It’s been nearly a year since Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous last cantered down the centerline in a four-star test, but they didn’t need any time to shake the rust off. The pair laid down one of their signature leading tests today to score a 24.4 in the CCI4*-S at the Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event. Jacqueline Mars and Phoebe and Michael Manders’ 14-year-old Oldenburg mare (Carry Gold x Richardia) was injured in the lead-up to the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games, and Little has been working hard to get her back to this level.
“I can’t tell you how much fun it is to be able to ride her here and have her back,” said Little of “Kitty.” “When you have lost something and you get it back it is really cool, so this is a really special weekend for me. It has been a long road. There has been an incredible team of people that have helped get her back here. . . The last big event she was preparing for was WEG and before that was Kentucky and they absolutely know when they are preparing – I think she thought she was going to a championship level event this weekend. It felt like it was that kind of day.”
Little and Kitty are over 8 points in the lead with their 24.4, but Little did say that Kitty was a bit excited in the atmosphere. “Two years ago we were here and that translated into not such a great test, but she has become so mature and such a great partner that she went in and did her job as she always does,” she explained.
Kitty is the last event horse in Little’s barn as she has returned to show jumping full time, and while she has been out at a few events coaching she was saving her return to the saddle at an event for Kitty. “She is such a special horse for me – it is wonderful to be back at an event, but it is even better being back with my best friend. If I didn’t have this horse I wouldn’t be eventing, I event for her, because I love her. It didn’t make sense to be at an event without her. This is a great one to be back at. It has a great energy and is so beautiful and so well organized. I am really excited.”
This season Little has taken Kitty to two Preliminary level events – winning both of them – and just one Advanced combined test, but they stopped at Liz Halliday-Sharp’s facility for a cross-country school on the way here. “I just have to rely a bit on the fact that she knows what she is doing out there,” explained Little.
Sitting in second is another comeback kid – Rubens D’ysieux, the syndicate owned 14-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Balougran x Davidoff Silver Shadow), who scored a 32.4 with Sara Kozumplik Murphy in the tack. Rubens had colic surgery in April and Murphy has been bringing him back slowly. “He had never been sick ever, and I have never had to go through that before, so I have just been taking my time making sure he feels good and taking it one day at a time,” she explained. “I was really happy with him, he feels really strong. He is always a competitor, so I have never had to worry from that perspective because he never wants to be embarrassed.”
“I was a little surprised that I got a 32, I thought at worst I would be a 30, but I think I maybe wasn’t as accurate as I should have been on my serpentines and my reinback, so that may have lost a few points, I couldn’t have been happier with the horse so I couldn’t get too fussed about it,” she concluded.
Rounding out the top three is a CCI4*-S debutant, Dassett Choice, Rebecca Brown’s 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Caricello x Vilja), who scored a 34.7. Dassett Choice has done just one Advanced which he handily won at Chattahoochee Hills in August after scoring a 27.3 in dressage.
“I actually didn’t love [my test],” said Brown. “He can really do an amazing test and I had two little blips. We have been working really hard, so it was still pretty competitive, so I am pleased, but I always know I can do better.”
The CCI4*-S has a day off tomorrow before show jumping on Saturday morning. The CCI3*-L and CCI2*-L both got underway with their dressage tests today and will finish up in the morning, with the CCI4*-L starting at mid-morning.
"No matter how old you are, be open to all disciplines, learn how to ride a dressage horse, a gaited horse, a show jumper. Go fox hunting and point-to-pointing and horse showing. You’ll learn from all of them and when you do decide which discipline you want to do, you’ll be better at it anyway.”
The University of Findlay’s Three-Day Eventing Team was established in 2013, the same year USEA voted and approved the USEA intercollegiate program. The UF team has over 30 members encompassing a variety of majors at the university. The team has access to two indoor arenas, a large outdoor arena, and 70 acres of on-site cross-country fences.
Bellamy, an Oldenburg/Thoroughbred gelding of unknown breeding, came to Tamra Smith’s farm in Southern California with his mane half-way down his neck and filled with burrs. Bellamy had been sitting in a field for a little over a year after unseating several riders in a row and Smith, known for being good with tricky horses, agreed to take him on.