Elkton, Md.—Oct. 19
It’s been 10 years since Julie Richards competed at Fair Hill, but she made a dramatic return to the event by winning the CCI** at The Dutta Corp Fair Hill International aboard Urlanmore Beauty.
“It always feels great,” she said. “The horse is so generous. He’s a super animal that way. I knew he would try. He touched one or two, which always gives you heart palpitations, but sometimes it goes your way.”
Things didn’t go cross-country leader Victoria Jessop’s way in show jumping. She didn’t have a rail in hand with Desert Mystery, and when she hit the first fence on Sally Ike’s course, she knew she wouldn’t be leading the victory gallop. They just touched one more for a total of 8 faults and a drop to seventh place.
But Jessop’s bad luck opened the door for the riders with clear rounds behind her. Marilyn Little climbed the leaderboard from sixth to third place with a clean show jumping round on RF Quarterman, and Kim Severson slotted into second with Cooley Cross Border.
Urlanmore Beauty put in a clear round to finish on his dressage score of 43.0 penalties. “I was thrilled with him,” said Richards. “He’s super powerful. We’ve been working hard on the show jumping at home. I do a lot of jumper shows with him. He’s been ridden by young riders a lot, so he’s used to just taking care of himself.”
Sarah Kamensky competed the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse twice at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, first contesting the one-star junior championship and then placing third in the two-star young rider championship in 2011.
Asa Cooper, 19, bought “Samson” in January and finished second in the Virginia young rider one-star in May, but he’s been busy with his studies at the University of Georgia, so Richards has used the time to continue the gelding’s education.
“We will all sit down and make the right decision that works for all of us,” said Richards about the next step for Samson. “This is a real horse for the future whether I continue riding it or Asa takes it on. Asa’s a super talented rider, so that would be fun watching him climb the levels on him.”
Richards, who rode in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games on Hyde Park Corner and the 2004 Athens Olympic Games aboard Jacob Two Two, has been out of the spotlight at the top levels of the sport for the last 10 years.
“My business has grown into a big training business in my hometown [in Newnan, Ga.,] at my family farm,” she said. “I train a lot of people and horses. I love to take young riders and shape what they’re doing and find the right horses for them. It got me into the sales business because I was either trying to sell something that didn’t work for them or find new ones.”
But that doesn’t mean she’s given up high performance riding. “I’d love to go to the top level again on my own terms with the horses that I believe in,” said Richards. “But not with just any horse. I have two very small children who depend on me daily.”
Her daughter, Genevieve, is 11, and her son, Adam, is 9.
“I don’t feel like I have to do it again unless it works out,” she continued. “This horse is a horse I could jump a mountain on.”
Severson chalked up her reserve finish with “Cross” to a bit of luck and some focused preparation.
“I didn’t feel like he was jumping as well as he usually jumps, which is very well, but he’s game, and he tries really hard,” she said. A hard rub at the oxer in the middle of the triple at the end of the course gave her a worried moment, but the rails stayed put.
Cross, a 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse who won the East Coast 5-year-old championship at Fair Hill two years ago, had a bad preparatory run at Plantation Field (Pa.) in September when Severson pulled him up after two stops.
“I rode him very poorly at Plantation,” admitted Severson. “He’s the only horse I have that’s big and has a huge stride and is a little slower. I was either completely right or completely wrong at every jump. It was not pretty.
“I’ve spent the last few weeks jumping and galloping oxers in a field, just getting my eye back with him,” she continued. “He’s the only one I have that’s like that. I lost that with him. He’s such a good boy. He’ll do anything as long as you tell him to. I’ve jumped him more than I would’ve jumped any other horse, just for me.”
Little was also thrilled with RF Quarterman, as the 6-year-old Oldenburg did his first horse trials in April. She bought him as a show jumping prospect and competed him at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) over the winter, but when she took him to Ocala, Fla., for some turnout time and hacked him out on the cross-country field, it turned out he had hidden talents.
“The first time he picked up on everything and understood looking for the flags,” she said. “He was a far more advanced feeling cross-country horse then he was in the jumper ring!”
Of the 110 two-star entries, 71 finished. Of those, 35 jumped double-clear rounds. Amateur rider Peter Blauner was eliminated after two stops aboard Clifton Eagle. Three riders, Lizzie Snow (Ringfort Tinkaturk), Jennifer Simmons (Sportsfield Candy) and Jennie Brannigan (Henry), withdrew their horses before show jumping.
Don’t miss a minute of The Dutta Corp Fair Hill CCIs—stay informed on all the news, behind-the-scenes stories and stunning photos with the Chronicle’s dedicated Fair Hill CCI page of online coverage. And make sure to read even more details in the Nov. 3 issue of the print magazine The Chronicle of the Horse. You might know who won, but we tell you why and how they won.