Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 9
Marilyn Little knows RF Scandalous inside and out at this point in their six-year partnership, so when she ran into a few hairy moments on cross-country today at the $50,000 MARS Eventing Showcase, it helped that she and the mare trusted each other.
A bumpy ride through the Buckeye triple brush combination on top of a hill and a subsequent missed line to a corner combination didn’t look smooth, but Little and “Kitty” got it done to take the win, leading from wire-to-wire.
“When you’re trying to win, things happen, and it takes every ounce of partnership and experience to pull that off, and today we were perhaps a little underprepared,” said Little. “I wouldn’t have thought that coming in, but lesson learned. We will be reorganizing and working that out very soon.”
Initially Buck Davidson and Carlevo were named the winners, but after a moment to review a timing issue, Little was declared the official winner, finishing on 28.2, while Davidson finished on 28.6.
Thirty-three pairs started Mark Phillips’ cross-country course, which had an optimum time of 3 minutes 9 seconds and 19 jumps. There were two riders falls, both at the triple brush combination; Sara Kozumplik Murpy fell from Rubens d’Ysieux, and Clayton Fredericks fell from FE Money Made. Ariel Grald retired Leamore Master Plan on course after two runouts at the second chevron.
While many top riders were in Wellington for the showcase, some admitted their horses weren’t quite at the top of their game this early in the season. Davidson was using the event as a practice.
“It feels a little bit more like a cross-country school than a big competition, but I think most of the horses here that have experience understood the job and went through it,” he said.
Kitty, a 15-year-old Oldenburg mare (Carry Gold—Richardia, Lario) owned by Phoebe and Michael Manders and Jacqueline Mars, will be headed to the Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*-L in the spring. She’s Little’s only event horse while she keeps busy with her string of jumpers, so keeping her fit has meant a lot of time in Ocala, Florida, schooling.
“I’ve had a relationship with her for quite a long time, so we trade on that quite heavily. We’ve got a great support team around us. We have quite a good plan leading up to events. We really know how many events it takes to get her where she needs to be and where I need to be,” said Little. “We’re at prep events and not just going out and taking a crack at winning them. This was atypical for me to try to go faster in a venue such as this where it’s twisting and turning. She hasn’t had a normal preparation for it, so that’s lesson learned. Do I go try to do that again better?
“I think at this point I have to go look at the bigger picture,” she continued. “Not our best weekend. Some very great moments and some things that have showed that she is matured immensely as a competitor, and then certainly some real things to work on. So we have to stick with the things that we do well and the plan that I know works for her. Go back to the drawing board and figure out how to do it better, but also practice what we know works for her as we come to the big day in Kentucky.”