She may have had to endure a 2 a.m. wake up call, dodge downed trees on the road, and run for cover during a lightning storm when she was show jumping, but that wasn’t going to stop Maya Black from competing at Plantation Field Horse Trials, held June 5-7 in Unionville, Pennsylvania.
Along with Feather Creek Horse Trials (Oklahoma) and River Glen Horse Trials (Tennessee), Plantation was one of the first three U.S. Eventing Association recognized events to take place after several months of competition hiatus due to COVID-19.
Black came home with two wins—one in the open intermediate A division (28.4) on Miks Master C, and the other aboard Maks Mojo C in open preliminary C (23.7).
“He’s a pretty neat horse and such a lovely guy,” said Black of Miks Master C, or “Mickey,” who had moved up to advanced before the pandemic shut down competition. “It’s been fun to get to train at home and get to practice the basics and work on the dressage and work on the conditioning and just kind of not be competing for a little bit. It’s been a nice break. It was great to be back out there. It was quite a long day, and the horses were good sports about it.”
Black based in Florida for the winter and moved to Virginia this spring to start a new job at Anita Antenucci’s Arden Farm in Upperville.
Mikey, an 8-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Mighty Magic—Qui Luma CBF, Flyinge Quite Easy 958) and “Maks,” an 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Mighty Magic—Winter Morning, Ramiro’s Bube), are both owned by their breeder, Laurie Cameron. Black, 32, also rides two of Cameron’s 5-year-old homebreds.
Mikey’s dam Qui Luma CBF is competing at intermediate with Sydney Solomon in the U.S., while Mighty Magic competed to the advanced level in Germany with Andreas Dibowski.
Maks got a slower start to eventing since Cameron wanted him to try hunters first, but he’s since completed a CCI2*-L.
“He’s a really fun horse. He’s quirky, but we have a really good partnership now,” said Black. “They’re quite different horses for how closely related they are, but they’re fun horses to produce every day.”
When Black arrived at Plantation, a volunteer checked her temperature. All entries and payments were done online, and everyone, regardless of whether they were riding, had to sign a COVID release form. Packets were self-serve to limit interactions with the show office, and the bit check for dressage was visual.
Black reported that the event felt pretty much like a normal local horse trials. She brought her own food, but there was a food truck there for a few hours.
“It ran super smoothly. Everyone was super helpful,” she said. “It was pretty small and low-key, but I’m sure there was plenty that went on behind the scenes to get it all organized. It was all done very professionally and was easy for us.”
Black was happy to jump back into competition with inviting cross-country courses.
“I’ve been super busy, so it’s actually been nice not having to be on the road every week and to be able to get to be focused and get everything organized and started,” she said. “I enjoy competing to get to test what we’ve been working on at home, so it was fun to feel the horses come out and feel that much stronger and better having that much downtime from showing.
“The horses are very confident at those levels,” she continued. “It was almost a step down for them, but I also felt like there was enough to do on the courses, and it was forgiving enough after having this few months’ break—very flowing and not super complicated. I think that was smart on the course designer [Jeff Kibbie]. I think the volunteers themselves were happy to be out doing something again.”
Event secretary Mary Coldren said Plantation Field had only just received permission to run late Monday. They had started setting up 10 days prior just in case.
“I’ve never seen so many people so happy,” Coldren said. “One of the dressage scribes was laughing and said she’d never seen so many people smile in the dressage ring. I think the competitors were just tickled to be back out.”
While there was a storm on Friday, the rest of the recognized competition on Saturday and the unrecognized event on Sunday ran well.
“We were following all the USEF guidelines plus additional things. We tried to go over and above what was required,” Coldren said.
There was only one way in and out of the property, so everyone got a temperature screening. Handwashing stations and hand sanitizer were readily available around the grounds, and there was lots of signage reminding people to wear masks and keep socially distant.
With the contactless entries, Coldren actually received more complete entries then she has ever before in her time as an event secretary, so she’s hoping it’s the wave of the future.
“It proved competitors really can send in complete entries!” she joked. “Out of 430 horses we had over three days, there was just one that had to come in to resolve an issue, and it wasn’t even a paper issue. I’ve been trying for 15 years [to get] people to send in complete entries. It takes a pandemic to make them do it!”
For dressage, the judges sat in separate cars from their scribes and used radios to communicate. Tests were put in sanitized packets so score runners didn’t have to touch them. For show jumping and cross-country, volunteers texted scores.
Overall, Coldren was happy with how the event ran and knows that more tweaking will be done for their next event in September.
“I’d like to see what events come up with,” she said. “I do not want to say I’ve got the best way to do everything. We were sort of scrambling to do the best we could until somebody comes up with a better idea.”