Linden Wiesman’s first-placed finish in the Virginia CCI* came as a sweet relief, just a week after a disappointing event at the Jersey Fresh CCI** (N.J.), where she fell with Trooper Tobin. At the Virginia
CCI*, May 19-23 in Lexington, Wiesman led her division from start to finish riding On A Tear, an 8-year-old, homebred Thoroughbred.
This is the fourth year that organizers Brian and Penny Ross have held the three-day over the sharply rolling hills of the Virginia Horse Center, and it continues to grow, with 100 starters this year. Course designer David O’Connor incorporated those hills into his challenging, but educational course.
“Every year it’s gotten a little bit harder,” said O’Connor.
By fence 9, riders had faced a corner, two turning questions and the water. While there were many stops and run-outs, there were hardly any falls, and riders went away educated. With those goals in mind, Ross and O’Connor intend for the event to remain a regular CCI with steeplechase.
Steeplechase was the phase that most worried Wiesman, of Bluemont, Va. “Tear,” bred on her family farm in Tennessee, missed out on the early racing experience of many Thoroughbreds. Wiesman jumped a few steeplechase fences in the weeks leading up to the event to practice, but she was still pleasantly surprised when he settled down and understood his job.
“He started setting himself up for the fences,” said Wiesman, who chose just one long option on course. “Then when we went out on cross-country he was like, ‘Wait a minute, aren’t we done?’ He still needs to be more broke on cross-country. We need to work on galloping and coming back.”
The hot, muggy weather provided a challenge throughout the weekend, but Wiesman, a member of the 2000 Sydney Olympic bronze-medal team, rode relatively early in the day, and Tear recovered well.
It was even hotter on Sunday for the show jumping, but riding in the indoor coliseum kept the worst of the sunshine at bay. Wiesman went into the final phase with a rail in-hand, but that was no safety net for the twisty course. When Tear pulled the rail at the second fence, the pressure was on, but Wiesman rode him around foot perfect for the rest of the course to give her a total of 48.4 for the win.
Wiesman, 29, plans to aim Tear for the Morven Park CCI* (Va.) in October. “He has the jump and athletic ability [to move up],” she explained, “but he needs to be more solid at this level.”
A hectic competitive schedule has kept Wiesman from focusing on Tear. She rode Primitive Gold to 14th place in the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** and competed Trooper Tobin at Jersey Fresh.
Wiesman had her eye on Tear, a bay with four white socks, since he was a foal because of his cute movement and good looks, but she didn’t get to seriously start campaigning him until 2002. Kris Purdue started him as a 3-year-old, and Emily Beshear took over the ride in 2000 when Wiesman was in Australia for the Olympics.
Since taking him on, Wiesman has been impressed with his athleticism and personality. “He’s into everything,” she said with a laugh. “He’s always demanding attention. If I stopped to talk to someone while I was grazing him, he’d come over and get in the conversation.”
Tear won a division at the Morven Park Horse Trials (Va.) in March and placed third at the May Plantation Field Horse Trials (Pa.).
Second-placed Sharon White also used the Virginia CCI as a first three-day for two of her horses. White had planned to take McGinty, an 8-year-old Connemara-Thoroughbred cross, to a three-day last year, but White broke her collarbone in the spring of 2003, causing a setback for all of her horses.
White’s friend Abigail Gille brought McGinty to White’s barn in Summit Point, W.Va., shortly before the accident occurred. “The extra time didn’t hurt her,” said White, who stood ninth after dressage. “Being part pony, she’s not a big mover, but she was 100 percent accurate.”
A cross-country round that White called “genuine” and one of the only clean show jumping rides moved McGinty and White into second. Her other mount, Kaleidoscope, owned by Anita Antenucci, finished seventh.
White said that the 15.1-hand McGinty, who has already completed a few intermediates, “doesn’t think she’s small at all!” Eventually she will join White’s new breeding program.
“I’m really interested in making the ultimate event horse,” she said. This year her first foal was born, a filly out of Ready About, a mare that White rode at Rolex in 2002.
Pandora Makes It Look Easy
Another talented mare–Pandora–won the CCI-JY with Lucia Strini aboard. Strini bought her in February from Jessica Shuler, who had competed her at the intermediate level. Competing in her third one-star, Strini wanted a horse that could take her to the next level and beyond.
As a resident of Plain Dealing Farm in Scottsville, Va., and the daughter of Linda Wachtmeister (who owns Winsome Adante, two-time winner of the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** with Kim Severson), Strini is surrounded by eventing. She began riding when she was 10, and was competing at the preliminary level by the time she was 14.
“I feel very lucky to ride with her [Severson] all the time,” said Strini.
At 17, Strini is already committed to eventing. “I’ve kind of started, and it’s very hard to stop,” she said with a laugh. She consistently misses school to attend horse trials, but her teachers continue to be understanding at the Tandem Friends School in Charlottesville.
Strini brought Pandora, a 9-year-old, Australian Thoroughbred, home on a Friday and competed her that same weekend. They continued to develop their partnership throughout the spring with the help of Severson.
But Strini still didn’t feel like she really knew Pandora by the time she arrived at the VHC. “I was really nervous for dressage,” she said. “I forgot my test in the warm-up.” However, her shaky beginning turned into a solid test, putting her in third after dressage with a 49.6.
It was not the fences on cross-country that kept Strini feeling tense. “I’m not the best at making the time so I went out determined to make time,” she explained. Careful attention to her minute markers kept her right on schedule.
The overnight leader in the young rider division, Ralph Holstein did not present for the jog-up on Sunday morning, so Strini moved into second before show jumping began. While others may have been intimidated by the coliseum, Strini has been riding at the horse park since her first novice horse trials, so she wasn’t overly concerned.
Fewer than 2 points separated Strini and the leader, Katy Ditchey, but Strini had a rail down at the narrow, giving her competitor some breathing room. Sadly for Ditchey, two rails moved her down to second and gave Strini her first three-day win. Now she hopes to ride at the Radnor CCI** (Pa.) in the fall.
Experience Pays Off
Strini may see Jane Sleeper, of Unionville, Pa., at Radnor on her Virginia winner, New Moon. She competed in the CCI Young Horse division, open to horses 6 or 7 years of age and competing in their first three-day.
Sleeper, an alternate for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, imported “Morris”, a 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse, as an unbroken 4-year-old from Ireland. “It’s really fun when you break and train them yourself,” she said.
Part of Sleeper’s program includes riding her young eventers to hounds. “We go out hound jogging with the Cheshire Hounds in the summer,” she said. “We all take the young horses out. They can learn to ride in a group, and the horses have to get along with each other. They all see the hounds before they event because then they’ll go in a group and they’ll have manners.”
Sleeper’s goal for her dressage test was to keep Morris moving forward and active. They placed second with a 47.6 behind Darren Chiacchia on Hurouia.
The Young Horse division was the last to run cross-country and faced the worst of the heat. Fortunately, the ground jury had required the extra 10-minute halt on phase C. “I’ve never used the C-halt and had it be so effective,” said Sleeper. “We gave him a lot of ice and really drenched him. The ground jury was very helpful about telling everybody when to walk and how long to walk. It was great, very informative even for us professionals.”
Morris started the cross-country relaxed and eager. “He was just a blast,” said Sleeper, who finished within the time to move into first place when Chiacchia incurred 16.8 time penalties to finish ninth.
Less than a rail separated Sleeper and second-placed Bonnie Mosser coming into show jumping. Mosser’s clean round on Happy Valley put the pressure on Sleeper, but her experience showed through as she put in a perfect clean round. “I had a plan and I just stuck to it,” Sleeper explained.