Tuesday, May. 21, 2024

Prather Tackles A Tough Course At Rebecca Farm


In her first year riding advanced, Kelly Prather continued to shine in Kalispell, Mont., where she rode Ballinakill Glory to the CIC***-W victory, July 26-29, at The Event At Rebecca Farm. She’d also won an advanced division at Woodside (Calif.) and finished second in the Galway Downs CIC***-W (Calif.) earlier this year.
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In her first year riding advanced, Kelly Prather continued to shine in Kalispell, Mont., where she rode Ballinakill Glory to the CIC***-W victory, July 26-29, at The Event At Rebecca Farm. She’d also won an advanced division at Woodside (Calif.) and finished second in the Galway Downs CIC***-W (Calif.) earlier this year.

At Rebecca Farm, their dressage score of 47.8 started them at the top of the 14-horse field, where they’d ultimately stay despite incurring penalties in cross-country and show jumping. But no one finished on a dressage score—not even close.

“We’ve been going to Rebecca Farm for the last three years now, and the courses usually seem pretty tough,” said Prather, 23, of Capt. Mark Phillips’ cross-country courses and Richard Jeffery’s show jumping
courses.

“They’re a different style, and I thought they rode pretty well,” she added. “I didn’t get to watch a lot of rides, but the time seemed a bit hard to make. It was a three-star though, and I thought it was fair enough. You really had to think on your feet.”

Prather was concerned about how her 8-year-old mare might handle the notorious Booby Trap mounds. On her way to the start box, Prather decided to take the advice of her coach of 13 years and the horse’s owner, Andrea Pfeiffer, and take the option around the grassy knolls. Though it cost her 12.4 time faults, “Pippa’s” big stride ate up the rest of the course.

“I felt like she was flying and popping off the ground perfectly,” Prather said. “If we had to do [the Booby Trap] I think she would have done it by the way she was feeling.”

Prather also played it safe in the show jumping. “I took my time a little bit,” she said, “but I thought it was one of the best courses I’ve jumped around, and [Pippa] jumped amazingly!”

Though they brought 6 time faults across the finish, only one rail fell, making theirs the best show jumping score in the division.

Prather said she feels four-star prowess in Pippa. The Irish Sport Horse she found and brought home five years ago after working and riding in Ireland for a couple of years has seemed to take everything in perfect stride. A very grateful Prather said Andrea and her husband James Pfeiffer were generous enough to back the purchase sight unseen.

“[Four-star] is always the goal, and I’d love to do it with her. She’s loved this since the day we started jumping her as a 4-year-old,” Prather said. “She truly does love the job and has always been a pleasure to ride.”

Prather, of Petaluma, Calif., plans to trek to the East Coast with Pippa to train with Bruce Davidson and contest the Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.) in October.

Accepting Faults

The CCI** courses weren’t to be taken lightly either. Canadian Hawley Bennett captured that victory aboard SplendoroftheSun and shared similar sentiments as Prather about the show jumping track.

“As eventers, we need to practice our show jumping,” she said. “The competition is getting tougher, and yes, it was a tough course, but that’s no excuse. I’m really just speaking on my behalf, but it was a bit of a wake-up call.”

She also rode her advanced partner Livingston in the CIC***-W and chalked up an unusually tall order of faults—20 each on cross-country and show jumping.

But her two-star horses turned the weekend around for Bennett. “It was the longest either of my [two-star] horses have ever [been] ridden, but they both found their rhythm and I was very proud of them,” said Bennett, whose young horse Gin N’ Juice also finished fourth.

She described Splendor-ofthesun as “Mr. Consistent” through dressage. “He was a little fired up this weekend. I don’t think he’s ever been this fit. It was the first time I really had to try to keep it together,” she said. “When we warmed up in the morning he was a bit of a firecracker.”

They managed a score of 54.2 and advanced to cross-country standing second.

“Sunny” galloped cleanly and 15 seconds fast as the first ride of the division. This year, Phillips added one of the Booby Trap mounds to the CCI** course. It led to a brush fence followed four strides later by a corner. The option, however, led around the mound to a skinny then to the corner.

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Bennett, of Langley, B.C., contemplated this particular combination heavily during her course walks. And when it came down to it, she drew the line perfectly through the direct route. “It was a big question to look at and a bit intimidating. I was first out, but he was feeling good so thought I’d give it a try,” she said.

Monthly show jumping work with Buck Davidson proved invaluable to Bennett and Sunny over Sunday’s show jumping course. While Anne Carr and Safari had a tight fist around the lead all weekend, three rails became one too many.

“I had the last two rails down and actually thought I had lost places,” Bennett said. “I didn’t really know I had won!”

While she only just picked up the ride on the 11-year-old Thoroughbred last summer, she hopes he’ll become her next four-star horse. “But we’ll just take it a day at a time,” she said.

She’s also been considering Sunny for the Olympics on the Canadian team next year. With owners like Pamela and John Hudson, she said, these aspirations always seem attainable.

“They are so into eventing and are always cheering and encouraging. They’re good people for our sport,” she said.

He Has The Edge

With show jumping rails still falling left and right across the divisions, Mar De Amor decided it was up to him to show the CIC* crew how it’s done. And who better to demonstrate than an ex-show jumper crowned 2005 U.S. Equestrian Federation 5-year-old Jumper of the Year for Zone 10.

Leigh Mesher was thrilled that her now 7-year-old Selle Français’ first FEI-level event went off without a hitch. She admitted that transitioning him to eventing was “kind of a gamble,” but the 16.2-hand bay has proven himself time and time again since Mesher started bringing him along from training level.

When her jump coach Patrick Schneider saw “De Niro” flying around the jumper courses on the HITS Desert Circuit in Indio (Calif.) in 2005, he immediately asked previous owner John Endicott if the horse was for sale. When he got the affirmative answer, Mesher got the horse.

“He’s got a really good mind and really good heart,” Mesher said. “He’s also very bold and brave and doesn’t ask questions. If I can get him there in a good distance, he’ll figure out what he needs to do.”

She was slightly on edge about keeping him collected for the chevrons and skinnies, but he never hesitated.

“On every cross-country course I’ve ever ridden with him he likes to jump the first fence, take off bucking with me for the second and then get down to business,” Mesher said. “He’s so proud of himself when he knows he’s doing a good job.”

In the dressage ring Mesher said he acts like a big horse, which makes for a challenge. “It can be harder to bring him down and make him more rideable for me, but he’s really starting to come along with his collection work,” Mesher said.

They left the dressage ring in second place and remained there after cross-country, 6.5 faults from the blue.
Those striped rails in the show jumping had nothing to fear under De Niro’s hooves while he did what he knows best. Division leaders Dante and Alexis Bramley couldn’t match the flawless ride. Two rails fell with 2 seconds too many, and the top spot switched hands.

Mesher’s now-retired advanced horse, My Beau, once ran at the four-star level under Amy Tryon. But can Mar De Amor reach advanced next?

“You always hope your best horses will get you to the top and maybe even on a team,” Mesher said. “But that’s my goal with him. If he continues down the path he’s on now, I really think he’s got an edge to get there. I don’t think I’ve ever sat on a horse like him.”

She hopes to contest De Niro in a two-star this fall.

From Cutting To Jumping

On the other hand, the CCI* winner, Haida’s Fancy Package, doesn’t compete a lot. But this year, he redeemed his second-placed finish from last year’s Rebecca Farm. Piloted by two-time Canadian Olympian Therese Washtock, he pinched the blue ribbon in the final phase from Chesterland, Washtock’s other ride in the long-format division.

Rails fell through every show jumping trip in the division, but “Haida” stepped out of the ring with one of the least-littered rounds.

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“It was a fairly complicated course,” Washtock explained, “with tough distances, and it was set at a very solid height.”

Haida and Washtock had set off strong in second place after dressage. Though both horses finished cross-country without fault and within 2 seconds of one another, Haida had incurred 3.2 time faults on steeplechase.

So while Haida caught two rails in the show jumping, Washtock wasn’t too worried since her closest competition was herself. Chesterfield’s greenness showed, however, and with 16 faults, he’d have to settle for second place while Haida led the victory gallop.

“He’s new to prelim this year,” Washtock explained of Chesterfield. “He’s still lacking the experience, but I also feel like he’ll be ready to move up to intermediate soon.”

So it wasn’t too much of a blow to Chesterfield’s pride to have a 14.2-hand Quarter Horse gallop away with the prize. Especially since jumping seems to be wee Haida’s forte. “As much as he’s a lazy laidback fellow in general, he’s very enthusiastic about jumping and especially eventing,” Washtock assured.

Neither she nor Haida’s first rider, Heather Blomgren, who organizes the Johvale Horse Trials in British Columbia, realized in the beginning that this petite powerhouse had hops.

“Her boyfriend actually started him out as a cutting horse,” Washtock said.

Washtock worked with him and took care of his expenses for Blomgren for a year so she could compete on him. “She’d run her event but never got a chance to ride,” said Washtock.

The more Washtock and Blomgren rode him, the better his jumping got. But then came a tragic halt to Blomgren’s career with him when a green horse sent her to the hospital with a shattered ankle that required seven pins and four plates to patch.

Haida went up for sale as Washtock took over the full-time ride and brought him up to preliminary. Charles Fipke, who is one of Washtock’s clients and a race horse proprietor, became Haida’s new owner.

“Horses are absolutely Mr. Fipke’s life, and Haida is no exception. He really loves this horse,” Washtock said.

Haida’s day job, which he also loves, includes packing Fipke’s grandkids and friends around and just enjoying family life.

“Haida has gone intermediate, but I think he’s perfectly happy at one-star level,” said Washtock.

Chesterland, on the other hand, is helping Washtock qualify for a two-star this year, which was why she chose to contest the CCI at Rebecca Farm. She would have shot for qualification earlier at Galway (Calif.)  or Twin Rivers (Calif.) if it hadn’t been for a back injury that kept her out of the saddle.

But this 8-year-old homebred Thorough-bred-Warmblood (Wild Night—Annie) may be one of the horses Washtock’s eyeing to go advanced. He was named after Washtock’s first international CCI competition in 1983.

“He’s one of my absolute favorites. I’m hoping to have him for awhile,” she said.

Joshua A. Walker

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