For a moment, Michele Mueller thought she might have lost the Hagyard Midsouth open CCI*. She’d come into the show jumping in the lead on her dressage score, with two rails in hand. She thought Amistad had pulled a rail at the first fence, and then fence 6 fell.
“He rubbed the first fence pretty hard,” she said. “I didn’t realize until a bit later in the course that it was still up.”
With just the one rail, Mueller and Amistad finished with a score of 47.8, and won the blue at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 18-22.
All three CCI* division winners won the dressage, including Mueller. Her solid dressage test on Amistad was rewarded with a score of 43.8, putting them in the lead over 20 other entries.
“I really rode this test,” said Mueller, 42, of Port Perry, Ont. “We were much more positive in the warm-up, and it came through in the ring.”
The weather played a critical role. Originally scheduled to be run as a traditional three-day, heavy rain in the weeks leading up to the event left the footing unable to cope with a heavy downpour on Thursday night. The ground jury made the decision to eliminate the steeplechase, leaving the riders with just a phase A before heading out on the cross-country.
On the cross-country, Amistad was “just awesome,” said his rider. “I loved the course. Yes, I was disappointed we didn’t get to do the steeplechase, but the course itself was challenging.”
Mueller has had Amistad for two years and hopes to move up to intermediate eventually. She rides with Ian Roberts. “He’s had a stellar year,” Mueller said of Amistad. “When I bought him, I was told he was going training, but found out later he hadn’t. He’s won nearly every event he’s been in this year, including the CIC* at Bromont [Que.] in June.”
Riders in the open CCI* division competed as well for the Richard D. Collins Trophy for the U.S. Equestrian Federation National One-Star Championship. Because Mueller hails from Canada, the USEF title went to Ruthie Harbison, who rode Ringfort Tinkatoo into second place in the division.
Katherine Coleman and Trader Vic also had a few nerve-wracking moments in the show jumping. They won the dressage in the CCI* division, and then added just .8 time penalties to lead on the last day, with a rail in hand.
They’d need it, though, as they crashed through a Liverpool fence at the second-to-last jump. Everyone held their breath until they cleared the last oxer and the win was theirs. They also took home the Alexander Mackay-Smith Trophy for the USEF National Amateur Championship.
It was not a bad result for a first attempt at a three-day by both horse and rider. The pair train with Jenna Wyatt for the dressage, and all the hard work paid off by putting them in first with a 54.1 going into the cross-country.
“We’ve been working hard on our dressage,” said Coleman, 23. “We did some second level earlier in the year to get ready. It was nice to be able to practice the test in a full ring with Jenna.”
Trader Vic, a 9-year-old Hanoverian-Thoroughbred cross gelding, cruised around the cross-country, adding just a fraction of time to their score.
“He was good. He was a bit sticky at a few of the fences because of the footing, but he handled it well. It was the right decision to drop the steeplechase,” she said.
“I was really nervous going into the show jumping because it hasn’t been our best phase. Only one rail is great.”
Coleman, who has spent the last four years in Athens, Ga., finishing her degree in business management, now calls New Orleans, La., home. She and “Trader”, who had an excellent spring season, will take some much-deserved time off before heading to Wellington, Fla., to prepare for the move up to intermediate.
Emery Reagan rode About Time II to fourth place in the CCI* division, but ended up claiming the USEF 19-21-year-old National Champion-ship, with a score of 65.6. They added only two rails to their dressage score for the honors.
The junior division of the CCI* saw 10 riders complete, and when the final round was over, Jordynn Sahagian and her mount Peron finished on top. The pair from Barring-ton, Ill., won the dressage and never looked back, also earning the Harry T. Peters Trophy for the USEF National Junior Championship.
“I’ve been working him in a double bridle, and I didn’t realize until we got here that I couldn’t use it,” said Sahagian when asked about her dressage ride. “He was still really good, though.”
And then a near-disaster on cross-country gave them pause for thought. Their weekend nearly came to an end at the Weldon’s Wall on Saturday. A missed distance nearly tipped Sahagian out of the tack, but she managed to gallop on.
“We made the time, which is something we’ve been struggling with,” she said. “I’m pretty happy with how things went.”
A clean trip around the cross-country left them with two rails in hand going into Sunday. Those two rails fell, but their placing didn’t. This was the pair’s first three-day. “He was a bit strong in the show jumping, but I was pleased,” she continued. “Two rails down was good for us right now.”
Peron, a 10-year-old Hanoverian, was originally intended to be a dressage mount for Sahagian’s mother. Once the pair hooked up, however, there was no going back.
The cross-country proved to be not too much of a deciding factor. Of the 59 horses that started the three divisions of the CCI*, 46 jumped clean, 10 had single stops, one entry had two stops, and two horses retired. The show jumping was much more influential with only 13 double-clear rounds, though none of the top placings were affected by rails.