Reddick, Fla.—Nov. 17
It was just in July that Campground was cantering around a training level event with his owner Marnie Kelly—or rather pulling her enthusiastically around the cross-country.
The Thoroughbred gelding does double duty with Kelly and Erin Sylvester, and this weekend it was Sylvester’s turn in the irons.
Moving up an incredible 23 places after dressage at the Ocala Jockey Club International CCI4*-L, Sylvester took home the win, adding a rail to her overnight score, where she was third, to take her second four-star win in a month.
“He’s a really special horse,” said Sylvester. “He’s a Thoroughbred, and every event isn’t his special day, but this is his special day. He really deserved it. He’s got a heart of gold. I wasn’t sure what I was going to have today in the show jumping, but we had a different bit and a different warm-up, and I couldn’t have felt better in the arena. He didn’t get as nervous as he has in the past, and I got a great feeling over the first three jumps, and I thought, ‘All right, he’s gonna do this.’ I tried to pilot him the whole way around and get him to the distances he wants to be in and be in the right canter, and he just really tried out there.”
The 12-year-old gelding (Forest Camp—Kneel) was trained to race but never started at the track. Kelly bought him when he was 3.
“Gideon’s” last four-star long was at Bromont (Canada) in 2017, then he had some time off for an injury and came back out this year. Show jumping hasn’t been his strong suit.
“We had one down that I could have ridden a bit differently and given him a bit more space,” said Sylvester. “I’m just super happy for him. It’s not in the bag for him to have a good show jumping round at all. He has to try hard, and he did that today.”
Only three pairs show jumped clear—Mara Depuy and Congo Brazzaville C, who had .4 time penalties, Ema Klugman and Bendigo, who moved up to third, and Hallie Coon and Celien, who finished ninth.
Sharon White, sitting fourth, was eliminated with Cooley On Show when she started her round before the start signal.
Overnight leader Lauren Kieffer admitted that show jumping can be Landmark’s Monte Carlo’s tough phase, and they had two rails down, 2 time penalties and a stop, but still finished in second place.
Sylvester is just coming off a big win at the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International (Maryland) with Paddy The Caddy, another Thoroughbred gelding.
“Most of my horses are Thoroughbreds. I have a few warmblood crosses, and they’re great, but most of my big horses have been Thoroughbreds,” she said. “They think a lot, they try really hard for you, and just the feeling they give you cross-country is like nothing else. They want to run as long as you want them to run and as soon as they start getting to the bottom of their tank you can pep them up again and give them another wind, and they keep on trying. They’re such a great breed for the sport because they have the heart and the athleticism and the stamina for it.”
Gideon has been with Sylvester since Kelly bought him, and sharing the ride works for them.
“She loves to take him out grazing and take him on grazing hacks,” she said. “That’s her favorite thing and his favorite thing too. I think that that relationship that he has beyond being a competition horse really keeps him relaxed and keeps him a bit of a pet. I think when they’re like that and you let them have their own personality, I think the really try harder for you when it comes to the pressure of the competition because they’re trying for a person. That’s exactly what he does. He’s just a great horse to ride. He’s got all the heart in the world.”
Marilyn Little led the CCI4*-S from wire to wire on RF Scandalous.
“Kitty,” a 14-year-old Oldenburg mare (Carry Gold—Richardia, Lario) owned by Jacqueline Mars and Phoebe and Michael Manders, missed out on the FEI World Equestrian Games (North Carolina) last year due to a last-minute injury, but she was back in work by March and started competing this fall.
“She gave me an amazing ride around,” said Little. “I was honestly a little bit nervous. It’s been a long time since I’ve ridden at this level. I was coming into it thinking that I just have to trust that she knows what she’s doing, and she showed me that she absolutely did.”
Little was worried about the double corners because she broke her foot while jumping them the last time she was at the event. “I had a little vendetta against those corners, but a healthy respect for them as well,” she said. “But she just showed how mature she is now, and it’s such a privilege now to be able to ride a horse that’s what we call in the show jumping world ‘old scope’ because they know what they’re doing, and they can help you out when you need to call on them. She was brilliant everywhere.”
Follow along at COTH.com all weekend for more from the event and check out the Dec. 2 print edition of the Chronicle for more.