Elkton, Maryland—Oct. 17
Will Coleman will be the first to admit that Dondante won’t blow you away in the dressage, but he’s found himself atop the leaderboard at the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI4*-L at the end of the first day of dressage.
It’s the first event at the level for “Al,” a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse Gelding by Pacino. The pair scored a 33.8 ahead of Lauren Kieffer on D.A. Duras (35.4).
With the wind whipping and temperatures dropping, the conditions were challenging this afternoon.
“He’s a pretty spooky guy, so I was very proud of him,” said Coleman. “He just keeps getting better. He’s definitely not going to be mistaken for a dressage horse, but he tried hard. We’ve been working very hard, so I’m pleased with the improvement. Hopefully he can finish on that.”
Al, who’s named after a My Morning Jacket song, came to Coleman’s Gordonsville, Virginia, barn as a 4-year-old from Richard Sheane.
“He’s got a lot of personality,” he said. “He’s a hilarious horse—huge. He’s 17.3. He wasn’t that when I bought him, but he grew like a whole hand the first year I had him!”
While he may be inexperienced at the level, Al, who’s owned by Team Rebecca and the Four Star Eventing Group, makes up for it with his heart.
“He’s a really honest horse,” said Coleman. “He tries so hard. I can’t tell you how rewarding he’s been to train. He hasn’t had amazing results anywhere, but his dressage just keeps getting better, and he’s always been a pretty good jumper and a good cross-country horse. He seems to get it. If anything, I’d say he tries too hard. He really wants to give you everything, so sometimes that tension can bubble over a little bit, and my job is to keep him relaxed and confident. I think I’m doing a better job of that as he matures. He hasn’t blown anybody away yet, but he’s only 9, and if he keeps going like this then maybe one day he’s going to do good things.”
There’s a tie at the top of the CCI3*-L after the first 21 of 63 pairs completed their dressage today.
Holly Payne Caravella and Charmking LLC’s Charmking, an 8-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Cassito—O-Heraldika, Heraldik), scored a 29.8, and Caitlin Silliman and Morgan McCue’s 8-year-old Trakehner mare Ally KGO (Hirtentanz 2—Annabel Lee, Butow) scored the same.
“I was really concerned because he can be a little noise sensitive and with the wind today and all the flags,” said Caravella. “I had taken him out for a gallop to take the edge off, and he actually felt a little too quiet in the ring, so I did a little too much! But I’d rather have that any day then have him be explosive. He made a couple of little mistakes in there because I did a little too much prep with him, but that’s just fine with me.”
Caravella’s had the gelding since he was 5 and has found he’s finally able to be fast on cross-country this year and feeling more like an upper level horse.
“He’s been a really awesome horse to bring along. He has what it takes to go all the way, but I’m just taking my time with him because he’s a really good jumper and he’s really careful. I just want to make sure he stays confident because he’s just a horse that needs a little bit of time to process everything.”
Silliman competed Ally KGO in the USEA Young Event Horse 4- and 5-year old championships, and she’s followed the pipeline to her first Fair Hill.
“She did both years, so it gives you a bit of confidence going in the same ring,” she said. “She is quite a hot horse, and it was tough conditions today. It is good for the young horses. She’s a beautiful-moving horse, but you sort of never know what you’re going to get. She’s hard to keep up with sometimes; she can just drag me around the ring and make some mistakes, but she was a really good girl today. She was really focused and rideable for the whole test.”
The mare’s owners have had her since they bought her at an auction when she was 3 and started her. Silliman said she was tricky on cross-country in the beginning, but she’s grown to enjoy it.
“I think that’s the fun part of producing young horses,” she said. “The ones that can be a little bit tricky sometimes don’t make it, and she’s one who’s really figured it out and loves the sport now.”
Dressage continues tomorrow starting at 8 a.m. with both divisions.