Thursday, Jun. 6, 2024

Fisher Reels In A Galway Downs Double Victory

It may've been April Fool's Day, but Robyn Fisher wasn't fooling around at Galway Downs in Temecula, Calif., March 31-April 2. She garnered a big win in the CIC*** FEI World Cup qualifier on Le Samurai and followed it up with another triumph in the CIC** aboard Lady Calido.

It was a hard-fought victory for Fisher and Le Samurai. The 11-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred has all the talent for the big leagues, but harnessing his enthusiasm takes skill and energy.
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It may’ve been April Fool’s Day, but Robyn Fisher wasn’t fooling around at Galway Downs in Temecula, Calif., March 31-April 2. She garnered a big win in the CIC*** FEI World Cup qualifier on Le Samurai and followed it up with another triumph in the CIC** aboard Lady Calido.

It was a hard-fought victory for Fisher and Le Samurai. The 11-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred has all the talent for the big leagues, but harnessing his enthusiasm takes skill and energy.

“When I’ve got him, he’s great,” said Fisher, of Topanga, Calif. But frustrating rides at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** and the 2005 FEI World Cup sent her to Phillip Dutton for some help.

They had a great run at the Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.) last October, winning the dressage and finishing fourth overall.

“Sparky” won the dressage at Galway as well and beat out the competition by more than 16 points, the only horse to break 60 penalties. “He was really good,” said Fisher. “When he needs to pull it off, he pulls it off.”

Only eight competitors rode in the three-star. Many advanced riders from the West Coast had already headed east to get a jump-start on their preparation for the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** on April 27-30.

And cold, windy weather added to the atmosphere to make many of the less experienced horses tense in their tests. But Fisher said the weather doesn’t affect Sparky.

“I lived in France with him for two years, and there were mistral winds there,” she said. “They could be very strong.”

But they needed their entire point cushion when Sparky got strong on cross-country. “It was a hard day,” said Fisher. “I had to throw in a few circles to make him rideable.”

They added 24 time penalties to their score, but retained a slim lead.

Fisher, 26, was a bit worried about certain aspects of Michael Etherington-Smith’s course. Fences 18 and 19 were double brush corners, which reminded her of the corners at Rolex where she fell last year.

Despite her worries and Sparky’s speed, they were able to negotiate the obstacles without difficulty, even though the skies opened just as they started their ride.

The sun peaked out for the first time on Sunday in time for show jumping, where Fisher and Le Samurai neatly left the rails in the cups. They did add 3 time penalties to finish on 75.6, but her closest competitors had pulled rails, giving her some breathing room.

Fisher’s win qualified her for the FEI World Cup in Malmo, Sweden. She took home a new Devoucoux saddle, $4,500 and the inaugural Augie Handley Memorial Trophy donated by the Santa Fe Hunt of Del Mar. She also earned points toward the Adequan U.S. Eventing Association Gold Cup series, for which Galway Downs is the first of four qualifiers in the Pacific League.

But it was her victory in the two-star competition with her 10-year-old mare, Lady Calido, that really thrilled Fisher.

The pair won the CCI* last November at Galway Downs, but this was only “Cali’s” fourth intermediate with Fisher. The competition in the two-star was far bigger than the three-star, with 25 entries, and was also part of the Gold Cup series at the two-star level.

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Fisher and Cali led from the start in that division as well, scoring 53.8 in dressage. They added no penalties throughout the competition.

One of the jumps on cross-country that caused many riders difficulty was the B element of fence 8ABC, The Oak Tree Water. The combination started with a large table, then took a left turn up a steep hill, over a log at the top, and then a right turn down into the water and over a corner.

Many horses lost impulsion going up the hill and petered out at the top. “I hate those fences,” said Fisher. But Cali handled it like a pro and hopped right over.

Fisher bought Lady Calido after she’d finished her career as a broodmare at age 8. She spent two years bringing the Holsteiner along slowly, teaching her the ropes and getting her fit.

“She’s a full warmblood, so I do more gallop sets with her,” explained Fisher. “But she loves to work.”

She plans to move Cali up to advanced at The Event At Rebecca Farm (Wyo.) in July. “She’s answering all the questions really well,” said Fisher.

She’s A Good Witch
Another mare who’s answering the questions well is The Good Witch, who finished second in the three-star (78.0) with Jennifer Wooten.

She’s still green at dressage, but Donn and Daisy Tognazzini’s 10-year-old Irish Thor-oughbred mare than made up for it with her jumping.

Wooten is relatively new to advanced herself, and she was a little intimidated by jumps like the double corners. Even though her goal was to finish with fewer than 10 time faults, she considered taking the long route there. But the little mare was so good that they breezed right through and had the day’s fastest advanced ride.

“I liked the course,” said Wooten, “It’s been raining all season, so you just have to stay focused.”

They did lower a rail in the show jumping, but the 28-year-old blamed it on her inexperience. “I’m a little lacking in these bigger competitions,” she explained. “It was clearly my rail. I was a little too picky. I need to go out there and be a better rider. Live and learn.”

Wooten is based at Copper Meadows Farm in Ramona, Calif. Working as a professional there has given her the opportunity to see eventing from the organizers’ point of view.

“I was always the competitor before,” she said. “I didn’t know how much goes into running a competition.”

But training out of a facility that offers competition through advanced has been a real bonus for Wooten. “Carolyn Hoffos is very supportive,” said Wooten. “She believes in the sport.”

She hopes to ride The Good Witch at the Jersey Fresh CCI*** (N.J.) in June.


Another Chance
Last fall Fiona Dodson was leading the one-star division before show jumping at Galway Downs with Happy Go Lucky III, but two rails moved her down to third.

It almost happened again when the 17-year-old from La Canada, Calif., let “Leo” get long and flat one time too many in show jumping and pulled a rail, but it wasn’t enough to take away her blue in the CIC*.

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“Show jumping is a weakness for both of us,” admitted Dodson. “We’re more confident in the other phases because we tend to do better in them.”

But she blamed herself this time for their rail, noting that Happy Go Lucky III is jumping well these days. “The cross-country course was a lot tougher than last fall,” she said. “But he came out of the box targeting on everything and really wanting to do well.

“I was a little worried about the log over the berm to the skinny. I lost my rein over it the last time, and I’ve never had a solid ride there. I was also concerned about the ramp into the first water, because he’s never done that and he might have backed off. But he didn’t think about it.”

The rainy spring played a factor in Dodson’s worry, as her previous run at Copper Meadows had gone poorly in the deep, wet footing.

She’s owned the 10-year-old warmblood since he was 4, and the two have grown up together. Dodson trains with Wendy Wergerles and Gina Economou, but this weekend Debbie Rosen had to step in and give her some pointers because Wergerles was one of the dressage judges.


Now He’s Proved Himself
Last fall, Jennifer Taxay decided to sell Indego. The 14-year-old Canadian Warmblood got eliminated for refusals in the show jumping at the Galway Downs November event, and Taxay was frustrated.

She sold him to an excellent home in a show jumping barn, but found herself missing his sweet personality, so she bought him back.

“I’m a sucker, and I like him too much,” she said. “He’s my pet. You’ve got to like what you see in your barn.”

And that decision turned out to be a good one when Taxay and her horse won the advanced division at this Galway Downs event.

“My instructions were to go through the fences if we had to because he was not stopping,” she said. “It worked!”

The litigator from Aguadulce, Calif. works for the state of California, but she still finds time to ride three to five horses a day.

“My co-workers and my boss carry my calendar while I’m in court and allow me time to compete,” she said. “And the judges are good about giving me continuances.”

Taxay also had her other advanced horse, Outlawed, entered at Galway Downs, but she decided to scratch him. Outlawed was short-listed for the 2004 Olympics with David O’Connor, but a recent surgery left him unfit.

“He’s done two gallops, but when I ran Indego advanced, it rode bigger than it walked,” explained Taxay. “He wasn’t fit for the massive efforts.”

Taxay works with Jil Walton and Mark Watring. She was a little leery about the cross-country course because Indego is new to this level, but they were the only advanced pair to finish without jumping penalties.

“I have a lovely horse who wants to do his job,” she said. “I took the option at the double corners. It was a big question for a green horse. I didn’t want to go home and have to fix things. I wanted to go home praising him for being a good boy.”

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