Apr 22, 2023

Claus 63 Keeps His Focus for Ocala International CCI4*-S Win

Sharon White and Claus 63. USEA/Shelby Allen photos

Jay Hambly’s CCI4*-S cross-country course at the Ocala International Festival of Eventing gave the CCI4*-S a very new shape, with Sharon White coming out on top with her own Claus 63.

“He deserves it,” White said of the 11-year-old Holsteiner (Catoo x Tina II). Sourced by Dirk Schrade, “Claus” has been carefully produced up the levels by White, and today the pair are enjoying the fruits of their labor with only 2.8 time penalties added for a final result of 35.5.

“He is easily overstimulated and distracted in a good way," she said. "He finds the job very simple, in all three phases. He is just such an athlete—he doesn't actually have to focus on it all that much, so he finds things to focus on that aren't necessarily what we’re doing. He’s like, ‘What's over there was far more interesting.’ I love the challenge of that. The job is not the hard part—it’s getting his attention."

His focus was undivided in today’s challenge, even through the influential first water that caused more issues than any other element. “There were some really good questions,” White said. “And in the warmup, people were like, ‘Oh, they're not reading the first water and do the option.’ But I'm gearing up towards bigger and better things, so I wanted to challenge him a bit. And he said, ‘No problem.’”

Confidence is at an all-time high for Claus, who is slated to compete in the CCI4*-L at the Tryon International 3-Day Event (North Carolina) in three weeks time. This is the first time a four-star has been offered at Ocala, and White said it was the perfect fit for her spring schedule.

“I'm thrilled that they did this," she said. "I really appreciate the organizers making the effort. We're just really grateful that they were willing to do it. I think anyone who wants to run an event deserves all the recognition. It's a lot of work—whether you're an organizer, an official, a competitor, or volunteer, I think we should all band together and give each other a high-five because we're all in this together.”

Kendal Lehari and Audacious.

Canadian eventer Kendal Lehari piloted the 10-year-old Canadian Sport Horse Audacious (Ironman x Megan's Mayflower) to second place. Kendal bought “Junior” from his breeder, Carolyn Baird, with intentions of selling him, but the bond was cemented early, and he’s emerged as one her top horses. “He's been in the family since he was three. He's 10 now, and I'm the only one that's ever ridden him,” Lehari said. The pair achieved a 37.5 on the flat and had one rail down in yesterday’s show jumping.

“I was experimenting in the dressage, so I tried him in the double bridle which was effective for getting more control in the ring, but he got a bit low. So it's costly for some of the marks, but I think it was good for his overall training,” she said.

Tenth overnight, “Junior,” who is owned by the rider, Gwen Lehari and Rein Lehari, rocketed around, achieving the only double clear in the class despite taking an option to finish on a score of 41.5.

“Junior is super rideable and game for everything. There was enough to do out there. Jay [Hambly] gave us a technical course. I opted to do an option early on because I'd seen a few problems there, but the course rode great. It’s really nice having this at the Florida Horse Park at the finale of our season before heading home to Canada,” Kendal said.

Jennie Jarnstrom-Dennis and Flower Girl.

Flower Girl has at times been a nervous horse for Jennie Jarnstrom-Dennis, so she decided against any three-days last year with the goal of producing a more competitive ride, and she’s come out full force in 2023, taking third in Ocala this weekend.

The rider-owned 11-year-old Hanoverian (Futurist x Lucy) earned a 33.9 on the flat and had one pole down before finishing Saturday’s cross country with 4.4 time penalties.

"She's pretty awesome. It's the last prep for the long at [Tryon International 3-Day Event] for her. She doesn't have a lot of Thoroughbred in her, so I wanted to put the pedal down a bit and open it up. I think that worked in my favor a bit,” said Jarnstrom-Dennis, who rides for Sweden. “She's pretty seasoned at this point. She couldn't really have been much better. She saved me a couple times, and I may have saved her once or twice.”

Third overnight, Lucienne Bellissimo, who rides for Great Britain, and Horse Scout Eventing LLC’s Dyri, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Diarado x La Calera), added 10.4 time penalties to finish fourth on a score of 42.5.

Fifth place was earned by Canadian Olympian Jessica Phoenix aboard Freedom GS, an 11-year-old Oldenburg (Humble GS x Friedel GS) owned by Charlotte Schickendanz, with only 1.6 time penalties added for a final result of 43.8.

The issues on course were clustered around the first water at 9ab and 10ab, which featured a raised roll top to a narrow roll on a mound followed by a narrow in the water and out over an open oxer on a second mound. This is where overnight leaders Rebecca Brown and Dassett Choice came to grief with two stops in the water and an eventual retirement. Ninth-placed Karl Slezak and both 14th-placed riders Alex O’Neal and Kyle Carter picked up 11 penalties for activating the frangible device at 10b. Pathfinder Caroline Martin had a runout after her sixth-placed ride HSH Double Sixteen didn’t read the skinny at 9b. Jessica Phoenix suffered the same 20 penalties at that element.

This weekend’s CCI4*-S served as a qualifier for the $60,000 Adequan USEA Advanced Final that will take place at the USEA American Eventing Championships, presented by Nutrena Feeds, in August. Horses and riders who completed this event without cross-country jump penalties would require one more similar performance at the level to secure their spot in the Final.

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