The difficulty level and influence of cross-country suited James Alliston and his international horses perfectly this week. Alliston rode his wife Helen's 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding Paper Jam (Papparazzo x Reely Jamin XX) to top the Re/MAX CCI4*-L and Alliston Equestrian's 8-year-old Oldenburg mare Karma (Escudo II x Travita) to win the CCI3*-L.
"Cross-country was really challenging, particularly at the three-star and four-star. Not only did our horses jump all the jumps, they galloped really well, too. Which is an indication that they can go on and do bigger and better things. They all finished full of running," commented Alliston.
Even having the rail they had to spare in their lead, Alliston was thrilled with Paper Jam's effort. The Grand Prix Arena is surrounded by a VIP Pavilion, a big spectator tent and grandstands, with international flags flapping on one end. "The course started with three fences going toward the end gate, which is where he usually gets a bit frantic," Alliston recounted. "But he was really good there and I sensed we were in for a good day." So good, in fact, Alliston added the Galway Downs Perpetual Trophy to his long list of Galway titles.
The four-star field had narrowed from four to two by the show jumping phase. The leader after dressage, Kaylawna Smith-Cook, had a fall from one of two entries on cross-country yesterday and Sophie Click opted out with her 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding Quidproquo (Quidado x Waleila) after the final FEI inspection this morning. So, it was Smith-Cook on MB Group LLC's 12-year-old German Sport Horse mare MaiBlume (Sir Schiwago x Free Lady) to finish second. In their first CCI4*-L, the pair followed clear cross-country jumping with two rails in show jumping as a solid step toward what's expected to become a five-star partnership.
Alliston warmed up for the Re/MAX CCI4*-L win by having a good morning in the three-star. The 8-year-old Oldenburg mare Karma put in a double clear well within the time. That gave them the victory when overnight leaders Tamie Smith and Linda Payne's 11-year-old Thoroughbred cross gelding Cheers (Blauer Vogel x Qtrapastree) had rail in the triple combination midway through Marc Donovan's stout course.
Karma is both fast and careful. "She's that ideal blend of carefulness and courage," Alliston said. The 7-year-old Oldenburg gelding Monkey (Escudo II x Fasten Your Seatblet R), owned by Golly Martin, had only 1.2 time faults to hold his third rank with Alliston after cross-country.
The many-time Galway Downs champion was happy about more than his own results. "I thought this year was a really good competition and sport. On cross-country, the time was very influential. It was tight and I felt the winner could have come from anywhere. Cross-country weighted very heavily, and I think that's how it should be."
Smith described Cheers' one rail as "unlucky" in an otherwise "unbelievable" round of jumping and she was thrilled with the horse's performance in all phases.
Several special awards were presented at the three-star's end. Karma picked up the Yogi Cup, while Monkey earned the distinction of Best 7-Year-Old. Professional Sophie Click earned the Mia Erickson Memorial Trophy as the Best Young Rider, and her three-star horse, the 9-year-old Oldenburg gelding Tarantino 54 (Quatro B x Los Argentina), earned Best Cross-Country round, a new distinction made possible by Devoucoux. Click and Tarantino 54 finished sixth in the three-star. Also supported by Devoucoux, the Best Presented Award went to Josh Barnacle.
Smith's next string of super stars strutted their stuff in the CCI2*-L division. The 6-year-old Irish Sporthorse Crafty Don (Tolan R x Diamond Breaker), owned by Julianne Guariglia, went double clear to win in a field with three stablemates in the running. Smith's overnight leader, the Kynan Syndicates' 7-year-old gelding Kynan, had a rail to finish third and she was thrilled with all four.
"I think all four of them could have ended up on their dressage score. I think the show jumping was quite difficult today. The distances were tight and the triple was very influential. It's a game of fractions. Sometimes the horses jump out of their skin and you still have an unlucky rail."
She surmised that wavy lines on the poles in the triple may have complicated the questions for the youngsters, but was happy with their overall results. "Marc Donovan is an amazing course designer. I think the results are what you want. Enough clean rounds and enough trouble," she observed.
Crafty Don also added the Best 6-Year-Old Award to his auspicious weekend resume.
Slipping into second between the World #7 ranked Smith was 19-year-old Taylor McFall and Cheron Laboissonniere's 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Stoneman (Grindstone x Smiler). In her third year of competing at the FEI levels, McFall was happy to finish on their 31.1 dressage score, moving up from sixth after that phase.
One of five participants in the MARS Bromont Rising U-25 program, McFall explained that her secret this weekend was taking each phase on its own. "This is a big effort and you have to focus on one thing at a time: today is dressage, today is cross-country, etc. So you don't overwhelm yourself. It was all great, but the biggest part of the weekend for me is clear show jumping because that's something we've struggled with for pretty much the whole season."
Stoneman earned the Livingstone Award as the best Thoroughbred in the division, an award created by Canadian Olympian Hawley Bennett-Awad in honor of her own Livingstone. McFall also added the Best Adult Amateur Award to her bounty and Molly Duda received the division's Best Junior Award.
Being spontaneous has paid off for Kevin Keane and Sportsfield Candy. “I bought him on a Wednesday and showed him on a Thursday,” Keane recalls about his first event with his Irish Sport Horse gelding, then 9 years old, at Plantation Field Horse Trials (Unionville, Pennsylvania) in September 2016. “I owned him for part of a day, and the next morning I showed up at a CCI and jogged him up for a two-star, and we went clean and clean and clean.”
THANK YOU to everyone who has already entered the USEF/USEA Recognized CDCTA Spring Horse Trials scheduled for Sunday, April 9 in Berryville, VA. We will continue to take late entries through Friday, March 24 using USEA’s Xentry system. If you still want to come compete, please enter! The late fee has been waived through Friday, March 24.
The U.S. Equestrian Federation announces the appointment of long-term US Equestrian employee Hallye Griffin as Director of FEI Sport. Griffin will assume the duties of former Director of FEI/High-Performance Sport, Graeme Thom, who has chosen to step away from his role to attend to personal matters.
The United States Eventing Association, Inc. (USEA) is thrilled to announce that Sidelines Magazine will not only be returning as a “Media Partner of U.S. Eventing,” but they will also be supporting the Association as a “Contributing Level Sponsor of the USEA Emerging Athletes U21 Program” and a “Prize Level Sponsor of the USEA American Eventing Championships.” Sidelines Magazine will give the USEA additional promotion and exposure through their printed and digital media products, while also providing prizes for participants at the AEC and EA21 clinics.