They saved the best for last today in the CCI4*-S at the MARS Great Meadow International in The Plains, Virginia. Lynn Symansky was the 36th rider down the centerline aboard Mary Ann Ghadban’s Under Suspection this afternoon in the Fleming Farm Arena and she laid down an impressive 25.0 to take the lead from Lauren Kieffer and D.A. Duras, who held the lead for most of the day.
“It was probably the best test I have ever had on her,” Symansky said of her ride aboard the 15-year-old Holsteiner mare (Contender x Naomagic I). “The first time I came [to Great Meadow International] she was still Hannah Sue Burnett’s ride and I was just popping on to do a little test ride – I had no idea how to ride the horse and she was really hot.”
Symansky explained that she’s been working with pure dressage trainer Jacquie Brooks and that has been a factor in her flatwork with “Pippy.” “I have been lucky,” she said. “I ran into Jacquie Brooks in Lima and we talked about getting her to Virginia to do a session or two, so Lauren [Kieffer] and I have been doing some dancing lessons. It is a fresh pair of eyes which was a big contributor. . . She has an approach that is universal for each horse, but she tweaks it depending on how you have to ride each test. By this point, you know these horses well and you are trying to pick up things from each person you are working with which helps since she knows us well and knows the horses well.”
Lauren Kieffer aboard Debbie Adams and Jacqueline Mars’s 11-year-old KWPN gelding (Numero Uno x Medoc) went early in the order of go this morning, laying down a 26.0 that no one could touch for the majority of the day. That score will be good enough for second place overnight.
“He had a year off last year which honestly in hindsight was probably the best thing that has ever happened to him,” Kieffer explained. “He’s come back really well. He is a different ride for me – I’ve always had blood horses in the past and it has taken me a little while to figure out how to ride a warmblood, but he was great in there.”
“He has gotten to where I can ride him really forward and really attack the movements and he has great gaits and good baseline,” she continued. “He was produced by Kelly Prather and Debbie Adams who still owns part of him with her husband Tony. I was fortunate enough that Mrs. Mars stepped up and bought the majority of him. He is still pretty young – he hasn’t quite turned 11 and I am pretty excited about him.”
Kieffer has also been working on her dressage with Brooks and said she appreciates her approach to working with event horses. “For a pure dressage person, they are so used to putting so much pressure on the warmbloods and she does really good with the event horses because her top horse is actually really hot. The event horses can melt with too much pressure and she is really good at making them use their anxiety to their benefit.”
Doug Payne and Vandiver entered the arena directly after Symansky and Under Suspection but couldn’t quite catch them. Still, their score of 27.5 puts Payne and the 15-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall II x Visions of Grandeur) in third place for tomorrow’s show jumping competition.
“It is a rewarding process because I think we are finally getting to a place where we can further develop and tweak and approach what his potential would be,” Payne reflected. “For some time there I felt like I was just patching it together rather than being able to actively ride it. Over the past year he has continued to improve and we are finally at a place that it is quite good. He is sensitive for sure, but I have some tools that can deal with it.”
Looking to tomorrow’s show jumping, Payne’s plan is simple: “I plan to leave all the poles up. Quinn is quite good. He is a trier of all triers.”
“Duras is actually really fun to show jump,” Kieffer said. “I have been practicing and doing some mini prixs on him so hopefully he will be good here tomorrow and if he’s not then I probably did something wrong.”
“To have this much atmosphere and to show jump later in the evening - it gets us in that more pressure situation where you have people around and the horses come down from the warm-up and a lot of them do change so I think it is good practice for us too,” Symansky said. “My horse didn’t have the spring she we are hoping for so I am lighter on practice at this level with her, but the horse knows her job and I know her more her now so it is just doing what you have been doing at home and hoping you produce a clear round."
“This venue is so great to have around the corner and they have done so much work on the footing – we have had a proper drought here in Virginia and with the irrigation and everything the footing would have still been good to run on even without the rain we just got,” Kieffer added.
Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights, her 13-year-old Thoroughbred cross gelding (BFF Incognito x Let’s Get It Right) scored a 27.9 to sit in fourth place overnight.
Buck Davidson and Park Trader, Carl and Cassandra Segal’s 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Master Imp x Ballyhast Polly) round out the top five on a score of 28.0.
Symansky is also leading the CCI2*-S aboard Global Cassero 3, known around the barn as “Jerry.” Owned by Katherine Coleman, the 8-year-old Hanoverian scored an impressive 21.4 to lead the CCI2*-S by nearly three points.
“The last event I did with him was Red Hills – he had a little bit of time off to fix a breathing issue and he has come back and is feeling even better, so this will be his first run back,” Symansky said. “[Katherine] saw him and thought he was just a really lovely horse and she knew that I needed some more horses coming up and thought it would be a good match.”
Symansky is taking this opportunity to prep Jerry for a move up to the Intermediate/three-star level this fall. “It is an opportunity to get some people together to buy him,” she stated. “To be honest, it was not an amazing test for him – there is so much more quality in there. He is such a looker. The horse is just stunning, it is like when you walk into a room with a beautiful man on your arm, like my husband. He just turns heads every day.”
Lauren Kieffer and Jacqueline Mars’s Get Gaudi, an 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Alicante HBC x Second Floor) were the overnight leaders in the CCI2*-S on a score of 24.1, which they will carry forward to show jumping. Will Coleman and the 7-year-old Holsteiner gelding Chin Tonic HS (Chin Champ x Wildera), owned by Hyperion Stud, round out the top three on a score of 25.
Show jumping competition for all three divisions takes place tomorrow beginning at 8:00 a.m. and continuing all day. The CCI2*-S will also do cross-country starting at 1:00 p.m.
The spring eventing season in the Midwest is always a toss-up due to unpredictable weather. Will it rain, will it be sunny, or will it be a snowstorm? No one knows! Mid-America Combined Training Association’s (MACTA) first cross-country schooling of the season was cancelled in March due to extremely muddy footing conditions and by the time our April dates came around, COVID-19 was in full force and we were unable to host our cross-country schooling and schooling show.
The FEI has published its Policy for Enhanced Competition Safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, aimed at assisting organizers and national federations with the safe resumption of international equestrian events in line with national and local restrictions.
The United States Eventing Association (USEA) has approved additional modifications to the qualification period for the 2020 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds. The AEC is scheduled to take place August 25-30, 2020 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, and the USEA is doing everything possible to ensure a safe and successful Championship, while also ensuring fair opportunities for all.
This article will be updated to include statements as they are released from upcoming USEA recognized events regarding actions they are taking due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).