The Plains, Va.—Aug. 20
You might not be able to tell because of the mandatory face masks, but almost every rider at the MARS Great Meadow International is sporting a smile.
International eventing has returned at the highest level this weekend after a nearly five-month break with a stacked field in the CCI4*-S, as well as a CCI3*-L, CCI3*-S, CCI2*-S and a preliminary horse trial, but under strict COVID-19 protocol.
Dressage kicked off today for the four-star, and dressage powerhouses Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous took the early lead on 21.8. Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver were second on 26.1.
“I think horses tend to go really well here,” said Little, Wellington, Florida. “She was totally a professional as always and let me ride a really lovely test. I underrode a bit and probably didn’t give it as much as I could have in the extensions, so that was my mistake, but she was perfect.”
Little stayed in Florida this year instead of coming north to her Frederick, Maryland, farm. She and “Kitty,” a 15-year-old Oldenburg mare (Carry Gold—Richardia, Lario), spent some time doing jumper and dressage shows and ran the advanced/intermediate at Ocala (Florida) last weekend.
“It’s definitely been a challenge to be down there during the summer trying to find all the events and check all the boxes and be as prepared as you can be,” Little said. “Fortunately she’s had a lot of experience, and she feels great. I’m super excited with how she feels, and she’s jumping well, so I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Little has been keeping busy during the shutdown and over the summer with her jumpers and has had some time to enjoy scuba diving.
“Like everybody, this has been a bit of a different year, and I’ve had to get creative to make it all work,” she said. “It’s been a year where it feels like a lot of doors have closed, and I’m trying to reopen some and find a way forward. It’s a bit of work and requires some creativity.”
Above all, she expressed her appreciation for the event running and giving riders a chance to let their top horses stretch their legs.
“So many events have been canceled, and this has been such a beacon on the calendar for all of the riders,” she said. “To have a place like this to come during a pandemic is really special. Without MARS’ support, this would never have happened. The feeling from the riders, we’re all just really grateful, and everyone’s happy to be here.”
To watch the livestream visit https://horseandcountry.tv/en-us/.