Veterans Joker’s Wild and Karen O’Connor showed how it’s done in the CIC** at the Cosequin Stuart Horse Trials, July 23-25, Victor, N.Y.
O’Connor was second after dressage (41.1), just behind Kelli Temple’s Paris (40.8). With double-clear rounds in both jumping phases, she nailed the top placing and the lion’s share of the $8,000 in prize money with her 2003 Pan American Championships silver-medal partner, owned by Dick and Vita Thompson.
Clean jumping rounds were hard to come by; only five of the 70 CIC** competitors managed to finish both phases without jumping or time faults. O’Connor accounted for two of the five–the second one was Upstage, who finished sixth.
“Joker’s Wild is very professional and very accomplished. It was particularly fun here this weekend because his owners know the organizers and came to help and enjoy themselves. Dick helped announce cross-country for the lower divisions,” said O’Connor.
O’Connor hopes to compete Upstage, 12, at England’s Burghley CCI****, while Joker’s Wild, 15, is heading for the American Eventing Championships (N.C.), both in September.
“He doesn’t owe us anything,” O’Connor said of Joker’s Wild. “So we manage him carefully and only compete him when he’s mentally and physically ready. But he’s not done yet; I feel like I’m just now learning how to ride him!”
Cross-country jumping faults for this division were rare and scattered, rather than at one particular “bugaboo spot.” Additions to the course, such as a new start and finish route, and a beautifully carved “Lexus Ness monster” at the water complex, kept the course fresh for returning competitors.
Being new to the level didn’t stop Jessica Kiener on Carl and Cassandra Segal’s My Boy Bobby from winning the open intermediate division, over veterans Buck Davidson and Mara Depuy Dean.
“This is only our second intermediate,” said Kiener, with a smile, “but we did win preliminary at Groton House [Mass.] and at Plantation Field [Pa.].”
Kiener and the 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse, who the Segals imported three years ago, entered the show jumping arena just 1.02 points ahead of Clarissa Wilmerding and Mystery Man II. Wilmerding had won the dressage but dropped just below Kiener with cross-country time faults. Kiener handled the pressure well to post a double-clear round over the technically challenging course.
Davidson Jr. on Jan Smith and Carl and Cassandra Segal’s Selle Franç¡©s, Idalgo, moved to third with a couple of pulled rails. According to Davidson Jr., “Idalgo is probably the fanciest horse I’ve ever had. He is an unbelievably good horse, but he’s a little nervous in show jumping. We’ve moved him up pretty fast; hopefully we’ll have this fixed by Fair Hill [CCI*** (Md.) in October].”
A clean show jumping round landed newlywed Depuy Dean in second.
Darrah Alexander, winner of the preliminary, division 1, on Kopeck de Gamet, nudged past second-placed Bruce Davidson Sr. and Cruise Lion with a faster cross-country round, moving up from eighth in dressage.
Several horses in the division had diffi-culty on cross-country with fence 5, a trakeh-ner at the bottom of a hill. “A lot of people had trouble getting their horses under control coming down the hill, early in the course, with the barns off to the left. They ran down the hill looking into that ditch. But it was a fair question. The ditch was only scooped out, not squared off. It was just the placement thattested rider control,” said Alexander.
She bought Kopeck de Gamet, a 6-year-old Selle Franç¡©s, last year in England. “Louise Meryman made me buy him! He wasn’t my type. But he’s been fantastic. He’s won at novice, training, and won the Area I Preliminary Championship. If he were a dog, he’d be a black Lab. You just point and kick, just keep kicking and he keeps getting better. That’s why I had to be convinced–he’s so laid back.”
Kristen Schmolze picked up the win in preliminary, division 2. She credits her 7-year-old, imported Irish Thoroughbred, Castle Jordan, with being “laid back, and he has the best mind.”
But unlike Alexander, she didn’t have to be talked into buying him. “I loved him as soon as I saw him. He’s about 17 hands and all legs, but he’s put together well and very refined. He’s an unbelievable mover! [When I got him] we did one training event then went straight to preliminary, and he’s had three preliminary wins this season.”
Alexandra Zavoyna, 15, led her preliminary division throughout, with a 28.0 in dressage and a faultless cross-country round. She had a rail in hand over Mark Weissbecker on Top Gallant entering show jumping, which she needed. One rail came down to give her the win by 1 point. She got Merloch, her 8-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred last year, and they also won at MCTA (Md.).
“He was very fast and excited on cross-country, but he is honest and bold so we had no problems. One of his strengths is show jumping, though. He just jumped into the combination a little underpowered today and had the back rail down,” Zavoyna said.