Elkton, Md.—Oct. 19
They say a bad dress rehearsal equals a good show, and for Waylon Roberts, that saying held true heading into the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI4*-L.
Roberts and Lancaster completed their first Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*-L this spring with a slow, but clear, cross-country round.
But in their first event back at the USEA American Eventing Championships (Kentucky) in August the wheels fell of the bus a bit, and they had trouble at some corners on course.
Roberts went home, schooled as many bending corner lines as he could, and was rewarded with a clear round at the Stable View CCI4*-S (South Carolina) in September.
Today he and John and Michelle Koppin’s 12-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding (Yavari-Unka K, Indorado) went all out on Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course at Fair Hill and finished as one of four double-clear rounds to take over the lead in the CCI4*-L.
Roberts was one of the last to go, and a pair of corners at 21ab and the coffin at 13abc had begun to take their toll, but their practice paid off.
When dressage leader Mara DePuy fell from Congo Brazzaville C at the last water, Phillip Dutton and Z looked to move into the lead, and they made the optimum time of 10 minutes 10 seconds, but were later awarded 15 penalties under the flag rule at 21b. Doug Payne and Vandiver, who were tied for fifth after dressage, also made the time but incurred penalties at 21b, while Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights, third after dressage, picked up 20 penalties at 13c.
“The ground was fantastic, but that coffin [13abc] was really tricky for a lot of horses,” said Roberts. “I definitely got a lot of information from watching [the live stream], so I’m thankful for the late draw. At all the corner combinations, [di Grazia] asked you to be patient and forward out on a line, and that for event riders is really difficult because it’s much easier to just go fast and straight!”
Roberts says his Kentucky completion was a big confidence booster for both him and “Baxter.”
“Kentucky was a thrill,” he said. “It was only the third time I’ve been on that piece of ground. For me, I’m still feeling pretty green at that level, and for him to be there, I felt it was very beneficial for him as an experience, but we definitely have a lot more to prove at that level. I’m looking forward to getting there next year. I think it did help him.”
The Koppins have been strong supporters of Roberts, especially as he and girlfriend Jenny Caras have recently made the move to base in Lexington, Kentucky.
“They’ve been great supporters and have stuck with us through the hard times,” he said. “Today was a great day for them.”
Roberts rebroke Baxter as a 4-year-old for his breeder Sue Ockendon, then Boyd Martin bought him in 2012, and he and his assistant rider Mike Pendleton brought him to the intermediate level.
Roberts got the ride again in 2016 when he suggested the Koppins buy him.
“I’ve been lucky enough to get him back a couple of years ago, and we’ve been slowly chipping away at the advanced level,” he said. “We’ve definitely struggled to put all three phases together at an event, so we’re just taking it one day at a time.”
Erin Sylvester and Paddy The Caddy made the move from eighth to second with .4 time penalties on cross-country, and Lauren Kieffer and D.A. Duras jumped from13th to third with 1.2 on the clock.
There were seven rider falls, but no one was transported. Six pairs withdrew before cross-country, and 30 pairs completed of 41 to start. Allison Springer and Sapphire Blue B were the only pair to be eliminated for refusals, and they walked off course. Three pairs retired after refusals.
The final horse inspection begins at 8 a.m. tomorrow with the CCI3*-L first. Show jumping begins at 10 a.m. for the CCI3*-L and at 1 p.m. for the CCI4*-L.