Bromont, Quebec—June 7
Her coach Boyd Martin usually gives her an encouraging pep talk before she heads out on cross-country, but with Martin in Germany for the Luhmuhlen CCI****, Erin Sylvester was left to her own devices as she walked to the Jaguar Land Rover Bromont CCI*** start box with No Boundaries.
“Boyd has a funny way of appearing in a warm-up when you really need him,” she said. “It was a little weird not having him there. I sort of thought, ‘I guess it’s time to get myself psyched up and give myself that pep-talk.' But it all worked out fine.”
Sylvester and No Boundaries cruised around the CCI*** track without penalty to move up from a tie for fourth after dressage to first. They’ll show jump on 52.0 penalties.
“Here most every jump was off turns,” said Sylvester, Cochranville, Pa. “I think that helped me out, because my horse had to pay attention early on.”
The pair had one harried moment on Derek di Grazia’s track when "Bucky" locked on to an oxer from the CCI* instead of the brush table he was meant to jump.
“I tugged him off it, and I thought he was understanding me,” said Sylvester, 28. “But then he locked on again. I pulled his mouth to the side hard, and I think it hurt him a bit, and he backed off. Then we had just three strides to recover and get a good canter for the biggest table on course. I just kicked him and hoped he wasn’t going to bang the table. It almost ended really badly. He just really thought he was meant to jump that.”
Even more important than taking the lead for Sylvester was finally getting in a clear go at a CCI with Bucky, a 14-year-old Thoroughbred-Dutch Warmblood (Not Surprised—Natalie). The pair was eliminated on cross-country at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** in the spring, and they also picked up 20 penalties on cross-country at the 2013 Fair Hill CCI***. Their 2013 Rolex included one stop, as did their go at the 2012 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials CCI****.
“I’d want to call it tough luck each time, but it keeps happening, so I don’t believe I have bad luck every time I go out,” she said. “I think there are times my focus on things is a little too late. He’s a very good horse but a slow thinker. Some of my younger horses, they’re looking for fences. So if you’re in an open field, they’re looking around. He only looks for things in a straight line; he doesn’t know any better. He’s my first big horse, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes trying to learn along the way.”
Canada’s Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance jumped up the leaderboard from eighth to second on the strength of her double-clear round, one of only four. (The others were Sylvester on No Boundaries, Holly Payne on Never Outfoxed and Cody Sturgess on Imperial Melody.) It was the first CCI*** for the 9-year-old Thoroughbred-Trakehner (A Fine Romance—Samland Furstin, Donaufurst) mare owned by Donald Leschied.
“She was born to gallop,” said Phoenix. “She’s just over 15.1 hands, and she’s so efficient over the ground. The Bromont three-star is notorious for nobody making the time. She galloping around, and my watch was going off at every minute marker. I was like, ‘What is happening?’ She was just cruising around. It was her first three-star, so my goal wasn’t to go blazing around, but she was great.”
The three-star was largely without issues. There were no horse or rider falls. Three riders retired—Phoenix had one stop at fence 5 and then pulled up Abbey GS when she felt the horse tiring after fence 23, Robert Meyerhoff stopped Utah B without any faults, and Tracey Bienemann retired Zara after two stops at the first water, fence 4. And three others—Jon Holling on Zapotek B, Alexandra Knowles on Sound Prospect and Caitlin Silliman on Catch A Star earned one stop each. Holling gained an additional 21 penalties for breaking a frangible pin jumping into the water at fence 4.
Dressage leader Mackenna Shea collected 13.6 time penalties to drop into second with Landioso, while Maya Black and Doesn't Play Fair, second after dressage, earned 12.4 time faults to fall into seventh.
Slow And Steady
In the CIC***, Lynn Symansky and Donner retained their dressage lead despite tacking on 15.6 time penalties to their score. Symansky went deliberately slow since she’s nursing a serious leg injury and struggling with her balance.
“It’s sore, but it’s not terrible,” she said. “I think it was actually really good that I was doing the CIC [and not the CCI] because it was less time on course, and there also were so many technical fences in such a short amount of time that I didn’t really have a chance to think about [my leg].”
The already tiny CIC*** field of three narrowed to two when Phoenix had to pull up Pavarotti due to a slipped shoe.
“I thought maybe he’d lost a shoe when he was coming into ring to double corners, but then he jumped beautifully, landed and turned and took me up the hill,” Phoenix said. “I went to rebalance, and I could feel he wasn’t right, so I stopped at that point. The side clip had come up under his foot. Of all the weekends for this to happen! But I was so happy with the way he way he jumped.”
Lauren Kieffer took over the lead in the CCI** with Meadowbrook’s Scarlett after dressage winners Ashley Adams and Da Vinci Code picked up a surprise stop at the second fence and dropped to 13th.
Kieffer also stands third in the division with Landmark’s Monte Carlo. Both young horses are new to the two-star level this spring, but they showed they’re definite stars for the future with double-clear rounds today.
“I respected the course plenty, but I actually thought it rode a little bit more difficult than I expected,” she admitted. “You almost don’t know what to be nervous about with them; you just kind of go out guessing.”
Tomorrow will be a similar guessing game for Kieffer, but for tonight she’s pleased as punch with her horses’ performances.
“They both are pretty consistent [in the show jumping], touch wood,” she said. “They’re both very scopey horses, and they don’t want to hit the rails. But they’ve never done 8½ minutes [on cross-country], so I just hope they’ll both be sound and happy and go in and do their jobs.”
Buck Davidson moved up from seventh to second in the CCI** with new mount Captain Jack, whom he’s riding to help owner Lucy Disston with the gelding’s sale. Davidson said he took it easy for most of the course, but the horse found the going so easy that he decided to open him up in the final stretch, and they ended up making the time and moving up five spots.
Davidson’s efficient riding in the CCI* also boosted him to the lead in that division, aboard Lisa Darden’s Be Mine.
“He’s just a super little horse,” Davidson said. “We affectionately call him in the barn ‘Little Reggie,’ [after four-star veteran Ballynoe Castle RM, who’s nicknamed Reggie] because he looks just like him and is such a trier like him. He’s a great mover and has a great brain, but just like Reggie he wasn’t quite sure, when I first got him, if he wanted to do all this.
“But every time you ask him to do something, he does it,” Davidson continued. “As long as he gets hay at the end of it, he’s happy.”
Davidson said Be Mine only did his first event this January, but his owner put the foundation on him that’s made his performance here possible.
“Lisa obviously put really good groundwork into him, and when he came to me, he was happy,” he said. “It’s so much easier to work with a horse who’s happy and trusting with people. You’re able to push on because he has trust in people. I just kept aiming him at the fences, and he kind of kept coming.”
The final horse inspection is set for 8 a.m. tomorrow, followed by one-star show jumping at 10 a.m. Stay tuned for all the action at chronofhorse.com!
Looking for full provisional results from today’s cross-country action? Visit evententries.com.