After cross-country on Saturday, Mara Dean knew that she would have to jump clean on Sunday, March 8, in order to win the Red Hills International CIC***-W, Tallahassee, Fla. However, she was able to take a bit of a deep breath when Phillip Dutton and Truluck added 5 time penalties to their otherwise clean jumping round. Nicki Henley took one rail down and added 4 time faults, but he and Dean’s score of 59.8 was enough to take home blue.
“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet, I don’t really believe it,” said Dean, Round Hill, Va. “I’m just so thankful to have that horse. It’s so nice to have him back. Winning a three-star was amazing. I never thought it would happen. Not in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever be back here.”
Dean had a little bit of trouble with the 15-year-old Irish Thoroughbred gelding in the middle of the course. She rode him in a hackamore for the show jumping, because she said he stays softer throughout his body and stays more relaxed, but occasionally she has steering issues.
“There was a little bit of panic there in the middle,” Dean said with a laugh. “He did stay very relaxed for him, though. You definitely had to think the course through. You had to keep them careful, but forward. It was a good course, a very testing course.”
Dean said she needed some time to think about what’s next on the agenda for Nicki, but the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** isn’t necessarily out of the question for the longtime pair. They aren’t qualified due to his time off, but Dean hopes that an exception might be made if they have a good outing at The Fork (N.C.) in April.
“He doesn’t owe me anything,” said Dean. “If Kentucky is the right way to go, then I’ll do it, but if it doesn’t work out, I won’t. It would be nice, but I will do whatever is best for him.”
Phillip Dutton and Truluck ended the weekend in second (63.0), and Will Coleman and Nevada Bay were third (64.6). Bonnie Mosser and Merloch and Allison Springer and Arthur were fourth and fifth, respectively.
Pollard Pulls Out A Win In The CIC**
Michael Pollard, Chatsworth, Ga., proved once again that slow and steady often wins the race. He and Jos Calfun rose from sixth place after dressage to win the CIC** with two perfect jumping efforts. Overnight leaders Hannah Sue Burnett and St. Barths had a rail and 2 time faults to finish second.
“I thought Calfun jumped a really nice round,” said Pollard. “I had one rider mistake coming into the double. I just got him a bit too deep, and he struggled a little on the way out, but aside from that I thought he jumped great. I’ll take it.”
Pollard also guided Jane Rusconi’s Dazzling Dekorum to third place in the same division. He has been riding both 7-year-old horses for about 1 1/2 years.
“They’re just now starting to get to an upper level where they can be shown at a big event,” said Pollard. “The [cross-country] looked a little bit softer when you walked it, but it was still a challenge, especially for a young horse. Mine have only done three and four intermediates, so it was a lot to ask of them, but they both responded well. This is probably the biggest thing they’ve ever done, so to come away like this is nice.”
Pollard is aiming both Dekorum and Calfun for a CCI** this spring, but he hopes to confirm them both on the flat before choosing which event to contest.
“The flat work is a little bit hit-or-miss right now,” said Pollard. “As good as the other phases are, I’d like to be a little bit closer to the lead with both of them. We’re going to take them to The Fork and see how they are there.”
Dutton and the spicy chestnut mare Lioness ended up in fourth, and young rider Jacob Fletcher on Falcon Splash rounded out the top five in the CIC**.
In the open intermediate division, Pollard also took home the blue with Wonderful Will. He started riding the horse last fall after his former jockey, Mike Winter, moved to England. Pollard planned to go to the Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.), but a very minor injury kept Will on the sidelines. This was their first event out this season, and he hopes to head for Rolex Kentucky in April.
“We’ve got some work to do,” Pollard said with a smile. “He can do better, and hopefully I’ll do better for him next time.”
More Red Hills Tidbits
- Will Coleman and All The Buzz were one of the few pairs to finish on their dressage score this weekend. They won the CIC* with 40.9 penalties. Coleman also posted clean cross-country and show jumping rounds on Vancouver (fourth) and Drummer’s Call (fifth) in the CIC*.
- Andrea Leatherman and Mensa’s double-clear show jumping round boosted them to the blue in the advanced division.
- Tara Ziegler and Buckingham Place won the CIC***.