Ocala, Fla.—April 21—Twenty-one competitors stepped forward this weekend to contest the inaugural CCI4*-S at the Ocala International Festival of Eventing, and it was Rebecca Brown who emerged as the leader after the first two phases.
Paired with her longtime partner Dassett Choice, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Caricello x Vilja) owned by the rider, Brown earned a score of 31.7 thanks to extra coaching she received recently after being awarded a Rebecca Broussard Charitable Foundation Developing Rider Grant.
“My mom [Becky Brown] is my primary dressage coach, and she has been for my whole life, but this winter I’ve also gotten a little help from Tamie Smith and Karen O’Connor. I was the recipient of a Rebecca Broussard Grant, and I’ve really taken advantage of some extra training while I’m here in Ocala. I’m so grateful for that opportunity,” she said.
Joe Meyer facilitated the partnership between Rebecca and “Junior” when he landed in her barn as a 4-year-old, and she’s produced him herself, reaching the four-star level in 2019.
“He’s quite experienced at the level now which is really nice that I have that to rely on," she said. "I’ve been working really hard over the winter to shave that dressage score down a bit more. I actually wouldn’t say that was his best test. He was maybe a little flat in the heat, but he’s such a professional that he’ll always show up and do a really nice clean test for me. He’s perfect in my eyes.”
Fourth after dressage, their show jump round with only 0.4 time penalties added moved them into the leading position.
“If you saw him in the warmup you’d know he was a really good jumper, but then he goes into the arena and just turns it on like it’s time to shine. He’s very reliable in the show jumping—he always has been, and luckily today he did his usual,” she said.
They carry a score of 31.7 to the final phase where Brown says she’s “going for it.”
Second place was earned by Canadian rider Mélissa Boutin aboard her own Obeah Dancer GS. In her debut at the level, the 11-year-old Trakehner mare (Humble GS x Claudia Cardinale) produced a dressage score of 32, and they were one of only three double-clear show jumping rounds.
“I thought she was really good, obviously for her first four-star I couldn’t have asked for a lot better. I think the trot work was really solid, and she’s just a pleasure to ride in the ring. She’s so relaxed and rideable, and then we just need to get a better change to really get that good score, but I think it will come,” Boutin said.
Similarly to Rebecca, Boutin has been partnered with her self-owned mare for six years, and she, and her coach, Canadian Olympian Jessica Phoenix, have big plans for her in 2023.
“We’ve been going to WEC [World Equestrian Center] this winter and got some more practice as part of our long term plan for this horse. She’s declared for [the 2023 Pan American Games (Chile)], and the only qualifier that we need now is a four-star short, so we’ve tried to prepare her really well for that,” Boutin said.
Riding for Great Britain, Lucienne Bellissimo and Horse Scout Eventing LLC’s Dyri sit in third place. The 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Diarado x La Calera) is German-bred, having previously been ridden by Dirk Schrade before Bellissimo’s company Horse Scout bought him in 2021.
Their score of 31.7 had them in second place after the first phase. “I would say his warmup was lovely. The frame felt good, and he was in the bridle. Then he got a little bit tense. I'd say the first half of his test he just wasn't actually really taking me forward,” she said. “His changes I was pleased with today. I think his first one was actually past the centerline but he's now actually correct and through and not late behind. And that's really been what I've been working on with him.”
One second over the time in show jumping added a pesky 0.4 penalties, bringing them to a two-phase score of 32.1.
Only three riders achieved a double-clear result against Chris Barnard’s courses. Boutin is joined by Clayton Fredericks with Quidproquo and Caroline Martin in this elite club.
The four-star division will head out on Jay Hambly’s cross-country course beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday.
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