Elkton, Md.—Sept. 17
Hannah Burnett liked the feeling of winning so much last year at the Dansko Fair Hill International in the two-star with St. Barths that she decided to come back and do it again.
This time the 24-year-old from The Plains, Va., earned the CCI*** title and the U.S. Equestrian Federation national championship, besting names like Phillip Dutton, who placed second with Fernhill Eagle (57.0), and Kristin Schmolze, who finished third on Cavaldi (60.2).
“I’m really excited. I’ve been building up to this event all year,” said Burnett. “My horse has been getting better and better. I’m really happy that I feel like I’ve improved over the year, and my horse has too.”
Burnett said “Nike” can be a stereotypical chestnut Thoroughbred—she never knows exactly how the 10-year-old gelding, owned by Dick Thompson, will come out on the third day of competition.
“That’s part of the reason why my record’s been a little spotty,” she said. The pair had quite the crash through the last fence on course in the two-star last year, with Burnett barely staying on through the finish flags, and she’s had a few bad show jumping rounds this year in between double-cleans and four-fault trips.
“But he felt very good today,” she said. “I warmed up, and I can tell over the first jump whether I’m going to have to really help him out or he’s going to give me a good ride. Over the first warm-up fence he was like, ‘Let’s do this!’ He flung his head around, and I lost my reins completely. It was kind of embarrassing. He was very exuberant today.”
Nate Chambers, who had been leading after dressage and cross-country on Rolling Stone II, didn’t have the same good fortune. He’s had show jumping issues throughout the year, and he couldn’t escape that legacy today. “Rollie” had five rails down, knocking Chambers to sixth place.
Double-clean rounds were hard to find on Sally Ike’s three-star show jumping course. Only four riders claimed that score—Burnett, Schmolze, Peter Barry, who finished fourth on Kilrodan Abbott, and Karen O’Connor, Burnett’s coach, on Quintus 54.
“When we walked it, I thought it looked really good. It was kind of open and kept you going, but there were some tight turns to set you up. I was looking forward to it,” said Burnett. “There weren’t a whole lot of big square oxers or triple bars into triple combinations like we’ve seen this year. I thought it looked pretty flowing and nice. The time was obviously an issue.”
Dutton agreed that the time was tight. “That always adds an element of difficulty, because you can’t set up for as long and you have to keep coming at the jumps,” he said. “I thought [Ike] got it about right.”
Dutton was going clear until a disappointing rail at the final fence on course with the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by Emery Warren and Rebecca Broussard.
Of the 33 horses that started the CCI***, 22 finished.
Montgomery Goes One-Two In The Two-Star
Clark Montgomery came to Fair Hill with the thought that if everything went according to plan, he could come home in first and second place aboard Loughan Glen and Universe.
His preparation paid off in the two-star as he led wire-to-wire with “Glen” and moved up to second with Universe after putting in double-clear show jumping rounds with both horses ahead of Dutton on Why Not.
Montgomery, Fairburn, Ga., spent much of the morning watching the riders before him. “There were a couple turns where I could have gone faster. I was watching to see if the time was going to be tight, or if it was going to be relatively easy to make. Which it was, so that picked my plan for me,” he said.
Montgomery, 29, jumped an early clear with his wife Jessica’s horse Universe, a 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding. When Erin Sylvester, who was sitting in second place on No Boundaries, had both rails down in 10AB, the double at the end of the course, he had some breathing room with Loughan Glen.
“Loughan Glen is really careful. He’s a bit slower with his feet, so it’s always getting him to be a little more active. He wants to be a very careful horse. He really wanted to leave the rails up,” said Montgomery.
Dutton moved all the way from 15th place after dressage to third with Jan Byyny’s Why Not by adding no jumping penalties to his score throughout the weekend.
When Byyny bought Why Not, a 7-year-old warmblood gelding, Dutton didn’t like the horse and suggested she sell him.
“I’ve been proven completely wrong. I think he’s actually going to be a really good horse for her,” said Dutton. “He’s got the makings of a four-star horse.”
Dutton has been competing Byyny’s horses this year, as she’s still recovering from a fall at the Pine Top Horse Trials (Ga.) in February, but she hopes to return to competing next year, and Why Not will go home to her.
Of the 44 starters in the two-star, 15 jumped double-clear rounds.