With nothing but sunshine on the forecast for the Poplar Place CCI**, many of the riders who ventured south to Hamilton, Ga., were already thrilled with the weekend upon arrival. But Kelli Temple was wearing the biggest smile of them all when her three horses finished in the top 10 after dressage on Friday, Nov. 13.
“They all went as well as they can go,” said Temple, Round Hill, Va. “I was really pleased with Veelion for getting a 44.4. He’s quite a spooky horse, so every time he does a test and does a really steady, even test, it’s a great thing.”
Veelion, a 7-year-old warmblood gelding, wasn’t supposed to be competing this weekend, but when his round at the Dansko Fair Hill CCI** (Md.), Oct. 16-18, didn’t quite go according to plan, she decided to bring him down along with Valentine, who is sitting sixth with 53.1, Axel Rose, 10th with 55.3, and Sandpiper, currently third in the CCI* with 49.1.
“Veelion was sitting in fifth after dressage [at Fair Hill], but I misunderstood the new course and missed a jump, so they pulled us up halfway around,” said Temple.
Temple felt that the horse was going well at Fair Hill before being pulled up, so she’s looking forward to Tremaine Cooper’s challenging cross-country track tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 14.
“There’s a lot to do and a lot of the combinations are really challenging,” she said. “I think it’ll be a great education, and both the horses and I will come away with a better idea of what we need to do at home for next year.”
The main concern for most riders appears to be the combination at 5ab, an Irish bank.
“The Irish bank will be an experience for my horses and quite a few of the two-star horses,” said Leslie Law, who is currently second with Hugo Fast (49.7). “Not a lot of them have seen that sort of fence. It’s the first combination on the course.”
Temple agreed and added, “A lot of us are unsure of what that is going to be like. You just kind of have to take what you get. I think my horse is a good cross-country horse, he’s brave and prepared, and I hope he makes the right choices.”
Law, Bluemont, Va., had both Hugo Fast and Java (tied for 11th with 57.5) running at Fair Hill but decided not to run cross-country and re-route them to Poplar.
“You don’t know if you made the right decision [at the time], but I knew this was on, so I thought it was better with young horses to play safe rather than sorry,” said Law. “[The course tomorrow is] a good course, though, and enough to jump.”
In the CCI* division, Maren Foster and Walter Welser lead the dressage with 40.0 penalties. Lo Fino and Tiffani Loudon-Meetze are close behind in second with 44.4.
“He was a little fired up and tense today but stayed pretty calm and obedient,” said Loudon-Meetze of the Thoroughbred-Hanoverian gelding. “The cross-country will be a test of their fitness. There is lots of sprinting and bringing them back. I think it looks pretty straight forward, and it’s a nice course.”