Oct. 17 – Elkton, Md.
Boyd Martin is used to riding multiple horses at every event he goes to, but when he brought six horses to the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International, most contesting their first CCIs, he knew he wasn’t going to have it easy.
Luckily, Master Frisky made Martin’s job easy in the CCI***, taking the top spot after two days of dressage (43.1).
The 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Master Imp—Frisky Legs, Coopers Hill) came to Martin’s barn in 2012 after Kurt Martin campaigned him to preliminary for his then-girlfriend Kara Angulo.
Angulo brought him to Boyd to be sold, but he saw something special in “Mikey” and asked his longtime supporter Stephen Blauner to buy him.
“He’s a lovely horse,” said Boyd, Cochranville, Pa. “He went great guns so I asked Steve to buy it. For me, I think to be in the mix of the world, they have to be extraordinary in the dressage. This would be the horse’s strongest phase. He’s a very good cross-country horse and he’s a little bit awkward in the show jumping, but show jumping is probably my strongest phase so we thought it was a good match.”
Boyd and Mikey finished fifth in the CCI** at Fair Hill in 2012 before the gelding needed time off to remove a bone growth behind his knee. He took off most of 2013 and came back out this spring.
“He’s a funny character,” he said. “He looks a bit ordinary tied up to the cross-ties. He looks like a bit of a clumper, but he’s got tons of Thoroughbred in his breeding, 7/8s Thoroughbred. He’s deceiving. He reminds me of my cat at home, he just lays around a bit in the paddock and when you hop on him, he actually has a real engine cross-country but you wouldn’t know it because you could put your grandmother on him to take him for a trail ride.”
Boyd’s wife, Silva, has taken Mikey to some dressage shows and it showed in the ring at Fair Hill, but Boyd was disappointed with his marks from ground jury member Wayne Quarles at E on all of his horses that differed by several points consistently from Christina Klingspor of Sweden at M and Susan Baxter of Great Britain at C.
“It’s interesting when you look across the scores that there’s one judge that’s consistently lower for my horses,” he said.
Regardless, Boyd’s ready to tackle Derek di Grazia’s cross-country track tomorrow with Mikey and his other mounts.
“All of mine will be very green tomorrow,” he said. “I have six horses having their first crack at it and I’m definitely up against it, but they’re ready for it. They’ve been at the level for the right amount of time and they’ve been schooled and produced well and had a good run in, so I’m hoping they all get around pretty well.
“I think with this type of course, you have to go out being competitive,” he added. “This is definitely not the event to say, ‘I’m just going to give him a nice, easy run.’ It’s too big and too bold and too brutal of a course. You have to go out there and attack it.”
Buck Davidson is sitting behind Boyd in second with The Apprentice (44.0) and third with Petite Flower (44.8).
Davidson, Riegelsville, Pa., was pleased with The Apprentice, or “Dirk”, in his first appearance at Fair Hill. The 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, who’s owned by Sherrie Martin, has completed several CCI***’s, but Davidson decided against going to the Pau CCI**** (France) this fall.
“I just thought, ‘This doesn’t make sense. We’re not further ahead if we go to Pau.’ He’d never gone here,” said Davidson. “He’s done a lot of three-stars but never here. He’s still a bit of a baby, so I wanted to be able to progressively work through the week and have him right where I want him.”
Davidson noted that both Dirk and “Flower” put in their best tests to date. “[Dirk’s] definitely grown up a lot and he’s much more organized, even though he’s only 10,” he said. “He’s getting stronger and there’s starting to be a cadence in the trot. I can half halt before the changes and they’re clean. I was very happy with him. That’s definitely the best test to date.
“[Flower is] a funny mare,” he continued. “She’s super talented. I’m getting married here in a few weeks [to eventer Andrea Leatherman] so maybe I’m getting more diplomatic, trying to smooth things out and just do whatever she wants! I think I’m going to happier if I’m a ‘yes’ husband and if I’m a ‘yes’ rider too.”
Davidson admitted Flower has been tough on cross-country over the last year, but a win in the advanced at the AEC restored his confidence.
“I’ve backed off the pressure on her,” he said. “She knows how to do everything but sometimes she gets tight and nervous [on the flat]. I’ve spent most of this week just walking. It worked today—we’ll see how tomorrow goes. It’s hit or miss, win or lose, so hopefully we’re on a win swing.”
It Just So Happens
Californian Matt Brown held his lead from Thursday in the CCI** with Mary McKee’s 8-year-old U.S.-bred Holsteiner gelding Happenstance (Hunter—S’Brina, Ramidaro).
Scoring a 40.1, Brown leads a record 110 two-star horses heading into cross-country. British rider Victoria Jessop and Desert Mystery slipped into second (41.3) while Lynn Symansky and Osborne 9 sit third (41.8).
“I was just really happy with him,” said Brown of Petaluma. “When you’ve traveled such a long distance, especially because it’s been over three weeks since we left California, you never really know how things are going to go. You’re away from home, you’re away from where you and your horse are comfortable, but that was sort of the reason for us to bring both the horses [Brown is riding Super Socks BCF in the CCI***]. They’ve been feeling really confident at home and it’s important for us when the horses are confident to get out and feel something different.”
Brown has been keeping his horses at Pennsylvania eventers Domm and Jimmie Schramm’s farm and Plantation Field Horse Trials’ board member Katie Walker’s house since coming east after the Nutrena/USEA American Eventing Championships (Texas) a few weeks ago.
“It’s been a great trip, and for [Happenstance] to put in such a nice test was just the icing on the cake,” he said. “He and I are just starting to finalize our partnership and get together and I think it came through. He was really there for me.”
Brown has been riding the gelding for nearly two years after overhearing a conversation between McKee and “Hap’s” breeder, Wendy Webster while he was grabbing takeout.
“They happened to be eating dinner at a restaurant in Pengrove and I walked in to pick up to some takeout and they happened to be talking about a new rider for him and I knew Wendy, so we joked that it was by happenstance that I walked in at the right time,” he explained. “He’s got a great personality, but he’s the kind of horse that on the outside is very quiet, but on the inside is a little sensitive. The first year or so that I had him I really had to sit quietly on him. He wouldn’t let me ride him very much.”
Two-star cross-country gets under way at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning, followed by the three-star at 1:45 p.m.
For a list of ride times and an interactive course map, visit Fair Hill’s website.
Don’t miss a minute of the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill CCIs—stay informed on all the news, behind-the-scenes stories and stunning photos with the Chronicle’s dedicated Fair Hill CCI page of online coverage. And make sure to read even more details in the Nov. 3 issue of the print magazine The Chronicle of the Horse. You might know who won, but we tell you why and how they won.