Norwood, N.C. - April 6
Throughout the weekend at The Fork, the scores in the CIC*** were extremely tight. Multiple three-, four- and even a five-way tie after dressage meant every rail and every second on cross-country would count.
Sinead Halpin kept that in mind as she headed out onto cross-country with Manoir De Carneville, determined to be as close to the time as she could get in her final prep before the Rolex Kentucky CCI****, and she did just that. In fact, she landed right on the optimum time of 6 minutes 19 seconds, clinching the win and breaking the tie she held with Marilyn Little on RF Demeter, who finished on the same score of 49.8 for second place.
Halpin’s jump up the leader board from a tie for seventh after show jumping occurred with a severe shuffling of the top 10. Overnight leaders Will Faudree and Pawlow picked up a run-out at the C element of the second water jump at 14, a corner. Allison Springer and Arthur, who were second, also picked up a run-out at the C element of the new mound complex at 21, a skinny angled brush. Hannah Sue Burnett and Habour Pilot, lying third, also fell victim to 14c.
“I was really surprised!” said Halpin, who was busy riding other lower level horses in show jumping after her ride on “Tate” and didn’t even know she’d won. “It was exciting. It sounds bad, but I’m far from relieved. We have work to do. It’s nice, but Rolex is going to be tough and we have a long year ahead of us and we have to keep fighting for all of it and I feel like that happened a little bit this weekend, from 11th to seventh, to fighting to the bitter end.”
The footing was a bit firm due to a lack of predicted rain, but crews watered and aerated it so the going was acceptable for the majority of riders who decided to run. “I wanted to challenge enough but then take my time where I needed to,” said Halpin of her plan. “He’s a wonderful galloper. I wanted to get as close to the time as possible more for fitness and to practice. We don’t get to practice on good footing over big tracks with these horses that often. For the both of us, we need to practice that pressure and galloping at speed.”
Halpin, 32, Long Valley, N.J., was happy to have several options over Tremaine Cooper’s track and admitted she walked the course several times to decide what lines to take, but in the end, went with her gut.
“There was a lot of stuff out there that was new and different,” she said. “It was exciting. There were places that if you were worried about, you could take more time. The course in my head that I finished with was not the course I walked the first time. I was changing my mind, even galloping up to the mound. I had committed to a five to a four and I’m literally galloping to it and thinking, ‘Maybe I should do the three?’ I think it’s knowing your horse and how they would handle each question. I think this track inspired good thought processes and I think it inspired tactful but bold riding. It was a very good prep [for Rolex.]”
Little, who’s coming off a big win in the inaugural Carolina International CIC*** (N.C.) two weeks ago, was thrilled with RF Demeter, or “Demi” and agreed with Halpin about the track.
“She’s just fantastic,” she said. “She’s done everything we’ve asked her. I thought the course was a nice prep [for Rolex.] There was a lot of work to be done, but the general feeling from the riders was that it was very doable and a very good prep run. You could take a cut at it or you could take the safer routes and have a very confident run.”
Little, 32, Frederick, Md., pointed out the benefits of running the top 10 in reverse order of placing on cross-country, a rule now required of Fédération Equestre Internationale events.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “It puts pressure on people and they feel like they’re chasing somebody. It happens in show jumping in jump-offs all the time. You feel like you’re chasing someone, rather than going at your pace. That is when accidents happen. It’s really important that we put that pressure on our riders and you learn how to mentally deal with it because it’s going to be in every championship. Every day that means anything, you’re going to feel that pressure. Rather than just a prep run for the horses, it keeps riders sharper and on their game so that when we go to Rolex this month, we’ve already been pushed there and have to make decisions.”
Comfortable Pace Takes the Win
Colleen Loach had no intention of going out and winning the CIC** with Freespirit this weekend.
“I just wanted to go out and have the nicest round I could, a nice confidence booster for the mare,” said Loach. “I tried to make smart turns and have good jumps. I wasn’t pushing for the time, I just went at a speed I felt comfortable with.”
That strategy paid off when the pair won their division with a final score of 56.4, by adding .8 time penalties, ironically one of the faster times of the CIC**, to move up from sixth after show jumping.
Loach, 31, Quebec, has worked for Peter Barry for eight years and was the one to break the homebred mare to saddle. “I started her when she was 2 and brought her up the levels,” continued Loach.
Although the pair have completed one advanced, Loach decided to keep her at the intermediate level this spring.
“We did one advanced and I don’t think she was ready,” she said. “She had never had a jumping fault ever in cross-country, so I just think she needs a little more time. She’s so eager that sometimes she’ll jump big into things and not have time to read the questions.”
The 8-year-old Thoroughbred mare still belongs to Barry and has four offspring from embryo transfer. Loach owns a 4-year-old and Boyd Martin owns a 5-year-old that hasn’t started competing yet.
Loach plans to do the CCI** at Bromont (Quebec) this summer and then move Freespirit (Freedom Z—Rising Spirit, Primitive Rising) back up to the advanced.
- Phillip Dutton took over the ride on Boyd Martin's Red Hills CIC*** (Fla.) winner Trading Aces while Martin is recovering from a broken leg. They jumped to the top of the advanced test A division (33.7) with the only double-clear cross-country ride of both advanced divisions.
- Sally Cousins and Tsunami III picked up the win the advanced test B division (40.1).
- Sadly, Will Coleman's Conair collapsed and died while being examined after a fall in the advanced test A division. The cause of death has not been released.
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