March 7—Tallahassee, Fla.
There were a lot more experienced horses in the CIC*** division at Red Hills than Czechmate, but at the end of cross-country day, he and Lauren Kieffer came out on top.
In a division that saw many experienced pairs pick up 20 penalties or an elimination, Czechmate powered through his first CIC*** track to take the lead headed into show jumping. Overnight dressage leaders Liz-Halliday Sharp and Fernhill By Night picked up a runout and retired, but Halliday-Sharp moved into second with her other ride, HHS Cooley, while experienced pair Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda slotted into third.
“He was great today—really mature,” said Kieffer of the 9-year-old Czech Warmblood. “I tried a new bit and he was way more rideable in it. I just cruised around and took some longer approaches to some of the combinations to make sure he got a chance to see stuff, but he was great the whole way around. I owe Liz a beer for going slow on her second one, but it was just his day.”
“He’s a really big striding horse and in the past I’ve struggled with time because it’s taken me so long to get him back and fit the distances in the combinations and I tried him in a full mouth Pelham today and it made a huge difference,” she added.
Kieffer has had the ride on the gelding since he was four for his owners, Courtney and Kylie Ramsay. This is his first season of advanced.
“It’s great to have owners like that who go in it for the long haul and it makes a big difference to be with the horses that long,” she said. “It’s always great to be able to go out and buy going horses, but at the end of the day, the ones you’ve had from novice level you know inside out.”
Kieffer finished Hugh Lochore’s course with 14.4 time penalties, a lot on paper, but not so much for the Red Hills course, which has seen only a handful of riders make the time at the advanced level in the last 15 years, according to Lochore.
While Kieffer took her time, her ride wasn’t without a little drama.
“The first water [fence 19, the Sawgrass Water]—I don’t know if he stepped in a hole or what, but I was pretty much reinless and he just picked up D [a skinny out] by himself. He’s a real class act and at the end of the day, it’s the horses like that that keep hunting for a way out when you’re in trouble that count for a lot,” she said.
While Halliday-Sharp didn’t have the ride she wanted with Fernhill By Night, she noted he’s no worse for wear after a miscommunication at fence 8, the Osprey Offsets, and will reroute to the Carolina International CIC*** (N.C.) in two weeks. She pulled up after jumping fence 9 to make sure “Blackie” was still confident.
Making his first FEI start since taking time off last year for an injuy, HHS Cooley also picked up 14.4 time penalties to sit just .7 penalties behind Kieffer.
“He’s a big galloping horse, so I think he struggled through the trees a bit,” said Halliday-Sharp of the track that winds through the picturesque Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park. “I also had my breastplate snap at fence 5, which was not awesome.
“I noticed it while I was galloping on the one stretch where I could have made up time. Lauren says she cut it! I probably lost a good five seconds which would have been enough to be up there, but luckily I think Lauren’s OK, so I’m not that mad at her!” she said with a laugh. “I was pleased with horse. It’s his first international competition in nearly a year. He jumped around, so there we go. Keep kickin’.”
A Road To Rome
Marilyn Little didn’t have the ride she wanted in the CIC*** with RF Demeter when she fell in the first water.
But her afternoon got better as she and RF Scandalous held their lead in the CIC**, adding 14 time penalties.
She’s been getting to know the 10-year-old Oldenburg mare who came to her barn last summer.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day and today—I was slow because I had a very rough start to my morning, literally. The footing at the water is great—I tested it myself!” she joked.
“Scandalous was a real dream around there,” she continued. “Just right from the beginning in the warm up area, she was very confident and that’s really where I’d love to see her at this point in the partnership. If she gets nervous it’s because she wants to do well, rather than nervous because she’s nervous. With a horse that you’re looking to go to the upper levels with, I think that’s a very important fine line. I’ve started to feel that from her, so it’s a cool time.”
Canadian rider Tik Maynard moved up to second from 10th after dressage with Dutch Times, adding 2 time penalties. The 7-year-old U.S.-bred Dutch Warmblood gelding is new to the level, but Maynard’s experience riding his longtime partner Sapphire earlier in the day helped him.
“He’s done a lot of different stuff with me—I’ve done bareback puissance and indoor eventing, but I also did his first event,” he said. “I’ve been riding him since he was three and I know him really well.”
“Sometimes, he’s a bit more like a show jumper in that he needs a little bit of confidence—he doesn’t always pull me to the jump like Sapphire does, so I can get in the back seat and give him his head and neck and he’ll go from anywhere,” he explained. “He has a good time. He doesn’t take things as personally as Sapphire does. If I make a mistake with her, I’m going to be paying for it for three months. If Dutch gets a little close or a little long, he’s forgotten it by the next jump.”
Holding On To The Lead
In the CIC*, dressage leaders Hannah Sue Burnett and Jitter Bug stayed in first with a fast ride, adding .4 time penalties.
“She was awesome today—really exciting,” she said. “It’s a really new partnership, so things haven’t gone perfectly up to this point and I was really excited that she went out of the box and was really on it. I was basically just patting her the whole way around, which is how I like them to go. She was looking for the jumps and really forward. I gave her some time at the corner at number 6 and circled left to it because that right turn was really sharp.”
Originally produced by West Coast rider Lauren Billys, Burnett got the ride just a month ago.
“She’s beautiful, she’s a great mover, she really jumps, nice gallop, good breeding—the whole package,” she said. “She hasn’t had a perfect record, but she’s a bit quirky, which I actually like. Of all the ones I’ve had success with in the past, they’ve had a thing about them. I don’t mind that. She’s a chestnut mare, so it’s going to take a bit of time to be perfect, but hopefully we’ll be trusting each other and keep moving on. She’s got opinions of her own sometimes, which is cool. She’s a lady so she’s a bit sassy sometimes.”
Red Hills Cross-Country By The Numbers
This was the second year the Red Hills course was held on a new piece of property, and the courses wound through the new bluestone arena past the sponsors tent and stabling. Course designer Hugh Lochore was glad the problems were spread out on the three-star course, but didn’t consider the day a good one because of the number of falls and issues across all divisions.
“It was a dramatic day—more falls than you’d want to have, spread out,” he said. “Some jump related, some not so jump related. But at Red Hills, you also have that added complexity where you’ve got the crowds and the trees and the ground and everything to think about. Of course, everyone comes and says, ‘It walks pretty straightforward and there’s not much to it, you could have beefed it up a bit.’ You never can. It always rides a whole lot harder than it walks and I think that’s what’s happened. I’m not sure there’s a massive amount wrong, we just need to tweak some fences.”
In the CIC***, problems were spread throughout the course for the 27 starters. Seven riders picked up one stop and of those, three retired. Marilyn Little fell from RF Demeter at the first water, fence 19, while Elinor MacPhail fell from RF Eloquence at fence 6, a brush oxer coming out of the arena. Both riders were up on their feet soon after.
Conahys Courage and Kyle Carter had a mandatory retirement at fence 12a, The Shire, a skinny hut, but had picked up 20 penalties at fence 8 before that. The gelding was euthanized after coming off course due to an unspecified injury. Carter had minor injuries but didn’t require transportation.
Fence 8ab, the Osprey Offsets caused four riders to fault, including dressage leaders Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night, who ultimately pulled up at fence 9.
Lochore noted he will probably take out the island in the first water next year because he’s not a fan of banks out of water. Riders dropped down onto grass over a brush, then went into the water, up onto a bank, then back down into the water and out over a skinny.
In the CIC**, of 56 starters, there were seven rider falls, two retirements and three eliminations, two of which were for refusals.
The vast majority of penalties occured at fence 4ab, the Arena Offsets, which were two angled brush fences with three strides in between in the main arena. Many pairs “drove by” the second element. Fourteen riders faulted there and Joe Meyer fell from Clip Clop, but was up and walking.
Three riders faulted at fence 8, the Corner Conundrum, including Kim Severson on Cooley Cross Border and Buck Davidson on Tiger Lion, who were eliminated on refusals.
Lochore moved the corner combinations for all divisions to further in the course because of problems last year. He also said he learned from watching fence 4ab in the CIC** that it came too early in the course.
“I saw a lot of riders getting their line woefully wrong—coming off that turn and losing the right shoulder and then coming to the first one far too straight and not giving themselves a chance to the second one,” he said. “It seemed some horses locked on to it and others didn’t. Maybe the severity of the angle could have been kinder and it would have been sensible to number those separately as two fences. Once that problem started happening, if they could have gone around they would have just done that.”
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