Oct. 2 – Upper Marlboro, Md.
Greg Crolick had to endure some good-natured joking from fellow riders all week at the Capital Challenge Horse Show as he prepared to ride Grey Street in the WCHR Developing Pro Challenge.
He’s been a professional for several years, but even at age 41, the Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based rider was technically qualified for the class.
Riders qualify based on points earned throughout the year. They are also eligible if they have never been champion or reserve champion at the Devon Horse Show (Pa.), Capital Challenge, the Pennsylvania National, the Washington International Horse Show (D.C.) or the National Horse Show (Ky.), or if they have never completed or placed in an FEI Grand Prix.
“Even though I’ve been teased this whole week why I’m in the Developing Professionals it’s all fun banter more or less,” said Crolick. “It means a lot. Last year I was here watching it and this year I’m doing it. I’m glad I was here and had a great outcome. It worked out really well.”
“I think this class really highlights the rider and how the rider goes in the ring,” he continued. “It’s nice to have your peers at the gate whooping for you and congratulating you and you’re in competition with them. Outside of that, this helps for your profile as a professional moving forward.”
Crolick has only had Grey Street, a 10-year-old Brandenburg gelding owned by Adrienne Marciano, since January.
The gelding had been imported and this is his first year competing in the hunter ring and his first indoor season.
“Honestly, he’s still a little green in the hunters even though he’s 10,” said Crolick. “But each day gets better and better. He was imported in October of last year and was doing the jumpers. He was imported to be a jumper here, but you could tell by watching him he’s not a jumper!”
In the WCHR class, riders competed in a first round, then the top 12 came back for a second round in reverse order of placing.
“My thought process tonight was to try and stay relaxed,” Crolick explained. “It was my first time doing the class and a nighttime class. You didn’t know what to expect and I tried to stay relaxed and keep the focus. I have a tendency to get aggressive when I’m in there, like a handy derby. In this type of classical hunter round you need to be a little quieter and be a little more subdued, like the classic hunter style. He took care of me; he’s a great horse. He helped me slow down!”
Crolick plans to compete at the Pennsylvania National, but he’ll be taking Washington off as his wife, Jessica, is due with their second child.
John French partnered with his two-time WCHR Professional Challenge winner, Small Affair, and took home the win for the third time.
French won the class in 2010 and 2011 aboard Chris Iwasaki and Elizabeth Reilly’s Small Affair, a 10-year-old Selle Francais gelding.
“He loves this class,” said French. “It's pretty hard to win it three times on the same horse. Those are the best horses. Most professionals bring in their heavy hitters, their top horses.”
Since French knows Small Affair so well, he was confident he picked the right horse for the class.
“I’ve been riding him since his first-year-green [days]," French said. "His first round was exceptionally great. He just jumped high and it was super smooth. I think I had enough of a lead coming into the second round. That was good having that cushion coming in. He had a rub in the second round but otherwise he was great.”
French has had a bit of a rough year as he broke his foot in January after a fall from a horse, then had to have shoulder surgery for another issue.
“I maybe only showed six times this year,” he said. “It was kind of an off year, but I got well enough to come to indoors. I love this horse show and what they do for the World Hunter rider awards.”
French admitted his foot was still not feeling right, and he had laser therapy on it in between rounds.
“The foot is still really not great,” he said. “I'm a little worried that it might just be like this from now on. Luckily enough it doesn't hurt that much riding; it's getting on and off the horses and after you ride walking. It was a lot of ligaments and tendons that were ripped as well.”
Regardless of the pain he was in, French was thrilled with the win.
“He tries really hard,” he said of Small Affair. “When he first started out, he was very cautious and a little bit spooky because he's so careful. He always wants to jump a really good jump. I think there are some horses that you just have a partnership with. Now that I've ridden him through those times and I ride him now when he's trained and being good, I know what upsets him, what he likes, how much work he needs. I wouldn't have wanted to ride any other horse in the class tonight because I know him so well. He always gives and tries to jump a beautiful jump every time.”