When Jenga injured himself for the second time in a year, in he spring of 2003, owner-rider Bonnie Mosser made a promise to herself. “I gave him an entire year off,” she said. “I tossed him in a field and promised I wouldn’t get back on too soon.”
That patience paid off at the Over The Walls CIC*** World Cup qualifier, July 30-Aug. 1, as the pair won their first advanced start in more than a year. Their win, in Hardwick, Mass., puts them on the brink of qualifying for the FEI Eventing World Cup Final in France, in October.
Mosser, 41, has never competed abroad, but in the summer of 2002, after winning the Foxhall Cup CCI*** (Ga.), she and Jenga were short-listed for the World Equestrian Games. Jenga’s injury that summer eliminated those hopes, and when Mosser brought her Thoroughbred gelding back to competition the next spring, he was hurt again at the North American Beaulieu Classic (Ga.).
He started back into work this March, and the Stuart CIC** (N.Y.) the weekend before was their first competition since then. “He feels better than when I won Foxhall,” said Mosser. “He’s stronger, more mature and honest.”
Jenga tied for third in dressage (43.4), behind Karen O’Connor on Joker’s Wild (42.1) and Buck Davidson on Idalgo (43.0). But when the two leaders retired on what Mosser considered a beefed-up cross-country course, Mosser inherited the top spot.
“[The course] took its toll on some people, and it made me think I had to ride even harder than I thought,” said Mosser. “Karen was the first rider on course, and I watched her at the new combination at fence 6, and then four jumps later I saw her walking off the course.”
Fence 10, a new combination of tall, narrow palisades topped with brush, set one stride apart under trees, was “a scopey, brave, honest question,” said Mosser. “It made me realize how much harder I had to go at it.”
Fence 6 was a new turning combination, a brush palisade with a right turn to a large, wide stone wall, then eight strides to a ditch and rail. “You had to be accurate and brave,” said Mosser.
Nathalie Bouckaert, standing in second place after cross-country on West Farthing, put the pressure on Mosser when she rode a clear show jumping round. Mosser, who had less than a rail to spare, rose to the challenge with one of the three clear rounds out of 17 trips.
“The course was the biggest I’ve ever jumped on him,” she said, but “he handled it easily.”
Mosser, who teaches and trains at her own Point Above Farm in Coatesville, Pa., is taking things day-to-day with Jenga, while also finding out about getting to France. “It would be a great opportunity; I have a great partnership with this horse, and this year it’s even stronger,” she said. “He’s much better, and I’m riding him better. I don’t know why, but we’re on the same page. I don’t know if he’ll hold up or not, but it’s fun that I had the opportunity to go out and win this one.”
Gillian Clissold’s advanced section win with Sportscar proved to her that her doctors–who’d predicted that a vestibular nerve malfunction that affects her balance would keep her from competing–were wrong.
With a 69-percent loss of nerve function in her left ear, following a bout of pneumonia last spring, Clissold has learned to compensate for a new difficulty with balance.
And there’s no horse she’d rather be on as she regains her abilities. When “Sport” took the 47-year-old Clissold to her first advanced event in March 2003, Clissold thought she could never love a horse more. But after her illness this spring, when the mare “submerged her spooky personality” to become a “therapy horse” as Clissold learned to balance again, they developed an even deeper bond.
“Everything I asked her, she gave me that plus a little more, and I just worship her,” said Clissold. “I just think she walks on water.”
Clissold, of Nokesville, Va., showed her dedication to her mare by sleeping in her truck over the weekend so that she could afford chiropractic work and massage for Sport before the event. And she claims the 15.2-hand, gray mare, who completed the Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.) last fall, has never felt better.
“Her health has peaked,” she said. “She’s healthy all over. She’s 14, and you’d think she’d start to slow down, but she’s getting better and better.”
Clissold attributes that to a regular regime of Natural Plan Stomach Soother papaya formula, as well as the chiropractic and massage work. “She has traveled better and settled in better this year,” she said. “I feel like I have 15 to 20 percent more horse than last year.”
Sport placed seventh (40.0) of 26 in dressage, then overtook the lead with a cross-country ride 22 seconds faster than anyone else. “I came close to making the time last year, so I knew it was within reason,” Clissold said. “She’s not fast, but she’s extremely obedient, and she can slow down at the last minute. Being little, she turns tight.”
Clissold had a moment of panic when she lost her stirrup at the fence before the water, a drop fence that would challenge her balance. “One stride before [the jump], I got the stirrup back, and it was fine,” she said.
And everyone could tell just how thrilled she was as she galloped through the finish flags in show jumping, after posting their first clean round at advanced.
“A 13-year-old child escaped from inside me when I asked her to leave a stride out at the last fence, and as I came through the finish, I had such a surge of admiration for her. I screamed, ‘I love you’ like a Pony Clubber as I crossed the finish,” she said with a laugh.
A Linebacker Studying For Calculus
Clissold took a victory gallop along with Kim Morani, who won the U.S. Equestrian Federation Advanced Championship for the Jack Le Goff Trophy that was contested within the advanced division. Since Clissold rides for her native Great Britain, Morani, who finished second in the advanced, won the USEF title.
For Morani, the event was a huge confidence booster before she and her homebred Test Run head to the Burghley CCI**** (England). She was especially pleased not just to have improved her dressage, judged by Le Goff, but to win the phase (37.08), tying for first with Nathalie Bouckaert on Everest.
“It’s been a lot of hard work,” said Morani, who trains on the flat with Donnan Monk and over fences with Ralph Hill. “He’s like a linebacker studying for calculus in the dressage. He’s finally strong enough, and he’s accumulating the muscle and understanding. He’s still young for the level [9 years], and he’s not built like a warmblood; he’s built to gallop. Now he can do both.”
Morani, 45, of Worton, Md., wasn’t concerned about the demanding cross-country course, though. “A chimpanzee could have ridden him cross-country,” she said of her 16.3-hand, gray gelding. “He knows [the course]. He’s done it two times before. I was just there for the ride. He was perfect.”
The event was “Merle’s” first run since his 10th-placed finish at Rolex Kentucky in April. “I wasn’t chasing for the time [cross-country] because it wasn’t appropriate [in his first event of the season],” said Morani, who finished with 6.4 time penalties. “I just jumped out of the gallop I needed, and he came forward and back well. It’s a lovely, forgiving course, and you can gallop just about everything off a forward step.”
Morani admitted that winning the dressage made it tempting to try and keep her position. “The greedy little devil on my shoulder says, ‘Ooh, look at the prizes and ribbons.’ Then I have to say, ‘No, you have to ride well first.’ You don’t win anything by being cocky and dreaming about ribbons. But it’s even harder when you’re tied for first after dressage.”
Morani planned to run at Millbrook (N.Y.) on Aug. 14-15 as her final prep for Burghley. But she couldn’t have enjoyed her weekend at Over The Walls any more.
“It’s so much fun to go there; it’s a vacation,” she said. “There are beautiful jumps, the footing is perfect, and everything runs exactly on schedule. [Organizer] Torrance [Watkins] leaves no detail undone, and they run the event in a good place in the schedule.”