Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2024

All’s Fair Despite Stormy Conditions At Poplar Place

Ashley MacVaugh and her partner of 10 years, All’s Fair, added a win at the advanced level to their long list of accomplishments.

The pair boasts a noteworthy record of four Rolex Kentucky CCI**** performances (2003, ’04, ’06 and ’07) and a tour of Burghley (England) in 2004, but they hadn’t won an advanced division before the Poplar Place Horse Trials, March 27-29.

“It’s very exciting,” said MacVaugh, South Hamilton, Mass. “It was a great weekend despite the challenging weather!”

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Ashley MacVaugh and her partner of 10 years, All’s Fair, added a win at the advanced level to their long list of accomplishments.

The pair boasts a noteworthy record of four Rolex Kentucky CCI**** performances (2003, ’04, ’06 and ’07) and a tour of Burghley (England) in 2004, but they hadn’t won an advanced division before the Poplar Place Horse Trials, March 27-29.

“It’s very exciting,” said MacVaugh, South Hamilton, Mass. “It was a great weekend despite the challenging weather!”

The thunderstorms held out through dressage on Friday, but organizers had to cancel show jumping on Saturday due to the unkind weather patterns that blew in over the Hamilton, Ga., venue.

“We got these just horrendous rains Friday [night] and Saturday,” said MacVaugh. “On Saturday we all thought it was going to be cancelled, but at the rider’s meeting Saturday evening they had walked around [the course], and it had stopped raining and was kind of sunny and windy. When I went out and walked it Saturday night it looked quite good.”

Many of the other advanced entrants withdrew after show jumping, leaving MacVaugh and Bonner Carpenter, who rode Acapulco Jazz and Ashwood Lad, to contest the course. While both Carpenter’s horses pulled a rail in show jumping, All’s Fair put in a clean trip and sealed the win with a confident ride across the country.

“I had a great show jumping. We just did show jumping Sunday morning and 15 minutes later went on to the cross-country,” said MacVaugh. “I thought the crew did a great job. They put down footing in front of some of the jumps, but really despite the rain it held up quite well. It was a great, gallopy course. My horse is experienced so he really handled the footing quite well.”

While the organizers removed a few fences, including the sunken road, due to the footing, the course still had some technical questions, including the first water complex.

“The first water [had a] downhill [approach], two strides over a big hut to a log,” MacVaugh said. “Then one stride to quite a big drop into water. It was a big effort, and the water had gotten deep.

With the rain it had gotten a little slippery on the take off, but they had put footing down so it actually rode quite well. I would say the waters were probably the most challenging parts of the course.”

MacVaugh bought All’s Fair, a 17-year-old British-bred Thoroughbred gelding, when he was 7.

“I bought him from a kid, and he had done a little bit of competing, a couple of prelims, but he was quite green,” she said. “You really never know what you have. He’s just been a terrific horse. We’ve sort of come up through the years together, and he’s just extremely smart and genuine.“

MacVaugh also rode Tactiek, owned by Susanne Richey, and finished 13th in the CIC** competition, leaving up all the show jumps and skipping around the cross-country with just a few time faults.

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“He’s a small, sort of compact Dutch [Warmblood] horse,” she said of the 8-year-old, black gelding. “He reminds me a bit of All’s Fair, so that’s fun. Hopefully, he’ll be as good!”

As for All’s Fair, he will not be competing at Rolex Kentucky again this year. “He’s 17 years old, and I think we’re just going to do horse trials and have fun and keeps things a little bit lighter. He’s a bit of a pony,” she said with a laugh. “He’s very smart and has a real sense of humor but extremely genuine and very brave. He’s just terrific.”

Sky Show Steals The Thunder

In their CIC* debut, young partners Lexi Scovil, 17, and Sky Show, 7, set a high standard from the start of the weekend. No one could catch them as they posted two double-clear rounds to clinch the blue ribbon.

“Poplar was amazing,” said Scovil, Mequon, Wis. “We were a little worried about keeping [Sky Show’s] focus in the dressage ring because it was so wet, but he was very relaxed, which is unusual for him.”

The pair moved to the top of the leaderboard with a score of 48.3.

“We’ve been working on his dressage,” said Scovil of the Australian Thoroughbred gelding. “He was quite green when I got him, but he’s a really good boy.”

The rankings were tight moving into show jumping on Sunday, with the top six competitors all within a rail of first place. An unfortunate rail dropped Susannah Lansdale and Buck Naked from second to fourth, but Chimene Evans on Kurious and Arden Wildasin on Totally Awesome Bosco put in clean rounds to keep the pressure on Scovil.

“In stadium he was fantastic,” she said. “He was more forward than he usually is, because he knew it was cross-country day.”

After walking the course on Sunday morning, Scovil was impressed with how much it had dried out. “It rode really well,” she said. “I kind of took it a little bit slow for the first half, and he was a little hesitant because of the wet footing. But he gained confidence as the course went on.

“I was very happy with him the whole weekend in general. He was very focused and relaxed,” added Scovil. “He’s a very funny horse. He loves to be in your pocket and right next to you all the time. He’s really cool because once on course, he’s all business; he knows his job and he loves it.”

Scovil trains with Anne Jennings of Pigeon Creek Farm when she is home in Mequon and Jonathan Holling while contesting the circuit in Florida. She got her start in the hunter/jumper ring at the age of 6 before switching to eventing at 13. A junior in high school, she utilized a tutor while riding in Florida.

“It’s definitely been difficult,” she said of her busy schedule. “I go to school three hours a day, four days a week. There are smaller amounts of time to get the work in. It’s hard, but I’m managing.”

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Scovil hopes to represent Area IV at the North American Junior and Young Riders Championship in July.

“You have to travel a bit in Area IV,” Scovil said. “The season doesn’t really start until May, which is why I wanted to come to Florida and qualify for my one-star.”

Scovil admitted she was nervous before arriving at Poplar. “Especially about the dressage being in the big ring, I had never done that before,” she said. “Going up centerline seems like forever! I was pretty nervous until I got there, but we rode the first day, and he was really good, so then I was really excited.”

Slate River Enjoyed The Swim

When Heather Morris, Lewisville, Texas, came across Slate River in June of 2008, she wasn’t too impressed with the Oldenburg gelding. “We decided we’d take him and try him and see if we could sell him,” said Morris. “But we liked him more and more every day.”

The pair made their debut at the American Eventing Championships (Ill.) last year, where they placed second in the preliminary division. The horse won two preliminary horse trials before making the move to intermediate at Rocking Horse (Fla.) at the end of January.

“He’s a really, really fun horse to work with,” said Morris of the 11-year-old. “He’s come quite a long way in the short period I’ve had him.”

Slate River finished with a score of 53.3, adding only time penalties to his dressage score and leading the division from start to finish. “We think he has so much talent,” said Morris. “Cross-country he’s super straightforward. We are trying to work on his shape in his show jumping. He doesn’t like touching the [poles], but he sometimes jumps in the wrong shape. He’s definitely improving every day.”

Morris had the advantage of riding the CIC** track on First Mark, owned by Lynn Partridge, before tackling it with Allison Freeman’s Slate River.

“Cross-country was muddy,” she said. “It wasn’t too horribly bad, but there were places it was deep. Both horses had so much incredible cross-country talent that nothing fazed them. The jumps rode well, and it was really [about] negotiating how fast you could go without risking hurting them. There were definitely some deep spots and some tricky places to ride around, but overall the course rode really well.”

Morris and Slate River were only leading by 3.1 penalties going into show jumping, but a double-clear round kept them in front of Jessica Pye and Lightning Bound, who placed second. Morris also finished 10th with First Mark.

“Everyone at Poplar did an amazing job to get everyone in on Sunday after all the storms,” said Morris.

Morris plans to move Slate River and First Mark up to advanced during the summer, with hopes of riding at Fair Hill [Md.] in the fall.

Coree Reuter

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