Bromont, Quebec—June 8
RF Rovano Rex might be in first place after dressage in the Volvo Bromont CIC***, the final North American observation trial for the Olympic Games in London, but Marilyn Little-Meredith is under no illusion that she’ll be winning the event. In fact, she isn’t planning to run cross-country tomorrow with “Rex.”
“I was told to come and do the dressage here. The horse has a nice show jumping record; he’s got a fantastic cross-country record," said Little-Meredith, 31, who's one of several riders who have decided to save their horses in the hopes of making it to the Barbury CIC*** in England, which will be the U.S. team's final outing before the Games. Plus, Rex is just coming back from a bone bruise he sustained at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** in April.
"He had a late to start back to work because of all the diagnostics we were doing,” said Little-Meredith. “He went to Florida after Rolex, and RF Demeter [her other Rolex Kentucky entry] went back to Maryland to start training again. Rex was at a disadvantage; he came in here pretty rusty, but luckily plenty fit. I’ve been riding him three times a day, and when we were 10 days out, I thought, ‘If I’m riding him three times a day, that’s 30 rides left,’ so we started working away. It all came together yesterday. By the third ride yesterday, I was like, ‘OK, this is possible.’
“I have to say a special thank you to Dr. Haynes Stevens in Wellington [Fla.], where we sent Rex after Rolex,” added Little-Meredith. “He was relentless in making sure this horse was back in form and safe to continue competing.”
Rex’s test earned him 38.6 penalties to slide into first above Boyd Martin and Remington XXV (39.0). Rex, a 14-year-old Hanoverian (Ramires—Flory, Florestan I) gelding owned by Raylyn Farms, won the Plantation Field CIC*** (Pa.) last fall and placed second in the Red Hills CIC*** (Fla.) earlier this year. He had only time penalties on the Rolex cross-country course.
“I made a few unusual mistakes with the horse today,” said Little-Meredith, who comes from a jumper background and started eventing in the fall of 2010. “There are still points on the table, but there a lot of things I’ve been working really, really hard on that I was happy to see the results of in the test. The lateral movements, they’ve been a real challenge for me. Pace, balance, momentum, acceleration—those are things that, coming from the jumper ring, I have a feel for. But in the lateral movements, having the accuracy and precision required to execute them correctly, and with the flow that keeps the elegance, that’s something we really don’t work on on a daily basis. To feel like I’m starting to get the hang of that is exciting.”
Watch RF Rovano Rex's winning test:
Martin is also third on Neville Bardos (42.0) and 21st on Otis Barbotiere, but he isn’t planning on starting cross-country on any of them tomorrow. Little-Meredith is going cross-country on RF Demeter—currently sitting tied for 17th on 51.4 penalties—who did her dressage test early in the day.
“I was pretty disappointed with this morning,” said Little-Meredith, of Frederick, Md. “I really felt like it was a personal best for Demeter, but the score doesn’t reflect that. That’s always disappointing, but I feel like I’m making a good deal of progress with her. We’ll make it better for next time. She certainly has every bit of presence and movement that Rex does, but I just haven’t had her as long. We’ll get her there too.”
Remington XXV, a 16-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Rubinstein I—Weserpalme, Wenzel I) owned by Henley House Stables, put in an precise and expressive test for his second-placed score.
“What a phenomenal horse,” said Martin. “He’s a fantastic mover, accurate, extravagant; he smashed all these big time horses out here. I’m thrilled to be riding him, and I’m really hoping the selectors give him an opportunity to get on the plane with the other two. He’s not going to be a good Burghley [CCI****] horse, but at the Olympic Games where the dressage is important, there's a shorter cross-country, and he’s a good show jumper—you have to put him in the mix. He can do a little better dressage test than the other two. His flaw has been making time over longer courses, but at the shorter-ish courses, if he gets a 39 and has 4 time penalties, it’s still a better score than my other shots. I always think of worst case scenarios, and it’d be a shame having a horse like Remington left in America if I went to England and everything went wrong with the other two.”
Martin, Cochranville, Pa., was relieved to put in a much improved ride on “Neville” after scoring 54.2 penalties in dressage at the Jersey Fresh CIC*** in May.
“I was pretty discouraged with the way he went at Jersey, but in true Neville spirit, we regrouped, and we changed a lot of things,” said Boyd. “We discovered he had ulcers. Brendan Furlong recommended Gastrogard, and within a week the horse had a changed personality. We’ve been working with [my wife] Silva’s [Grand Prix dressage] coach, Michael Barisone. He’s been getting me to ride him a lot rounder and more through. I’ve also been having Silva ride him a fair bit. I feel like we had him as good as we can, and what a comeback.”
O’Connor Leads Two-Star
Though Karen O’Connor and Mr. Medicott are fourth after dressage (43.0) in the CIC***, they’ll likely head out on Derek diGrazia's cross-country course in first tomorrow as one of the pairs planning to complete all three phases.
“It was never even a discussion for me,” said O’Connor. “If he's in a summer program, he needs to run, and I need to run with him. I want to be prepared.”
But Mr. Medicott isn’t the only O’Connor horse in good standing for tomorrow; her veteran partner Mandiba is leading the CCI** on 43.9 penalties. Mandiba is fresh off CIC** wins at Jersey Fresh and The Fork (N.C.).
“He’s become so happy and so confident in himself,” said O’Connor. “I thought his paces were great, and his concentration was great. He was really relaxed, but at the same time I had really good adjustability. It was the nicest test he’s given me this spring, and he was rewarded by the judges for that.”
Watch Mandiba's winning test:
O’Connor, The Plains, Va., is also fifth (48.6) in the CCI** aboard RF Amber Eyes, a horse owned by the late Richard “Dick” Thompson.
“He passed away Monday night, so it was a pretty emotional ride for me,” said O’Connor. “I was thrilled with her. She’s half the age that Mandiba is, so it’s really nice to see. She has beautiful paces and a great brain, and she’s, of course, drop dead gorgeous. It’s bittersweet. I’m delighted with how she went, but I wanted to share it with Dick. I spoke with him last Saturday morning when I was on my way back from riding Amber. She had just gone so well, and I wanted to share it with him. We had a really nice conversation, and it was Saturday afternoon that he went into the hospital. It was all pretty fast.”
Jonathan Holling trotted into first in the CCI*** yesterday on 46.0 penalties. Michael Pollard and Schoensgreen Hanni, who survived the tragic trailer accident that claimed three of Pollard's mounts, are second (48.2). Allison Springer and Eclipse lead the one-star on 42.8 penalties.
Full results available at EventEntries. Cross-country begins with the CCI** at 8 a.m. tomorrow.