Darren Chiacchia rode off with two wins at the Rocking Horse Horse Trials II, Feb. 20 in Altoona, Fla., in the Advanced, Test A, and Advanced, Test B, divisions.
Chiacchia piloted his long-time partner, Windfall, to the pole position in the Test B division. Windfall headed the division from the first phase, and despite picking up a handful of cross-country time penalties, won his first competition of the year.
“Windfall felt amazing today,” said Chiacchia, of Ocala, Fla. “After running around the cross-country, he took a deep breath and looked ready to go again.”
After competing at the FEI World Cup Final in Sweden last September, Timothy Holekamp’s Trakehner stallion, now 15, had a break before returning to work for the spring season.
While Chiacchia likes the idea of a potential repeat of his 2003 Pan Am gold medal, he said, “At this point in Windfall’s career, his owners and I are really looking at what is best for him. This may involve aiming for the Pan Ams again, or we may think about doing Burghley [CCI**** (England)] or possibly Badminton [CCI**** (England)].”
Windfall’s stablemate, Better I Do It, or “Gus,” refused to let Windfall steal all the limelight by leading the Test A, division 2, from start to finish.
“Gus is an interesting horse that actually came to me to sell originally. He can be a bit on the spooky side, however I have found keeping him in more of a package helps give him security,” he said of the 14-year-old British Thoroughbred.
Chiacchia and Theodore Iorio’s Better I Do It finished fifth last fall at the Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.), and Chiacchia plans to take him to the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** in April after competing at Red Hills (Fla.), Poplar Place (Ga.), and The Fork (N.C.).
Chiacchia was quick to praise the course and organization of Rocking Horse: “The course here was 100 percent right for this time of year, and it was a great confidence builder. It is also nice for the advanced riders to come here in the middle of the week and just focus on their upper-level horses.”
Debbie Adams also enjoyed the track at Rocking Horse, winning the Advanced Test A, division 1, with the lowest overall score of the show. The diminutive Adams rode her “mid 17-hand” partner, Kheops Du Quesnay, to the second-best dressage score of their division before moving into the top position after two double-clean jumping rounds.
“The first question everyone asks is why I bought such a big horse,” said Adams with a laugh. “I tell them because he has such a big heart, he needs to be that big.”
Adam is clearly fond of her 9-year-old Selle Francais. “After a lifetime of riding off-the-track Thoroughbreds that are bred to run, I decided to find a horse that was bred to jump,” she said. Adams found what she was looking for in France.
“Although my initial impression was that he was quite big, when I sat on him he was adjustable, and that was something that I knew I could work with,” she said. “Kheops Du Quesnay’s sire [Quouglof du Rouge] is a Grand Prix show jumper, however it was evident that he had talent for all three phases.”
Adams, of Medford, N.J., has patiently brought Kheops Du Quesnay along, however she is excited that this year “he actually feels ready to compete and not just participate at the advanced level.”
While Adams has found success with her French-bred horse, Canadian Kyle Carter won the FEI Test Division aboard Madison Park, an off-the-track Thoroughbred.
Carter, who is based in Sparr, Fla., and the 9-year-old Madison Park placed third in the dressage and added only a few cross-country time pen-alties en route to their win. “My plan was to give him a good first run and not to push him too hard in any of the phases,” said Carter. “It certainly wasn’t my intention to win a division here, but it was nice to see that Madison Park can be competitive even when I don’t ride him at full throttle.”
Carter doesn’t have any plans to run his horse in a spring three-day. Instead, he will focus on “making my good 9-year-old into a great 10-year-old.”