Temecula, Calif.—March 31
Heading into the start box for cross-country at the Galway Downs International CCI4*-S, Emilee Libby was looking to keep her lead with Jakobi, but after hearing the announcer report that the pair ahead of her, Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin, had parted company, she got a little distracted.
“It was actually more nerve wracking,” said Libby, 31. “I was worried whether she was OK.”
Thankfully, Stutes and Chatwin were OK after slipping on the flat in between fences.
Jakobi, however, gave Libby no additional distractions as they sailed around Jay Hambly’s track.
The gelding is a powerful athlete whose energy in Saturday’s clear show jumping round had given Libby pause as to whether she could manage it on cross-country.
“He was with me on course; my half halts were working, and he was moving off my leg,” she said. With her training business based at Galway Downs, she’s careful to keep cross-country schooling to a minimum so that Jakobi is freshly impressed with the obstacles in competition. A new bit arrangement is working well at this level, too.
“I’m usually not a fan of gag bits, but he is going really well in a simple rope cavesson with a gag” she said. “I think he prefers the poll pressure, and he was listening really well through the whole track.”
As a junior, Libby had impressive results: her first one-star at 14, her first two-star at 16, and her first Rolex Kentucky at 19, plus three FEI North American Young Riders Championship appearances. She credits coach Buck Davidson for much of her success and was grateful to work with U.S. Equestrian Federation high peformance director Erik Duvander this week at Galway toward her hopes of more team competition. “The whole team aspect is a lot of fun for me,” she said.
And, after several red ribbons in major competitions, “I’m finally not the bridesmaid!”
It’s possible that Pandora’s petite size made it easier for James Alliston to navigate the sharp right turn he opted for after the BarnMaster 4abc combination, which took them through some low hanging branches. “That was a bit stupid!” Alliston said, describing the smooth rest of the course as “a testament to the mare’s confidence and bravery.” The gamble contributed to crossing through the flags four seconds under the 6:30 optimum time to finish second on a 38.60. That pleased both Alliston and Pandora’s many fans. “Everywhere we go, people call out ‘Good luck Pandora!’ ” It’s kind of cool,” he said.
“James told me not to make that turn,” third-place finisher Sabrina Glaser said with a laugh. She traveled from British Columbia, Canada, with five horses and several students to gain much-appreciated international mileage. Having had a high fault show jumping round Saturday, she was surprised to learn of her third-place finish with Rembrandt after Sunday’s cross-country. “I saw [Alliston] do it, and we had some time to make up, so I had to make some tough decisions. I pulled on the right rein and kept my head down.”
Glaser acknowledged it wasn’t their smoothest outing, but it was not bad at all considering it was only their second time running after four months riding in an indoor ring though Canada’s winter.
As predicted, Tamie Smith and Mai Baum’s 21.9 dressage score in the CCI3*-S remained unbeatable, and a new star in her big string, Danito, stayed in second, both having clear cross-country rounds. Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve did the same to stay in the third spot.
“I knew I probably had 10 seconds in hand,” said Smith of her own calm demeanor heading out of on course. “He covers the ground really well, and I knew if I just kept it smooth, we’d be fine. Actually, with all my horses, when things are going right, if you’re smooth, you’re also fast.”
With six horses starting the three-sar, plus Wembley in the four-star and a full stable of Next Level Eventing students to coach with Heather Morris, Smith had a busy weekend. Gatorade and a regular fitness routine powered her through. “I typically ride 10 horses a day and go to the gym five or six days, so I’m in pretty good shape for this,” she said.
Ruth Bley’s Danito has finished on his dressage score almost every outing since Smith got the ride last July. “He’s greener than ‘Lexus’ [Mai Baum], but he’s going to give him a run for his money,” she said.
Erin Kellerhouse was thrilled with this latest chapter in Woodford Reserve’s progress. She’s had the 8-year-old since the end of his 4-year-old year, and said, “He’s been a pleasure to bring along at every step.” They were clean and well under the time on cross-country to stay on their 27.3 dressage score for third.
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