Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024

Morven Park Weather Delay Doesn’t Slow Down Horan

Heavy rains and high winds forced Morven Park officials to make some last-minute changes to their spring horse trials schedule, pushing show jumping from Saturday to Sunday in the indoor arena and delaying cross-country until Tuesday in Leesburg, Va., April 2-3 and April 5.
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Heavy rains and high winds forced Morven Park officials to make some last-minute changes to their spring horse trials schedule, pushing show jumping from Saturday to Sunday in the indoor arena and delaying cross-country until Tuesday in Leesburg, Va., April 2-3 and April 5.

But the wild weather didn’t affect Liza Horan and Johnny McCarthy, who triumphed in advanced, test C, division 1. “What they went through to make this event happen is phenomenal,” Horan said. “Just the fact that they could get the people out here [on a Tuesday] is fantastic. Most places would have just bagged it.”

The delay to Tuesday did not affect Horan, of Unionville, Pa., and Johnny McCarthy as they finished the cross-country with 8.8 time faults and a final score of 51.4. They were 10th after dressage (42.6) but moved to fourth after a clear show jumping round. Although Johnny McCarthy is still green at the advanced level, Horan said the course helped build his confidence.

“If you didn’t ride your horse over every fence, you weren’t going to get around today,” said Horan, who thought Morven Park is a “wonderful place to prepare” a horse for three-day events.

The Morven course walks very big, said Horan, but gives the horses confidence. “You’re always a bit scared to death here,” she said.

Although Johnny McCarthy is for sale, Horan plans to ride him at the Jersey Fresh CCI*** (N.J.), if he has not been sold first. His owner, Matthew Marano, is from New Jersey and has never seen the horse at an event. “It would be nice for him to see his horse go,” Horan said.

Johnny McCarthy was a show jumper with Blythe Marano before his eventing career began. Horan has worked him up from training to the advanced level, and the pair placed third at the Radnor Hunt CCI** (Pa.) last year.

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Horan, who worked for Phillip Dutton for a year, is now stepping out on her own. “It’s always a difficult transition to go from being a student to being a young professional,” she said.

Jan Thompson and Waterfront finished first in advanced, test C, division 2. The pair was second after dressage and show jumping and moved to first with 8.8 cross-country time faults. Thompson said Waterfront got better and better throughout the cross-country course. “He tried quite hard,” she said. “He was fantastic cross-country.”

Thompson said riding the cross-country phase on Tuesday rather than Sunday made her a little more nervous, since it wasn’t a day she is used to competing. But Dutton, with whom she trains, joked with her that it didn’t matter what day of the week it was. Thompson, who grew up in Colorado, trains and sells horses from her Surefire Farm in Purcellville, Va.

Thompson has just brought Waterfront, who finished second at the 2003 Jersey Fresh CCI**, back into competition this year. The 9-year-old, Thoroughbred gelding was injured at the 2003 Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.). Thompson plans to compete him at the Foxhall CCI*** (Ga.) and possibly Jersey Fresh.

“He’s such a fun horse to have,” Thompson said.

Heidi White and her veteran four-star partner Northern Spy, who will be competing for the first time at the Badminton CCI**** (England) in May, won advanced, test D (54.0). Like Thompson and Horan, White trains with Dutton.

The event had an unusual somber feeling without the presence of Beale Morris, who died March 23. Horan remarked that many of the riders were thinking about her. “This weekend certainly wasn’t about any of us,” Horan said.

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