Headed towards home on the CIC*** cross-country course at The Fork (N.C.) on April 4, Tamra Smith and Twizted Syster picked up a run-out when Smith lost steering with the mare. At the end of her course, Smith was stopped by the ground jury and given a Fédération Equestre International yellow card for her lack of control.
“[‘Chloe’] was fantastic until the last run back towards home, and I think she got her tongue over the bit,” explained Smith, who noted she’s never experienced that problem before. “I just couldn’t turn or slow down or anything. And this is really the first run that I’ve done on her where I’ve gone for time. I’ve gone very slow and taken my time with her at the last three events.”
The pair last competed in a division of advanced at Copper Meadows (Calif.) in March, where they placed fifth. The mare was fifth at last year’s Dutta Corp. Fair Hill CCI** (Md.).
At The Fork, Smith felt the mare getting out of control headed towards the final combination, and she pulled her up briefly before continuing. They then had a run-out at fence 21B, a carved log on a mound. When Smith regained some control after stopping, she felt Chloe, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Cyrano—Drumadoney Lass, Amiro M) owned by The Twizted Systers LLC, could continue safely, although the announcer said she was retiring because she missed a turn in the galloping lane and had to trot and reverse her direction.
“When I jumped the last combination, she still was kind of almost running back to the warm-up a little bit, just kind of going for home,” she said. “And my line wasn’t great, so I ended up having a run-out at the top of the hill, then I circled back around. I figured at this point, I’ve had a run-out, I need to train her and get her thinking, because she had just kind of checked out a little bit in her gallop.”
Smith’s final score for the event included the 20 cross-country jump penalties and 37.2 time.
“I was only three fences from home, and I didn’t feel like I was in trouble at all. I just felt like I needed to then train her,” she said. “I think that [the ground jury’s] message to me was basically, ‘Save it for another day and school her at home,’ and I understand that, but honestly I don’t get the same type of horse at home that I get in competition. And so I didn’t feel like I was doing anything out of the ordinary or anything that was unsafe [by completing the course]. But [president of the ground jury Alain James] was very adamant that I should have retired once I knew I was having trouble with her control.
“It’s unfortunate that I got a yellow card, obviously, but you have to be respectful of the officials and understand where they’re coming from and just know that if you’re having trouble at an FEI competition at that level, that they probably just want you to retire,” she continued.
Smith will continue to experiment with bits to find the right fit for Chloe. She’s concentrating on their training program before their next event this weekend at Fair Hill.
“She’s been doing lots of ground work and learning to go off my leg, just trying to get her basics instilled back into her—remind her that she’s a broke horse!” said Smith, 40, who’s based in Murrieta, Calif. “It’s hard for her because she’s such a high energy-type horse. The beginning of the season is difficult for her because she’s so excited about running again.”