Saumur, France—May 26
Australian Bill Levett was one of only three riders to jump clear in show jumping, earning the Saumur CCI*** win aboard Shannondale Titan by finishing on his dressage score over French riders Nicolas Touzaint on Lesbos and Arnaud Boiteau on Quoriano ‘ENE HN.’
The three U.S. riders, Will Faudree, Marilyn Little and Hannah Burnett, had two down apiece to place fifth, eighth and 26th, respectively.
Levett was the third consecutive Australian to win the French event. He came fifth and sixth in 2012 when Chris Burton won it, and in 2011, Levett finished second to Clayton Fredericks.
When the French reporters asked Levett where the Australians found their horses, he replied that they mostly made them, although he got Shannondale Titan, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Limmerick—Rocklea, Leabeg) at the two-star level.
“I’ve been bringing him on quietly,” said Levett, who lives in the Cotswold district of Gloucestershire, England. “We all have teams of horses, some bigger, some smaller. It wouldn’t be unusual for most people not to know what horses you’ve got coming up. People have been noticing this one is a nice horse for the past six or eight months, but before that he was just another two-star almost ready to go three-star horse. We at home knew he had a lot of ability if we could develop him.”
In the American camp, the riders admitted that they’ve grown accustomed to jumping with heavier poles and deeper cups at home.
“All the rails here are 10 feet wide. They are a lot lighter and smaller. You can’t afford to breathe on them really,” said Faudree.
“The jumps are very airy. They probably use one less pole on the face of every jump, and that doesn’t sound like a lot, but the presentation is very different,” said Little. “They were very square and very forward, forward careful jumps and not a lot to ride against. The cups were very shallow. If you breathe on them, they fall down, just like pure show jumping. The rails will take a pretty good rap in the U.S. Here, if they graze them they fall down. We need to make sure we stay on our toes and know you have a careful horse coming here and train that way.”
Despite the poles down, both Faudree and Little said they’d had a positive, educational experience at Saumur.
“She’s a superstar,” said Faudree of Jennifer Mosing’s Andromaque. “She tried really hard yesterday. She jumped really well today. It was a very tough track. I was trying to relax her and take a breath, and I just came a bit quiet into the vertical, and she had it down. A lot of the horses were having trouble covering the distance down that last line, and she didn’t have any trouble at all. I just got a little too close to the oxer on the way in, and she just ticked it behind.
“She’s naturally a very careful horse, so I’m not too concerned about it in the future,” he continued. “I just need to apply what I learned this weekend going forward. We’ll go home and get ready for the autumn season and see what that brings us.”
“It was a great finish to a really big weekend,” agreed Little. “I wish that the score had been a little bit different today. I had not my best Friday, not my best Sunday, but a great cross-country run yesterday, which was the biggest goal coming here. I wanted to come out with a really positive experience on cross-country, a game experience over Pierre Michelet’s course.”
Little said RF Smoke On The Water was feeling a bit tired, but he gave it his best effort. “The show jumping today was very hard; it was very challenging, especially after as grueling a cross-country course as we jumped yesterday,” she said. “He’s 8 years old, and he’s learning how to do this too. I’m thrilled with him and really pleased with his performance. He’s come out of it really well. I’m really looking forward to the summer.”