Mid-50s temperatures, wind, a little rain, and new arenas for dressage gave an early season opportunity to test equine energy management and focus during Galway Downs International dressage and show jumping today.
In the CCI4*-S, Erin Kellerhouse and her own Woodford Reserve (Tinaranas Inspector x Laughton's Flight) had just the right balance of rarin'-to-go and relaxation. A 0.4-point show jumping time penalty during the day's ending light rain put them on a 30.1 to lead the field of 13 pairs.
"That was one of the best tests we've had," said Kellerhouse. "He is definitely getting stronger and happy with the work, and I am learning the little things I need to do to keep him that way. He wants to try so hard, sometimes he gets away from me. And there's still a lot to improve on, which is exciting."
The weather and new dressage court didn't faze "Woody." One of many things Kellerhouse has learned in her six years with the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding is that "too much dressage is too much confinement on show day." Instead, she gave him an early morning gallop in her jumping saddle. "I let him be free." The knowledge is a luxury of their longtime partnership. Kellerhouse has always brought young horses along to the lower FEI levels, but Woody is the first horse she's had a chance to get to know and learn with through to their first CCI4*-L, accomplished very successfully here last fall.
Marc Donovan's show jumping track offered another opportunity to advance their learning curve. As time faults are often an issue, Kellerhouse "made myself take every inside turn." Though they had a niggling 0.4 fault, Woody's habitually clean jumping habits got even better. "I think it kept him on his toes. He was jumping out of his skin!"
It's hard to imagine tomorrow's cross-country -- though challenging -- will throw them anything they can't handle, but Kellerhouse isn't taking anything about Clayton Fredericks' design for granted.
Helen Alliston and Ebay (Escudo x Komtessa) are close behind. The elegant pair earned a 30.7 from dressage judges Peter Gray and Helen Brettel to stand second. They held that position after going fault-free in the Grand Prix arena except for 0.8 time faults for a 31.5. In retrospect, Alliston said she wished she'd taken some inside options, but the plan of going fast on the outside lanes still led to a clear jumping effort. "He felt great," she said of her 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding. "I'm excited for tomorrow."
Emilee Libby was thrilled with her own and Linda Libby's 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding Jakobi's (Ustinov x Expression) day. Show jumping in a snaffle bit was especially exciting, and with the sense that "I could ride him more forward and still trust that he would come back." Their 33.7 dressage performance stayed as is thanks to double clear show jumping, moving them from fourth to third going into cross-country.
Kellerhouse and Alliston gave their thumbs-up to the new dressage courts, outfitted with all-weather footing and located where a grass jumping ring and grazing area was in the recent past. "It's less buzzy," noted Erin of the atmosphere compared to the Grand Prix Arena where international dressage had been held previously. Set amid trees and a short walk from the jumping rings, the arena setting was appreciated by both riders for its calming vibe and especially so on an otherwise animated morning, weather-wise.
Exhibitors on breaks loved the Grand Prix Arena, which has a literally brand new permanent VIP pavilion with a lovely seating and viewing area.
Young Riders Rule CCI3*-S Roost
Between a horse injury and a human injury, Haley Turner and her own 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Shadow Inspector (Tinaranas Inspector x Caragh Roller), had half their first four years together stymied. The COVID-19 pandemic waylaid show results for much of their third, but a strong second half to 2020 is rolling into a stellar 2021. Double clear jumping kept them ahead of the 13-pair pack on a 27.1 dressage score for this pleasing-to-watch pair.
Downtime for the East Bay Area team was well spent. They are students of Bea and Derek DiGrazia's Stillwater Farm, and work additionally with dressage coach Volker Brommann and jumping coach Alexis Hellfrich. "It's all a big help and keeps us in consistent work even when we can't get over to Bea and Derek in Carmel," Turner explained.
The normally laid-back "Chief" showed extra energy this morning in dressage, perhaps due to the frisky weather. More likely, "I think he knows when he's doing well!" The extra amperage continued in the Grand Prix ring and Turner harnessed it for a double clear effort to maintain their lead. Turner is 18 and in the midst of a gap year after graduating high school early.
Fellow young rider Alina Patterson and her own Flashback (Fuerst Fugger x Queen of Joy), a 10-year-old German Sport Horse gelding, moved into second after a flawless stadium round held her 29.3 dressage test in front of Peter Gray and Michelle Henry.
Professional Sabrina Glaser is thrilled with the effort so far of Hildegard Johnson's Cooley Mr. Murphy (Kroongraaf x Ballinabarney Highlight), an 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, who's new at the level. They had one rail and no time issues to stand on a 33.2.
Can Be Sweet Leads the CCI2*-S
Lauren Billys and her own and the Can Be Sweet Syndicate's 9-year-old German Sport Horse gelding Can Be Sweet (Candyman x Tres Belle) got their groove back today. Their 25.8 dressage test in front of Helen Brettel and Carolyn Lindholm ranks high in their history. "It was one of his best," said Billys, who also has her 2016 Olympic partner Castle Larchfield Purdy in the CCI4*-S division. "He (Can Be Sweet) was very uphill and showed what his movements can be. It felt like a very harmonious test."
Time-faults-only show jumping was a reassuring round after a disappointing outing in the CCI2*-L last fall. "I was a little nervous to come in and rewrite history, but he is back on his form." She expects cross-country to be challenging with an appropriate mix of galloping stretches and spots where a carefully measured approach will be critical.
Miranda Olagaray and her own 8-year-old Trakehner gelding Tanqueray's (Tzigane x Orania) double clear jumping bounced them from the seventh spot to second on their 34.7 dressage score. They are followed by fellow clear jumpers Madison Temkin and her own 8-year-old Thoroughbred mare, MVP Madbum (Papa Clem x Dancing Stripes).
Schedule & Sponsors
The international divisions conclude Friday, March 26. The CCI4*-S begins at 1:00 p.m., the CCI3*-S at 2:10 p.m., Open Intermediate at 3:10 p.m., then the CCI2*-S at 4:10 p.m., all Pacific Standard Time. All will be live-streamed on www.RideOnVideo.net. Competition Preliminary through Beginner Novice starts Friday and continues through Sunday.
A double clear cross-country round propelled Rebecca Braitling and Arnell Sporthorses' 11-year-old British Sport Horse gelding Caravaggio II (Vangelis-S x Courtesan) to their first blue ribbon together in the CCI4*-Short, and Haley Turner and her own 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Shadow Inspector (Tinaranas Inspector x Caragh Roller) continued their run of sub-30 dressage tests to win the CCI3*-Short at the 2022 Twin Rivers Fall International in Paso Robles, California.
USEA podcast host Nicole Brown chats with Interim Eventing Chef d’Equipe and Team Manager of the U.S. Eventing Team Bobby Costello about the Silver Medal Performance put forward by the U.S. Team at the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championships.
There is still time to experience the long format of three-day eventing this year, by competing in a fall USEA Classic Series Event! The USEA Classic Series offers long-format eventing at the Beginner Novice, Novice, Training, Modified, and Preliminary levels, and there are still a few left on the fall calendar in various Areas.
This story first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Sidelines Magazine.
I have had many young horses in my time, and one thing I’ve learned is that it’s rarely the perfect, easy baby that becomes the next superstar. In fact, I’ve always considered it a positive to have the well-behaved youngster throw a little bit of attitude my way, as I believe that it takes fight to become a great event horse.