Jul 07, 2023

Saville and FE Connory Step Up at Inaugural Maryland International CCI4*-S

By Lindsay Berreth - USEA Staff
Jennie Saville and FE Connory. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photos

Adamstown, Md.—July 7—Jennie Saville’s had a busy spring preparing three horses for the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, but as the spring season wound down, she was able to focus more on her up-and-coming horses like FE Connory.

After 2 ½ seasons as a very competitive three-star horse, Saville moved “Sean” up to Advanced last fall, but they’ve had a few blips on their record as the gelding is learning the level—his first ever 20 penalties on cross-country, a frangible pin, and a flag penalty may have blotted his record, but since April, they’ve been solidifying their partnership at the level with strong finishes.

Saville, West Grove, Pennsylvania, brought “Sean” to the inaugural Maryland International CCI4*-S as a final prep run before heading to The Event at Rebecca Farm CCI4*-L (Kalispell, Montana) later this month, and they’re leading the 9-horse division after dressage and show jumping on a score of 31.5.

“He’s won so much at the three-star and Intermediate level, and I was kicking myself last year at Plantation [Field CCI4*-S] because I had a 20 late in the course, and I was going for the win,” she said. “It was his first Advanced, and I should have just gone slow, but I feel like the wheels haven’t totally been on the bus at Advanced, so I’m glad that hopefully it’s starting to come together.

“It’s a really nice horse to have, and I’m really excited about his future,” she added. “It’s like, ‘OK, I feel like I’m in the top-10 a lot this year, let’s try to win some stuff and put some results on the board.’ So far, it’s a good start at least.”

Saville credited work with Silva Martin for improving Sean’s dressage this spring, and he did his first two clean flying changes in a test this morning in front of judges Valerie Pride and Marilyn Payne.

Jennie Saville and FE Connory were second after dressage.

Sean, who’s barn name comes from actor Sean Connery—“It suits him totally,” said Saville—came to Saville’s farm three years ago after Clayton Fredericks imported him and took him to his first Training level event.

“I tried him, and he had like, a yellow coat and a ewe neck,” Saville recalled. “I brought [five-star rider] Katherine Coleman with me, and I tried him and just loved him. She was like, ‘You shouldn’t buy him, he’s not nice enough,’ and I’m like, ‘Nah, I’m going to buy him,’ and then he didn’t pass the vet, and I was like, ‘Nah,’ but Clayton said to take him and do one show with him, and I did, and I was like, ‘I love this horse.’”

After a recheck from the vet, Saville was able to buy Sean, an 11-year-old Holsteiner (Conrato x Hocaponta) in installments from Fredericks and eventually brought on her longtime owners Tim and Nina Gardner.

Saville likes to use the Maryland International as a prep run for Rebecca Farm since the cross-country course is designed by Ian Stark and was thrilled they added a CCI4*-S this year.

“I was like, ‘Oh, how convenient is that?’ They’ve obviously put in a lot of effort,” she said, adding that she plans to be competitive tomorrow over Stark’s course, but she won't have much time to spare, as dressage leaders Ema Klugman and RF Redfern added one rail over Chris Barnard's show jumping course to sit right behind them on 32.3.

Stark was excited for the challenge of adding a CCI4*-S and Advanced course to Loch Moy Farm. The property is limited on one side by a river and on another by woods, but he thinks he’s designed a track that’s not too twisty.

He decided to keep the optimum time at 6 minutes 16 seconds, which is just over the minimum distance for a CCI4*-S, because it’s the inaugural running and because of the July heat in Maryland.

“With it being a small property, it’s difficult not to make it too twisty, but I think we’ve managed to keep most of the flow of the course without any tight turns, and the risky tighter turns we’ve strung the course and kept it more flowing,” he said. “Hopefully from that point of view it won’t feel that twisty to ride, but the riders will have to keep sharp—there’s a lot to think about. Even if you’ve got plenty of room between the fences, it feels tight because [of the woods]. It’s a little bit restrictive and tunnel-vision.

“I’ve given lots of questions, but horse-friendly questions,” he added. “There’s places where riders and horses can make mistakes, and there could be the odd run-out, but I wanted it to be educational as well. I didn’t want to make it just a canter around because it’s a four-star, and it’s a qualifier, so they’ve got to jump things and learn. Hopefully the younger horses and less-experienced riders will learn something. I’ve tried to keep it up to standard but not too demanding.”

Riders will head out over Ian Stark's cross-country course on Saturday.

Stark added that his philosophy when designing is to keep it fair and understandable, but, “I don’t mind frightening the riders!”

He redesigned the main water complex with a bounce bank to a set of rails on a mound, which will be 11abc on the CCI4*-S course, and added a new coffin complex for the division.

“Carolyn [Mackintosh] is a brilliant organizer, and she’s always looking for new projects,” said Stark. “I gave them about four in January, thinking that’ll keep her busy for a couple of years, and by the time I came back in March it was all done!

“I think a lot of people wouldn’t have ridden bounce steps up or down because it’s kind of gone out of fashion, and it’s more gone out of fashion because bounces were considered using up too many jumping efforts,” he said. “But I think it’s a really good educational thing for horses, and it teaches them footwork and quick reactions.”

It was an exceptionally dry spring in Maryland, but with some much-needed rain within the last two weeks, the ground is looking good after course builder Tyson Rementer and his team verti-drained it.

Cross-country starts on Saturday at 9 a.m.

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