Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2024

Starlight Shines Again At Plantation

Two horses that spent their summer out of the competitive spotlight returned to action at Plantation Horse Trials, Sept. 23-23 in Unionville, Pa.

Fleecework's Starlight hasn't run since winning the CIC*** at The Fork (N.C.) in April, but the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse came back out showing the same top form. She and Stuart Black topped the advanced division as the only pair to finish on their dressage score.

Starlight scored 29.6 in dressage for fourth place--and even that score was higher than it should've been.
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Two horses that spent their summer out of the competitive spotlight returned to action at Plantation Horse Trials, Sept. 23-23 in Unionville, Pa.

Fleecework’s Starlight hasn’t run since winning the CIC*** at The Fork (N.C.) in April, but the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse came back out showing the same top form. She and Stuart Black topped the advanced division as the only pair to finish on their dressage score.

Starlight scored 29.6 in dressage for fourth place–and even that score was higher than it should’ve been.

“She was good, but I forgot my test so we got 2 extra points,” Black said of missing the reinback. Without the penalties, the pair would’ve been closer to Buck Davidson, who rode Idalgo to the top dressage spot with a test that earned 27.5 penalties.

Of Denis Glaccum’s cross-country course, which included about five fences that caused trouble, Black said, “It was a nice course, with tricky stuff here and there. It was good galloping.”

By coming home under the optimum time, Black, of Bluemont, Va., edged past Davidson and Idalgo to win. Idalgo notched 1 time penalty in show jumping and 5.2 time penalties cross-country, but Davidson was thrilled with him nonetheless, particu-larly after disappointing outings at the spring three-day events.

After retiring at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** and being eliminated at the Jersey Fresh CCI*** (N.J.), Davidson wasn’t sure about the horse’s future. “Jersey Fresh was just one disappointment too many,” he said. “He goes fantastic at the horse trials, so now I’ve got to figure out how to keep him happy at the three-days.”

Plantation was “Hobbs'” first event since Jersey Fresh, and he was entered in the intermediate until the day before it started. Now, Davidson is considering taking the horse to the Fair Hill International CCI*** (Md.). “This weekend, he kind of earned it; I was really happy with him,” Davidson said.

While Black and Davidson took the top spots, Will Coleman earned the consistency honors in the advanced division, taking third, fourth and fifth places on his longtime partner and two newer advanced horses.

Coleman found fault in his dressage and show jumping rides on all three: “My test riding was a bit off, and I was a little off the mark with a few time penalties [in show jumping], and that’s what separates the scores at this level.” But he was smiling Sunday after turning in fault-free cross-country rounds, in triplicate.

Coleman took third place with one of his newer rides, Wild Frontier, an 11-year-old American Thoroughbred owned by Nanki Doubleday. Plantation was the pair’s third event together. They won the dressage at Poplar Place (Ga.) but went slowly over the hard ground on cross-country there.

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The open gallops and softer footing at Plantation gave Coleman a better chance to test “Fred’s” buttons.

“There’s some communication things for him and me, trying to form a new partnership and basically get Fred to come around to my type of riding,” Coleman said. “He’s quick and bold–sometimes overly bold–and they really have to think a little when the courses get technical.”

Although Coleman said they had a few minor bobbles on cross-country, the pair still came home clean and under time to finish with just 2 show jumping time penalties added to their dressage score of 33.3.

Coleman’s longtime partner, the 15-year-old Westphalian cross Second Hope, took fourth place, starting from a dressage test that scored 36.3. Although the test put him midway through the large division, it was the worst of the three for Coleman.

“He’s very difficult for me on the flat, but there’s not a better horse in the jumping phases,” Coleman said.

The pair added only 2 time penalties in show jumping to finish on a score of 38.3.

Twizzel, a 10-year-old Westphalian cross by the Hanoverian stallion Argentines and owned by Coleman’s father, Will Coleman Sr., took the fifth-placed spot with a dressage score of 34.6 and 4 time penalties in show jumping.

“I’ve jumped a lot of horses out of that line,” Coleman said of Argentines. “I’d love to see more eventers crossed with that line.”

Imported from Germany this spring, Twizzel is the greenest of Coleman’s rides. Plantation marked the horse’s second completion at advanced and his first double-clear cross-country performance.

Coleman’s results proved the rider, now finishing his last semester at the University of Virginia, is more than ready to come out of a self-imposed break from competitive riding he took while earning a degree in history.

“In college, you have a remarkable amount of free time if you are disciplined,” said Coleman, who has been able to arrange his classes so that he can ride four or five horses daily. “I took a step back from competing and really focused on riding, trying to improve my dressage and show jumping. Going to competitions week in and week out really isn’t the best thing for honing those skills, for you or the horse.”

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Scheduling Doesn’t Hamper Entries
Watching the action at Plantation, a spectator could be forgiven for not knowing the American Eventing Championships were running on the same weekend, in the same area.

With 38 advanced and 50 intermediate horses, the fall Plantation Horse Trials had more than double the upper-level entries than the AECs did, along with full preliminary and training divisions. And the names on the entry list–Kim Severson, Buck Davidson, Jan Byyny, Stuart Black and Wendy Lewis, to name a few–made it clear that many of America’s upper-level champions spent the weekend in Pennsylvania.

Black, who competed at the AECs last year, said he chose to compete at Plantation instead this fall largely because of the established turf and better footing at the Pennsylvania event. An outspoken advocate for improvement of cross-country footing, Black said he found the footing at the Carolina Horse Park too hard last fall.

“I ran down there last year and only ran half the horses,” he said. “Sooner or later, organizers are going to figure out we’re going to do what’s best for the horse, not what they think is best for the horse.”

Davidson, who finished second in the advanced division on Idalgo, said he chose Plantation not only because it was closer to his home base in New Jersey, but also because it allowed him to compete more of his clients’ horses, including those not qualified to participate in the championships.

“I think it’s a great idea and I’d love to support it,” Davidson said of the championships. “They’re too far and strung out over too many days. They need to do something to get the pros there.”

Plantation organizer Denis Glaccum, who opposed scheduling the championships on the same weekend his event has long been scheduled, said the conflict didn’t hurt his event’s entry numbers but it might hurt competitors.

“For the last two years we’ve had more advanced and intermediate than the championships. We filled last year and this year and [show jumped] to darkness last night,” he said. “But running these two events on the same weekend prevents people from competing. They can only take qualified horses [to the championships], so they have to choose.

“I’m not against a championship,” he emphasized. “My feeling is that it should be held at a time everyone can go.”

Melissa Roddy

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