Monday, Apr. 15, 2024

Tsunami Washes Over Poplar Place


Kim Severson perfects her ride on the mare to win the CIC*** in Georgia.

A storm has been brewing in Tsunami for some time, and the CIC*** division at the Poplar Place Horse Trials, Sept. 7-9, in Hamilton, Ga., finally felt the full brunt. Kim Severson and the 8-year-old Thoroughbred, mare have been galloping around advanced courses since last fall, but this victory marked “Sue’s” first advanced win.
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Kim Severson perfects her ride on the mare to win the CIC*** in Georgia.

A storm has been brewing in Tsunami for some time, and the CIC*** division at the Poplar Place Horse Trials, Sept. 7-9, in Hamilton, Ga., finally felt the full brunt. Kim Severson and the 8-year-old Thoroughbred, mare have been galloping around advanced courses since last fall, but this victory marked “Sue’s” first advanced win.

After the pair finished in the top 10 at Jersey Fresh CCI*** (N.J.) in May, they were slated to compete at the Olympic test event in Hong Kong in August. They stayed home, however, because of a minor injury.
Instead, Severson took her to Richland Park (Mich.), where they galloped around at the intermediate level to keep sharp and took home second place.

Though Sue’s dressage score at Poplar didn’t quite reflect past performances, they still sat second. Jonathan Holling and Ringfort Tinkatoo initially led but retired on cross-country.

Sue took advantage on cross-country day, with the fastest time in the division, then jumped comfortably clean in the show jumping.

“She was doing really well at the Fork [N.C.] in April until the show jumping,” Severson remembered. “A little bitting issue created a non-qualifying score. Since then I’ve been jumping her in a hackamore, and she seems to really like that.”

But now, just as Severson is starting to feel like she’s getting a handle on Sue, she and owner Linda Wachtmeister of Plain Dealing Farm have decided to sell her.

“There were a few different factors in the decision,” Severson said. “I felt like I really wasn’t riding her that well, and there are a lot of people looking for horses for next year for the Olympics. I’m kind of bummed now, though, because I actually feel like I’m starting to ride her well.”

Severson hopes to take Sue to Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.) in October.

She found Sue at the Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pa., through Mix & Match referral service in 2003. But even if Sue does find a new home, Severson is still excited about her advanced 8-year-old Irish gelding, Tipperary Liadhnan.

Severson also won the open preliminary division at Poplar Place aboard Midas, who she found in Canada four years ago. She competed him through the two-star level. “But he got to a point where I felt like he rode like a bigger horse and maybe needed a larger person riding him,” Severson explained.

A few interested buyers looked at him before Wachtmeister decided to keep him as a foxhunter. “He tried that for about a year and a half, but it didn’t really work out,” said Severson. “He didn’t like foxhunting.”
So he returned to work in March this year and restarted by winning the training division at the Virginia Horse Trials. He went on to grab second- and first-placed finishes at The Maryland Horse Trials I & II and another victory at Richland Park.

“He’s won almost everything he’s done [this year]. He’s really quite a cool horse,” Severson said. “But, of course, he’s for sale again.”

It’s Been Surreal

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If you scan Voltaire and Michael Pollard’s 2006 competition record, you’ll see some admirable results at the intermediate and advanced levels. But after August, the results stop.

That’s because Voltaire was recovering from a horrific trailer accident that happened last fall. En route to the veterinarian Michael and Nathalie Bouckaert-Pollard’s bumper-pull trailer broke away from their truck and tumbled down an embankment. Remarkably, the 11-year-old Selle Francais bounced back to top shape in the spring and galloped away with the CIC** win at Poplar Place.

“I entered the two-star at the last minute,” Pollard said. “I knew his qualification was about to run out so I needed to get a two-star under his belt. I didn’t even know it was a Gold Cup event until I got there. It was all kind of surreal.”

They became one of three pairs to finish Tremaine Cooper’s course without fault. “I didn’t even wear a watch, but I was pleased that we finished inside the time,” said Pollard.

They also show jumped clean to finish on their dressage score and prove that Voltaire had put the accident behind him.

Voltaire, however, wasn’t the only horse involved in last fall’s trailer accident. Bouckaert-Pollard’s advanced horse, West Farthing, also wound up upside down and backwards in the trailer beside Voltaire. He suffered eight broken bones in his face and multiple lacerations worth 200 stitches. Voltaire’s most serious injury was a laceration to his knee, but no broken bones.

But by spring, both horses seemed ready for action again. Pollard took over riding West Farthing at advanced, hoping to fulfill his dream of riding at the Badminton Horse Trials (England) in May. But something just didn’t feel right.

“From the moment we brought him back, he just wasn’t comfortable enough on the flat,” Pollard explained. “When you have a horse like that who’s been so consistent and given as much as West Farthing has, he doesn’t owe us anything. It was a bit of a disappointment that we didn’t get to go, but at the end of the day, the horse is most important.”

Now, the hardest part for Pollard is finding time in the saddle. Michael and Nathalie have two businesses. One is an industrial chemical recycling operation, but most of their time is invested in their recent printing and marketing company.

“It’s growing a lot, and things in general are going fairly well,” he said. “But it’s hard trying to find time to ride.”

But Voltaire has still progressed and matured since Pollard started riding him. Raphaele and Beatrice Rey-Herme imported the gelding from France, and Raphaele had him for five years. When Pollard saw him at Radnor (Pa.) three years ago something about the horse caught his eye despite an apparent mischievous streak.

“We’ve had our difficulties, but he’s been a great horse. He’s a great mover,” Pollard said. “What he lacks in some areas, he makes up for completely with heart. He tries hard every time, is extremely careful, and has always been bold on cross-country.”

Even amidst recent time constraints, Pollard foresees Voltaire reaching advanced level again, if not this fall, then next year.

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“It’ll be interesting to take him to a three-star with his flat work a little more confirmed and his fitness at a point where I can ask him to be closer to the time,” he said. “But it feels like he’s going better now than he was around Jersey Fresh last year.”

West Farthing is still on a rehab program. “He’s already done everything we could have ever asked of him,” Pollard said. “We just want to see him comfortable again.”

Winning At Home

Poplar Place Farm’s resident trainer and advanced division winner, Werner Geven, couldn’t really claim home field advantage since the course is constantly changing, he said. Nonetheless, Klimax pulled off his best cross-country and show jumping trips yet for Geven.

Their partnership began in February this year, but the past few months have yielded the most improvement. That isn’t to say Klimax hasn’t already been there and done that.

In 2005, the 12-year-old Thoroughbred finished the Adelaide CCI**** (Australia) with Christopher Burton, placed second at the Sydney CCI*** (Australia) with Stuart Tinny in 2006, and returned to Adelaide the same year with Olivia Bunn to finish fifth.

When Geven, 46, took Klimax’s reins this spring, he entered the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** but withdrew after dressage. “I just didn’t feel like we were enough of a team. It was a difficult decision not to run [cross-country],” he said. “He’s not a tense horse in training, but in the dressage arena he starts to worry. That’s something we need to work on.”

The pair posted a score of 38.8 at Poplar, for 11th place, then had a fantastic cross-country ride. “He was absolutely the best I’ve ever felt him,” said Geven. “I knew what he needed to do, and he did it. I’m starting to feel like a team with him now, and things are going in the right direction.

“His speed and control are absolutely phenomenal!” he added. “I’m used to a warmblood with scope where you can be a little more quiet, but he’s a full Thoroughbred—catty and quick.”

They were the only pair to come home under the time allowed. That flawless trip was worth 10 places, and Geven suddenly found himself sitting pretty atop the roster.

Klimax then put in one of his best show jumping rounds. “He’s starting to trust me,” Geven said.
They dropped one rail but kept a hold of their lead over Paige Hewlett and Steely Dan who jumped from 17th place to second.

Geven, who rides for the Netherlands, plans to compete at Fair Hill and, hopefully, in the 2008 Olympic Games.

Joshua A. Walker

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