Thursday, Jul. 25, 2024

Tryon Tops Jersey Fresh CCI*** With Leyland

This international veteran used her experience to pilot an up-and-coming horse to the win.

Amy Tryon entered the Jersey Fresh CCI*** with no expectations. Although she hoped for the best with Leyland, she knew his lack of experience meant anything could happen. She certainly didn’t expect to find herself leading the victory gallop at the end of the weekend.

“They surprise you pleasantly sometimes, and when they do that’s incredible,” said Tryon.
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This international veteran used her experience to pilot an up-and-coming horse to the win.

Amy Tryon entered the Jersey Fresh CCI*** with no expectations. Although she hoped for the best with Leyland, she knew his lack of experience meant anything could happen. She certainly didn’t expect to find herself leading the victory gallop at the end of the weekend.

“They surprise you pleasantly sometimes, and when they do that’s incredible,” said Tryon.

Leyland went into Jersey Fresh, held May 8-11 in Allentown, N.J, with only three advanced starts under his belt. The 8-year-old Thoroughbred (Roy—Dream Creek), owned by Elisabeth Nicholson, won the Galway Downs CCI** (Calif.) in 2006, but he spent much of 2007 on the sidelines after breaking his coffin bone.

“He was bucking on the longe line and kicked out and kicked the side of the indoor ring,” said Tryon. “He was just playing. It was on the margin of the coffin bone. We were very careful that it didn’t separate or move toward the joint, so we ended up giving him more time off than he needed.”

Leyland rehabbed at the Pegasus Equine Rehabilitation and Training center in Redmond, Wash. He swam to keep fit as he gradually added weight-bearing exercise.

Tryon started riding Leyland as a 4-year-old off the track. She got the ride on him because “he was a little bit of a feel-good horse.”

“That means he likes to buck and rear,” said Tryon. “I have learned to decipher what that means [at the track]. He is always full of it.”

The 38-year-old from Duvall, Wash., certainly wouldn’t have predicted their win after a dressage test in the middle of a rain squall left them tied for ninth place with 52.45 penalties.

“He tried to turn around in both my halts and turn his butt to the rain,” said Tryon. “I felt bad for him. I wasn’t disappointed in him. I was just disappointed that we didn’t have the test I thought he could produce.”

But the three-star was anything but a dressage competition. Optimum time proved impossible to make on John Williams’ twisting cross-country track, and Tryon shot up the standings when she finished just 4 seconds over.

Jersey Fresh Tidbits

  • Juliana Hutchings and Fling’s Dream received the Traveler “Forever Young” Memorial Trophy for the oldest horse to complete either the two-star or the three-star. Fling’s Dream, an 18-year-old Thoroughbred, placed 23rd in the two-star.
  • Two-star winner Maya Black trained with Ruth Moore in Whidbey Island, Wash., the same trainer that helped three-star winner, Amy Tryon, get her start in eventing.
  • Karen O’Connor’s groom, Max Corcoran, received the Groom’s Award for her excellent care of O’Connor’s two three-star mounts, Allstar and Mandiba.
  • Laine Ashker, who was released from the hospital on May 13 after her fall at Rolex Kentucky, trains with Buck Davidson, and had asked both him and Karen O’Connor to win the Jersey Fresh CCI*** for her. When Davidson came in second, he asked first-placed Amy Tryon if she’d give Ashker a call in the hospital. Both Tryon and O’Connor called Ashker that evening. Many competitors at Jersey Fresh were wearing ribbons in Ashker’s colors to support her, and a giant poster was placed in the show office for riders to sign for her.

“It’s a relatively small piece of property for the length of the course, and that requires a few extra twists and turns, which slows people down,” explained Williams.

Tryon tried to ride smoothly and go as quickly as she could, considering  Leyland’s inexperience.

“When you have a twisty or turny track, you have to make a conscious effort to let the track and the turns back the horses up and just try and be smooth,” she said. “It’s not the foot speed between the fences as much as how smooth you can keep doing all the exercises in a rhythm.”

Leyland had a few green moments at fences such as the angled Quail Feeders at 7 and 8, but his race horse gallop helped him make up the time.

“He doesn’t know what he can’t do,” said Tryon. “It doesn’t occur to him that he can’t accomplish something, which is a huge luxury to have, and you try to preserve that as a rider.”

As Tryon cantered into show jumping, she had a rail in hand, but rails were crashing down all over Sally Ike’s course.

“[Leyland] has a tremendous amount of jumping ability,” said Tryon. “He wants to be careful, it’s just that his mind works faster than his body does sometimes. You’re always telling him, ‘Whoa, slow down, take your time and look where you’re going.’ ”

He did leave all the jumps up, despite a few green moments. “I’ve had some trouble with him in combinations because he stares through the first element a little bit,” said Tryon. “I was cautious to leave a little bit of a gap jumping into both the combinations. It worked out this time.”

Although Tryon sent in Leyland’s paperwork for the Olympics, she thought it was more likely that her longtime partner Poggio would be her Olympic ride again this year. Tryon plans to take Leyland, Poggio and her two-star horse, That’s Smart, to England in June. She’ll spend time working with team coach Capt. Mark Phillips and his wife Sandy before heading to a mandatory outing at Barbury Castle (England) July 4-6.

He’s Got A Bright Future

Another inexperienced but promising three-star horse jumped into second place. Buck Davidson placed second in the two-star at Jersey Fresh last year with Ballynoecastle RM, and he claimed the same position in the three-star this year after only two advanced starts aboard the 8-year-old Belgian Warmblood-Thoroughbred (Ramiro B—Ballyvaldon Natalie) owned by Cassandra Segal.

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Like Leyland, “Reggie’s” dressage suffered from cold wind and pouring rain, leaving them in 12th place. But the “best cross-country ride of his life” helped put them back in contention.

“I started off quietly [on cross-country] and just quietly built as I went,” said Davidson. “I came out of the last water and asked him to go on, and he ran up the last hill. He finished as fresh as could be. I had to caution myself against being over-confident with him. I trust him like I’ve never trusted anything before.”
Reggie went to Hong Kong last year for the two-star test event before the Olympics, but Davidson decided to do a small surgery afterwards because of a nagging wind problem.

A Sad End To A Grand Career For Tigger Too

Lauren Kieffer and Tigger Too looked strong as they galloped around what was to be the horse’s last competition, but all that came to a halt when Tigger Too faltered at fence 28 and fell, passing away a few minutes later.

The preliminary necropsy report showed that the 17-year-old, Thoroughbred gelding suffered an acute abdominal aortic rupture, which caused his death.

“I saw him all around the backside of the course, and he passed me. He was 15 feet away from me about 100 yards from where it happened, and there wasn’t 1/1000th of an idea in my mind that he was in trouble, not even close,” said David O’Connor, who owned Tigger Too and competed him at the three- and four-star level.

“He’s always been a very careful horse and a good jumper. He was a fantastic cross-country horse, and he had a wonderful relationship with Lauren,” continued O’Connor. “He was very fit. He hadn’t missed any of the preparation gallops. Obviously, he had a lot of experience. He’s an ex-race horse. He wasn’t tired at all. His body let go. I don’t know how that happens. I don’t understand.”

O’Connor said that pulmonary and cardiac issues are on the agenda for a U.S. Equestrian Federation and U.S. Eventing Association safety summit, scheduled for June 7-8 in Lexington, Ky. Qualifications, education and course design will all be discussed along with veterinary and medical
issues.

“His breathing was always an issue,” said Davidson. “He wasn’t bad enough to have a tie back, but they did laser surgery on him. He only did two events this year getting ready for this.”

Davidson, 32, who just moved to Buckwampum Farm in Riegelsville, Pa., said his only challenge riding Reggie is to try not to make any mistakes. Coming out of the warm-up for show jumping, Davidson told his groom, “If he has a rail down, it’s not his fault.”

But Davidson didn’t make any mistakes, and a double-clear round moved him up from fourth to second place. “They could have put them up three holes, and it wouldn’t matter to him,” he said. “It’s fun to have a horse like that. A blind idiot could sit on him sideways.”

She’s Made A Good First Impression

While Davidson and Tryon had the experience to help their green mounts through a big event, Maya Black and Kejsarinna captured victory in their inaugural two-star.

The 20-year-old from Clinton, Wash., bought the Swedish Warmblood-Thoroughbred locally as a 3-year-old.

“I’ve brought her along since I was 16. My eventing career is her,” said the A-rated Pony Clubber. “I don’t know if I’ve really realized that I won. That’s just really amazing.”

Black decided to leave college for a semester or two to determine if riding was a career she wanted to pursue. She spent the winter with Sarah Cousins and then moved to Virginia to work for Jan Byyny.
She said her bond with the 8-year-old mare helped her through their first two-star.

“I feel like my horse and I really work together well, so I feel totally safe on her, and I know she has total confidence in me,” said Black. “She totally understands if I ask her to add, or she’ll sometimes make a decision on her own, but it’s always a safe decision.”

Black moved up from third to first after cross-country with the fastest round of the division. “I just wanted to let her pick her pace around it, let her gallop and not push her. Obviously, she was very fit,” said Black.

She added one rail to her total in show jumping to retain her lead over Carol Kozlowski on Take Time.

“I went in thinking about taking it jump by jump and thinking about the rhythm,” said Black. “My horse has been very consistent in the show jumping this year. But I knew that my nerves could change that. I just wanted to come in and ride like I do at home.”

She had a hair-raising moment when “Shay” thought they should go left, while Black needed to turn right. Black lost her stirrup right before the triple, but the pair jumped through and had just one rail down in the middle of the combination.

“I was trying to get it back. I should have just sat there,” said Black. “I have gone through Pony Club and done all the non-stirrup work. My Pony Club instructors will laugh at me.”

While Black is now qualified for the North American Junior and Young Riders Championships, she bemoaned the fact that she’s finally moved East, and the championships will be held in Colorado this year.

“I haven’t signed up or called or done anything like that,” she said. “I’d have to figure that out. It would be one of my goals for the summer. Ideally, maybe in the next year or so, I’d like to go advanced, but I just have to see how she goes.”

A Family Tradition

Second-placed Kozlowski seemed as pleased with Black’s win as her own placing. She actually walked cross-country with Black.

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“I was so happy Maya was the last one in the ring!” said Kozlowksi, 49. “She’s a good horseman.”
Kozlowski, Geneseo, N.Y., led the dressage, but time faults on cross-country moved her down to second on Take Time.

“He does not have the Thoroughbred sprint,” she admitted. “I was down on all my minutes. He’s a very good galloper and jumper. I felt confident about his ability to handle the course, but what I wasn’t willing to do was to run him off his feet.”

Take Time is a 15-year-old Connemara-Thoroughbred by Hideaway’s Erin Go Bragh, the Connemara stallion Kozlowski evented to advanced level.

This was Take Time’s third two-star start, and Kozlowski said her only regret was that he was 15 years old.

“We never expected him to be this good,” she said. “When all my good horses kept getting hurt, he kept getting foisted to the top of the roster. He got to go jump with Phillip [Dutton], and he got to keep moving up. He’s risen to the challenge.”

Kozlowski has been riding for Take Time’s owner, Lynn Blades, for 22 years and she rode for Blades’ father as well.

She’s already ridden Take Time in two advanced events, and if he’s ready, she’ll aim for the Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.) in the fall.

“He’s very sound, but I am a firm believer in being aware of what you’re bringing to the table,” said Kozlowski. 


Safety First Was The Motto Of The Day

Jersey Fresh competitors and officials certainly had the recent eventing accidents, especially the two falls that caused horse fatalities two weeks earlier at Rolex Kentucky, on their minds as they headed out on cross-country day. In the two-star, only one rider was eliminated, but nine competitors decided to retire when things stopped going their way.

“I wouldn’t say it affected my ride personally, but I think that very much the tone of the event is that the awareness level of safety in eventing has skyrocketed,” said Carol Kozlowski.

“I’ve seen this creeping lack of responsibility for your own safety with a lot of the riders coming into the sport,” she continued. “They think if they wear all the right equipment and have the right coaches and buy the most expensive horse, they can go out there, and it’s a given that they’ll not only do well, but advance up the ranks very quickly.”

Cross-country course designer John Williams said that safety is always on his mind when designing courses.

“I have always done my best, and perhaps I try even harder now, while keeping the course up to the standard it is meant to be, to do my best to satisfy myself that the horses will have the best chance possible to meet each and every jump in an appropriate balance to jump that jump,” said Williams. “So one might have noticed that there were very few jumps out on that course, either the two- or the three-star, that I allowed people to run at at speed in a straight line.”

Williams opined that jumping fences at speed is a skill many riders are lacking today.

“Riders really struggle with helping their horses be in the appropriate balance to jump the jumps,” he said. “That’s why I do what I do with my course design.”

Although Buck Davidson and Amy Tryon said they don’t miss the steeplechase phase at all, it did help teach riders about speed.

“It taught you to be comfortable going quickly in a smooth way, because the steeplechase fences allowed you to make a mistake,” said Tryon. “You can’t do that on a cross-country course where your first four fences are straight up and down.”

“The steeplechase was good in that when you went to the cross-country, you were actually slowing down. You were in a rhythm, and then you slowed down to jump the cross-country fences. Now people are going from the show ring to cross-country, which is substantially faster than what they are used to doing,” said Davidson.

But Tryon pointed out that the typical poor footing on steeplechase negated its benefits.

Both riders said their conditioning hasn’t changed with the move to the short format, but one problem is that now riders can run their horses too often.

“We used to give them two months off after they did a 4-minute steeplechase, but now we run them back a few weeks later,” said Davidson.

“I don’t go fast in the horse trials ever,” said Tryon. “I use them as a schooling opportunity for the horses. You have to be careful when and where you run these horses. They can’t run week after week quickly and have a long career.”

Sara Lieser

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