May 10, 2024

Pamukcu and Her 'Unicorn' HSH Blake Lead Tryon International CCI4*-L After Dressage

By Lindsay Berreth - USEA Staff
Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Blake lead the CCI4*-L at Tryon. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photos

Mill Spring, N.C.—May 10For such a young horse, HSH Blake has been all over the world and in many of the biggest arenas with Caroline Pamukcu, so cantering into the dressage ring today at the Tryon International CCI4*-L was no big deal despite the big stadium.

The 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Tolan R x Doughiska Lass), who’s owned by Pamukcu, Deniz Pamukcu, Sherrie Martin, and Mollie Hoff, earned individual gold and team silver at the 2023 Pan American Games (Chile) and has also jumped around the Nations Cup at Strzegom (Poland) and Le Lion (France), so he’s wise beyond his age.

Two weeks ago, he and Caroline finished fifth in the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S at the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event, and since then he’s had an easy time, hacking and doing trot sets in preparation for his first CCI4*-L.

That strategy paid off today, as he and Caroline scored a 28.6 in front of the ground jury of President Christina Klingspor (SWE), Peter Gray (CAN), and Jo Young (CAN) to lead the division of 27 pairs.

“He’s a unicorn of a horse. He knows his job, and he’s such a trier,” said Caroline. “I was really pleased with him. In Kentucky I think I used a little bit more pressure to show off his trot more, but this time I really tried to take a deep breath and ride a more relaxing test. I’m pleased with all of the tests he’s done this year. He’s such an amazing creature that makes me look good, and it’s just having a balance between both him and I wanting to try so hard to do well that we might rush, where this time I felt that both of us took a deep breath.”

Caroline, 29, Ocala, Florida, credited coaches Bobby Costello and Sharon White for their help with “Blake.”

Caroline says she’ll take care of him tomorrow on cross-country, but will have her foot on the gas pedal in order to impress selectors for the Paris Olympics this summer.

“There’s a lot to do. With the rain, there’s some swampy parts so you just have to be smart how you ride,” she said.

Will Faudree and Mama's Magic Way.

Will Faudree had one word after his test with Mama’s Magic Way this morning—relieved. He and “Mason” started their sixth five-star at Defender Kentucky two weeks ago, but a score of 40.6 was well above their personal best of 29.8 at Defender Burghley Horse Trials (England) last fall, so Faudree withdrew and rerouted to Tryon.

Today, they scored a 28.9 to be tied for second place with Phillip Dutton and Denim.

Surprisingly, Mason, a 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Mighty Magic x Straightaway) owned by Jennifer Mosing and Sterling Silver Stables, has only done one CCI4*-L. In November 2020 he finished 10th here at Tryon. Faudree thought it might be good to come here for less pressure for the both of them.

“He doesn’t always make it that easy, but he’s so talented,” he said. “I was really thrilled with him today. We did not have a good test at Kentucky, and no matter how long you do this, you still want to go in and do your best. I just put a lot of pressure on myself at Kentucky. He can be quite spooky, and he can get away from me, so today I tried as much as I could to take the pressure off myself and just remembered that I was just going in there to practice and just keep giving him the confidence to stay with me. When he started to get a little bit excited or tight, I just reminded myself that we were just practicing and softening to him. I was thrilled with him.

“He’s an experienced horse, but at the end of the day, he’s actually only ever done one four-long,” he continued. “He’s 13 this year, and every big event has been a big, pressured five-star. There’s plenty to do out there tomorrow and the rest of the week. I know he can go and jump around the biggest tracks in the world, and I needed to work on the mental side of it for the both of us to work as a team and to take a little bit of the pressure off of the intensity of the competition and just go and be there.”

Faudree, 42, Hoffman, North Carolina, credited several people for help with Mason, including Dutton, Tamie Smith, Sandy Phillips, Bobby Costello, and Bettina Hoy, with whom he’s been working with most recently.

“I had a plan,” he said of his ride today. “I needed to stay in my own head. I needed to trust what I was feeling underneath me, and it was best that I just stuck to my own plan here. I warmed myself up today, but I had Bettina’s voice in my head, every movement. She’s been a huge help and inspiration, and I think a real testament to the work I’ve done with her over the last year and a half—she’s given me the confidence that I can do it on my own because when you’re in the test you’re on your own.

“I’ve been doing this a long time. I rode on my first team 21 years ago, and there’s still that drive and hunger of wanting to go and do your best and represent,” he added. “We always try to put that at the back of our minds, but it’s about the work. You’ve got to do the work. And I believed in myself this week that I could go in and do it. It was a huge day for me, mentally more than anything. I ride tests like that at home all the time. It’s being able to go in and do it.”

Faudree’s had a couple of walks around the cross-country course, which is designed by Helen West (GBR) with assistance from longtime designer Mark Phillips (GBR).

“I’m going to enjoy today,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to do tomorrow. Tomorrow’s his favorite phase. I think he’s going to be really excited. It’s a huge fitness test. There’s lots of ups and downs, so I’m going to have to ride smart and be on our game.”

Phillip Dutton and Denim.

Dutton brought Denim to Tryon to get another CCI4*-L under his belt, and they’re well-positioned after dressage.

The 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Dinken x Celia II) is owned by Ann Jones, Ann Lapides, Caroline Moran, and Neill Sites.

“He’s done one four-star at Boekelo [the Netherlands,] and I thought doing another four-star would be the right thing to do by him,” said Dutton, 60, West Grove, Pennsylvania. “He’s still an up-and-coming horse and still has to learn and improve in all three phases. I was pleased today. He was very workmanlike and did what I thought was a fault-free test. He kept his composure really well.”

Dutton said the trip to Boekelo last fall was helpful to Denim, and he’s hoping a five-star will be next.

“It’s so much atmosphere and crowds and everything else that goes with being at Boekelo,” he said. “I think it was a positive experience for him and certainly grew him up. You learn a lot about the horse. It was a testing enough cross-country, and he handled it well. It’s just my job now to keep producing him right up the levels, and hopefully this will be another step in that process. He’s a very nice, balanced little horse. He’s not that big, but he’s beautiful to ride. He’s a little bit spooky, so I spend a lot of time trying to get his attention in the beginning. But once he’s on my aids he’s very good. Up until now he’s been a really good cross-country horse.”

Dutton will be out for a competitive run tomorrow. Despite some rain in the days leading up to the event, the footing on cross-country, which is built on an old golf course, should dry out nicely for Saturday.

“It’s wet! Hopefully it will keep drying up. The footing is ideal for this kind of rain we’ve had. It’s a testing course,” he said.

Cross-country for the CCI4*-L begins on Saturday at 10:20 a.m.

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