careful about where she was going to put her feet. It was a nice balance of brave and careful, and I was really happy with that.”
The dressage has always been a strength for Florenz, and she went into the lead at Ocala after dressage by more than 6 points, scoring a 42.8. She added nothing to that score over the cross-country course Jay Hambley designed.
“She’s always been able to gallop. She can make the time without any real effort,” Walker said.
There was a water-to-water jump on the CCI*, which Florenz had never seen.
“I was very happy with how the mare took that on, and she gave me a nice honest feel to the narrow fences. There were enough of the accuracy questions without being too many,” Walker said.
“The thing I liked the most was that there was time to get to the jumps; you could actually get galloping. Some of the courses we go to, it feels like you’re always turning and pulling. But at Ocala, there was a lovely flow to it, and you could develop a nice rhythm. I think that gets the horses where they’re happiest.”
Doing The Homework
Winning the CCI* was proof to Walker that the careful mileage he put on Florenz paid off. Owner Anne-Marie Rasch found Florenz as a 4-year-old in Germany. But Walker didn’t take a shine to her when he first saw her.
“It’s an ongoing banter between us, because I wasn’t particularly impressed with her. Anne-Marie wanted to have her anyway and bought her. I don’t mind that she reminds me of that—I’m happy to have been wrong!” Walker said.
The bay mare (Florencio I—Larralle) spent 2009 competing at novice and did five training level events in 2010 before moving up to preliminary. After completing five preliminary events, Florenz finished the year by winning the training horse division at the Land Rover/USEA American Eventing Champion-ships (Ga.). She did one training horse trial in January before placing in the top 10 in five preliminary horse trials at the Florida Horse Park and Rocking Horse (Fla.) leading up to the Ocala CCI*.
Walker and his wife, Connie, are based in Grass Lake, Mich., but spend January to April in the Ocala area.
They rent a permanent barn at the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit showgrounds and show their horses at
the HITS shows in addition to eventing them. Florenz competed in the 1.10-meter jumper classes at HITS in between her events.
“I wanted her to grow up in her own time and focused on just building her confidence,” Walker said. He plans to keep her at the preliminary level all year and aim for another CCI* in the fall.
“She’s schooling intermediate fences, but I want her to spend the time competing at preliminary and give her the whole year at that level.
“She’s certainly got enough scope, and I just want to make sure I spend the extra time with her so I don’t have to go back and revisit anything. I’m thor-oughly excited about her future after the weekend.”
Cross-training in the jumper ring comes naturally for Walker, who also rides Ruth Armstrong’s Ilian De Taute in the grand prix jumper classes. He shows at HITS Ocala in the winter and spends a few weeks at the Horse Shows By The Bay venue in Traverse City, Mich., during the summer in between eventing in Area VIII.
Walker moved to the United States from England in 1996 and married Connie in 1997. They run a training and teaching business in Grass Lake and also have a small breeding operation.
“We have some nice young horses for the Young Event Horse series, so I’ll try to get three 5-year-olds and a 4-year-old we bred ourselves qualified for the Young Event Horse finals at Fair Hill [Md.],” Walker said.
And Now, On To The Next
Leslie Law didn’t have to take it slow on Rehy Lux. He and the talented gray Irish Sport Horse by Olympic Lux have been on the fast track since Law took over the ride last summer. Winning
the CCI** at Ocala wasn’t just a blue ribbon—it was also a necessary qualification for Law’s ultimate goal with the horse, the Bromont CCI*** (Que.) in June.
“It’s part of the journey we’re on. He did a two-star a few years ago with [owner Ann Horrell Glaus], but it was long enough ago to not count for qualification. We knew that, so we built this event into his program for the year,” Law said.
Rehy Lux won the dressage with a score of 40.6 and didn’t look back, finishing on the same mark.
“He put in the test that we all had hoped for, and on cross-country he was very good. Trying to get the qualification out of the way almost makes it more nerve-wracking, quite honestly!” Law said.
Rehy Lux had competed to the intermediate level with Glaus, but last year she not only decided to concentrate more on show jumping, but also got pregnant.
“She felt the horse’s forte was in eventing, so since I’d taught Ann on the horse, she offered me the ride. I’m definitely excited to get the ride on him; he’s a pleasure to ride. I was delighted when she got pregnant—very, very happy for her!” Law said.
Law and Rehy Lux collected ribbons at intermediate horse trials last fall and finished 2010 with a third place at advanced at Poplar Place Farm Sep-tember Horse Trials (Ga.). Earlier this year, they won a division of advanced
at Pine Top Farm Spring (Ga.) and were fifth in the CIC*** at Red Hills (Fla.)
“He’s what I call a true event horse. He’s not absolutely outstanding in any one phase, but he’s very good in all three phases. He’s got an extremely good temperament that allows him to do the dressage well, and he has a great walk and canter and a good trot. He has the credentials for dressage, even though he’s not a huge, fancy mover,” said Law.
“On cross-country, he’s extremely honest,” he continued. “He’s very good on a line. He’s brave but sensible. In
the show jumping he’s not what I call an exuberant jumper, but he jumps very well. He’s only had one rail all year.”