It was a hot first day of competition in the MARS Great Meadow International as the sun shined down on The Plains, Virginia. Forty-four competitors came forward in the CCI3*-S, while the first 16 of 57 competitors in the CCI2*-S trotted up centerline today in the Fleming Farm Arena at Great Meadow.
Phillip Dutton’s sole ride in the CCI3*-S, Fernhill Pick Pocket (Chacco Blue x Bracklin Mystique), bested the competition today to sit in the lead going into tomorrow’s show jumping on a score of 29.8, the only score to break into the 20s in the CCI3-S. The 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding is owned by Dutton’s stepdaughter, Lee Lee Jones, who bought him as a 4-year-old from Carol Gee.
“He's a very correct and beautiful mover and does everything well,” said Dutton. “It actually wasn't mistake free – we broke in the counter canter – but the exciting part is that he's going to be pretty spectacular one day when he finally gets a bit more education in him.”
“[I’m] just trying to get him through and soft and getting him swinging,” continued Dutton. “I want him to sit down and come up in front – the usual things you work on. He's kind of a spooky horse, and that's what happened in the counter canter – he kind of picked up on something outside of the arena and dropped behind me and switched leads. It's just getting him so that he's trusting and keeping him in front of me all the time.”
Fernhill Pick Pocket wasn’t the only spooky horse to enter the arena today. Caitlin Silliman explained that her second-placed mount, Ally KGO (Hirtentanz 2 x Annabel Lee), Morgan McCue’s 8-year-old Trakehner mare, can also be quite looky both inside and outside the arena.
“She’s a really big mover and she’s quite a spooky horse so she goes from being hot and dragging me to being able to stop on a dime if visually she sees something at the end of the arena or on the side. [I’ve been] working a lot on her focus and being confident in big atmosphere.”
Silliman’s hard work is paying off, as Ally KGO laid down a personal best international test, sitting on 30.2 overnight. “My mare was really good,” Silliman said. “I haven’t had her at a big competition in a while with a lot of atmosphere so she was pretty fresh yesterday. I gave her a ride this morning and she was better but still pretty keen so I’m really happy with her – she was very focused in there. Lots of little mistakes but no big ones – she did everything I asked her to.”
Ally was produced through the Training level by McCue before she went off to college and handed the reins over to Silliman when Ally was a 5-year-old. “[It’s been a] slow climb up the levels so we’ll see – we’ve got big plans for her. She loves the sport and she tries very hard.”
Valerie Pride and Favian (French Kiss x Risiko) round out the top three on a score of 30.8, just one point off the leaders. Pride has had the 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding for three years, having purchased him from West Coast-based rider Tamra Smith as an 8-year-old.
“We call him Black Beauty, and it was a really hot day to be a Black Beauty,” Pride said with a laugh. “Our prep included my super groom Molly pretty much stood him under the trees in the shade over in trailer parking where he ate grass and tried to conserve all of his energy.”
“It was a super accurate test,” she observed. “He was so steady I could go for everything – I could go flat out in my extensions and know that he would probably come back very easily at the end of them. The conditions were in my favor for all of that today. I’m so proud of him for putting in a mistake-free test.”
Pride admitted that it took a while for her to get used to Favian – a warmblood – after having ridden so many Thoroughbreds. “He’s a little quirky, as all the good ones are, but it took me a bit to figure out how to handle his big stride that doesn’t have your thoroughbred anxiety along behind it for an engine – you kind of have to create that. I would say it’s been quite successful – he’s been a star.”
“I haven’t competed at Great Meadow since I was a young rider and I remember doing the three-days here a long time ago. I walked down the horse path myself to check everything out and it was just as amazing as everyone said it was going to be. The footing is incredible . . . the whole team that they have of officials, maintenance crew, all the volunteers – everyone was awesome.”
Clayton Fredericks and his own FE Coldplay, a 7-year-old German gelding by Casskeni II, sit in fourth place just behind Pride and Favian on a 30.9.
Sharon White and her own 7-year-old Holsteiner gelding Claus 63 (Catoo x Tina II) round out the top five on a score of 31.5.
The CCI3*-S takes a break from competition tomorrow while the CCI4*-S and the remainder of the CCI2*-S divisions take their turn in the sandbox. Action gets underway at 9:00 a.m.
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