Allison Springer hasn’t had her typical competition lead-up to the inaugural Galway Downs CCI***. But that didn’t keep her and her mount Arthur out of their familiar first place on the dressage leaderboard today, Nov. 5.
Springer, of cold and rainy Middleburg, Va., arrived in sunny Southern California on Monday, greeted at the airport by the parents of her toughest competition at Galway—Jennie Brannigan.
“She was my first working student ever,” Springer said with a laugh. “I’ve been driving her grandfather’s car all week, riding around listening to polka.”
The change in routine and weather suited Springer just fine, though, as she and the characteristically spooky Arthur topped the three-star dressage in Temecula, Calif., on a 41.0 this afternoon.
“Of course any horse is going to be calmer when it’s 30 degrees warmer than it is at home,” Springer said. “But it’s just a great feel out here. I guess it’s similar to England, where people stay in their lorries all weekend—it’s a great camaraderie. We have camaraderie on the East Coast too, but it’s different. We’re so used to our one-day events where we’re just in and out. And this is how Arthur prefers it too, traveling alone, without my dog! He loves getting all the attention. He’s very, very happy here.”
Springer, who typically wins the dressage wherever she goes, was clearly planning on doing the same here, but she was hoping for a score in the 30s.
“I thought he was really good,” Springer said. “I was hoping to score a lot better than that, but I saw [ground jury president Marilyn Payne] after, and she said he was a bit too quick in the trot work. And that was because I’d been pushing him in the trot work. So really the only reason he didn’t score better was because of me, which is disappointing.”
Brannigan, of West Grove, Pa., was close behind Springer in the standings. Her mount Cambalda, owned by Nina Gardner, came west on the same plane as Arthur and trotted into second place on a 46.0 in his first CCI***.
“I’m very, very excited,” Brannigan said. “I think it means a lot more for me to come here and do well than if I was anywhere else in the world, to be honest. It’s been an interesting year for me, so to come out here and be around all the people who have supported me for such a long time is pretty cool.”
Brannigan is originally from San Diego, Calif., but she spent several years training in Temecula and considers Galway Downs and KingsWay Farm across the road her “home.”
She’s also enjoying a lower-key weekend compared to her busier summer months.
“It’s been great to have the experience of competing a whole bunch of horses, but at the same time it’s really nice to come and just have one horse to focus on. I think that really showed in my dressage at Fair Hill [(Md.), where she placed sixth with Walkabout in the CCI**], and here,” Brannigan said. “Ping was far superior today in his trot work and more relaxed than at Plantation [(Pa.), where they won the CIC*** in September].”
Just .6 points behind Brannigan is Tamra Smith with Kristi Nunnink’s Corner Street. Alexandra Slusher and Last Call stand fourth on a 48.4. Slusher also leads the CCI** with her mare Juicy Couture (49.2).
“I felt really positive about today!” said Slusher, of Auburn, Calif. “Fergie [Last Call] was fantastic—really relaxed. It was the first time I’ve broken into the 40s in a three-star test. And [Juicy Couture] was fantastic. She’s pretty consistent in all three phases. I love riding her on cross-country, because she’s typically a blast. [Tomorrow’s courses] look like a lot of fun, but I think there are a lot of tough questions in both. I want to give my horses a really positive ride. I know they’ll be there when I need them, so I need to be there for them.”
Shannon Thompson and KS Priceless rode into second place in the CCI** (52.5), followed by Amber Levine and Nantucket Red on a 54.2.
CCI** cross-country begins tomorrow at 10:05 a.m., followed by the three-star division at 11:20. Visit the Galway Downs website for full results and schedule.