Sept. 7 – Fairburn, Ga.
At the end of a long, hot day at Chattahoochee Hills, Becky Holder hung on to her dressage lead in the advanced division at the Nutrena/U.S. Eventing Association American Eventing Championships with her veteran partner Courageous Comet.
Coming off a second placed finish at the CIC*** at Richland Park (Mich.), Comet put in his usual impressive dressage test to score a 23.7 to finish more than five points head of Jonathan Holling and Downton Harrison (29.3). “He came out ready to float his toes and impress everyone. He was more businesslike than he has been in a very long time,” said Holder, 43. “He can play around and spook at the boards, but he was absolutely foot-perfect yesterday. He just went out there and enjoyed [showing off to] the people in the sponsor tent and put in the test I know he’s capable of. He’s a hard horse to beat when he’s on.”
This year’s AECs featured all new cross-country tracks by course designer Huge Lochore, and while Holder was impressed with the improvements, including a skinny ditch and brush and a sunken road, Comet (Comet Shine—Rosanelli, Seat Of Power) didn’t bat an eye. “He was absolutely fantastic. There’s been times where he’s run around where I came off the course and thought ‘Well maybe they should make a five-star.’ He makes it feel so easy. Today, he just galloped across the ground; smoked around there, came back, made child’s play of all the exercises.”
Holder, Wadesboro, N.C., wasn’t so lucky with her Richland Park CIC*** winner Can’t Fire Me. She fell at the second water jump, but was up and walking soon after. “I made a rider error at the second water. Teddy did everything he possibly could to save the day, including pecking on one knee in the water. The drag of the water sent me flying right over his shoulder at that point. It was a nice little dunking!”
She heads into show jumping tomorrow with two rails in hand over Lainey Ashker and Anthony Patch, and she admits she might need it. “Show jumping with Comet always makes me nervous and I’m going to do the very best I can. I’m happy to have a little bit of a buffer!”
“One way or the other, I’m so blessed to have this horse in my life and have the career that I’ve had with him,” she said of Comet’s last upper level competition. The 16-year-old Thoroughbred will enjoy semi-retirement, possibly competing at the lower levels with Holder’s husband Tom or competing in dressage.
“I have good memories of him winning [the AEC’s] two years ago and I do believe he’s the top advanced horse in the country. It seemed a fitting cap to the season,” she said.
Two Different Rides
Danielle Dichting didn’t have to travel far to compete at the AECs, but she’s making the most of her time there with her two rides. The 22-year-old from Roswell, Ga. is currently leading a large intermediate division on The Graduate and sits tenth in the advanced division with Tops.
With The Graduate, or “Benjamin”, Dichting led the dressage with a 27.4 and added just 1.2 time penalties cross-country to hold her lead. She bought the 14-year-old Sachsen-Anhaltiner gelding (Drakdream—Feierliche) about a year ago from Elizabeth Barron who had competed him through the advanced level, and she’s still learning about him each time they leave the start box. “Once I got out onto the intermediate, there were several questions that were quite difficult. For me, on him, there’s so much I haven’t seen on him yet. It was just learning how to ride each individual question on him,” she said. “Honestly I was so distracted by the massive ditch and wall on the advanced course. That was what I was worried about the most of the two courses. The heat was [also] a big factor for both of them, but overall I was happy with how the day ended up.”
With Tops, Dichting was pleased with his efforts over the last two days, where they scored a 32.0 for seventh place after dressage and picked up 11.2 time penalties on cross-country. “He tries so hard and a lot of the time he tries too hard and thinks that he knows what we’re going to do next and anticipate. It’s about keeping him listening to me every step of the way. I feel like we really accomplished that yesterday. There’s still some untapped potential in him and I just have to figure out how to get it out of him.”
“He’s gotten into his element for the level [on cross-country]. There’s still a long ways to go for us learning. He was really honest and I was happy with him.”
Dichting is confident going in to tomorrow’s show jumping phase. “They both try to be very careful as long as I give them good rides. It’s about 95 percent that if I have a rail tomorrow that it’s my rail, so hopefully I can keep everything together and just give them good, confident rides.”
Although the preliminary amateur championship division was smaller than others, it was still hotly contested. After dressage leader Jennifer Lewandowski and Park Avenue III retired on cross-country and second placed Lynne Partridge and El Cid incurred a stop, Kelly Green and Corleone moved into the lead after sitting in a tie for third after dressage.
Green, Middleburg, Va., was hoping to come back to the AECs after getting eliminated last year with Corleone in the training division for carrying a whip in dressage. “It was a just a bummer. My parents flew in from Hawaii and then I get eliminated in dressage!” she said.
She had to wait just a few hours longer to earn redemption when her rig got a flat tire just 15 minutes from Chattahoochee Hills on Wednesday. After a four hour wait on the trailer, Corleone was ready for a nap. “Everytime I leave, he just lies down in his stall and sleeps all day. When he’s ready, he just does his thing and goes back to sleep,” she said of her 9-year-old Oldenburg gelding.
The rest did Corleone (Coeur de Lion—Holly Go Lightly) well though, as he had one of his best cross-country rounds since starting to compete at the preliminary level about a year ago. “Normally going around a course I have to kick him, but this time he just warmed up differently and when I picked up the reins he was ready to take off. I never really have to back him off fences but this time I had to set him up a little more.”
The gelding was even spooky, almost refusing to go through a tunnel of trees on course and surprising his 22-year-old rider, but made it clear and inside the time to move into the lead.
Green, who was born and raised in Hawaii, but has worked for Karen and David O’Connor for the last four years, won’t have a rail in hand going into tomorrow’s show jumping, but she’s feeling good. “He’s a great show jumper. If my head’s in the game, then he should be fine. I’ve got to make sure I don’t get nervous and stay confident and give him a good ride. He loves to show jump. The galloping is hard for him, but today he was really getting in to it.”
Full results are available at eventingscores.com.