One after another, competitors tried to best the overnight leaders, but no one could touch CCI2* leader Emily Beshear and Silver Night Lady or CCI3* leader Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous at the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International Horse Trials. They remain in the top position of their respective divisions going into tomorrow’s cross-country.
In the CCI3* division, the closest competitor to taking the lead was Little herself aboard her second ride, RF Demeter, a 14-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Jacqueline Mars, Raylyn Farms and Patrick White. “Demi” had a beautiful test, but couldn’t quite beat her barn mate’s score, but she earned a very respectable 44.6.
“Demi was a little bit more tense than I was hoping she was going to be, but I think that’s normal for this time of year. She was still very obedient and really looking forward to the test,” Little said. “All in all, I’m really pleased with her. It’s such a privilege to ride an old partner out there. We know each other very well, and I can trust her to do her job. She wants to go in and be beautiful and put on a show.”
She has two very different horses under her this weekend, and Little says she’s glad Demeter’s score can give “Kitty” a bit more breathing room on tomorrow's cross-country. “Kitty is green at the level, but she is a very brave, courageous horse. I’ll probably be pretty conservative with her in the beginning of the course to save her. I don’t want her to feel like ‘oh my gosh this is getting hard.’ I’d like her to come home feeling as confident as she left the start box, and I feel that’s very possible for her,” she commented.
Marilyn Little and RF Demeter. USEA/Shelby Allen Photo.
Her plan for Demi is a bit different. “[With Demi] I just have to keep control. She’s very strong, she knows her job, and she comes out of the start box like a tornado. She has every chance to come home clear and inside the time. She’s a fast horse, and this looks like a good track for her.”
“My gut feeling is that it’s Demi’s weekend. She’s really due. I felt like she should’ve been the winner at the AEC, and I made a terrible mistake and got her in way, but hopefully I can pay her back this weekend. I have a good feeling about it. [Fair Hill] has been an event that ‘almost went well’ a few times, and I didn’t quite bring it home the way I should have. I really hope I can do a good job for them tomorrow,” she continued.
Ryan Wood and Powell. USEA/Shelby Allen Photo.
Summit Sporthorse’s Powell powered through the dressage to end the day in third. The American-bred Oldenburg was the winner of the CCI3* at Jersey Fresh International this spring, so he will keep the pressure on Little this weekend.
“He’s a pretty special horse. I’m lucky to be riding him. He did everything really well. I made a couple of little mistakes in there, but on the whole I was thrilled with it,” Wood said of his dressage test. “Jersey was his first CCI3* and his fourth Advanced, so he’s much more conditioned and seasoned [now], but we’ll have our work cut out for us [on cross-country]. It’s one of the strongest three-stars that I’ve seen.”
Emily Beshear was also able to hold onto her lead in the CCI2* today, but she doesn’t have much breathing room with Jennie Brannigan and her own and Beth Battel’s Stella Artois on a 44.5 behind her in second place.
Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois. USEA/Shelby Allen Photo.
Brannigan imported “Toddie” from after she “couldn’t leave Gremany without her” with help from Phillip Kolossa, Kelli Temple and Kara Angulo and Beth Battel in 2013. “I’ve believed in this horse for a long time. I’ve taken my time with her, and I’ve always felt like she’s really special,” Brannigan said.
The 8-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred has been steadily coming up the ranks with Brannigan, and the hard work is starting to show. “I feel like she’s had that test in there, and we’ve been waiting for it to come through. Even today I know she could be so much better, but she’s young still and I’m just happy it’s starting to come together,” she added.
Dasha Ivandaeva and DB Cooper. USEA/Shelby Allen Photo.
Dasha Ivandaeva also found herself in the top three after she and her own DB Cooper scored a 43.5 in the dressage. “He warmed up perfect. I have been having difficulty trying to find a perfect warm up for him, and I think today everything came together,” she said. “We both stayed super calm, which sometimes I find hard to do. I find I can get a bit tense and start rushing him. He was perfect throughout the whole test and he contained himself beautifully. I was really pleased with him.”
In her second Fair Hill attempt with this horse, Ivandaeva is determined to make it happen. “I definitely feel more prepared this year. I tried to take him last year and the partnership wasn’t strong enough and I paid the price. I think now after everything he feels super and he’s been jumping great. I finally figured out what he likes, what he wants to do, what he doesn’t want to do, and I feel like now I can go into this course prepared. It took some time, but I’m pretty ready for this course. I’m excited to do it,” she said.
The CCI2* will go first across Derek di Grazia’s cross-country with a scheduled 9:30 a.m. start. Find all scores here.