One week before the Virginia Horse Trials, Selena O’Hanlon was about as far from winning an event as possible—her horse Foxwood High was rung out of the dressage ring at the Jersey Fresh CIC** (N.J.) for unevenness.
“He came down the centerline [at Jersey Fresh], and when he halted, he halted too abruptly and tripped out behind on one hind leg,” said O’Hanlon.
“I think he probably tweaked or wrenched something. The ground jury blew the whistle and said he was lame. I asked if they could tell me which leg it was, and they said they couldn’t tell. I took him home immediately and had my vet look at him. He couldn’t find anything wrong, and I decided at the last minute to enter Virginia.”
The quick decision proved fortuitous as O’Hanlon won the CCI* in Lexington, Va., held May 19-22, aboard John Rumble’s Foxwood High. Seventh after dressage, O’Hanlon jumped to fourth after cross-country and first after show jumping, finishing on her dressage score of 52.5 penalties.
Holly Payne and Santino, leaders after cross-country, lowered three rails in the show jumping and finished second on 52.8.
“I didn’t expect to move up that far,” said O’Hanlon, who rides for Canada and is based in Ontario.
“I think the indoor show jumping played a humongous role. It was pivotal. I think the horses just aren’t used to jumping indoors. I was a lucky girl because ‘Woody’ did the indoor circuit in the jumpers before I had him, so I had a little bit of an edge. Even though it’s normal in Europe, it’s so unusual to have that in Canada.” The 8-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding (Rio Bronco W—Evita II) has been under O’Hanlon’s tutelage since late last fall. He finished second in the CIC** at Red Hills (Fla.) in March.
While she would like to get him qualified for the Pan American Games (Mexico) this year, being eliminated at Jersey Fresh threw a kink in her plans. The horse is entered in the CCI** at Bromont, but he would have to complete another CIC** to be qualified. “We’re hoping to maybe find a CIC after Bromont,” O’Hanlon said.
“His owner is great, and he is 100 percent behind him no matter what we decide to do.” O’Hanlon, 30, also won a division of open intermediate aboard A First Romance, or “Solo,” and said the 9-year-old Thoroughbred Canadian Sport Horse cross gelding (A Fine Romance—Sotera Tu) is her more likely Pan Am Games candidate.
“He’s very much my hopeful,” she said.
“Woody is inexperienced. He ended up being so talented that we decided to go for it. The more horses you qualify, the better chance you have. Solo has done many CCI*s and CIC**s and intermediates, but I thought it was best to have as many declared as possible.”
Even if they don’t make it to the Pan Am Games, O’Hanlon sees Woody as a strong horse for the future.
“He has a great attitude, and he’s super tall and everyone recognizes him right away,” she said. “I do see him as an upper-level horse. He’s very easy to work with and recovers really well. He has a lot of Thoroughbred blood in him.”
Woodrow III Wins A One-Star
The show jumping proved equally difficult for the junior/young rider CCI*, where Woodrow III and Kate Aldrich topped the leaderboard with one of only two double-clear rounds.
Seven pairs had four or more rails down. “I went to go watch some rounds with my friend, and it was probably the worst idea we had,” Aldrich said.
“I was so much more nervous walking out. It was definitely a bit rough, but it’s nice to be able to watch and say, ‘This went wrong,’ or, ‘OK, that went wrong,’ and then go last and be able to do it. It’s a really hard arena to ride in. It’s hard to stay forward without running.”
Woodrow and Aldrich, 20, were first after dressage and finished on their score of 41.4 over Jenna Begbie and Ice Nine.
“The whole weekend went really well,” said Aldrich.
“He was very businesslike and did his job. I thought [David O’Connor’s] cross-country course was really good. It was definitely challenging and a good course, and it was a good confidence builder. It’s really nice and gallopy, which is good for my horse.”
Aldrich, Huntly, Va., purchased Wood-row, a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse, from Lauren Kieffer in 2009. The horse competed in the CCI* at the North Amer-ican Junior and Young Rider Champion-ships (Va.) with Holly Hillenbrand in 2007, and Aldrich hopes to take him to this year’s NAJYRC (Ky.) in the CCI**.
“He’s awesome—he just carries me around,” Aldrich said. “He’s very honest and very strong and forward, but he’s a really good boy. I think he’s show jumping better than he ever has.”