Thursday, May. 30, 2024

Acapulco Jazz Strikes Winning Note At Greenwood Farm CIC**


Last year, Bonner Carpenter finished first and second in the Greenwood Farm CIC**—this year, she didn’t even ride.

Carpenter sat out the competition in Weatherford, Texas, this year, on May 4-6, because she’s recovering from knee surgery.

Her horse, Acapulco Jazz, didn’t take the weekend off, though. Heather Morris took over the reins for the weekend and rode him to win the CIC** division.
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Last year, Bonner Carpenter finished first and second in the Greenwood Farm CIC**—this year, she didn’t even ride.

Carpenter sat out the competition in Weatherford, Texas, this year, on May 4-6, because she’s recovering from knee surgery.

Her horse, Acapulco Jazz, didn’t take the weekend off, though. Heather Morris took over the reins for the weekend and rode him to win the CIC** division.

Seated in second place after dressage, “Jazz’s” dressage score of 53.7 was bested by Morris’ first ride of the day aboard Genial, who led with a 46.8 mark. Morris and Jazz added only 5.6 time penalties on John Williams’ country-country course to take the lead when Genial politely declined to negotiate an element in the new Quarry complex.

“There is a new double hollow with a 90-degree turn that Genial got hung up on,” said Morris. “He’s lovely on the flat, but he’s not forgiving at all over fences. If you miss a little you pay a lot.”

So, Morris enjoyed her ride on Jazz, a seasoned veteran. “Jazz is a much more experienced horse and he just clocked around. I am just keeping him tuned up for Bonner,” she said. Morris assists Mike Huber at his Gold Chip Stables in Bartonville, Texas, where Carpenter trains.

Carpenter, who last year won the CIC** with Impeccable and took second with Acapulco Jazz, now hopes to qualify Jazz for the Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.). She’s well on her way to this goal after winning the young rider advanced division at Pine Top (Ga.) in March.

Carpenter timed a necessary knee surgery to allow her to be back in the saddle for her final advanced qualifying competition at the Maui Jim Horse Trials (Ill.) in July. “Bonner needs only to ride clear there to be qualified for Fair Hill. She’d really like to complete a three-star while he still has it in him,” Morris explained.

With a slim class of only 10 starters,nearly half the field did not progress to the show jumping phase. Three horses were eliminated on the cross-country course. Maven, ridden by Lauren Deneve, stood tied with Morris and Jazz for first place after making the fastest trip of the day around cross-country, but failed Sunday morning’s horse inspection.

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The show jumping course took a toll, however. The barn doors were thrown open as horses stopped, rails dropped and the oh-so-expensive clock ticked down the seconds, topped up the penalties and emptied pockets of prize money. Morris moved up from fifth to second on Genial with 8 faults.

By the time Morris entered the stadium aboard Jazz, only a disaster on the order of elimination or simply dropping rails on half of the obstacles would keep Jazz from earning his blue ribbon. The pair gave competitors and spectators alike a lesson in how to earn the paycheck by marching around the course cleanly and within the time.

“It was kind of ironic to have a double clear,” Morris said. “This was the first time I have competed Jazz, and he’s the horse who generally drops a few in the show jumping. The course was nice—an honest two-star course with good questions—but for some in the field—it just demolished them.”

A Little Help From Friends

Another Gold Chip student, 18-year-old Kathleen Ward of Dallas, Texas, took the win in the CIC* on Duncullen, an 11-year-old Thoroughbred-Connemara cross gelding, in the pair’s second FEI outing.

“We were second after dressage with a 53.9, which is pretty good for us, though someday I’d like to be in the 40s,” Ward commented.

Topping a field of 15 pairs, Ward held second place from the dressage until the final phase when friend and fellow Young Rider Karen Shull dropped three rails to fall to third place with her mount Just My Style. Shull also finished second with her mount Rustic Design.

“Karen went in after me on her first-placed horse and I figured she was going to win for sure because her horses are amazing, so I didn’t really get nervous,” Ward said. “She was stabled across from me and we had hung out at the show all weekend. Overall it was kind of cool to beat Mike.”

Her trainer, Huber, had held third place aboard Velvet Elvis III from dressage and through country-country but dropped two rails in the show jumping to finish fourth.

Ward has been riding Duncullen, or “Duncan,” since December 2005, when she bought him in Ireland from a young rider who had ridden him at the equivalent level to preliminary. Ward progressed quickly to preliminary and finished eighth at the Hagyard Midsouth CCI* (Ky.) in the fall of 2006.

Ward credits Morris with helping her to improve her riding and partnership with Duncan, particularly in the show jumping.  “When I first got him, I was pulling rails all over the place. I wasn’t able to find a distance,” she said. “Heather rides Duncan for me when I am out of town and she knows him best so she has really been able to help me.”

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Morris won an open preliminary division at Rocking Horse (Fla.) this spring with Duncan after Ward was unable to make it to the competition.

A senior at Highland Park High School, Ward will graduate this spring and plans to attend Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth and to continue training with Huber and Morris. “I‘d like to ride at [the North American Junior and Young Riders Championships] this year and see how far I can go with Duncan,” she said.

Babe’s Big Win

Hometown favorite Stephanie Martin, 18, won the open preliminary division on her rescued Thoroughbred Fort Babe. A home-schooled high school student from Willow Park, Texas, Martin has ridden at Greenwood Farm for six years, where she has worked under the tutelage of Clark Montgomery and Mary D’Arcy O’Connor.

Placed third after dressage with a 32.6, Martin moved in to first place after cross-country with a clear jumping round and 13.2 time penalties on a course that proved difficult to make time for all 15 starters.

Jumping a double-clear in show jumping let her hold the position, to earn her first preliminary win. “I was nervous,” she openly admitted.

A 12-year-old off-the-track-Thoroughbred, “Babe” had been standing neglected in a field when he was spotted and bought by Diane Towson, from whom Martin then purchased him four years ago. “He was nothing to look at, really bony with no muscle, but he had a good mind and he vetted clean. Now he moves really well and is a great jumper,” Martin said.

Martin earns money riding horses for other people and hopes to become a professional trainer. “I like working with off-track horses. I hope to be able to buy some and work with them and sell them. Right now I lope some cutting horses for a woman who comes down from Colorado and I ride for some other people. I spent time in Pony Club riding a lot of different horses and really enjoyed it,” she said.

Martin has always had a fascination with horses, and on a trip to Germany to visit her mother’s family, her grandfather set her up with some riding lessons. “There is no one in my family but me who likes the horses,” she explained, “but my grandfather arranged these lessons and we started jumping right away and I was hooked.”

Fortunately, the Martins found Green-wood Farm and Martin has been able to ride at the farm ever since. “Greenwood always has one of the best and most challenging courses in the area,” Martin said. “They are always improving things, and [event organizers] Marvin Savage and Christie Tull are wonderful. I rode my first event here with a pony, Dakota, that I got when I was 12. I sold him last year to another little girl who is 12, and she competed here on him this weekend in her first event.”

Tull and Savage are neighbors with a total of about 140 acres between them. As organizers of the event, they collaborate and cooperate to provide one of the best venues in the area. Both organizers acknowledge that running the horse trials and the FEI event together not only led to an increase in entries, principally in the lower divisions, from 200 in previous years to more than 250, but also made this event one of the most challenging ever.

Stacey Quarles

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