Friday, May. 24, 2024

She’s Back! Jumper Turned Eventer Marilyn Little-Meredith Has New Horses And Different Goals

Grand prix show jumper Marilyn Little-Meredith created a stir earlier this year when she bought a vest, strapped on a medical armband, and took to the hills. Yes, she turned her former grand prix jumper, Udonna, into an event horse.

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Grand prix show jumper Marilyn Little-Meredith created a stir earlier this year when she bought a vest, strapped on a medical armband, and took to the hills. Yes, she turned her former grand prix jumper, Udonna, into an event horse.

But we haven’t seen Little-Meredith or Udonna’s name in eventing results since March. Where have they been? Had they given up their new game? Nope. Little-Meredith spent the spring and summer in Europe, competing in both show jumping and eventing, and horse-shopping.

The big news is that she sold Udonna. The bigger news is that she now has a string of seven more event horses—five of them are entered at the Five Point Horse Trials on Sept. 3-4 in Raeford, N.C., in divisions from beginner novice up to advanced.

Little-Meredith shipped out to Europe in April. After two top-10 placings at intermediate horse trials, she’d run Udonna in the CIC** division at Poplar Place Farm (Ga.) in late March, but had to pull up because the mare pulled off a shoe—and a large chunk of hoof. Her plan was to spend the summer in Europe getting her qualifications for the Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.) with Udonna. They started in the Holzerode CIC** in Germany in July, but had a freak accident in the dressage phase, and Little-Meredith withdrew the mare.

“We had some really bad luck,” Little-Meredith said. “We were getting ready to go into the dressage ring, and there was just a small place to stand to wait to go in; you couldn’t go around the ring at all. The horse in front of me was in the ring and had a conniption, rearing and being awful, and he was excused. He turned around and came flying out of the ring. He broadsided Udonna and knocked her down. She was really distraught after having been mowed down, so she had a terrible test. It wasn’t her fault at all.”

Soon after that event, Udonna ended up being sold to a European young rider to go back to her show jumping roots. “I presented the offer to the owners, and that was what they wanted to do,” said Little-Meredith. “It’s a great job for her, and she’s going well for them. I was really hoping to be able to see it through [to the Fair Hill CCI***], but I have to think about the owners’ financial investment as well.”

Not Just Surviving Now

Little-Meredith had already added two young jumpers-turned-eventers to her event string before shipping out to Europe. Chigoletta (Lingh—Digoletta, Wellington) is a 4-year-old who has been in work at Little-Meredith’s home farm, Raylyn Farms, in Frederick, Md., and is headed for her first event in the beginner novice division with Little-Meredith at Five Points. The other, RF Blitsfee, is 5 and has been with Karen O’Connor since the spring. RF Blitsfee jumped around one novice event, then won training level divisions at both Millbrook (N.Y.) and Richland Park (Mich.) with O’Connor. O’Connor will ride him at Five Points as well.

While she was in Europe, Little-Meredith also picked up a few experienced eventing veterans to bring home. She competed both of them at the Salgen CIC** (Germany) on July 29-31, and at the Blair Castle CCI** (England) on August 18-21. RF Easy Going was fourth at Blair Castle, and RF Rovano Rex was second at Salgen but had one run-out at Blair Castle to place 13th.

Watch a video of RF Rovano Rex at Salgen…

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Both horses have extensive upper-level experience. RF Rovano Rex, 13, had competed at the two-star and three-star levels with Dutch young rider Ellen Kloos since 2007. But Kloos had run into problems in the show jumping with “Rex.” Little-Meredith wasn’t intimidated by that.

“He was just a total disaster when we tried him,” she said. “She couldn’t even get him to jump a liverpool. I said, ‘Whatever, I really like the horse, let’s just give it a go.’ I don’t know what I like about him; he’s just a really smart horse, and he’s ultra-careful. He was jumping great cross-country rounds, so you know he loves that part of it. He just came into the show jumping and would freeze. Now he’s been clear in both show jumping last two times out, at Salgen and Blair Castle.”

RF Easy Going, 10, started out as a show jumper with German rider Janne Friederike Meyer, but then he evented to the CCI** level with German eventer Dirk Schrade. “His weakness is the show jumping, but that’s something I can help him with. I think it’s a good match,” Little-Meredtih said. Both horses are entered at advanced at Five Points.

See Little-Meredith schooling RF Easy Going at Warendorf in Germany…

 

Five Points will be Little-Meredith’s first advanced outing, but she’s not intimidated. “My results are consistent. In the jumpers, we’ve always followed a pattern of going from survival to consistency to competitive,” she said. “I think we’re working consistently now and starting to be competitive. That’s when I’d let one of my students move up, so that’s when I’m going to choose to move up. Blair Castle was huge, and it went well. That was a big confidence builder.”

Little-Meredith also has RF Smoke On The Water, a 6-year-old who was running at preliminary level with eventer Lucinda Fredericks in England. He’s entered at preliminary at Five Points. And Little-Meredith continues to train with Karen and David O’Connor.

No More Runaway Trains

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Little-Meredith misses Udonna and gives her all the credit for starting her down this new path. “God bless Udonna, she started the train down the tracks. She created a monster!” she said.

“Now we have an entire eventing barn—seven horses. I have a whole plan, with show jumping two weekends a month and eventing one weekend. I have a barn near Karen’s in Ocala for the winter. We’ll give it a go. I’m loving it and getting the hang of the dressage part, I hope. Good horses have helped that a lot, as well as being in Europe for the summer. It really raises your sights and lets you see what is and isn’t acceptable.”

Little-Meredith’s plan is to create a healthy sales business in event horses as well as show jumpers. “I’ve really gained an appreciation for the mentality of an event horse. I would like to create a brand and recognition, with the RF-prefix event horses. They’re going to be great jumpers. That’s something that I think could be a nice opportunity for U.S. riders. They have to have a great mentality, and after that, they need to have great dressage, fancy movement, and then I can help build in the jumping part,” she said.

Since Little-Meredith’s plan is to start a sales business, she’s made sure that all her new prospects are very rideable. She’s enjoying the difference after having gotten her start in eventing on Udonna, who proved to be a very strong ride on cross-country. “How do you drive a runaway train? She was probably as tough as you get, but I owe her a lot. These horses are much easier,” she said.

“They’re smart horses, and they’re all different, but I feel like on a daily basis what I have to give them is going to improve them, whereas with Udonna, we had the best of the best trying to improve her, and she was tough,” Little-Meredith said. “I always knew with Udonna that no matter what, she was going to jump the jump and believe what I said. But riding her, my strategy was just get her to slow down and point at the jump.

“With these horses, I can walk the course and analyze how to jump the jumps, with angles or different speeds. It’s so much more fun when you have a real partner. With Udonna, I was a pilot, not a partner. It didn’t show off what I can do well, and it didn’t show off her best qualities either. And yet, I owe her everything. I’m sad she’s not going to go to Fair Hill this year, but it doesn’t mean it has to be over for me!”

 

 

 

 

 

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