It was good to see Proton canter into the ring again at Paxton Farm in Batavia, Ohio, and he was on a mission. Lacking any taste of international competition for almost a year, the 13-year-old German-bred gelding was hungry to contend. Cindy Ishoy was more than delighted to pin the blue ribbon to Proton’s bridle after winning the FEI Grand Prix class with him on May 12.
Proton was slated to venture to Germany for the World Equestrian Games last summer. But an ill-timed hyperextension injury drove Ishoy to keep him home and nurse her partner back to the championship competitor he’s always been.
“I had to take the high road and not go to the World Equestrian Games,” Ishoy said. Although the injury’s severity didn’t threaten the horse’s career, “the vet [Canadian team vet Allen Young] said it would be better to put the horse first and give him the three months rest then.”
Ishoy took her time bringing Proton back to soundness. She kept him walking under saddle and slowly worked trotting and cantering back into their routine as the months fell off the calendar. Finally, he was ready to compete again.
“He felt really good today, and it’s really nice to have him back,” Ishoy said of his return to the ring. “His half-pass felt really good and so did his extended canter; he’s always been good with those.”
Judges Jacques Van Daele, Cara Whitham, Axel Steiner, Janet Foy and Mercedes Campdera rewarded the pair’s consistent and accurate test with a 65.95 percent. Fellow Canadian Tina Irwin and Amicelli also delivered a strong test to earn a 64.00 percent and the red ribbon.
Dr. Cesar Parra and ECU 8 performed a clean and stylish test to grab 63.12 percent and third place. George Williams and Marnix finished just behind in fourth with 62.95 percent.
Ishoy and Proton are saving room on their tackroom wall in hopes of another blue ribbon in tomorrow’s Grand Prix Freestyle. But beyond this weekend at Paxton Farm, “we’ll just take it a day at a time,” she said.
The well-populated FEI Intermediaire I class had a fair share of ups and downs today. Before the lunch break, plenty of pleasing tests ensued including those of Michael Shondel and Silver Label who earned fourth (66.75%), Amanda Johnson and Pip finishing seventh (64.60%), and Susan Jaccoma and Donatella finishing eighth (64.38%)
But maybe there was something in the food that affected the second group after lunch. Though Gillian Sutherland and Great Tyme rode to third (67.45%) and Andrea Bresee and Raffles secured fifth (65.60%) in the first after-lunch batch, the second set didn’t find the same fortune.
Linda Leffingwell and Welsturm got off to a rough start after forgetting the test. John MacPherson followed her but ran into some problems going into the first pirouette when his stallion, Jacardo, decided he’d rather rear before completing the movement. Mauricia Sanchez seemed at first like he’d break the streak of rotten luck, but when he and Iowa B delivered a line of half-passes where they should have presented an extended trot, afternoon scores continued to suffer.
But when the 32-entry class finally wrapped, top honors went to Katherine Poulin-Neff and her home-bred Dutch-Thoroughbred cross, Brillant Too. Their performance merited a 70.15 percent to better Jaccoma and Wadamur’s second-placed 68.10 percent by a comfortable margin.
Poulin-Neff said she owes much of her and “Zuel’s” success together to a very close bond. Her parents, trainers and judges Michael and Sharon Poulin, bred Brilliant Too (Brilliant—Blue Brigetta), and Poulin-Neff started him and brought him up the ranks.
“We have a really special partnership with each other and work well together,” she said. She focuses much of the 15.1-hand 11-year-old’s training around keeping him happy. “He’s so happy with his ears always forward and always seems relaxed and happy to compete,” she said. Part of their training regiment includes trail rides and some freedom to gallop.
She was surprised by one mistake during her test today however. “In the very last two-tempi he did a one-tempi, and I was shocked. He’s never done that before,” she said. “But overall I was really happy.”
Since taking reserve honors in the Intermediaire I freestyle and third in the Prix St. Georges at last year’s U.S. Equestrian Federation Grand Prix Championship in Gladstone, N.J, Poulin-Neff has been training thoroughly to fill in all the gaps in Zuel’s routine.
“Pirouettes have been my main focus of improvement since Gladstone,” she said. Her goal now is to qualify for Gladstone with Brilliant Too again this year for a chance to prove themselves to the Pan American Games selection committee. But first, they’ve got an Intermediaire I freestyle they’d like to win tomorrow at Paxton Farm.