Ebay had a nice pre-wedding gift for his owner Helen Bouscaren. It took the form of what the bride-to-be described as a “very brave” run over Ian Stark’s CCI4*-S course at the Woodside International Horse Trials, where the international divisions concluded in Woodside, California.
They led the small but strong four-star field by a slim margin after Saturday’s dressage and show jumping, then stayed atop after 8.40 time penalties on cross-country. A partner with her fiancée James Alliston in Alliston Eventing, Bouscaren did her part, too. “I was very determined to ride him aggressively, and to ride him to the base of the jumps, which is how he feels confident.”
Bouscaren and Alliston have their wedding set for Nov. 3, at Galway Downs in Temecula, right after they finish their show jumping rounds in the Galway Downs International Horse Trials.
Bouscaren and her own Oldenburg gelding (Escudo x Contessa) were second after dressage with a 31.70. Even with a heartbreaker final fence rail and a few time faults in show jumping, they stayed there going into cross-country. “My main goal was to jump clean and have him confident,” she said, so she wasn’t pressing the gas pedal too hard.
Bouscaren and Alliston base their business about 45 minutes from Woodside, but they felt a bit of a home field advantage with a crew of students and Woodside Pony Club members assisting through the weekend. The Alliston posse hauls over to school at the South San Francisco Bay Horse Park at Woodside regularly, which Bouscaren says can be a mixed blessing come showtime. “It’s great for cross-country, but it can be tough for dressage because when the horses unload here, they think they’re going out on cross-country so it can be a little hard to settle them here.”
“Ebay loves to perform,” Bouscaren continued of the 10-year-old she’s had for three years. “He has so much energy, he could go around 20 times and be fine. He loves the atmosphere here and always jumps really well.”
The time penalties that resulted from Bouscaren prioritizing a clean, confident round put the win on pins and needles as Amber Levine on her second ride, Cinzano, a Holsteiner gelding, headed out last after two others retired on course. The 8-year-old’s run-out at the coffin fence put paid to their victory hopes, but Levine and her veteran Carry On, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood, wound up a close second on a 45.20. Canada’s Leah Breakey and Master Class were third.
The Alliston Eventing students and Woodside Pony Club helpers came in handy on Saturday night as Bouscaren was loaded with trophies. She received the Founder’s Cup, given in honor of Robert E. Smith, whose ideas were instrumental in the Combined Training Equestrian Team Alliance from which The Horse Park at Woodside was born. Helen also took home the Fric Frac Berence Heart Trophy, donated by five-star rider Frankie Thieriot-Stutes in honor of her retired eventer.
Pan Am Team gold medalist Tamie Smith was full of advice as her daughter Kaylawna Smith-Cook warmed up for the three-star cross-country, in which she and her mount of seven months sat second. “My mom asked me, ‘What do you need from me?’,” Smith-Cook relayed. “I said, ‘I need you to go to the airport and not miss your plane for Boekelo!’” So, off went Smith to represent the United States Equestrian Team in the Nations Cup there, leaving her daughter to fend for herself.
Smith-Cook, a young professional, did so rather nicely.
Passepartout came Smith-Cook's way in March, as a sale prospect, but mother and daughter fell in love with the 10-year-old German Sporthorse and he never made it out of the Temecula, California stable where both base their training businesses. “I didn’t come to this event thinking we would win,” Smith-Cook noted. “He gave me his all in every phase.” They earned a 32 in dressage from international judges Richard Baldwin and Gretchen Butts to sit fourth; were one of very few to jump double clear in show jumping, and only added four penalties on cross-country.
Amateur Asia Vedder and Isi had a big lead going into cross-country, but a pilot error: jumping the four-star hanging log instead of the three-star duck coming out of the North Water Complex led to technical elimination. “He was so good out there and really deserved the win,” Vedder said of her German Thoroughbred. She’d lost a little time earlier on course, along with focus on the right water complex exit, while trying to make it up. They were able to complete the course and Vedder was otherwise thrilled with the 9-year-old’s performance. Their next outing is the Galway Downs International CCI3*-L.
Typical of the three-star level, most finishers had cross-country time faults, but Erin Kellerhouse and her Irish Sporthorse Woodford Reserve nabbed a second-place finish by having the fewest at 3.20. Woodside veteran Alliston and the handsome Paint Trakehner stallion, Cassio’s Picasso KD, finished third on a 39.80.
Riding for Arnell Sporthorses, Bec Braitling had a busy weekend highlighted by a fault-free trip over the two-star cross-country designed by Stark and Bert Wood. Her partner is the fast-rising star, 7-year-old Dassett Ricochet. Since splashing on the scene a year ago as winner of the Galway Downs Training Three-Day, the Swedish Warmblood has steadily ascended with confidence and scope to spare.
“When I first tried him, I thought he would be a good amateur horse because he’s very relaxed: very chill,” Braitling recalled. “There’s actually more in there than we thought. He’s chill but he uses the excitement to be really good.” The careful youngster is a reliable show jumper equally at ease out of the ring. “He looks carefully at everything, whether it’s scary or not. Then he lands and wants to run on. He can be pretty quick.”
Arnell partner, amateur rider Lauren Burnell, was fourth in the two-star with Freedom Hill, and Braitling rode Arnell’s Penhill Celtic to a solid middle-of-the-pack finish in the same division. The native Australian rode the sporthorse sourcing company’s Caravaggio II to fifth in the the three-star. He’s just 8 and is another quickly moving up the levels. Being based at Central California eventing venue, Twin Rivers Ranch, Bec is able to “do the right homework” to enable all horses “to really come out and compete.”
Fifteen-year-old rider Meg Pellegrini continued a remarkable two years with her reserve finish aboard the Thoroughbred RF Eloquence, and a fifth aboard her Connemara/Thoroughbred pony Ganymede. Lauren Billys and her rising youngster Can Be Sweet, a 7-year-old German sporthorse, held their third-place position after stadium with a fault-free cross-country.
Along with beautiful ribbons and prize money, top finishers received generous prizes from Professional’s Choice, Marcus Greene Outdoor Photography, Auburn Labs and Ride On Video.
International division course designer Ian Stark, of Great Britain, enjoyed his latest visit to California. “Over the many years I’ve been coming to America, I’ve really seen the quality of horses and riding improve. Noting the relatively small four-star field, he stressed that lower entry numbers don’t equal lower course demands. “We’ve got standards to adhere to and, if we soften them, those horses and riders qualify for the next level and have troubles. Instead, they have to come up and meet the level.”
Organizers including Woodside’s Robert Kellerhouse, Rebecca Farm’ Broussard family and others on the West Coast have been instrumental in improving the level of the sport, he added.
Stark looks forward to his next California visit, serving as the star attraction for the Galway Downs fundraising clinic in January of 2020, a long-standing West Coast eventing tradition.
The national divisions of the Woodside International Horse Trials continue Sunday. Live streaming is available at www.rideonvideo.net and live scoring can be found at www.evententries.com. For information on upcoming events, visit www.woodsideeventing.com.
As they hiked through the Galway Irish countryside, Shelley Bridges and John Whelpley soon found themselves amid a herd of curious Irish Draught mares grazing calmly around them. Bridges, an endurance rider extraordinaire with a well-known, educated eye for all things horse, noticed one of the mares in particular and said, “What about that one?” and our unlikely story began.
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