Elkton, Md.—Oct. 19
When you are a British eventer with two premier five-star events in your backyard, putting a horse on a plane to come to the Mars Maryland 5 Star is quite a commitment, but when Piggy March looked at what she wanted next for Brookfield Cavalier Cruise, a trip across the Atlantic seemed to be the best option.
“He did Bramham [England] in the spring, and he did really well there—he finished second, and afterwards we sat down with the owners to think, ‘Where do we go now?’ ” she said. “ We thought other four-stars were maybe taking a step back for him, because in our opinion Bramham is the hardest four-star long, I think personally, in the world or whatever ones we normally do in our calendar.
“So we really thought of going five-star, and Burghley [England] is just down the road from us,” she continued. “The terrain is very undulating, but quite sharper and a bit tougher, where here, we have really great reports that the going was great, and it was a very rolling countryside.”
With that in mind, she decided to bring “Fletcher,” a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Cavalier Carnival—Ryans Cruise, Atlantic Cruise), to Maryland to take a stab at the world’s youngest five-star.
While she said she was hoping the trip would give him a good educational run, she admits that she also hopes for a competitive finish. They’re off to a good start, earning a 24.2 for the lead after the first day of dressage.
“This is his first five-star obviously that we’ve even run through or ever done, so obviously I’m absolutely delighted,” she said. “There will still be more to come from him. He’s a 17.1/17.2-hand horse. He’s got a great big frame, an empty frame still. He will over the next few years—he is an Irish boy—he will still keep filling and developing and find his core strength and his cadence easier.”
Watch their test, courtesy of USEF Network and ClipMyHorse.TV:
March appreciates not only the young horse’s potential for improvement, but also what he already shows in his work.
“He’s a beautiful horse, but he’s got the most unbelievable brain,” she said. “He loves his job and he has natural presence in his face, his expression, and he’s just charming to work with, so he’s like, ‘All right, mum, I’ll try.’ We’ll not be dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to perfection yet, but the feel—and I know there’ll still be more—in the way of what he gives you at the moment and trying his best, he’s just unbelievable.”
Though March rode Fletcher as a 7-year-old at intermediate, for the past few years he’s been ridden by various people. She only started riding him again earlier this year, and she said the transition has been smooth.
“He has always had a great temperament, and he has been ridden by three or four different people, and he’s won with all of us, which is a testament to the horse’s ability, his temperament and his love for the job, which is out there for all to see,” she said. “We’ve got a close team of our owners and our riders within house, so we all know what’s going on everywhere, and I’ve watched him if I haven’t been riding, so … it was quite simple to pick up where I left off a few years ago with him—and I’m the lucky one now that has him now at this level.”
New Zealand’s Monica Spencer, who turned heads at the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championships (Italy) thanks to a stellar dressage test there, is off to a good start as well. She’s sitting second with Artist on a 28.4.
“He’s a beautiful mover and capable of probably a slightly better score than that,” she said of her test. “A couple blips here and there, but can’t complain with a 28, so I’m pleased.”
Spencer has had the 12-year-old Thoroughbred (Guillotine—Maxamore, Satin Blush) since he was 4, and they’ve built a solid partnership.
“I just produced him up the levels, and he was kind of one that won all the way through, and he’s always, I guess, found his job a little bit easy. He was a pleasure to produce.”
Sitting in third is Hannah Sue Hollberg with Capitol H I M, a 16-year-old Holsteiner (Con Air 7—O-Heraldika, Heraldik) on a 32.4. She was particularly pleased with his performance after their entrance into the arena wasn’t as confidence-inspiring as she would have liked.
“He’s horse shy, so when I saw Buck’s horse coming out I was like, ‘Oh no!’ and I tried to get in there really fast, and he got a glimpse of the big screen, which for some reason really spooked him, and I was like, ‘Oh no, what’s going to happen? Why are you freaking out about this?’ ” she said. “I showed it to him a couple times, and he was really good and actually was better than he is normally any day. He did everything as well as he can at home or better, so I couldn’t be happier with him. I messed up that last change; I was getting too excited [and] I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s going so well!’ The worst thing ever. I’m like it’s almost over, it’s going so well.
“Otherwise I thought I rode to my plan, and I rode more aggressively in the trot work, which I’ve been trying to do,” she continued. “It’s easy to kind of just be frozen up there.”
In the CCI3*-L, Lauren Nicholson leads with Landmark’s Jungle Gold (30.3). Lynn Symansky is second with Idefix Van De Crumelhaeve (30.7) and Woods Baughman is third with Kamara CFF.
See complete Day 1 results here.
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