Not everyone at Plain Dealing Farm had a lot of faith in Addis Abba when the 7-year-old Hanoverian arrived in Scotts-ville, Va., in 2002. But Lucia Strini did.
That optimism was rewarded with a win in the Morven Park CCI*, division 1, Sept. 30-Oct. 3 in Leesburg, Va., over Huronia and Darren Chiacchia. Strini and Addis Abba led from the competition’s get-go, posting a score of 40.01 in dressage, followed by clean trips in cross-country and show jumping to coast to victory.
Strini’s mother and Addis Abba’s owner, Linda Wachtmeister, was initially unsure that the pair would make a good match. “At first, we didn’t know what we had as [Addis Abba] had never competed above training. My daughter really liked him, especially his scope over fences, so we went ahead with [the purchase],” she said.
Strini’s trainer, Kim Severson, was in Spain, preparing to win the team gold medal in the World Equestrian Games with Wachtmeister’s Winsome Adante, when Strini and Wachtmeister found Addis Abba. “Upon her return she wasn’t too impressed,” said Wachtmeis-ter. “She thought he was too green for Lucia and that he would take a lot of work.”
Wachtmeister’s and Sever-son’s reservations proved to have some merit earlier this year. “We were eliminated twice, once for stopping in stadium, and at the River Glen Horse Trial [Tenn.], he even managed to sneak out of the ring during our round,” Strini said.
But Wachtmeister was impressed with her daughter’s persistence. “When things weren’t going well at that point in the year, Kim and I had our doubts,” she said. “Lucia never gave up though; those early stumbles only made them work that much harder. I guess she’s shown that she is the most patient of all of us.”
Strini won the Virginia CCI* for juniors in May, aboard Pandora. But she considered her win at Morven Park to be her most notable win to date, as it was an open division. Their score was also the lowest of the two CCI* divisions.
“I never thought I’d want a warmblood, but I guess he’s been a good choice after all,” mused Strini, 17.
That patience and perseverance proves that Strini, a high school junior, is nothing if not persistent. “We’ve really dedicated ourselves to our ring work. Kim has made us really slow down; we’ve been stopping after our fences to teach him that he can’t always have it his way. The past couple of months are now really paying off, as our dressage and stadium are obviously improved,” she said.
Although Strini was initially concerned after walking Morven’s cross-country course, the trip came off without a hitch. “[Addis Abba] has always been great in cross-country; it’s his strong suit. The course walked very tricky, but it rode really well. The amount of skinnies out there was something new for me, but we handled it,” she said.
Strini plans to rest Addis Abba for the remainder of the season and concentrate on her college preparation. Next year, she hopes they can contest a two-star. In the meantime, she enjoyed following in her trainer’s footsteps–Sever-son won the Morven Park CCI in 2002 with Aces High and in 2003 with QT.
Division 2 winner Vir-ginia Jenkins thought she might well finish in the top three spots–but she was expecting that to be on Lady’s Pride, not King Chester.
“Before the weekend, [Lady’s Pride] was my experienced contender,” she said. “I had no idea that this would happen. This weekend, [King Chester] really matured.”
Lady’s Pride, out of Jenkins’ former advanced mare Always A Lady, by Lion King, might be expected to be an event winner, but King Chester came from a slightly different background.
“Chester was originally a four-in-hand driving horse for [international driver] Chester Weber before Darren Chiacchia discovered him. I guess he wasn’t really working out in the team, but his athleticism interested Darren,” said Jenkins, 31.
When Chiacchia told Jenkins she might be interested in the horse, she expected to see an enormous warmblood. “The first time I went to see him, I realized that he wasn’t that big. He only stands about 16 [hands] or 16.1. He looked like a pony standing next to all of the other huge, powerful driving horses!” she said.
The 7-year-old, Holsteiner gelding, owned by Hope Greenfield, defeated In The Loop, ridden by Beale Morris, in another wire-to-wire finish. Jenkins, of Lebanon, N.J., and King Chester finished on their dressage score of 43.04.
Jenkins, who represented the United States in the 1995 Pan Am Games, is looking forward to further developing King Chester.
“This is only our first season together. He’s always been really easy through the cross-country; he has such a terrific gallop and is so bold. He’s not without his faults though; this level of cross-country is easy for him so he wants to do everything on his own. You can get away with a few careless mistakes at this level, but since we hope to move up, we’ll have to get a few things together,” she said.
In the past, King Chester has been high-strung at shows. “That’s slowed us down before,” said Jenkins. “At Morven, he settled down and put it together in the ring too.”
Morven Park’s Advanced Is All About Dutton
Phillip Dutton showcased his current stars in Morven Park’s advanced, winning division 1 with Amazing Odyssey and dominating division 3 as he guided Cayman Went, I’m So Brite, and The Foreman to respective first, second, and third place finishes.
With August Vetterino’s Amazing Odyssey, Dutton finished ahead of Better I Do It/Abigail Lufkin and Royal Venture/Kim Severson. Amazing Odys-sey lay sixth after dressage, behind Royal Venture, but a clear cross-country round vaulted them ahead of the field. The pair then sealed the deal with a faultless show jumping round.
Dutton, 41, based in West Grove, Pa., jointly led division 3 after dressage, aboard Nina Gardner’s I’m So Brite, with Severson and Upper Register, but Dutton took command during cross-county with three great rides. In show jumping, I’m So Brite dropped a rail, awarding first to Annie Jones’ Cayman Went. For Cayman Went, the victory was a fitting answer to last year’s event, where Dutton lost the lead by guiding Cayman Went off course in show jumping.
“The new combination of two angle tables was a fresh change,” said Dutton of the cross-country course. “The footing was in especially good shape considering the amount of rain over the last few weeks.”
Dutton thought Morven Park served as a good warm-up for the Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.), where he will compete The Foreman, Amazing Odyssey, and Connaught on Oct. 14-17.
“I was fortunate this week because many of the other advanced riders’ best horses are still recovering from the Olympics and Burghley [CCI**** (England)],” said Dutton, who rode Nova Top to 13th place in the Athens Olympics. “I am working with a few fresher advanced horses now.”
In advanced, division 2, Holly Hepp, 31, of Middleburg, Va., and Damien rode past Wild Frontier and Will Faudree. Hepp and Damien, owned by Roger and Marie Secrist managed to nip past Faudree and Wild Frontier as the cross-country leaders caught a late rail.
Hepp thought Morven Park has demonstrated how Damien, a former mount of Dutton’s, was on the rebound. “We were short-listed for the Olympics, and I’m glad that he’s returning to that level,” she said. “This week he’s had three consistent phases. That’s what we’ve been shooting for. Hopefully, we can continue this form at Fair Hill.”