Red Hills International Horse Trials, the first FEI competition of 2021, is off to a good start with an exciting day of dressage. The first phase of the three-day competition began at 8:00 a.m. today in Tallahassee, Florida with the CCI4*-S level riding for judges Peter Gray and Jane Hamlin (USA).
Leading the CCI4*-S level is Red Hills veteran Marilyn Little on RF Scandalous (22.4), followed by Red Hills first-timer Tamra Smith on En Vogue (26.6) and former Red Hills winner Lauren Nicholson on Landmark’s Monte Carlo (30.0).
The top three dressage competitors sat down with David O’Connor and shared their thoughts on today’s event and the rest of the weekend.
Little said of RF Scandalous, Phoebe and Michael Manders and Jacqueline Mars’ 16-year-old Oldenburg mare (Carry Gold x Richardia), “I think at 16 it’s hard to believe that she could win every time we step into the ring, but she does. She’s a great competitor. We had a bit of a disappointing finish to our season at the end of last year at Tryon, but it’s great to see her come back out so well. She’s had two preparatory events for this but this is our first FEI, so it’s our first big one, and she absolutely knows it. She’s been here a couple of times before. She’s a consummate professional and a real pleasure to work with and a wonderful partner to go down centerline with.”
When asked how Red Hills fits into the preparation for her season, Little responded, “This is a great gauge because it is always the first FEI competition of my year, and it is a big one. The course is always hard, it’s imposing, it not only rides technical but looks big for the horses so you get a real gauge of where they are in their confidence and fitness. There’s a certain type of horse that usually wins here, usually excels in cross country, I won’t say that she is that horse but she has been lucky enough to find her way two times before.”
A first-timer to Red Hills, Smith came to the East Coast this past winter to provide her horses more exposure and get to new venues. Smith has multiple horses competing at Red Hills in CCI4*-S, CCI3*-S, and CCI2*-S levels.
Smith described Ruth Bley's 16-year-old Hanoverian mare En Vogue (Earl x Laurena) as being "really good in the dressage and awesome in the cross-country, and I think her weak link is the show jumping.”
Smith also has a daughter riding at the CCI4*-S level and when O’Connor asked her how that made her feel, she replied, “It’s nerve-wracking.”
In addition to her second place in the CCI4*-S, Smith is also leading the CCI3*-S with David and Julianne Guariglia's Solaguayre California, a 10-year-old Argentinian mare (Casparo x Solaguayre Calandria) on a 20.1 – over five points ahead of second.
Landmark’s Monte Carlo, Jacqueline Mars’ 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Formula One x Glamour) has been to Red Hills Horse Trials nine times and Nicholson summed up his efforts today saying, “He is super accurate and tries really hard. He’s not the flashiest, but he always goes in and does a workman-like test, and somedays that’s all you need to be in the hunt.”
Alyssa Phillips is on the top of the CCI2*-S leaderboard with a 27.3 riding her own Cornelius Bo, a 7-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Concours Complet x Charlotte).
In the Advanced division, Jennie Brannigan is leading with Tim and Nina Gardner's FE Lifestyle (Leo von Faelz x Berina A), an 11-year-old German Sport Horse, on a 30.2.
Unlike years past, show jumping will run on Saturday with cross-country running Sunday.
Both the CCI4*-S and Advanced divisions are qualifiers for the $60,000 Adequan USEA Advanced Final that will take place at the USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds in August.
"Too plain" is not a description that fits today's wire-to-wire winner of the Twin Rivers Spring International's inaugural CCI4*-L. But that's what Amber Levine heard five years ago after importing the now 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Classe VDL x Walta) as a sales prospect. So, she kept him. His long-delayed debut at the CCI4*-L level proved the wisdom of that decision.
This year’s pre-Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event USEA Official Podcast isn’t a traditional preview show, but rather Host Nicole Brown and the team of Max Corcoran, Rob Burk, and Diarm Byrne are discussing their favorite Kentucky memories as everyone gets giddy for the 2021 event!
At the second-to-last of 40 efforts, "I thought, 'This is actually happening,'" said Amber Levine of a faultless finish with Cellar Farm's Cinzano today to stay on their 31.5 lead going into show jumping tomorrow morning in the Twin Rivers Spring International CCI4*-L. The Jeffs Hot Tub Waves complex at 19 a/b was the awkward exception to a Hugh Lochore-designed course that otherwise "rode great" for the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Classe VDL x Walta) in his long-delayed debut at the level. An entirely new portion of the course around the racetrack featured a series of bright-white painted obstacles, but nothing distracted Cinzano's "tunnel vision for those flags." Levine expects a similar game attitude tomorrow and has a rail to spare.
Black stallion antics after the CCI4*-L jog inspection yesterday were not a preview of Cinzano's dressage test today. "When you are riding and working him, he's all into what you are doing," says Amber Levine, who owns the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Classe VDL x Walta) through her Cellar Farm. A 31.5 dressage test puts them atop a field of four, three of which, including Cinzano, are first-timers in the division in Paso Robles, California.