April 7 – Norwood, N.C.
While Lynn Symansky might not have had the ideal lead-up to The Fork CIC*** with Donner, she gritted her teeth and laid down a double clear cross-country ride over Tremaine Cooper’s deceptively tough track to take the win.
Symansky hadn’t competed Donner for five weeks since fracturing her right pinky finger riding a young horse. “I was lucky there weren’t a lot of drops out there, and there weren’t a lot of places where I dropped my reins. I do notice it, but the pain isn’t bad; it’s just a little annoying,” she said.
She admitted that she wasn’t going for time once she saw that several horses were having issues, but she surprised herself by finishing 9 seconds under the time. “I had planned to go a little bit quieter because the course was riding a bit harder than I had expected, so you had to be pretty aggressive out there at some of the combinations,” she explained. “He’s a spooky enough horse that he kind of backs himself off, and I never pushed him once. I think it’s good to give them that kind of ride around before you go into [Rolex] Kentucky and not canter around and kind of set the tone.”
Symansky was glad she pushed herself to compete after missing some competitions due to her injury. Now she’s feeling ready for Rolex. “It was less than ideal coming in to this, but I’ve gotta say I’m feeling pretty confident going in, but not too confident because that’s when you get into trouble. So, I’ll take it. It was a good weekend, and I got accomplished exactly what I wanted to,” she said.
Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda added just .8 time penalties to finish in the runner-up spot.
Brannigan had an error and a small mistake in her medium trot in her dressage test, but she brushed it off to jump a double-clear show jumping round on Saturday. “I was pretty upset at myself about that. It’s pretty disappointing when you make mistakes like that, but he was great and feels ready to go to Kentucky,” she said.
When walking the cross-country course, she talked with coach Phillip Dutton about cutting a few turns, but she still took care on some parts of the course. “I took it easy in some places, and I added in front of a couple of galloping fences, places I’ll probably be a little bit more forward at Kentucky, but he was still fairly competitive with his time and I was really happy with how he jumped around,” she said.
Buck Davidson and his longtime partner, Ballynoe Castle RM, finished in third place on their dressage score (49.6). “Reggie was sort of like he normally is. I just sort of point him and try to stay on,” he joked. “He’s just a treat to ride every time, and I sort of pinch myself and give him a pat part way around the course, thinking how lucky I am to be doing this.”
Davidson was not a huge fan of the new track this year, but he made the most of it, finishing 11 seconds under the time. “It was a little disappointing to have so many U turns and to have one fence cause so much trouble. I think maybe if they opened it up a little bit. It’s a great facility and the jumps are great,” he said.
Fence 9ABC, the coffin, caused the most trouble in the CIC*** division. New this year, the combination caused several run-outs and retirements, with most of the trouble coming at the skinny brush out. Jan Byyny was eliminated there on both Syd Kent and Inmidair, as were Erin Flynn Tamplin and Three’s A Ruckus.
The skinny cheese wedge at 17A caused a few run-outs as well, most notably Will Faudree and Andromaque and Marilyn Little and RF Smoke On The Water, who were sitting in second place after show jumping.
There were two horse falls, but they occurred in between jumps. Both Shandiss McDonald and Rockfield Grant Juan and Nicole Parkin and Lexus fell on the turn after 17AB. Both horses and riders were up quickly and walked home.
Just Doing The Job
In the advanced, test A division, Leslie Chelstrom and her Thoroughbred mare, Cecelia, took the win, finishing on their dressage score (33.4). They were the only pair to make the time on cross-country.
After a “stellar” dressage test in the rain on Thursday, Chelstrom was determined to better her show jumping, which has been improving over the last year. “She’s just been jumping her heart out and trying and trying. I could not have asked for more from her yesterday. Show jumping has always been my nemesis and is always something I’ve had to work harder at, and it seems as though it’s paying off,” she said.
Chelstrom’s goal on cross-country with the 10-year-old was a clean, steady round. “If the speed was there to be had, then that’s good, but I just wanted a good, confident run,” she said. “She’s always willing to run. She’s not the fastest galloper in the world, but she can run and jump at a high speed, and I don’t have to do much in front of the jumps.”
Chelstrom is eyeing a spring three-star, but she plans to run an intermediate horse trial before. “She can be very sweet, but she can also be very sassy. She doesn’t like to be picked and fussed at. I try to keep it to a minimum when we’re at the shows. She’s very game on at the shows. She knows she’s here to do a job,” she said.
A Close Finish
In the CIC**, Lauren Kieffer and Czechmate kept their overnight lead, winning by .8 points over Marilyn Little and RF Black Pearl. “He’s a super classy horse,” said Kieffer of the chestnut gelding, owned by Courtney and Kylie Ramsay. “I was able to go out and attack it today because I was in the position to do so, and he really rose to the occasion.”
The CIC** course caused little trouble throughout the division, with the majority of the combinations making the time. Kieffer is eyeing a spring CCI** and enjoyed her ride. “It rode really well. It’s a forward course, and it worked really well for him because he’s quite a big striding horse when’s he’s galloping,” she said. “It worked well that I could keep coming into my combinations and not worry about getting too tight, and they actually rode really well for him.”
Kieffer also placed fourth with Lucky Devil, finishing on her dressage score (52.5).
Little also finished on her dressage score (46.1) to keep her second-placed standing with RF Black Pearl, an 8-year-old Holsteiner mare.
Little bought RF Black Pearl in December in Germany, where she’d competed to the two-star level with Beeke Jankowski. She competed her in some jumper classes at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) before starting the eventing season. “She’s very small, so she doesn’t stand out amongst all the big horses you see, but she has a heck of a trot and an amazing canter,” said Little. “She’s such a ballerina out there. Easy on herself at the gallop and a big, big gallop. It’s just going to be about building a relationship with her.”
Little finished in fifth place with Mr. Medicott, who contained his enthusiasm on cross-country enough for her to finish under the time. “He was very full of himself, but we all expected that. He was civil, and I did all of the adds. I didn’t let him leave any strides out anywhere,” she said. “I kept him in a bit with no leverage, which is my preference, and he seemed to gallop in hand quite well and came back really well in front of the jumps. It’s just such a pleasure to ride a horse like that. It’s all the scope, he knows what he’s doing, and you get the feeling that you’re piloting him around and then you realize that he’s actually piloting you around.”
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