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Tue, 2009-05-26 00:00

Running Order and Doug Payne Rise to the Challenge at the Virginia CCI1*

Authored By: USEA

Some of the most promising horses and riders in the country turned out for the Virginia CCI1* long-format three-day event, CCI1* short-format, and horse trials this past weekend at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia. Though the numbers were small in the long-format division, the competition was fierce, and in the end it was Doug Payne and Stone Hill Farm's Running Order who galloped away with the win. 

Stephanie Butts, 25, who's based out of the popular eventing facility Waredaca in Laytonsville, Maryland, and her young Canadian Sport Horse gelding Peabody finished in second, and posted a double-clear show jumping round (as did Payne and Running Order). A handful of time penalties from Saturday's cross-country left them with a 61.0. Ariel Grald, 20, of Randolph Center, Vermont, and her Irish Sport Horse gelding Practically Perfect dropped a single rail to finish right on their heels with a 61.2. Adult amateur Cindy Wood of Newark, Maryland and her Connemara/Thoroughbred gelding Unbelievable, who's sired by the famous Connemara eventer Erin Go Bragh, finished the event in fourth place. Kristen Malinak and Beaming Sportsfield also started the event, but were unfortunately eliminated on cross-country.

Payne, 27, of Pottersville, New Jersey expertly piloted the seven-year-old Irish Thoroughbred gelding around David O'Connor's rolling cross-country course, and finished the event on their dressage score of 53.5. Payne has several horses competing at the upper-levels, as well as some lower-level youngsters getting started with their eventing careers.

"I think [long-format events] benefit horses a lot, especially as it allows younger horses to build confidence," said Payne. "You see some dramatic changes in the horses during the long-format, and I don't think you see the same transformations in the short-format. It makes the horses more confident and forward-thinking, and seems to hold true for the rest of their careers. I think these types of events are a true test of the horse's abilities."

The young Irish-bred gelding was a steeplechaser in Ireland with famed race trainer Enda Bolger before taking up a brief stint in the jumper ring. Payne got the ride on the talented horse last June and has been bringing him up the levels. "This horse is built for the long-format--he has a huge, ground-covering stride and really enjoyed the steeplechase phase. He's a very careful horse, but just a bit spooky. He's an exceptionally talented horse, however, and we're planning on doing the Preliminary at Stuart Horse Trials (NY) this summer." 

Payne enjoyed the sloping cross-country course designed by David O'Connor and thought it rode very well. "I thought it was a bit harder than last year, and more challenging." Payne considered the drop fence early on course as well as the second water to be tough, but thought the whole course was a good test for horses and was confidence-building. 

In addition to competing in the long-format CCI1*, Payne also catch-rode Westwinds El Dorado in the short-format CCI1* for his friend Sinead Halpin, who broke her arm a few weeks ago. He got the ride a few days before MCTA (MD), and rode the Irish Sport Horse gelding, owned by Sinead's mother Bernadette, to a top placing in the Preliminary division at the Maryland event. This past weekend, he piloted the horse to a sixth place finish in the CCI1* at Virginia.

Payne said one of the main reasons he decided to run the long-format CCI1* this year with Running Order was that it may be one of the last years that these classic-format events are held, and was thankful to Brian and Penny Ross, the Virginia Horse Trials and Three-Day Event organizers, for holding the event. However, the Rosses, who are longtime supporters of the long-format, have pledged to hold these classic events as long as possible.

"Those five riders [in the long-format CCI1*] are truly the heroes of the week. They didn't have to enter the long-format division, but they did. We had three groups all well-represented: young riders, professionals, and adult amateurs. They went out on a limb for us," said Brian Ross. "I thought it was a very positive event and all the horses looked great on Sunday morning."

Ross talked with several well-known members of the eventing community and they all agreed that there is a need to continue holding these long-format events. A few months ago, the five CCI1* long-format organizers banded together to fight to save this classic-format event, and are in the process of getting organized for next year. "These are very expensive events to put on, and for the competitors as well," added Ross.  "We're definitely going to go ahead with these classic format events next year. We're hoping to have rules in place by August, so they can be ready to go in 2010." 

Riders can hope to see a couple new changes to the classic-format Preliminary events including a few speed changes on steeplechase. "This past weekend the course was 640 mpm on steeplechase, but we will probably change it to 600 mpm." Ross and the rest of the organizers have been finalizing some details for the classic-format Preliminary events, which will be a combination of Intermediate and Preliminary but without so much emphasis on the dressage.

"We're really excited about moving forward--we want to make it happen," said Ross.

Want to learn more about the Classic Three-Day Event Series? Read the USEA press release from last March, and check out USEA President Kevin Baumgardner's latest letter in Eventing USA. 

Steph Butts & Peabody

Kristen Malinak & Beaming Sportsfield


Cindy Wood & Unbelievable


Ariel Grald & Practically Perfect


Cindy Wood & Unbelievable


Kristen Malinak & Beaming Sportsfield


Ariel Grald & Practically Perfect




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