Raeford, N.C.—March 25
Tamie Smith brought five horses to the Cloud 11-Gavilan North LLC Carolina International for her first trip to the Carolina Horse Park, but when she pulled in earlier in the week, she was almost certain she wouldn’t be running cross-country on her top horse, Mai Baum.
However, after setting a Carolina dressage record of 20.7 on Thursday (watch their test here) and holding their lead with a clean show jumping round Friday, Smith is reconsidering that plan.
“I walked around the course, and I’m kind of thinking I might [run],” said Smith, who initially intended to use Carolina for dressage and show jumping practice to ready “Lexus” for the Badminton Horse Trials (England) in May. “It looks like a really good prep for Badminton. I was planning on taking him to Tryon [for The Fork], but I just saw the course and was like, why wouldn’t you run? It’s an open, gallopy track, and it asks all the questions. It’s got a hella coffin on it, the last water is intense. The wheels are spinning currently, so I don’t know!”
After finishing 10th at the Aachen CCI4*-S (Germany) last fall and serving as alternates for the Tokyo Olympic Team, Smith and Lexus had a good first outing of the season at the Ram Tap Horse Trials (California) in February, scoring an incredible 18.6 in dressage.
Smith spent three weeks in Ocala, Florida, working on her show jumping with Scott Keach before coming to Will Faudree’s farm in Hoffman, North Carolina, where she’ll stay until the end of April.
“He was super [in show jumping]. He was happy and ready to zip around,” she said of contesting Marc Donovan’s track, which produced only four double-clears and a handful of rounds, including Smith’s (watch their round here), that were clean with time faults. “I’m glad to practice jumping on the grass. The ring is quite electric in there with the jumbotron. I was just going in to have a really smooth round on everybody. They were all really good. I had a beautiful round on Lexus. He felt super.”
As of Friday afternoon, Smith said she’s on the fence about running Lexus, a 16-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Loredano 2—Ramira, Rike) owned by Alex Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn and Eric Markell, Saturday over Ian Stark’s cross-country course.
Will Coleman and Dondante held on to their second place with a double-clear jumping round. The 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Pacino—Muckno Clover, Euro Clover) slipped and fell on the flat between fences at Red Hills (Florida) two weeks ago, so Coleman rerouted him to Carolina.
“ ‘Al’ jumped well today. I’d say it was our best round,” said Coleman, who along with third-place Doug Payne produced the day’s only four double-clear rounds. “I tried a little bit of a different set up [of tack], and I’m still playing around with some things [in warm up] getting ready for Kentucky. He’s a real trier and I’m very pleased with a clear round.”
Coleman, who won the four-star last year with Off The Record, has already walked Stark’s course, and says it’s a big test, as always.
“Ian’s laid out a different course this year, but it’s big and a real five-star prep, and that’s why we come here,” he said. “I’m anxious to see how we do. He’s a big horse, and not the easiest to go fast on in these kind of horse trials, but he’s getting more rideable, and I am going to give it a go.”
He’s had Al since the gelding was 4 and credits work with dressage trainer Ian Woodhead and show jumping trainer Brian Murphy for improvement recently.
“He grew a ton right after I got him. He was 16.3 when I bought him, but I think he’s almost 18 hands now,” Coleman said. “It’s required some patience to develop him and let him grow into his body and mature. This year everything feels more established, and he’s in a stronger place, and I think that makes it a little easier.”
Cross-country starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday with intermediate and will be followed by the CCI3*-S at 9:15 and the CCI4*-S at 11:20.