Elkton, Md.—Oct. 19—It takes a lot of effort and money to put a horse on a plane across the pond to the U.S., and Piggy March wouldn’t have brought Brookfield Cavalier Cruise to the MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill for his debut at the level if she didn’t think they had a shot.
March has never been to Fair Hill, but she’d heard great things about the five-star, now in its third year, so she put "Fletcher" on that plane and is off to a great start. She and the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Cavalier Carnival x Ryans Cruise) lead the dressage after the first day on a score of 24.2.
“It is absolutely beautiful, and I have to say, I've never ever anywhere seen such footing like it—on the racecourse, the grass, the going, the arenas, and everything, which is why we came here for our horse. We're very excited to be here,” she said.
Owned by Chloé Perry, John Perry, and Alison Swinburn, Fletcher’s had a few jockeys over his career including Tom McEwen, Sophie Callard, and Harry Meade. March rode him in his 7-year-old year and picked up the ride again this season. They finished second in the gelding’s first CCI4*-L at Bramham (England) this spring.
“Brookfield Cavalier Cruise is a lovely horse,” she said. “He’s still quite low on mileage. He's a really big horse, and he's still a big, empty frame. He competed at Bramham in the spring, and he did really well there, and afterwards we sat down with the owners to think, where do we go now? We thought other four-stars were maybe taking a step back for him, because in our opinion, Bramham is the hardest four-star long of whatever ones we normally do in our calendar.”
While Burghley is just down to the road from March’s base, she thought the undulating, tough terrain wouldn’t have been a good choice for Fletcher's five-star debut.
“We have really great reports that the going was great [at Fair Hill,] and it was very rolling countryside,” she said. “It's such an honor and a treat to be able to come over here to compete in America. We've all been really excited about it and thought this would be the best place for him. He’s a brilliant horse, and he comes here really confident, fit, and well, so it's just my job to give him the best run round that we can do to keep him confident and keep him doing what he's always believed is his job.”
March felt Fletcher’s temperament was an asset today on a cool and breezy afternoon in the main arena at Fair Hill.
“He's a beautiful horse, but the best thing about him is his temperament and his mind, and he's like no other really,” she said. “He's just the biggest dude really; he's just got such a great heart. He's so rideable. I think the exciting thing about him is there's loads more to come as well. He will still fill his frame, he will still get stronger, he will still get more expressive. But he makes my job easy in the way that he tries so hard, and he's so rideable. I was very proud of him. It's his first five-star effort, and he tried his best so we're all very proud of him.”
Watch March's test via USEF Network:
March has had a look at Ian Stark’s cross-country course, and feels prepared for Saturday.
“It is big from the go, but I've grown up watching Ian Stark, and I've grown up riding a lot of and his courses so I’ve learned over the years what to expect, and we [riders] do have a lot of trust in him as well. He's a very bold cross-country rider himself, so he builds bold course, and it rewards brave riding. It's usually always very clear for a horse to see a question. It’s big all the way, but it really gets you into the course. It builds their confidence up to get going but it's just fences.”
She appreciated some of the old-fashioned fences like the new sunken road and bounce into water.
“He’s very clever,” she said. “Hopefully by that stage in the course the horses very much get into their rhythm and get a bit more numb, just saying, it's another jump, and as long as they're confident, then all these sort of fences should still ride well, but it's a real rider frightener course, and we've just got to get out there and do good jobs, but it will reward good, brave riding and good, honest horses.”
New Zealand’s Monica Spencer and her own and Andrew Spencer’s Artist, a 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding by Guillotine, slotted into second place on a 28.4.
Monica came to the U.S. over the summer to prepare for Maryland after the pair failed to complete their first five-star attempt at Adelaide (Australia) in April.
“There were highs and lows,” she said. “He’s a beautiful mover and capable of probably a slightly better score than that. There were a couple of little blips here and there, but can't complain with a 28, so, I'm pleased.”
Monica’s brought Artist along since he was 4. He never raced.
“I do think they take a little bit longer to strengthen up because they're not bred or built for the job we ask them to do,” she said. “I produced him up the levels, and he was one who won all the way through, and he's always just found his job a little bit easy. He was a pleasure to produce. He's a very genuine horse, and he always tries his hardest. He's very good boy. He's very willing and likes to please.”
Hannah Sue Hollberg and Capitol HIM scored a 32.4 to sit third. They’re currently the highest-placed U.S. rider.
Christa Schmidt’s 16-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Con Air 7 x O-Heraldika) didn’t complete the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event in 2022, so Hollberg will be looking for a strong finish this weekend.
“Chito” can be horse-shy, so he was a little nervous with the horse ahead of him coming out of the ring, then seeing the big scoreboard.
“I showed it to him a couple times, and he was really good and went in there and actually was better than he is normally,” said Hollberg. “He did everything as well as he can at home or better, but I messed up that last change. I was getting too excited. But otherwise, I thought I rode to my plan, and I rode more aggressively in the trot work, which I've been trying to do. It's easy to just kind of be frozen up there.”
Hollberg’s looking forward to Stark’s course and hoping to use Chito’s rateability and turning skills to get a clear round.
“I can't imagine being on another horse that isn't that way because I just don't know how you would do any of these combinations,” she said. “I'm excited to ride him. I've been galloping him a lot. He's fitter than he's ever been. So hopefully he's fit enough. Fingers crossed.”
She described the gelding as a very stable partner who knows who he is and is very confident in himself.
“He’s a total gentleman. Just a perfect horse,” she said. “He’s amazing. So sweet, really athletic, tries really hard, and he loves to win, but he’s never rude or impolite. A little toddler could lead him around if they wanted to.”
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United States Eventing Association (USEA) members at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention were in for a treat on Friday as the U.S. Eventing Team was on hand to discuss their accomplishments this year at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.
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Welcome to the Show Me state and to Area IV USEA members! The 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention kicks of tomorrow and features four full days of educational seminars, committee meetings, and social gatherings all with one aim—to bring the eventing community together to continue to improve upon and celebrate the sport that we all love. This year’s Convention takes place in St. Louis, Missouri, at the Marriott St. Louis Grand in downtown St. Louis from Dec. 7-10, and we have rounded up everything you need to know to make the most of your time in the heartland.