Tamra Smith and En Vogue (Earl x Laurena) had a rail in hand going into today’s show jumping finale in the Galway Downs International CCI4*-L, so when the rail at fence three dropped they were still safe. However, when a second rail tipped in the triple combination, Sara Mittleider and La Paz (Tangelo Van De Suuthoeve x Dos Opera) moved up to the top spot, taking home the win on their dressage score of 33.3.
Mittleider was “extremely happy” with the La Paz Group’s 9-year-old Hungarian Sport Horse gelding for her first FEI win. “He felt really good in his body, he didn’t feel tired or sore, he warmed up phenomenally, and he came into the arena and he was really rideable but jumping incredibly. I was thrilled with him.”
“Muki” which loosely translates from Hungarian to “impish,” was found by Mittleider’s father and husband while on a shopping trip in Hungary. “He was in a group of horses that they were looking at and my father really liked him,” she said. “He was four at the time and almost feral. He had done two show jumping shows but he was pretty green when I got him here.”
“I’ve been his rider since he came over here,” she continued. “We’ve done all the move-ups together . . . It’s not the most glamorous nickname, but we call him “The Running Hippo” because he loves food – food is his goal in life and when he sees you’re about to feed him he thinks the stars are aligned for him. At home he’s a very chill character, I ride him bareback all the time.”
Muki will have a well-earned vacation and Mittleider will start thinking about plans for the spring after he’s had a break. “We’ll make a plan as a team. The biggest goal would be to do the five-star next fall but he needs to get another CCI4*-L qualification. He’s still so young and he’s a funny horse because he’s been very difficult in some respects but moving up to this level, things start to match his scope a little so he doesn’t find it so tricky. He moved up and has been a lot more consistent than I was expecting.”
Smith and “EV”, Ruth Bley’s 14-year-old Hanoverian mare, had to settle for second place on a final score of 36.5. Still, Smith said she was incredibly pleased with the mare’s performance today.
“I’m super proud of her,” Smith said. “She tried her guts out. I’m really happy, both my rails were from behind where historically she’s had rails in front. And my second rail was so unlucky – it didn’t even fall until I was jumping the next fence. But I’m not disappointed at all. She just had a beautiful round.”
“She came out strong and fit and ready to go,” Smith continued. “We just have something a little bit extra to work on. I think the mare has a very bright future – she’s got so many great things about her and she tries so hard and that’s all you can ask. We did our [first] Preliminary in February and she just ran her second Advanced. I couldn’t have asked her to be better.”
Gina Economou and her 10-year-old KWPN gelding Exclusive (Marlon x Julia S) left all the rails in their cups but picked up 1.2 time penalties to finish their weekend in third place on a score of 41.6.
Economou has had Exclusive since he was a 6-year-old, but it hasn’t been a smooth road getting to this level. “Everyone was convinced that he was nappy and just kind of a bad horse and I made a poor purchase,” Economou explained. “Then I fell off five times in ten days at the walk. Tamie [Smith] was kind enough to say she would run him. She ran him from February to May [of that year], got him to do Training, and then she went east. She said either Heather [Morris] could run him or I could run him . . . I got on him and started riding, next thing I knew we were doing the Training Three-Day at Rebecca Farm.”
From there Exclusive progressed quickly to the Preliminary level, but then a minor injury sidelined him for nine months. “He did a year the following season and he moved up to Intermediate and was going great,” she continued. “We were thinking about moving him up to Advanced and then he did a small strain of his superficial and we gave him another year off. And then he started this year and we moved up to Advanced and he’s been on fire.”
“I feel like I rode him really well, with a few things that could have been a little better,” Economou said. “Usually when I see big on him, I just panic. I don’t trust that I can allow him to be bold because he used to just drop me off and spin. So now I’m trying to have faith that he can come to stuff like that and he’s earned that trust . . . Coming around to the triple I told myself to just shove my foot forward because he’s going to spook and we got there a little open and he was wonderful. He was perfect.”
Fourth place went to Leah Breakey and her 10-year-old Canadian Warmblood Master Class (Cree x Night Destiny xx) on a final score of 56.6.
Smith and Danito Conquer the CCI3*-L at Galway Downs
Tamra Smith kept hold of the top spot in the CCI3*-L despite pulling a single rail with Danito (Danicer x Wie Musik), Ruth Bley’s 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding.
“He felt a little tired,” Smith admitted. “I’ve never ridden him in a long format before and you have to know when you can soften and when you need to keep a little extra feel. I had a bit of an unlucky rail but he still jumped fantastic, he’s such a good boy. And I knew I had two in hand, which helps!”
“They always come out of these long formats better for the next time,” she continued. “It wasn’t that he was jumping tired, he was more unimpressed with the size, I think. He was really comfortable and when he’s comfortable he gets a little bored. I’m bummed because since I’ve been competing him for the last year-and-a-half I’ve never had a rail on him. That’s just part of it, it just happens.”
Next year, Smith plans to aim for a CCI4*-L with Danito in the spring, having already completed a CCI4*-S with him this fall. “We have the CCI4*-L at Twin Rivers now, so we’ll probably plan on doing it there.”
Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve (Tinaranas Inspector x Laharns Laughton), her 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, jumped double clear to move up into second place, finishing the weekend on a score of 32.9.
Smith also took home third place in the CCI3*-L aboard No App For That (Chelokee x No Approval), her 8-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, on their dressage score of 36.2.
Koss Keeps Hold of the Galway Downs CCI2*-L
David Koss entered the arena on Stunner (Escudo 19 x Whiz Bang) with a rail in hand, which he used on the first fence. An otherwise faultless round helped Koss keep his hold on the top of the CCI2*-L leaderboard on a final score of 30.2.
“He was a little tired today,” Koss said of his own and Vicky Koss’s 6-year-old Hanoverian/Thoroughbred gelding, “but he pulled it out. The first one did worry me a lot – [having the rail] was a bummer. The FEI jump worried me, I got super deep into that and I thought, ‘Oh, here comes number two,’ but he got out of it. He was lovely.”
Koss isn’t thinking as far ahead as the spring yet – he’s focused on the homework he’ll be doing with Stunner over the winter. “We’ve got Jock Paget coming and we’re going to do some with him, and then we’re going to do a Chris Burton clinic also, do some homework that way. We’re going to focus on show jumping – he jumps a little by braille and sometimes he’s a little lackadaisical. And I really love the long flat spot, so it’s hard for me – Jock’s been helping me get deeper and make him a little rounder, in a better shape. I need to work on that a lot more.”
“He’s always been flashy and a good mover, but he’s starting to get grown-up,” Koss observed. “He’s getting a lot more rideable which is exciting – that’s the biggest part. The maturity alone, just from growing up and getting older – going more and seeing more, he just gets better and better. And he’s finally developed a topline this year and he needs to get a little more on his hind end – that will help his show jumping also, when he’s able to rock back a little more.”
Olivia Loiacono-Putrino and Lauren Gillis’s 8-year-old German Sporthorse mare Under the Spotlight (Fleiner x Sabinettee) pulled a single rail but stayed in second place on a score of 31.9.
Meg Pellegrini and her own Ganymede (Ballywhim An Laun x Court Hawk), a 16-year-old Connemara/Thoroughbred mare, were one of six double-clear rounds, moving up from fifth place to third place on their dressage score of 32.1. Pellegrini also finished as the top-placed young rider in the CCI2*-L.
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