Unionville, Pa.—Sept. 20
In the early morning hours at an event, it’s usually the grooms who are scurrying about getting their riders’ horses ready, but on any given morning, you’ll likely find five-star rider Colleen Rutledge quietly perfecting the braids on her mounts.
Rutledge enjoys spending the extra time with her horses on show day, and she jokingly admits her need for control is another reason she’s up at dawn to braid.
She was her own groom today at the Plantation Field International with just two horses, though her family will join her tomorrow, and she slotted into first place in the feature CCI4*-S with her longtime partner Covert Rights, scoring a 26.3 to lead the 53-horse division.
“I’ve braided pretty much all the shows I’ve ever done, even the shows where I have a groom, especially the big ones, unless I’ve got too many babies going. Then if I’ve got people helping me they can do that,” she said.
And with just one other horse, she had a slightly easy day. “It’s very rare that you actually get to sit back and relax at a show and not be running around like a chicken with your head cut off. Because I wasn’t constantly go, go, go, I might have napped!” she said with a laugh.
“CR,” a 13-year-old Thoroughbred-Clydesdale gelding (BFF Incognito—Let’s Get It Right, Covert Operation), was recovering from an injury last year, and he came out this season with a few hiccups in the jumping phases, but things have ironed out as the season’s gone along, culminating in a second-placed finish at the MARS Great Meadow International CCI4*-S (Virginia) last month.
Watch Rutledge’s test via USEF Network.
“I’m really pleased with him today, even with our couple of little hiccups that we had in warm-up,” said Rutledge, Frederick, Maryland. “We’ve been working on just getting him a little more consistent and a little more through, and then I’ve been trying to work on riding a clean test. I was pleased because I felt like we had a lot more of that today.
“This year’s just been bringing him back,” she continued. “We’ve had a few years of ups and downs and just bringing him back, and he’s feeling really good right now, and I’m really excited about everything—he feels good, he feels strong, he feels smart, and I’m glad that I at least did a clean test this time, whereas a couple of weeks ago I had a couple of bobbles here and there.”
Boyd Martin was second-to-last in the order, and he moved into second place (28.2) with Stephen Blauner and Nancy Hathaway’s Bonito, a 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Betel xx—Ronda, Ramiro’s Son II).
Bonito is also coming back from an injury, and Martin’s been taking it easy. This is Bonito’s first advanced event of the year. The pair had competed to the CCI4*-L level in 2017 and won the Jaguar Land Rover Bromont CCI3*-L (Canada) in 2016.
“He hasn’t forgotten a trick. He’s very flamboyant in the ring, and it’s just great to have him back at the top level,” said Martin, Cochranville, Pennsylvania. “He’s taken a bit of time to get back humming along, so this year it’s just great to have him back in work. His legs seem good, and he’s fighting fit, so my plan is to try and be a little careful and cautious with him this year and tinker around some big tracks. If he goes well here, maybe get him to Fair Hill, but the big goal would be Kentucky next year.
“He’s a wild bugger,” he added. “I had to ride him a couple of times today to try and flush a bit of energy out of him. He’s mostly Thoroughbred, and he can get really fired up, but to be honest, once you’re going around the big courses it’s a wonderful attribute, but day to day he’s a bit of a handful.”
Martin’s also catch-riding two of Phillip Dutton’s horses in the CCI4*-S after Dutton pulled a muscle while riding in a charity polo match last week.
“It was educational,” said Martin. “I only just started riding them a bit this week. Obviously two wonderful horses—Z and Fernhill Singapore. Both are big, strong horses. It’s a good experience this week having Phillip try and teach me how to ride them in the ring and what buttons to press. They’re two big-time horses, and it’ a real privilege to sit on them, and it’s nerve-wracking as well because Z is one of the best horses in the world. It’s nice riding a horse of that caliber, and it’s also nice repaying the favor. Usually it’s Phillip riding my horses when I’m hurt.”