Riding six horses in the Galway Downs International Horse Trials’ CCI3*-S division, Tamra Smith had good odds of taking top ribbons. In fact, she finished one, two, and three, aboard Mai Baum, Danito, and En Vogue, respectively. She was delighted, if a little tired, with all of the horses’ efforts.
Mai Baum’s 21.9 penalty dominated for much of the going in the 26-pair field, and she was thrilled with her 2015 superstar’s form. Other than blaming herself for a few minor accuracy errors, “It was a nearly a mistake-free test,” she said. “He’s such a workman, he goes in there and puts his showman hat on and I can really go for the points on him.”
She’s ridden many horses in one day before, but six in the same division was a new high, not to mention having started the CCI4*-S the evening before with a third-place finish in dressage on Wembley. Riding so many made it hard to give each the perfect preparation Smith favors, yet she’s grateful for the competition and the chance to ride so many horses in front of international judges Andrew Bennie of New Zealand and Tim Downes of Great Britain. “It’s the only short format we have here to get qualified for the long format in a couple of weeks,” she noted.
As for clearing her mind between each ride, “I just try to forget about the last ride and go with what I’m feeling.”
Comparing Mai Baum’s test to those during his national hot streak in 2015, Smith singled out his added strength. That’s thanks in part to incline water treadmill work during his pre-season routine, now a standard for all horses in her Next Level Eventing program. They did that work for a month at Trifecta Equine Athletic Center in nearby Bonsall and “I think it’s been huge for all of them.”
Not far behind Alexandra Ahearn’s Mai Baum was Danito with a 24.10, then En Vogue, with a 25. Both are owned by amateur rider Ruth Bley.
Erin Kellerhouse broke up the Smith sweep with her own Woodford Reserve, followed by Tamie again on Judith McSwain’s Fleeceworks Royal.
Fifteen-year-old Meg Pellegrini rode her new horse, RF Eloquence, to the win in the 31-horse CCI2*-S division. West Coasters know Pellegrini for her long and successful tenure with the Connemara pony Ganymede: they were the USEA’s Training Level Rider and Pony of the Year in 2017. Purchased last fall as her first horse, RF Eloquence, aka “Ricky Bobby,” was a seasoned upper-level campaigner with his previous owner Ellie O’Neal, and Pellegrini “is ecstatic” to have him. Earning a 26.80, their test reflected his “incredible dressage” skills and the fact that “we are really starting to click” after being together for eight months.
Ganymede, however, was not to be much outdone. Her 31.30 score with Pellegrini put the pair fourth going into the weekend’s show jumping and cross-country. There’s a full two-hand height difference between Pellegrini’s mounts, but beyond that, they have similarly bold, confident attitudes. Pellegrini expects that 16-year-old Ganymede has at least another year of competing in her – plus a new baby via embryo transfer -- and she’s targeting her first North American Young Riders Championship with RF Eloquence. It’s heady stuff and the student of Lisa and Brian Sabo could not be more excited.
Lilly Linder and Tucker Too finished second on a 27, and James Alliston and the beautifully two-toned Cassio’s Picasso stand third with a 29.80.
Led by Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin with a Thursday evening dressage round, the CCI4*-S riders will sync back up with the three-star and two-star pairs on Saturday, March 30, tackling show jumping in the afternoon before Sunday’s cross-country finish. Ride On Video (www.rideonvideo.net) is live streaming the international divisions along with Open Intermediate and Advanced cross-country on Sunday. Live scoring is available at www.eventingentries.com.
Lynn Klisavage got her start teaching riding lessons on Barber’s Point Naval Air Base on O’ahu, Hawaii in the 1960s. When she was in her early 20s, she and her family relocated to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and it was there that Klisavage became the Director of the Air Force Academy Stables.
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