Jolie Sexson had only ridden Perryfield’s Casper for four months before claiming the blue ribbon in the intermediate division over 30 riders at Twin Rivers Horse Trials, Oct. 1-3, in Paso Robles, Calif.
As they’re still getting to know each other, Sexson hadn’t pushed to make the cross-country time at her first few events with the 10-year-old, Irish Thoroughbred. “Our training just all clicked together this time,” Sexson said.
Sexson’s trainer and business partner, Tracy Bowman, purchased Perryfield’s Casper from a student in her barn, who had imported him from Leslie Law in Great Britain, then sold him when it came time for college. In Great Britain, the 16.3-hand dark bay had won the Gatcombe CIC** and completed the Le Lion D’Angers CCI** (France) in 2001. By Sexton Blake (by Mayhill), he’s out of Lucy’s Pickle.
“He’s well-trained; it’s easy to get on and go,” said Sexson, 23, of Martinez, Calif. “I’ve enjoyed him quite a bit.”
Sexson raved about the cross-country course, designed by Derek di Grazia. “It was a big, gallopy course, with great footing, and fairly technical,” she said. “It’s one of our better events in California, for sure.”
A corner combination–involving a skinny fence, followed by three long or four short strides to a corner, then a 90-degree turn to another corner–had Sexson somewhat concerned. She thought her horse jumped especially well through the water complex–a big table to a drop in, followed by angled coops on the way out.
“There was a lot of going forward and coming back, and he did that well, especially since it was at the end of the course, when they’re fairly tired,” she said.
Sexson, a full-time rider and trainer, was one of only six riders to make the cross-country time, moving her into the lead after her second-placed dressage test. A clear show jumping round gave her a nearly 10-point victory. “Show jumping isn’t my strongest point, but he’s very good,” she said. “I just have to let him go jump, not interfere too much.”
With the pair’s first win together under their belts, they’re preparing for the Galway Downs CCI** (Calif.) in November. “I had no idea we’d do that well,” said Sexson. “There were a lot of really good people in that division and great horses.”
Connie and Andrea Baxter of Twin Rivers Ranch ran 330 horses on the weekend, and Sexson can envision the event getting even bigger. “I can see maybe talking them into doing a three-day,” she said.
Sexson can also anticipate bigger things for Perryfield’s Casper. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” she said.
Tiffany Silverman, who finished second in the intermediate and claimed the Area VI Intermediate Championship, hasn’t had a long history with her horse either. She imported Never On Sunday from Australia last year, but her husband, veterinarian Mark Silverman, had to talk her into the purchase.
“This horse surprised me,” she said. “I thought he’d come along later. He’s a little sportscar, and I usually like the bigger, flashier types. But my husband saw a future in him.”
Since “Felix” was slightly aggressive to the fences when they purchased him from Shane Rose, he spent a few more months in Australia, with a jumper trainer, before Silverman brought him home.
Silverman, of Valley Center, Calif., started competing the 16-hand Thoroughbred in February. “We’re learning each other’s buttons, but, for the most part, he’s point and shoot,” she said. “It’s fun to just pat him on the landing side and keep going. He usually makes good decisions.”
The Twin Rivers venue, new this year, was a welcome addition to the calendar for Silverman.
“It was exciting to go somewhere new,” she said. “The choice of events is limited in California, and the footing here was spectacular from the start box to the finish flags. The jumps are solid and inviting and beautifully decorated. Every jump had a different feel and required a different type of riding.”
Starting with a series of skinnies on a hill at fence 3, Silverman thought the course demanded a lot of accuracy. “It was really exciting to ride something like that,” she said. “You had to jump a big jump, then come back and be accurate.”
Silverman started off in fifth place after dressage, thanks to help at home from J?Hoffmann in Encinitas, Calif. “He’s helped me take a sensitive horse and drive him into my hands,” said Sexson. “Now I can really ride him in the test.”
She also trains with Sarah Baldwin in show jumping, and eventer Jil Walton “puts it all together for me,” she said.
A clear show jumping round moved the pair from third to second overall. “He’s been a one-rail horse, so it was a thrill to jump clean,” she said. “It was his type of course–just keep coming forward. As his fitness level is up, getting ready for Galway Downs, he wasn’t feeling the effects of Saturday [cross-country].”
Silverman, 32, likes “quirky” names, although she isn’t sure how Never On Sunday got his moniker. “It’s a nice twist of fate that he did do it on a Sunday–he left all the rails up,” she said with a laugh.
She hopes to compete Felix at the advanced level next year, and over the winter, she plans to settle into her new farm, which she bought two weeks before the event. “Packing for the event, I didn’t know where half my stuff was,” said Silverman, a County Saddlery representative and master saddle fitter.