Elkton, Md. – Oct. 16
Susan Beebee found herself sitting in a familiar position today with Wolf in the U.S. Equestrian Federation National Two-Star Championship at the Dansko Fair Hill International. Last year, Beebee and the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding led the dressage as well but incurred a run-out on cross-country.
The pair returned to Fair Hill with much more experience, including a win in the CIC** at Plantation Field (Pa.) in September and a win at the Morven Park Horse Trials in the intermediate division two weeks ago.
A score of 40.8 put them ahead of Danielle Dichting and The Graduate (41.4). Wolf (Krack C—Porsche M, Silvano N) excels in the dressage and was rewarded with high marks for expressive trot work and a ground-covering medium trot. A slight bobble in the turn on the haunches may have cost them a few marks, but Beebee, Southern Pines, N.C., was pleased with her test.
“Anything on Wolf is always a great day because he’s just amazing. The weather is perfect, the atmosphere is beautiful, and I think in this arena, the horses tend to rise, and he always puts in a good test here,” she said. “He’s just in the phase of his training where he’s really learning where to carry the strength part and the compression part, and occasionally he’s not totally sure he loves all of that, so our walk work today was a little dicey. He thought perhaps we should canter after the turn on the haunches. He tries hard every day, and the lighter and softer I am with him, the better he performs. A step up this year for sure, but I think we’re still only at 80 percent of Wolf."
While Beebee, 44, hasn’t had a chance to walk the cross-country yet, she’s confident it will be a good one, having competed here since 2008 on her three-star horse Prowler. “The course and the terrain are always fantastic, and we’re going to cross fingers that we keep this beautiful, sunny weather. Derek [Di Grazia’s] courses are always great questions and very fair to the horse, but you’ve got to keep riding, so Saturday should be fun.”
For Dichting, it’s her first trip to Fair Hill, but she’s come prepared, fresh off a big win in the intermediate championship at the Nutrena/USEA American Eventing Championships. The Graduate (Drakdream—Feierliche, Feierzug) is a relatively new ride for the 22-year-old from Roswell, Ga. He’s also the first horse she hasn’t brought along herself. “I’m still learning all of the little buttons to press on him and what really makes him tick, and I think we’re starting to figure that out,” she said.
She was able to walk the cross-country yesterday and was impressed. “The first time I walk a course, there’s always a couple of questions, like, ‘How am I going to get this done?’, but the more and more I go out there, the better it starts to look, and I’m just excited to get out there,” she said. “I’m looking for him to finish really confident and for us to continue to build our partnership. Of course it would be nice to finish at the top of the leaderboard, but that’s not the ultimate goal.”
Clayton Fredericks is another first-timer to Fair Hill this year. The Australian Olympian has relocated from his base in England to Ocala, Fla.  and brought Pigrela Des Cabanes to compete, ending the first day of CCI** dressage in third place (43.6).
The 9-year-old gelding (Loutano—Jopie Des Fontaine, Jus De Pomme) is owned by South African eventer Hayley Parker, but Fredericks took over the ride while she’s at university. Parker hopes the gelding will be her ride at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2014. “We’re really here to give him a run and help get him upgraded, so it’s nice to be sitting in this position,” Fredericks said.
Compared to the European events he’s used to, Fredericks, 44, was impressed with Fair Hill’s testing track. “I walked around the course today and though it was beautifully presented and obviously to international standards. I did hear rumors from people that it’s a strong track physically for horses and having walked around with a couple of jackets on because it was a bit chilly this morning, I was down to a shirt after halfway around. I’m glad the horse that I’ve got is pretty fit,” he said.
“Following some of the more recent events I’ve been at, I just want to finish!” he joked, referring to his unlucky falls at both the London Olympic Games and the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials CCI**** (England). “To do a nice job for Hayley and for the horse to finish well would be the goal. Anything more than that is a bonus.”
Dressage for the CCI** resumes in the morning, while the CCI*** also starts. Live scores are available at evententries.com.