Aboard horses owned by Peter and Susan Barry, Sharon White finds two ways to win.
There’s more than one way to win an event, and Sharon White demonstrated two techniques for doing just that at the Millbrook Horse Trials in Millbrook, N.Y.
White and The King’s Spirit literally jumped their way to victory in advanced, division 1. White found herself tied for 13th after dressage, zoomed up to second place after cross-country, right behind leaders Will Faudree and Antigua, and then moved into first when Antigua racked up 8 points in show jumping to drop to third.
In open intermediate, division 1, White led from start to finish aboard Ashwood Lad, finishing with a score of 27.2.
“It was a pretty nice weekend,” said White, of Summit Point, W.Va. “I’m thrilled and still a little surprised.”
For White, it was her first victory at the advanced level, and she was especially pleased that it was on The King’s Spirit, a mare owned by Susan and Peter Barry of Canada. The mare, by Rock King, was imported from England as a 3-year-old and is now 9. White’s been riding her since she was 4.
For the first time, the Millbrook Horse Trials, which benefit the Dutchess Land Conservancy, offered one competition with all levels—beginner novice to advanced. In prior years, it was held over two weekends. More than 450 horses competed at this year’s trials, held Aug. 9-12.
With the exception of Friday, the weather was about as perfect as could be. Friday, however, was a day of muck.
“On Thursday, I had looked at the ground and thought, ‘Gosh, it’s awfully hard. I wish it would rain.’ But I didn’t want that much,” said Corinne Ashton, winner of advanced, division 2.
It poured all day Friday, leaving standing water in the dressage rings and turning much of the cross-country course into mud. The lower levels were most impacted, as they were the ones running cross-country on Friday. A few of the jumps were removed from the course for safety.
The advanced riders, who were scheduled to go off first thing Saturday morning, were moved to Saturday afternoon to give their course time to dry out. By noon, when they started, it was perfect, not only for them but also for the intermediate and preliminary horses following behind.
“My horses were happy with it,” said White of the footing. “This ground can take a lot of water.”
Full Of Confidence
In open intermediate, division 1, White won with Ashwood Lad, an 11-year-old English Thoroughbred who is a grandson of Cavalier. The Barrys also own him.
“Peter and Susan are working on developing a successful line of event horses, and I’d say they’re on a pretty good path,” White said.
The King’s Spirit’s daughter, Rising Spirit, also competed at Millbrook at training level, with Colleen Loach.
During Saturday’s intermediate cross-country round, White was held on course for several minutes after August Vettorino fell, but the hold up was, she said, much to her advantage.
“It worked out great for me because [Ashwood Lad] was really strong. He was having fun, and it was great when I was held up because it was like, ‘OK, I get a break.’ It didn’t set him back at all,” White said.
With Ashwood Lad, White started in first place after dressage and never left that position. She was thrilled with both of her winning horses.
“My horses were so good. They all jumped clean,” she said.
Of The King’s Spirit, White said, “She’s been so wonderful. She tries so hard. She’s to die for. She’s very easy, and I just wanted her to have a good go around and think that everything is really simple, and she did.”
The King’s Spirit has been competing at the advanced level for a year, and White said she’s actually gone back and forth with her this past year between the advanced and intermediate levels.
“She did the two-star at Radnor [Pa.] in the fall last year, and then she didn’t do a three-day this spring. She’s sort of in between the levels right now, but she just felt super today,” White said.
She chose to compete The King’s Spirit at the advanced level at Millbrook because “I just love the course here. The advanced course is so positive. It gives the horse such confidence. It’s just wonderful.”
Still Going Strong
Advanced, division 2, winners, amateur rider Ashton and her 13-year-old partner Dobbin, had the same positive view of the course at Millbrook. It was their second time as winners of an advanced division at Millbrook.
“He and I are both getting older, but I kind of feel that as long as we’re both going strong, we’ll just keep going,” said Ashton. “You never know when one of us will have some sort of peculiar ailment.”
For Dobbin, that was earlier this year when Ashton took him to compete at the Rolex Kentucky CCI****. “I took him in a slant load, and I’ve come to the conclusion it doesn’t work for him. He won’t lean against anything to help balance himself. He just stands in one spot and doesn’t move. After the eight-hour trip, he had a muscle spasm in his back, and he jumped out of the trailer and tripped a bit and pulled a groin muscle.”
Three days in a hospital in Kentucky and a lot of money later, veterinarians could find nothing wrong other than a pulled muscle. That was enough to get Dobbin the spring off.
“Dobbin is a unique creature,” added Ashton, of Princeton, Mass. “I’d love to have another at that level, but I know I’m incredibly fortunate to have him. He’s feeling the best physically and mentally that he’s ever felt.”
Ashton has only competed in two advanced events this year, but she’s won both of them. Her other win came at Southern Pines (N.C.), and since both events were in the U.S. Eventing Association’s Gold Cup Series, Ashton stands second on the Gold Cup leaderboard.
The advanced win wasn’t Ashton’s only victory at Millbrook. She also won open training, division 3, with Pennuche. Ashton said she’s aware some might view her as a one-horse wonder at the advanced level with Dobbin, but she does bring along many horses, such as the 8-year-old Pennuche, a Hanoverian-Thoroughbred. But most are sold before she can move them up the levels.
“I need the money. I dream of the day when someone comes and says, ‘I’ve got this really good intermediate horse; would you ride it?’ But I’m dreaming. So, I bring along some young horses and then sell them to fund my habit. And it’s a horribly expensive habit, but I can’t give it up,” she said.
A mother of two, Ashton brought along her 12-year-old daughter, Marissa, as a groom. Marissa competes at novice level with her pony. Since her mother hauls her and the pony around to events, it seemed only fair that she return the favor by playing groom for a weekend. When asked how her daughter does in her eventing, Ashton said, “Well she’s now realizing that she has to do well in dressage.”
The next stop for Dobbin is the American Eventing Championships in Illinois, but Ashton said she’ll be taking several days to get there so her partner doesn’t have too many hours in the trailer.
“I’m looking for places to stop along the way,” she said. “I think it’ll be fun to go, so I’ll just start early.”