Sept. 27 – Tyler, Texas
Buck Davidson wouldn’t have made the long trip to Texas from his Pennsylvania base without wanting a shot at a big win, so as the intermediate title at the Nutrena/U.S Eventing Championships slipped through his grasp when Quasar dropped a rail in show jumping, he was ready to put the pressure on in the advanced division with Caroline Martin’s Petite Flower.
“I was fairly confident in ‘Flower’,” he said. “I was a little bit more nervous about Quasar in the intermediate since this was going to be a big effort for him. I was very proud of how he jumped—he just touched a toe on one and it fell and that’s too bad, but that’s why we play the games. You win some, you lose some.”
When cross-country leaders and defending Adequan Gold Cup advanced champions Lainey Ashker and Anthony Patch dropped a rail, as well as Matt Brown on Super Socks BCF and Jonathan Holling on DHI Zatopek B, Davidson moved up for the win with his clear—one of just two in the division.
“I thought Flower did what she always does and gives me 110 percent in the show jumping,” he said. “I just try to stay out of her way. It’s exciting to win, but I’m really excited that I have a better horse going into [the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International CCI*** (Md.)]. That was my goal—to try to prepare her for Fair Hill and get her relaxed and confident. I know I have a real horse if I can get her to settle down and jump everything.”
In his first trip as a rider to the Texas Rose Horse Park, Davidson knew the cross-country course would suit Flower and Quasar.
“I’d heard a little bit about the course,” he said. “It’s a long way to go. I didn’t want to come here and just have a go at it—I came here to win. You just had to pick the horses for courses. Maybe it wasn’t the most difficult course, but Flower’s very fast. It gave me an opportunity to spend a week with her and her get to chill. The same with Quasar. Hes green at the level. What I learned from Lainey is that you need to have a horse that’s quick and nippy.”
Davidson, Riegelsville, Pa., decided to ride the 12-year-old homebred Thoroughbred a little differently this weekend after having some turning issues on cross-country this spring.
“It came to me in the middle of the dressage test this weekend,” he said. “She’s real funny in her mouth. She goes in a fat snaffle. She doesn’t pull but she’s not real keen on being told what to do. If you let the reins go and pick them back up, [she doesn’t like it.] I decided this weekend that I wasn’t going to let go of Flower’s head at any jump and I was just going to hold on, and she really seemed to like it. She jumped and turned and she’s honest. The issue has always been just the turning. I hope I’m on to something.”
Ashker was pleased with “Al” in her final competition of the season, even if her coach beat her. She spent Wednesday night in the hospital with a mysterious illness, but was back to herself.
“He gave me three great phases, I wasn’t at my 100 percent on Thursday for the dressage,” she said. “I’m going to do something weird and buy my cross-country video! I had so much fun from the beginning to the end. Today, I guess it was a little unlucky. There’s so much detail. My inexperience still shows in not getting him quite round enough through the turns, so I just think I let him get a little hollow through the turn and he just rolled the rail. It was a little unfortunate, but as Coach says, ‘You win some, you lose some.’ If I’m going to be second to anybody, it’s my coach.”
Coming Full Circle
Twizted Syster is allergic to Texas according to Tamra Smith, and she showed she’s also allergic to wood as she jumped a clear show jumping round to top the intermediate division.
Smith and the 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare put the pressure on overnight leader Buck Davidson, so when Quasar dropped a rail, Smith earned the win.
“She can get really strong, so I’ve been kind of battling have one rail here and there,” said Smith.
Heather Morris imported “Chloe” along with her preliminary horse champion Charlie Tango, and she competed her until last year when the Texas climate proved to be too much for the sensitive mare.
“She’s super allergic to Texas,” said Smith, Temecula, Calif. “When she lives here for an extended period of time, you can’t ride her. She has some allergies but they couldn’t really pinpoint it and manage it.”
Smith brought Chloe home with her after the AEC last year with the idea of marketing for sale once she knew that the allergies wouldn’t be an issue.
She competed Chloe in her first intermediate and decided to put together a syndicate to be able to keep the ride.
“I pretty much fell in love with her,” she said. “I knew she was hot and needed to be more rideable. She’s got the movement and I’ve gotten to where the flatwork is now competitive. This weekend she was 3 points out of first. She’s really got the ability to be a four-star horse. She’s got the gallop, she’s got the speed, she’s careful, she’s brave. In the show jumping she really wants to jump careful.”
Smith came out early before the AEC to work with Morris, Mike Huber and grand prix show jumper Susie Hutchison.
“She’s an amazing horse,” she said. “She has everything that it takes. I haven’t always felt that way about everything I ride, but I’ve ridden some horses that aren’t super brave cross-country and I’ve had to create that, so it’s nice to know that whatever I point her at, she’s going to jump.
“She was right on point and came out of the box strong but rideable,” she continued. “She was turning and accurate and fast and not herky jerky, just smooth-fast. It didn’t ride as twisty as it walked. She’s a very forward horse and she’s a very fit, type horse.”
Smith is heading further east for the Fair Hill CCI**, where she hasn’t competed for several years.
“I figured I haven’t been on the East Coast in a long time and the selectors haven’t really seen me ride and [chef d’equipe David O’Connor] hasn’t really seen me compete,” she said. “I have a couple of students that want to go out. We’re half way there, so why not just keep going?”
A Big Improvement
Megan Noelle Wilson made a major improvement from the last time she contested the AEC a year ago.
With Ghypsy, the 18-year-old topped the junior/young rider preliminary division, finishing on her dressage score of 27.6, a year after competing in the junior training division.
Last year, the pair suffered a loss of confidence when they moved up to prelim, so Wilson competed in the junior training division at the AEC.
She was happy to have a strong round in Tyler, a venue she knows well because she’s a working student for Morris, who runs Team Express Eventing in Lewisville, Texas.
“Cross-country is our hardest phase,” said Wilson, Dallas. “We’ve had to really work really hard at it. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs at the prelim level. I rode her my best [this weekend] and she was awesome. “She’s very fast and she’s so careful that if I really don’t tell her, ‘This is what we’re going to do, this is where we’re going to do it,’ she has second thoughts about it. When you tell her where she needs to go, she’s awesome.”
Wilson admitted she was nervous heading into the ring today as the leader of the division, but she knew her partner of three years was up to the challenge.
“She loves show jumping and my nerves got to me a little bit,” she said. “It wasn’t the absolute prettiest round, but man, she worked hard for me and I’m so proud of her.”
Wilson said she was riding for the win this weekend because she and the 9-year-old Hanoverian mare have finally clicked. “She’s made me a better rider. I feel like we’ve grown so much as a pair,” she said. “This time, I was really gunning to be competitive and do my best and it feels amazing to win,” she said.
Double The Fun
Morris, of Lewisville, Texas, brought two horses to the AEC, and she managed to bring home two blue ribbons, adding nothing to her dressage scores all weekend.
“I’ve had the most perfect weekend ever,” Morris said. “I brought two horses, and they both won their classes, so I couldn’t be happier.”
In the preliminary horse division, Morris piloted Charlie Tango to the win with 25.4 penalty points. “Charlie,” a 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, moved up to preliminary this year, and the competitive ring hasn’t been an issue for the gelding, who’s owned by Company Team Express. He successfully finished his first one-star event earlier in 2014.
“He’s just been great,” Morris said. “The main thing we’ve been struggling with is that he’s actually quite barn sour, especially at venues that he knows quite well, like here—we come [to the Texas Rose Horse Park] four times a year. We do struggle with that, but he is just 6, so it’s just that he wants to be with all his friends.”
Yet that one quirk didn’t get in Charlie’s way for the weekend, and Morris enjoyed riding him over Mark Phillips’ courses.
“The courses were definitely a step up from last year. Mark did an amazing job—they had the new water jump that rode really well for everybody,” Morris said. “He didn’t really turn the courses around, but he changed some stuff up, added some new questions, added the water. It was a tough, championship course.”
In the training horse division, Morris added a last-minute ride on Russell. The 5-year-old gelding is owned by Morris’ client Elizabeth Rader“[Rader] actually hadn’t ridden in 12 years,” Morris said. “She came to the barn one day and said, ‘I want to get back into it.’ She saw [Russell] and loved him.”
Although Rader hasn’t competed Russell yet, he was already qualified for AEC, so they decided to bring him to the competition at the last minute. Morris might ride him a few more times, but the goal is to hand the reins to Rader soon to compete him.
- Emerson Gotcher, of Midland, Texas, rode her Kurious to the win the junior training division on their dressage score of 26.4. Gotcher, 17, came into the competition with the goal of going double clean on both cross-country and show jumping, and she accomplished that easily with the help of “Qu.” “This is amazing. I just wanted to do as well as I could,” she said. “[Qu] has a really big personality, and he’s really easy to bond with.”
- Brittany Vinson made her way from fourth to first in the senior amateur training division with her Falcon Dusky Tiger. They finished on their dressage score of 30, which floored the 19-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas. “He did absolutely everything I asked. I knew he could win, but it all fell into place,” she said. “[The courses] were just the right amount of challenging for a championship course. It rode well if you rode well to each combination and each line. I loved it.”
- In the preliminary level Adult Team Challenge, Run Four Roses, a team from Areas V and VII, took the win with a total of 109 penalty points. Catie Cejka on Light In The Dark, Alexandra Wikstrom on Change Order, Louise Leslie on Santarae, and Kelley Kays-Everett on Viva la Diva made up the team.
- The Adult Team Challenge training division winners were made from Areas II, III and VIII. Melissa Fox on Diamond Legacy, Pamela Kimmel on Special Performance, Brie Murray on Fernhill Chaos, and Jyl Lavera on It’s Friday accumulated a total of 107.2 penalty points for the win.
For full results, click here.
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