Mill Spring, N.C.—April 8
Even though Marilyn Little is very familiar with the Tryon International Equestrian Center through her show jumping career, cantering into the George H. Morris arena this morning on RF Scandalous gave her butterflies.
As the leader of the CIC***, Little and “Kitty” needed a clear round to stay ahead of Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border, and they delivered.
“I was really pleased with her. We’ve been working a lot on the show jumping over the winter. She knows she’s at an event here, and she could have still been a little up, but she was very relaxed and relaxed in the warm up area. I couldn’t really ask for anything more from her,” said Little.
Kitty, a 12-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Jacqueline Mars, Robin Parsky and Phoebe and Michael Manders, is Little’s only remaining event horse after Hannah Sue Burnett took over the ride on RF Demeter earlier this year.
“To me, show jumping at an event, I feel so much more pressure. I think I walked the courses an extra 15 minutes. When I’m show jumping [at Tryon] I’m jumping 15 rounds a day, and it’s all part of a larger program, but [today,] walking into that ring on her, that’s all the pressure of a grand prix because this is her grand prix—we’ve worked so hard to prepare for this moment,” she said. “It’s like going in for the Saturday Night Lights at [the Winter Equestrian Festival in] Wellington [Fla.]. Although the jumps are lower then what I would normally jump here, the pressure is higher even, if that’s possible. It’s also just as, if not more rewarding when you take a horse that you’ve been working so hard on. Not only do they get the score you were hoping for, but they do it the way you were hoping for. It’s a big boost for the whole team.”
Little said she’s used her show jumping expertise this winter to help get the mare in her weakest phase.
“For me, eventing is for fun and show jumping is what I do full time. If I can help with anything, that would be it. I knew that when I got her, and it’s taken awhile, but it’s where I want it to be,” she said. “She feels very solid, and she knows exactly what to expect. When you have such a careful horse—I think that was one of her problems. She likes to feel like she knows what to expect, then she can be relaxed. That’s when you can get the best of her.”
Little competed twice at the old Fork event, and has enjoyed its new home so far. She’s walked the cross-country course twice, and is excited to take it on tomorrow. It will be Kitty’s first run of the season, so she’ll be looking for a confident round first, and then worry about time.
“It’s beautiful. It looks very hard to make time on because the fly fences are well presented, and there’s great shots at them, however there’s so much terrain and a lot of up and down—not big pulls. The tee boxes are there are in the middle of the gallop lanes, so that will slow them down and can take their toll on their size of stride coming towards of the end of the course because it’s just constantly jarring them,” she said.
Severson and Cooley Cross Border kept the pressure on Little with a clear round, and they’ll head out onto cross-country tomorrow just two points behind Little.
Four of 19 riders had one rail down today over Chris Barnard’s course, and one had two rails.
Cross-country starts tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.
For full results, click here.