World Championship Team Silver Medalist Tamie Smith is getting a lot of well-deserved attention since returning to her California home turf. But it was her daughter, young professional Kaylawna Smith-Cook, who took the Re/MAX CCI4*-L spotlight following dressage at Galway Downs.
The vibe in the Grand Prix Pavilion felt a bit like a baseball stadium in the 7th inning of a no-hitter as Smith-Cook and Gretchen Cook’s 13-year-old German Sport Horse gelding Passepartout (Pasco x Preschel) flowed through the second half of their dressage test. Conversations stilled as the pair gracefully executed each of the test's challenges, then her sizable fan club exhaled and applauded loudly.
A ride that ended with a division leading score of 32.2 began with the distraction of a chair outside the court falling over during the warm-up. "I said 'Come on buddy, let's go forward," Smith-Cook explains. "I felt him take a deep breath and from there he went on to be super on the aids. That was definitely one of our better tests."
Those deep breaths have come more often over the last year of working with German master Johann Hinnemann. "Pasco is a long horse," Smith-Cook explains. "He has a long back and it's a little tricky getting him to sit with his nose lined out and create that picture you want. Jo has really helped us dial everything in. With Pasco, he has been a really big help in getting him to be quiet, supple and submissive. He's a big strong horse and it's been a matter of getting him to stay relaxed."
Twenty-three-year-old Sophie Click and her own 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding Quidproquo (Quidado x Waleila) stand second on a 35.9 and James Alliston and his wife Helen's 3-year-old Hanoverian gelding Paper Jam (Papparazzo x Reely Jamin XX) sit in third on a 36.1 from the judging panel of Robyn Fisher, Peter Gray and Marilyn Payne.
"There's a lot to do out there," said Smith-Cook of Clayton Fredericks' cross-country course. "It's my first CCI4*-L. I'm excited to be out there and to have my A-game on."
Asia Vedder and her 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding Isi (Ibisco x Unique) lead the CCI3*-L field on their 29 score from Peter Gray, Bea DiGrazia and Marilyn Payne. Vedder was particularly pleased with the Holsteiner's throughness, along with his elevated medium canter and a particularly nice half-pass. "I was hoping for a little more spark and brilliance today, to get those 8s and 9s, and especially after his antics during the (windy) jog yesterday."
She's looking forward to a Friday cross-country course she describes as gallopy and in need of attacking. Highlighted by a new coffin complex that "everybody's talking about," the course offers questions that typify a current theme with many course designers, Vedder notes. "The idea that we can't get stuck on a stride count. That we have to ride what comes up." When relaxed, Isi has a big stride combined with quick footwork when needed. Asia plans to capitalize on those traits tomorrow.
Emilee Libby and Natalia Valente's 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Toska (Singapore x Tovita) stand in second position on a 31 and Lauren Billys and her 10-year-old German Sport Horse gelding Can Be Sweet (Candyman x Tres Belle) are right behind on a 32.1.
Tamie Smith started the festivities surrounding Team USA's World Championships silver medal a bit early. She kicked off the CCI2*-L division on her first of four horses in the field: the Kynan Syndicates' 7-year-old gelding Kynan. "It was flawless," said Smith of the Dutch Warmblood's 27.1-scoring test. That stayed ahead of the rest of the 27-horse field to ride in front of Ground Jury members Peter Gray, Marilyn Payne and Michelle Henry on a cool morning in Southern California's Temecula Valley Wine Country.
"He was so with me, and through and connected moving through the whole test. Usually, you come out of the test and say, 'I think I could have done this or that better,' but this was just fantastic."
Long hot-streaking Alliston hasn't given Smith any room for error in her lead with Kynan. He and Cellar Farm Corp's 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Keep Calm (Biscayo x Beauty) are sitting on a 27.5, and another of the region's most dominant riders, Erin Kellerhouse, is in third on a 28.9 with her 7-year-old Oldenburg gelding Bon Vivant GWF (Banderas x Power Point).
Of course, anything can happen tomorrow on cross-country. "It's big and bold," said Smith of the two-star and three-star tracks. "I think Clayton has definitely stepped it up in size and technicality since last year."
With a relatively light load of campaigning only five horses this weekend, Smith reflected on how it feels to be home after the globe-trotting that took her to the World Championships podium in Italy in September. "Oh my God, I'm so happy to be home. I'm trying to keep my focus on and not let down too soon. It's a little hard to do that when we've been to the places we've been these last few months."
With horses in the first, fourth, eleventh, and twelfth spots after 2* dressage, she seems to be accomplishing that.
Taylor McFall, Sophie Click, Anna Rekrutiak, Julia Beauchamp-Crandon, and Reese Blinks earned spots in the MARS Bromont Rising U25 program, which makes its West Coast debut this week. Along with a $2,500 grant, the riders had the chance to review dressage tests with German Olympian Bettina Hoy and to sit with sport advocate and eventing father Jim Wildasin. Working alongside each rider's regular coach, Bettina offered her input in the warm-up ring and ringside reviews after their tests. Jim spoke on developing the character traits needed for long term success in the sport (and life!)
Among his tips:
· Give back to the sport
· Build on incremental progress "It compounds!"
· Learn to ride well: be a student of the sport.
Two-Star competitor Taylor McFall acknowledged that working with Bettina is a perfect step in advancing her riding skills. "She's a world class rider - classically trained and with a lot of knowledge and experience. Riding with people like her is how you get better. Within five minutes, she pointed out things I was doing that I've been working on forever! I am super stoked to be part of this program and I'm grateful that it exists."
The USEA Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) has initiated a renewed focus on the diverse challenges coaches in various regions of the country may be facing. To this end, the program is in the process of enlisting representatives in each of the 10 USEA areas to help guide the program as warranted for the unique needs of each specific area.
The United States Eventing Association (USEA) has opened nominations for the annual appreciation awards through Oct. 29. This is an opportunity for the sport to recognize those horses and riders who excelled in eventing throughout the year. It is also an opportunity to recognize and honor the very important people who have served the sport tirelessly both in a non-riding capacity and riding capacity during their golden years.
Anticipation for the 2024 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship and inaugural USEA Interscholastic Eventing League (IEL) Championship is growing, and the host venue, Stable View, is up for the task of making both events an unforgettable experience for all involved. For the first time, the Intercollegiate and IEL program championships will be hosted on the same weekend at the Stable View H.T. in Aiken, South Carolina, on May 4-5, 2024, creating greater unity between the programs and demonstrating a clear pipeline of participation in the sport from grade school through college and beyond.
The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) has made five rule changes which will go into effect October 1, 2023. Familiarize yourself with these rule changes below to make sure you are in compliance before heading out for your next event.